State Sen. Bill Heath

State Sen. Bill Heath

In our fourth week, committee meetings continued and bill hearings began on the Senate floor. I am proud to say that things are off to a great start as my bill, Senate Bill 25, was the first to be heard and adopted on the Senate Floor this session. I commend my colleagues for their quick, unanimous and bi-partisan support on this critical measure.

SB 25 addresses language confusion in last session’s House Bill 978 which allowed for drivers to pass a stopped school bus on a road or highway divided by only a turn lane. Not only has this vagueness caused uncertainty for drivers and law enforcement, but it has also put our schoolchildren at risk. The bill states that the presence of a barrier a car cannot travel across – a grass median, unpaved area or physical barrier – is the only lawful condition when a vehicle can pass a stopped school bus on the other side of the road.

Now that SB 25 has passed through the Senate, it must be approved by the House of Representatives and then by the Governor. I have included language in Section 3 that will allow the bill to be implemented as soon as it is signed by Governor Brian P. Kemp, putting the changes into immediate effect so that schoolchildren will be fully protected as quickly as possible. I will continue to champion this bill as it moves through the legislative process and if you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Also this week, the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee convened. I opened our meeting with a devotional, praying for the safety and well-being of the men and women who work hard every day to produce Georgia’s food and sustain our state. We heard from Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, who gave a presentation on the severe damage done to southwest Georgia as a result of Hurricane Michael. Additionally, Georgia Forestry Commission Director Chuck Williams emphasized the great losses to Georgia’s timer assets as a result of this natural disaster.

What touched me most, however, was the testimony of local farmers who lost not only their crops but also their livelihoods in the storm. These farmers’ properties were centuries old, passed down from generation to generation, generating crops valued in the millions of dollars. However, these farmers were not millionaires. They were middle class Georgians whose income depended on trees that take decades to grow or farms that take generations to fine tune. The damage caused by Hurricane Michael was colossal. The cost of rebuilding a life, a company and a farm from the ground up is immeasurable and I will work this session in my role on the Agriculture Committee to ensure that south Georgians are given all of the help that they need to effectively recover from this tragedy.

Lastly, we have set our calendar for the 2019 session through Sine Die. The date for Crossover Day has been set for March 7, 2019, and Sine Die will be on April 2, 2019. Our calendar is packed with five-day work weeks and the days we are not in session will be for committee work. As we move through the session, do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns. I am honored to continue to represent the 31st Senate District.

Sen. Bill Heath serves as Chairman of the Government Oversight Committee. He represents the 31st Senate District which consists of Haralson and Polk counties and portions of Paulding County. He may be reached at 404-656-3943 or by email at billheath@billheath.net