This past Monday on Feb. 22, we kicked off the seventh week of the 2016 legislative session. With only 11 days left in the 2016 session and the Crossover Day deadline approaching, the days are longer and the workload heavier; however, we are committed to passing meaningful legislation that will have a positive impact on the lives of Georgians.

Deep in the throes of one of the most divisive Presidential elections our country has ever seen, it is easy to focus on the worst parts of our country’s political system.

Often times we allow the media to direct our attention to the name calling and partisanship that exists at times in our political debates instead of the friendships between members of different political parties despite our ideological differences.

Early Thursday morning I lost one of the greatest friends I’ve made during my time in the House. Representative Bob Bryant was an African American Democrat from Savannah, we could not have been more different demographically, but the friendship that developed between us during our four years sitting next to each other could not have been stronger.

Bob was a loving husband, father, grandfather, veteran, and friend to all.

He served his constituents with grace and humility as their voice under the Gold Dome for 12 years, and the positive impact he made on the House chamber and in his community will not soon be forgotten. On Thursday morning, the House held a special series of morning orders to honor Bob’s life and his legacy, during which members were able to share their fond memories of this great man. House Speaker David Ralston perhaps said it best when he said, “he served the way he lived with a kind and gentle spirit. When he left us early today, he took part of the best that we have here.” I ask you to please join me in praying for his family during this difficult time. The House certainly will not be the same without him.

On Monday of this past week, the House passed, HB859, a measure vital to the safety of students obtaining an education at Georgia’s state colleges or universities. House Bill 859 will once and for all do away with the notion that gun free zones are crime free zones on Georgia college campuses. HB859 will allow Georgia firearms license holders to keep their weapon on their person while in or on any building or real property owned by or leased to any technical school, vocational school, college, university, or other institution of postsecondary education. This change will make Georgia college campuses safer and allow our students to focus on their education and not worry about being attacked while trying to improve their lives. I was proud to be one of the leading sponsors of this measure and advocate for its passage on the floor of the House.

This week, the House also unanimously passed House Bill 831, the “Protecting Guardsmen’s Employment Act,” to offer our employment assistance to our active duty military personnel. This bipartisan legislation would amend existing reemployment protections for armed forces reservists by providing employment protections to Georgia workers called into service by the national guard of a neighboring state. This legislation would ensure National Guardsmen reemployment in their civilian job that who are called into service by a state National Guard or reserves are guaranteed civilian reemployment after being called into active duty and will provide these men and women with peace of mind when they are called away from their jobs to serve our country. These men and women voluntarily serve our country and put themselves in harm’s way to protect and defend our way of life, and enacting this legislation is one way we can offer protection to these dedicated individuals. What should be common sense is not always a foregone conclusion, and I was proud to stand with a united House to pass legislation to benefit our military personnel.

This week we also saw the passage of House Bill 768, also known as the Georgia Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, a bill that aims to ease financial strains on individuals with disabilities by allowing them to save private funds in tax-exempt accounts without becoming ineligible for Medicaid. An ABLE account is a tax-free savings account that can cover expenses such as medical care, education, community-based supports, employment training, assistive technology, housing and transportation. Georgia joins nine other state legislatures currently considering similar legislation, and 34 states have already enacted ABLE legislation. The tax-free savings accounts would allow our disabled Georgia citizens to conserve their earnings for when they need them most while providing access to the medical care needed. Every citizen has different needs, and allowing Georgians the financial freedom to plan for their future expenses is something I was proud to support.

This week we also took some time this week to recognize some distinguished Georgians in the House chamber. On Tuesday, February 23, we welcomed new University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart to the Georgia State Capitol. A native of Bainbridge, Georgia, Coach Smart went on to play football for four years at the University of Georgia. I enjoyed meeting Coach Smart and talking with him about the 16th District’s fastest resident, UGA running back Nick Chubb. I wish Coach Smart and Nick the best of luck as they prepare for the 2016 football season.

With 29 days completed in the 2016 session, I am proud of the work we have already accomplished, and hope you are too. It is my honor to serve as your Representative. I take my responsibilities seriously, and make it a point to carefully weigh any legislation which crosses my desk for a vote. To help me accomplish this goal, please feel free to contact me to share your opinion on pending legislation or if I can help you in any other way. My cell phone is 770.324.2275 and you can reach me by email at trey.kelley@house.ga.gov. As always, I ask you to keep me and our other state officials in your prayers.

It is an honor to serve as your Representative.

May God Bless You and Your Family,

Trey Kelley