Updates from the Capitol Week 12: Sine Die: April 10, 2015

Published 12:00 pm Monday, April 13, 2015

I see challenges and new experiences as learning opportunities. With this being my first year as a state senator, I’ve certainly learned a lot! I appreciate my fellow Senators, all of whom have been fantastic mentors. I had the privilege of sponsoring three pieces of legislation, two of which, SB 53, which allows Licensed Professional Counselors to perform emergency exams, and SB 212, which creates a new charter for the City of Leslie, passed the House. I also carried a House Bill successfully through the Senate. In addition to that, I co-sponsored almost 70 other pieces of legislation — many of which passed.

The Georgia General Assembly completed its 40th and final day of the 2015 Legislative Session on April 2, also known as Sine Die, which is Latin for “without assigning a day for further meeting or hearing.”

When the Senate gaveled out of session at midnight on day 40, I was pleased with the number of bills passed that promote fiscal responsibility, create opportunities for business expansion and job creation, improve public safety measures, and provide students with nothing less than a superior education.

The Georgia General Assembly is constitutionally mandated to revise the current fiscal year’s budget and set the general budget for the following fiscal year during every legislative session. What adds to this challenge is the constantly changing fiscal atmosphere both at the state and federal level, and as a result, a final version of the bill is not usually able to be negotiated until the final hours of the legislative session. This year we were able to approve the FY 2016 General Budget on day 39 of the legislative session. The finalized version of the FY 2016 budget is set at $21.8 billion, which is built on an estimated 4.57 percent growth over the FY 2015 revenue estimates. The FY 2016 budget includes funding for insurance coverage for part-time school employees including school bus drivers and cafeteria workers, as well as including additional funding to public schools across our great state.

Tuesday, we were also able to pass HB 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015. Citizens of Georgia and visitors to our state rely on our transportation infrastructure to get them safely to their destination. HB 170 is expected to create approximately $900 million in revenue to help maintain and repair our vast infrastructure.

Here are brief summaries of other bills passed in the Senate this week.

House Bill 70 names the white-tailed deer, which is scientifically named the odocoileus virginianus, as Georgia’s official state mammal. The white-tailed deer was once almost extinct in Georgia, but now, they are thriving with a population close to 1.2 million. The white-tailed deer is a valuable economic resource in Georgia, providing more than $800 million per year in revenue for hunting costs.

House Bill 72 adds a new section to the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to protect disabled or elderly adults. The bill revises reporting requirements and also expands Georgia’s Good Samaritan Laws to include protections for someone who rescues an endangered individual from a vehicle. HB 72 passed in a unanimous vote.

House Bill 341 provides that certain building, plumbing and electrical code “qualified inspectors” must hold certification from the ICC and the Building Officials of Georgia. To receive the qualified inspector certification, an inspector must meet the minimum experience and testing requirements.

House Bill 118 aligns Georgia law with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act. This legislation adopts numerous federal guidelines and penalties, including clarification that only the Department of Driver Services or the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators are able to certify examiners to administer the road skills test for Commercial Drivers Licenses.

It is an honor to serve you and I am humbled that you have placed your faith and confidence in me to represent your interests at the State Capitol. Although this session has come to a close, my duties as your senator have not. Please feel free to contact my office at any time to discuss legislation or other concerns in our district!

Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, represents the 13th Senate District which includes Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Tift, Turner, and Worth counties and portions of Sumter and Wilcox counties. He can be reached by phone at 404-463-5258 or email at greg.kirk@senate.ga.gov