Trey Kelley

State Rep. Trey Kelley (R-16th District)

The House got back to work debating important measures on Monday of this past week.

As we rapidly approach the end of the 2016 legislative session our time on the House floor gets longer and the level at which we debate bills gets even more intense.

This week the House successfully passed measures aimed at protecting your religious liberties, re-aligning our teacher evaluation system to be more conducive to student learning, and combatting illegal immigration. With each of these bills now receiving passage through both chambers they are on the Governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

Wednesday evening before we wrapped up our legislative business for the week, the House passed HB 757, the Free Exercise Protection Act. The Free Exercise Protection Act is a comprehensive measure based on the Pastor Protection Act that protects the religious liberties of clergy, churches and faith-based organizations as well as individual citizens.

HB757 is a Georgia specific piece of legislation that combined the Pastor Protection Act, the First Amendment Defense Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. With this legislation Georgians are once again provided the protections envisioned by our founding fathers in the First Amendment.

While there has been much hysteria surround the passage of HB 757 this legislation simply provides five main protections. First, HB757 protects pastors and other clergy from having to perform wedding ceremonies that contradict their faith.

Second, this legislation protects churches from having to allow any event which contradicts their faith from taking place on any church owned property. Third, this legislation makes clear that businesses like Chick-Fil-A that want to be closed on Saturday or Sunday in accordance with their faith’s day of rest cannot be forced to be open by a local government.

Fourth, HB 757 explicitly states that 501(c)(3) faith-based non-profits are allowed to make any hiring decisions based on principles associated with their faith. Finally, this landmark piece of legislation provides protections for all individuals and businesses through the incorporation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which only allows a government to infringe on an individual or businesses religious beliefs when there is a necessary and compelling government interest that requires doing so.

I am proud of this legislation and the process under which it was developed.

I have had numerous parents and teachers contact me regarding the way both students and teachers are evaluated in our state.

I was proud to join my House colleagues this week to unanimously pass Senate Bill 364, the “Quality Based Education Act,” which is a direct answer to these concerns. SB 364 returns power back to local school boards to help develop flexible alternatives for teacher evaluations.

Additionally, this legislation will encourage innovation in our classrooms and will reduce the number of state mandated tests by 8. SB364 will give our teachers more freedom to teach Georgia’s students and will take the burden off both students and teachers. Our teachers greatly influence the youth in our state, and as such, we want to provide them with the resources to have the best opportunity to succeed in the classroom so that our students have the best opportunity to succeed in the future.

As the son of two public educators I was thrilled to see this legislation pass through the House.

At both the State and Federal level there are laws in place to prosecute individuals who come to our country illegally. However, we have seen some cities in Georgia refuse to enforce our laws and have become sanctuary cities for these illegal immigrants.

SB269 looks to put an end to these unlawful actions by requiring local governments to submit proof of compliance and certification stating they are complying with our anti-illegal immigration laws. Should a local government choose not to submit this certification, then they will not be eligible to receive any funding from the state of Georgia.

We are a nation of laws and these laws must be enforced. We have seen rates of crime spike in these sanctuary cities and as a state Georgia is not going to allow these cities and illegal immigrants to ignore our laws.

SB269 will use our power of appropriations to put an end to this practice in our state.

This week will be the final week of the 2016 legislative session. On Thursday, March 24 we will convene one final time this session for legislative day 40, or “sine die,” the last day we have to pass any legislation this year. While the end is near, I am proud of the work we have already accomplished.

If you have any questions about the bills I mentioned, or about any that will be considered by either chamber, I hope you will reach out to me in the remaining days. As your representative, your thoughts and opinions on these important issues are essential to my decision-making process, and I appreciate your input.

If you are nearby, you are always welcome at your State Capitol, and I would be happy to serve as your host. 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.

- State Rep. Trey Kelley, R-16th District