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An Update From Under the Gold Dome: Week 10

Thursday, March 16, 2023

With week 10 of the 2023 Legislative Session coming to an end, we are quickly approaching Sine Die on March 29, the final day of session. This week, the Senate has worked diligently and effectively. Since the gavel fell on Legislative Day 28, Crossover Day, the Senate has successfully passed over 60 House Bills. I am eager to bring you an update on a few bills of note that received final passage this week.

The week began with taking action on legislation endorsed by Governor Kemp. Carried in the Senate by the Governor’s Administrative Floor Leader, Senator Mike Hodges (R – Brunswick), HB 147 seeks to establish a school safety and anti-gang endorsement for eligible certified professional personnel issued by the Professional Standards Commission. Known as the “Safe Schools Act,” HB 147 addresses an area of concern that we are all too familiar with, school safety. As you well know, emergencies in schools have become all too prevalent not only within the borders of our state, but across the nation. Gov. Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp have devoted much of their service to Georgia ensuring schools and teaching facilities are safe and secure for all students, teachers and educational staff. Under HB 147, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency would require specific school safety plans to be submitted to the agency on or before December 31, 2023. In addition, HB 147 would require public schools to participate and complete intruder alert drills by October 1 of each school year. By implementing these requirements for emergency preparedness, we can guarantee increased public safety and security for students and teachers in Georgia’s public schools. I was proud to support this measure.

Also on Monday, I had the distinct pleasure of bringing House Bill 155 to the Senate floor for a vote. HB 155 is a continuation of the Georgia General Assembly’s efforts to address the ever-present concern of occupational licensing for incoming Georgia residents. However, while programs previously implemented to support incoming residents like military spouses have proven to be widely successful, a large percentage of Georgia’s population continues to struggle with efficiently obtaining an occupational license. Under current law, licensing boards are required to issue expedited licenses by endorsement to spouses of active or transitioning service members stationed in Georgia. HB 155 seeks to revise that requirement by extending the prerequisite to any individual in Georgia seeking an occupational license with the exception of firefighters, healthcare providers, or law enforcement officers or those who are the subject of investigation or disciplinary proceeding. It is important to note that the previously mentioned three fields usually have national certifications or specific venues in order to test and credential in our great state which explains the aforementioned exemption. I was proud to support this measure alongside my friend and colleague from across the hall, Representative Chuck Martin (R – Alpharetta) and I am pleased to see this legislation receive final passage with bipartisan support.  

Later in the week, I carried two additional House Bills that bolster public safety across Georgia. House Bill 242 reinstates “Joshua’s Law,” a program implemented following the 2005 Legislative Session that requires all Georgians to complete an approved driver education course and log a total of 40 hours of supervised driving in order to apply for a Class D driver’s license. HB 242 revises the penalties related to traffic violations under “Joshua’s Law” by adding an additional penalty equal to 3% of any original fine to be imposed in the case of any violation of the traffic laws in Georgia. The fees collected from such fines fund driver’s education, scholarships to first responders and children of military members who lost their lives in the line of duty or those under foster care. This helps ensure Georgians remain safe. HB 242 passed through the Senate bipartisan support on Wednesday and now awaits Gov. Kemp’s signature. On a similar note, House Bill 268 also seeks to strengthen public safety by establishing the Georgia Motor-Vehicle Crime Prevention Advisory Board, a grant program to support local law enforcement agencies and multi-jurisdictional task force relative to motor vehicle related crime prevention initiatives. Through multi-jurisdictional work, agencies can create better ways to prevent auto-theft and other crimes related to motor vehicles. This legislation does not require state funding, bringing safety without an added expense to state taxpayers. HB 268 also received final passage with bipartisan support and now awaits signature from Gov. Kemp.

The Senate Committee on Public Safety will continue to meet and vet House Bills before they make their way to the Senate floor to be voted upon. On Wednesday, the committee met and discussed two bills, one of which was House Bill 119. House Bill 119 would prohibit the act of booting motor-vehicles in the state of Georgia. Senate Freshman Senator Josh McLaurin carried the bill and explained the concerns behind this practice. While protecting private and personal property is a priority, the act of booting can result in unjust booting, violence, and negligence. This issue is complex and removing the practice of booting from Georgia is just one step in solving the solution of how to protect private property, I look forward to hearing alternative solutions for this issue. The Majority Caucus will continue to prioritize public safety as we move closer to the end of session.

With Sine Die approaching, I anticipate the Senate body will continue to work diligently. As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to reach out. It is an honor to serve you here in Atlanta.

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Sen. John Albers serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Safety. He represents the 56th Senate District which includes portions of Cherokee, Cobb and North Fulton counties. He may be reached at his office at 404.463.8055 or by email at [email protected]