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State Sen. Greg Kirk: Feb. 3, 2016

Week 2: Starting Strong
ATLANTA — The second week of the 153rd Legislative Session was both eventful and thrilling for me. The General Assembly resumed after a long weekend of celebrating the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and we soared into a full agenda of budget hearings, preaching and legislation introductions. As I reflect over the past week, I know our strong start will lead to important progress by the end of our 40 days.
Every day we meet in session, before we begin any official work, we hear from pastors, chaplains and preachers from around our great state. I had the distinct privilege of acting as our Chaplain of the Day on Jan. 20. To have the opportunity to encourage my fellow senators and elevate them in their pursuit of happiness, both personally and acting as representatives for our constituents, was a great honor and responsibility that I do not take lightly. I hope you all know we have your best interests in mind as we carry out our senatorial duties.
I introduced the First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia this week both to the Senate and the press. I am devoted to leading this bill through to becoming a law by the end of our legislative session. The bill’s purpose is to “live and let live” in regards to beliefs and tolerance on the definition of marriage.
I addressed the Senate on Wednesday, as a point of personal privilege, to present a brief overview of the First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia bill before its first reading on Friday. I held my very first press conference on Jan. 21, to talk more fully on the impact of the bill. Ultimately, the bill offers protection to you as citizens of Georgia who view marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman without fear of judgment, persecution or criminalization. I want to protect religious beliefs and continue to respect the diversity in our state without conflict. The First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia does not oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling nor does it interfere with the right to legally marry in any way. My hope is for all Georgians to continue their pursuit of happiness without discrimination, but rather with tolerance, protection and acceptance.
Budget hearings also began this week after Governor Deal introduced his plans for the 2017 fiscal year throughout his State of the State Address. Once we receive a proposed budget from the governor, we spend much time and effort breaking down all expenses, divvying up state funds and allocating money in the most efficient and responsible way possible. We work tirelessly on the budget and promise to appeal to the needs and desires of our state and to you as constituents.
We had a successful second week at the Capitol and I look forward to representing you all through the next 34 days of session. Please call or email me with any questions or concerns and I look forward to keeping you updated on all the great progress we will make in 2016.

Week 3: Progress report
Week Three at the Capitol soared by in the Senate Chamber. Progress is picking up and we are well on our way to a successful session. Not only did we pass our first bill in, we also heard from Georgia’s judicial branch and celebrated great service men and women throughout the week. We had many special guests come to visit and together we celebrated our state’s many accomplishments over the past year.
On Monday, we welcomed members of our National Guard and celebrated their contribution and sacrifice to our state and our nation. Adjutant General Joe Jarrard spoke to the Senate on behalf of the Guard about military readiness and the importance of training.
Additionally, we observed Sen. Mike Dugan as he led new Army recruit David Lyle through the Army’s Oath of Enlistment where his new peers and senators cheered him on and thanked him for his commitment. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson visited as well and addressed the chamber, thanking our men and women for their service that ended in a standing ovation.
While Sen. Isakson was here, I took the opportunity to speak with him about my pending legislation, SB 284, or the First Amendment Defense Act. This legislation has received national attention, and I have been on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Law Makers twice two talk about the bill. Sen. Isakson commended my actions to bring this legislation forward in Georgia and reiterated our need for this protection on a federal level.
Sen. Marty Harbin brought his first bill since becoming a senator and the first bill of the 2016 session, SB 137, to the floor on Wednesday morning which passed with a unanimous vote of 48 to 0. The bill amends and expands a previous law to allow for corporations to collect property insurance payouts in full if a residential unit is destroyed completely by fire.
Our state’s law enforcement officers, whether on a city, county or state level, go through rigorous continuing education and training courses to ensure they are properly informed on the best and safest ways to protect Georgians. However, once they retire or are discharged due to disability caused in the line of duty, these brave men and women must hand over their service weapon and badge.
On Thursday we passed SB 263, a bill I co-sponsored, that will permit cities and counties, as well as boards of education who employ P.O.S.T. certified peace officers, to allow retiring officers and those leaving due to disability to keep their service weapons and badges. This bill will allow us to show our gratitude to the people who keep us safe.
I co-sponsored two other pieces of legislation this week related to firearms and the restrictions revolved around them. SB 270 provides that any person who is a citizen of Georgia and a qualified retired law enforcement officer under the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 is not subject to firearm licensing requirements and restrictions on where weapons can be carried in the state of Georgia. SB 270 received a “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Public Safety Committee and will now go to the floor for a vote.
SB 282 creates a new Code section in Georgia law that makes it unlawful to refuse to provide credit or financial services to an individual, business, public entity, or trade association solely because of their participation in the selling of firearms or ammunition products. It is important that we protect our second amendment right to bear arms, and this legislation will allow us to fight discrimination against individuals who believe in protecting themselves and their families with firearms.
A joint session was held on Wednesday as we welcomed Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson, who delivered the annual State of the Judiciary Address. Chief Justice Thompson highlighted our ever growing need to accept cases concerning international business disputes relevant to our state and our Capitol, as well as being just and providing legal counsel to those who would otherwise have none. His goal for the year is to justly serve and modernize the judicial system of Georgia.
Thank you for your continued support in all of these areas. I’m proud to represent you as constituents who care about legislation, bring honor to the deserving and actively participate in our community. You make me proud and I am honored to represent you at the Capitol. If you ever have any ideas on how to keep our District 13 great, questions concerning new legislation, or inquiries on how and why we do what we do, please do not hesitate to call or send an email my way. We are three weeks in and have a lot of work to do between now and Sine Die!

Sen. Greg Kirk 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 e-mail at greg.kirk@senate.ga.gov