This session is in full swing, and we are moving quickly to address some of the most urgent problems facing our state. While focusing on the issues that are making headlines across the state, like transportation and education reform, I remain dedicated to use of renewable energy for all Georgians.
This past week was an extremely busy week at the Georgia State Capitol. Friday was the 30th legislative day, which is also known as “Crossover Day.” Crossover Day is the last date in which a piece of legislation must pass at least one of the General Assembly’s two chambers.
Below is a brief summary of what bills were passed last week and other issues to keep on your radar, including transportation funding, solar technology, religious freedoms, and cityhood issues.
HB 170 - Transportation Funding
One of the bills passed in the House, House Bill 170, tackles an issue that has been a top concern for several years and affects every citizen of this state. Transportation improvements have long struggled to match Georgia’s rapid economic progress, resulting in too many roads and bridges that are now in need of critical maintenance. HB 170, or the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, is a comprehensive package of measures to address the critical and urgent need for funding for Georgia’s transportation infrastructure needs.
HB 170 seeks to raise just under a billion dollars for maintenance and repair of our state’s bridges and roadways, many of which have been deemed functionally obsolete and structurally deficient; therefore, these funds are crucial to guarantee that our roads and infrastructures are safe for Georgia drivers. Well maintained roads and bridges will enhance safety and quality of life for our citizens, but these road improvements will also continue to attract new businesses to our state and create jobs for Georgians. While I wish we were more able to address the needs of transit in the metropolitan area, it is important to note that this bill was the wrong vehicle to do so. It would have been unconstitutional to earmark funds to transit projects.
It gives me hope that an accompanying piece of legislation that would give MARTA more control over how they are able to spend their funds also passed the House.
While neither of these pieces of legislation are perfect, I am encouraged that we are having a conversation that starts with the idea of investing in infrastructure. This conversation does not stop at the mention of transit, and that is a major step in untying the gridlock in the metro Atlanta area.
Solar Technology for Retail Customers
Part of addressing the problem of the using renewable energy in the state was to address the cost and to clarify who shall be considered an electric supplier.
I was proud to put my name on the Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act 20 of 2015, a bipartisan bill that allows free-market financing of solar technologies may provide more customers with opportunities to install solar technology.
This is an easy step in the right direction to ensure that we have a work force armed with the skills they need to enter today's modern job market.
While I was gathering signatures on the Fair Employment Practices Act (which has 79 signatures and is a bipartisan measure that prevents discrimination), my colleagues in the Senate were debating one of the more contentious measures of the session: the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act. Unfortunately, that measure passed out of the Senate chamber and is headed to the House.
I am staunchly opposed to this idea. While its proponents argue that it does not allow for someone to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, I do not see how it is possible that the legislation does not result in such discrimination. This piece of legislation, in my opinion, only gives people who find it necessary to discriminate, a legal arm to do so(The bill is broadly defined that allows all businesses including the State government the ability to discriminate if there is religious objection).
There are several practical reasons I opposed this legislation as well. First, I do not believe this law would survive a lawsuit. Thus, we are only ensuring that the state will accrue legal fees in defending an indefensible measure.
Second, our state has done a fantastic job in attracting businesses and jobs. I am afraid that if this measure became law, Georgia would be a less attractive state in which to do business. Businesses do not wish to be the subject of a lawsuit from a person that feels entitled to discriminate against their fellow citizens, nor should they.
Further, our state is better than this. We cannot and should not cultivate a reputation of allowing discrimination. No matter what the proponents of this measure say, discrimination will be the result of this bill.
Recommendations from the DeKalb Organizational Task Force have been introduced in both of the House and the Senate side to address some DeKalb issues. The Cityhood and annexation issues are now being introduced. Recently, a new map was released which outlined the extent of the City of Atlanta's proposed annexation into DeKalb County. To stay informed about the latest developments on cityhood and annexation, check out the great updates from Decaturish.com.
I hope that you will contact me, so that I can address any concerns you might have. I look forward to hearing from you.