State Sen. Bill Heath

State Sen. Bill Heath

Georia State Senate

During week four, we found ourselves attending many committee meetings after eventful mornings in chamber. Several pieces of legislation were brought to the floor, with a majority being passed unanimously.

Of the bills passed, there are a handful that will potentially have a great impact on my constituents in Senate District 31. In fact, one of my pieces of legislation was heard and passed on Wednesday.

The first two pieces of legislation that passed this week were Senate Bills 101 and 129. SB 101 allows for individuals participating in the Georgia Defined Contribution Plan to buy into Georgia’s Employee Retirement System (ERS). On the same token, SB 129 would allow former active duty service men and women to receive retirement credit towards ERS. Both of these bills will allow members to buy time at the full actuarial cost. Retirement benefits are expensive, but this is a step in the right direction.

SB 321, which passed on Tuesday, changes the minimum Medicaid fraudulent penalty fees. Currently, 65 percent of Medicaid fraud reimbursements go back to the federal government, only leaving roughly 35 percent here in the state of Georgia. The bill we unanimously passed on Tuesday will allow 45 percent of the reimbursement to stay stateside.

SR 502 was unanimously passed on Wednesday of this week. This resolution encourages our federal lawmakers to work towards expanding high-speed broadband access to all rural areas. Broadband access is a real issue in my district. We must remember that this resolution isn’t a solution, but an active effort to work towards improving high-speed broadband access conditions for Georgians by encouraging Congress to do their part.

Additionally, on Wednesday we voted on and passed SB 257. I sponsored this legislation which would require trained veterinarians approved by the Georgia Department of Agriculture to be involved in any inquiry of animal cruelty pertaining to cattle, swine, goats and sheep as soon as possible. There were some concerns regarding a host of valid issues, such as the ability to enforce and adhere to the proposed law. I believe these issues were addressed since the decision to file criminal charges will remain with law enforcement. SB 257 simply gets the state veterinarian involved earlier rather than later. I believe that this bill will help streamline the process of filing legitimate animal cruelty complaints.

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.

On Thursday at 2:30 in the afternoon, the House passed their version of House Bill 159, the Adoption Bill, and sent it back over to the Senate for consideration. It is important to note that the Senate passed our version of HB 159 two weeks earlier. This legislation was the first general bill the Senate passed this year because we understand how important it is to the citizens of Georgia. I am happy to say that the Senate did not take action on the bill on Thursday. I commend my colleagues for not rushing to get a vote done this week because HB 159 is over 100 pages and we need time to review and vet changes made by the House. I think that if we are comfortable with the changes the House made and they are in the best interest of Georgia’s children and families, the Senate might take up the bill as early as Monday, February 5th. I am also happy that we did not take action this week because it gives citizens time to review the changes the House made and to provide feedback. I encourage my constituents to review this legislation and reach out to me with any input and suggestions.

As we move into week five, I know there will be more legislation to come to the Senate floor. I will do my best to keep you updated and informed. Please do not hesitate to reach out via phone, email or even visit the Capitol.

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.