Bill Heath

Senator Bill Heath

The 2016 legislative session is officially halfway done. The Senate completed Legislative Day 20 on Thursday. In 10 legislative days, it will be Crossover Day. In 20 more days, it will be Sine Die. Both days are big hurdles in the legislative process. Even with the Senate passing several bills this week, there are still plenty of issues and bills that are being held back until deadline pressure begins to loom.

The Senate did pass HB 750-the amended version of the 2016 fiscal year budget-on Wednesday of this week. The $22.99 billion document appropriates state funds for the last few months of our state’s current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. The General Assembly amends the budget every year to account for changes, such as revenue growth and K-12 enrollment growth. This budget also exceeded revenue projections by 6.3%, or $1.16 billion over the budget as it passed last session.

A large portion of that revenue, $758 million, is a result of the gas taxes and other fees in House Bill 170, which the state has been collecting since January 1 of this year. The millions raised from gas taxes will go towards transportation projects, but $109.9 million are being passed on to the K-12 school system to fund a three percent raise for teachers across the state.

The pace of business on the floor and in committee meetings will only increase in the second half of the session until the clock strikes midnight on Legislative Day 40. As the chaos increases, things will undoubtedly get more confusing for those of you following the session from outside the Capitol. When your questions arise, I can be reached at billheath@billheath.net and will do my best to respond promptly.

Of the legislation the Senate voted on, here are few a highlights:

Senate Bill 278

SB 278 would impose stricter penalties on those convicted of pimping, pandering or housing a place of prostitution. It would additionally require those who have been convicted a second time of pimping or pandering to be added to the National Sex Offender Registry.

House Bill 742

The bill updates Georgia’s tax code by changing state filing deadlines to match those of federal returns, excluding S-Corporations.

Senate Bill 255

SB 255 updates Georgia code after a federal judge ruled our current garnishment laws were unconstitutional. The bill updates and modernizes the codes, including the notification provisions to the person being garnished.

Senate Bill 308

The bill creates the Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program. Under the direction of the Department of Public Health, the program will award grants to nonprofit organizations that provide pregnancy and parenting support services as long as the organizations are not performing, promoting or acting as a referral for an abortion.