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Greg Kirk — Capitol updates: March 2, 2016

Week 5: halfway there
With four more legislative days this week, the Senate is now halfway through the 2016 legislative session. The pace of business on the floor and behind the scenes in committee meetings is beginning to show the feeling of urgency. There are only 10 legislative days before Crossover Day on Legislative Day 30, when a Senate Bill must be passed by the Senate in order to cross over to the House, and vice versa. From Day 31 forward, the Senate will focus primarily on bills that come from the House.
Senate Bill 284, “The First Amendment Defense Act,” is still in the Rules Committee. The committee process is designed for legislation to be carefully vetted and considered. It is my goal throughout the legislative process that SB 284 remains a strong protection for the first amendment rights of Georgians who hold a strong religious belief in the traditional definition of marriage.
As part of his Decision America Tour, Franklin Graham hosted a rally in Liberty Plaza near the Capitol on Wednesday. With more than 6,000 Christians showing their support of religious freedom, expression and principle, I was honored to hear the positive comments and support of SB 284 and other pieces of legislation that will defend people of faith in today’s world of secularism and political correctness.
The Senate did pass the amended version of the fiscal year 2016 budget this week. As part of our state’s commitment to conservative, responsible budgeting, the General Assembly revisits the budget for the current fiscal year, which runs through June 30th of this year, before moving on to the next fiscal year. The amended budget is a $22.99 billion appropriations bill. In addition to the allocations made last year, the version of the budget we passed in House Bill 750 adds $109.9 million to fund K-12 enrollment growth and fund a 3 percent raise for teachers. Darton State College in the 13th District has an important item in the budget to enhance the profile of the college.
After passing the budget, the General Assembly enjoyed some exceptional fried fish courtesy of Crisp County. It was a great event and my privilege to share a part of the 13th Senate District with my colleagues at the Capitol. The Crisp County Fish Fry was only a part of a week of special visitors to the Capitol.
On Monday, I hosted five wonderful, excited pages from Lee County. They assisted Senate business by delivering important notes and requests throughout the Chamber. On Tuesday, I visited with realtors from Albany as well as nutritionists from Tift and Sumter counties. Both groups provide an outstanding respective services keeping our community healthy and in well-suited homes. The Senate also honored the Young Farmers of America this week. As part of this special occasion, the future agricultural leaders of District 13 came to the Capitol to proudly represent the district. On Thursday, it was my honor to spend time with Employment First from Tifton.
The General Assembly is constitutionally obligated to pass a balanced budget in the legislative session. The next budget to appear before the Senate will allocate state funds for the 2017 Fiscal Year. With half of our 2016 session behind us, the hustle and bustle around the Capitol will only increase until we adjourn on March 24. It is my privilege to serve the 13th Senate District of Georgia, and I’m here if you have questions about current law or pending legislation.
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Week 6: updates
We are more than halfway through the 2016 legislative session, and we are quickly approaching Crossover Day. This week, we completed legislative days 21 through 24. The Senate heard and passed several pieces of legislation this week.
We passed two bills enhancing Second Amendment Freedoms for Georgians. Senate Bill 282 prohibits credit lending services from discriminating against business lawfully engaged in the firearms industry. Additionally, we passed SB 270 in order to provide greater access for retired law enforcement officers to carry their firearms. Both of these bills are a step in the right direction to protecting and expanding the second amendment rights of Georgians.
We also passed a bill expanding religious liberties for Georgia’s high school students. SB 309 removed previous prohibitions imposed on students from expressing their religion at athletic events. This bill would allow any high school athlete competing in a sporting event to be able to freely express their religion. An additional measure packaged with the bill would allow member and nonmember schools to compete in athletic competitions.

See the rest of the recaps from Kirk at www.americustimesrecorder.com