Weekly report to the people: Feb. 17, 2016

Published 2:00 pm Friday, February 19, 2016

ATLANTA — Monday, Feb.1, was Legislative Day 13. As this session of the General Assembly progresses we are seeing more bills and resolutions read and assigned to committee. We are now beginning to see Senate bills and resolutions come to our Chamber for the first time this session.
That afternoon I had a visit from Sumter County Fire Chief, John Ekaitis and Sumter County Administrator, Bill Twomey. They were in town for the Annual Firefighters Day at the State Capitol.
On Tuesday, I had a visit by Zane Newman, fire marshal for the City of Americus. The swearing-in ceremony for Zane and other fire marshals from around the state was held on the south steps of the Capitol. These brave men risk their lives every day to save lives and protect property. There were several speeches honoring the firefighters of Georgia. And the halls of the State Capitol were filled with firefighters dressed in their blue uniforms.
Last week HB 750, the State’s Supplemental Budget presented by Rep. Terry England, District 116, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee had some items of local interest.
“Section 52; salary adjustments;
4.) additional funds for personal services for nonfaculty employees of the Board of Regents, to be used for merit based pay increases for high-performing employees in FY 2015 and salary adjustments to attract new employees with critical skills or to keep successful performers in critical jobs.
5.) to provide funds for supplemental salary adjustments to address needs for the recruitment and retention of board of regents faculty, funded through the Teaching Program.
6.) additional funds for personal services for teachers and support personnel within the Technical College System of Georgia, to be used for merit based pay increases for high-performing employees in FY 2015 and salary adjustments to attract new employees with critical skills or to keep successful performers in critical jobs.”
Tuesday, Feb. 2, was Legislative Day 14. This was a very special day for me in that I had the honor to introduce my priest, Father John Stefero, of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Macon, as Chaplain of the Day. Accompanying Father John was his lovely wife of 40 years, Denise. A retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Father John served in the Air Force Chief of Chaplains Office at the Pentagon. He inspired us by recounted his experiences at the Pentagon when the jetliner piloted by suicide terrorists crashed into the building on Sept. 11, 2001. He said that God’s hand was present on that dreadful day inspiring those brave men and women to assist the injured. He also said thousands more would have lost their lives had the plane crashed in a different section of the Pentagon. That particular section was under renovations and was practically empty.
Rep. Tom McCall, District 33, presented HR 1243, which recognizes Feb. 2 as Equine JYouth Day at the Capitol in honor of the 2016 Youth Equine Champions.
Wednesday, Feb.3, was Legislative Day 15. We voted on five items on the Debate Calendar. A few of these are:
• HB 402 by Rep. Eddie Lumsden, District 12, passed by a vote of 166 to 0. This measure encourages employers to provide work-based learning opportunities for students age 16 and older.
• HB 421 by Rep. Chad Nimmer, District 178, passed by vote of 165 to 1. This measure entitles Department of Community Supervision Officers to enhanced disability benefits if they become permanently disabled in the line of law enforcement duty.
• HB 691 by Rep. Kevin Tanner, District 9, passed by a vote of 155 to 11. This measure provides for the removal and replacement of an appointed Municipal Court Judge for unethical conduct by a two-thirds vote of the municipal governing authority. It further defines unethical conduct as habitual intemperance, persistent failure to perform duties, and conduct that brings the Judicial Office in disrepute.
Wednesday was also Forestry Day at the Capitol. It was sponsored by the Georgia Forestry Association in recognition of the $28.9 billion economic benefit the State of Georgia receives each year from the Wood and Woodfiber Producers in Georgia.
Visiting the capital with the Albany-Dougherty County Delegation was Chris Cohilas, chairman of the Dougherty County Board of Commissioners.
Thursday, Feb. 4, was Legislative Day 16. The Debate Calendar is beginning to have more bills coming for a vote as they move through their respective committees. Held over from yesterday and first up was HB 815 by Rep. Trey Rhodes, District 120, which passed by a vote of 158 to 7. This measure specifically adds “Quail” to the list of avian species which are grown commercially for slaughter and preparation of human food to the list of meat products inspected by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
HB 228 by Rep. Jeff Jones, District 167, passed by a vote of 164 to 3. This measure will require that all fees for sheriff’s services must be remitted to the county treasurer or fiscal officer rather than to the sheriff as additional compensation in counties where the sheriff is paid by salary alone.
HB 730 by Rep. Alan Powell, District 32, passed by vote of 167 to 0. This measure increases the voting members of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council from 19 to 22, and will include the Commissioner of Juvenile Justice and the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources as members of the Council.
HB 800 by Rep. Rick Jasperse, District 11, passed by vote of 166 to 0. Being a former County Extension agent, Rick easily presented this measure which defines the  “veterinarian-client patient relationship” as a licensed veterinarian who assumes responsibility for making medical decisions regarding the health of an animal, the need for treatment, and that the client/owner has agreed to follow his instructions.
After considerable debate, HB 593 by Rep. Lee Hawkins, District 27, failed to pass by vote of 81 to 83. This measure would have allowed the Division of Low-Voltage Contractors to require up to four   hours of Board approved continuing education annually. During the debate, the members felt that this measure would put an additional burden on Low-Voltage Contractors. Having failed Rep. Hawkins, made the motion to reconsider. This measure will now return to the chamber for a vote at sometime in the future.
Thursday was Georgia Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol. At the Railroad Depot Exhibit Hall across the street, Governor Nathan Deal addressed several hundred Farm Bureau members. In his address he talked about the need for the “Opportunity School Districts.” And how education affects all the citizens in the state of Georgia, both urban and rural. He concluded by saying that it is a disservice to our children to not provide them with the best educational opportunities available.
Thank you for choosing me to represent you in Atlanta at the State Capitol.