Bill Heath

Senator Bill Heath

The deadline pressure is being clearly felt all throughout the Capitol. The General Assembly has now completed 35 of our 40 Legislative Days. This week included some long days in Senate committees as we reviewed the many House Bills that had crossed over to our chamber.

The Senate passed our version of the general budget for the 2017 Fiscal Year. The 254-page document appropriates $23.7 billion in state revenue. The state revenues did experience a 4.3 percent growth over the projections for the 2016 Fiscal Year. Additionally, the budget includes a large increase in funds going towards transportation projects. The majority of this transportation funding is coming from the tax increase the General Assembly adopted last year, which I voted against.

Last week, the Senate approved House Bill 859, which will allow licensed conceal carry permit holders to possess their guns on public college campuses. Guns are a force equalizer, and HB 859 is about allowing someone who is lawfully allowed to carry to be able to use their constitutionally allowed means of self-defense even when they are on college campuses. I supported the bill because I believe in self-defense and do not want anyone to become a victim. Conceal carry permit holders will not be allowed to possess in dorms, at sporting events or within fraternity and sorority houses. This narrowly drawn measure restores the previously restricted 2nd amendment rights of law abiding citizens.

As the session gets closer and closer to gaveling out for the year, the ability to thoroughly examine every piece of legislation becomes more difficult. In every legislative session, these last few weeks are the most trying time for our state as certain bills are vulnerable to being pushed through when focus is scattered on a variety of different issues.

House Bill 172

HB 172 would alter the current definition of a watercraft "vessel" to allow alcohol to be consumed on a homemade or inflatable raft.

House Bill 370

HB 370 establishes a grace period for certain elected officials to re-file campaign contribution reports and financial statements to the Transparency and Finance Commission.

House Bill 840

HB 840 creates a permit to allow the use of certain wild animals for film production and also revises the definition of the term "feral hog". Producers must obtain a permit if wild animals not previously held in captivity are used in the TV or film production. The Department of Natural Resources is tasked with overseeing permit applications and enforcement of the permit.

House Bill 697

HB 697 prohibits requiring payment for goods after the expiration of a trial period, if the goods were provided free of charge. Consumers must provide affirmative consent in order to continue receiving the product and to be charged accordingly.

House Bill 844

HB 844 outlines the process through which legal claims against the Georgia Firefighters' Pension Fund are handled. The bill establishes that these claims are under the jurisdiction of the superior court of the Georgia Firefighters' Pension Fund Board of Trustees.

House Bill 751, the Fiscal Year 2017 General Budget

The 2017 budget sets approximately $23.7 billion in state funding from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. The largest state budget since the 2008 recession, the Senate increased funding for road projects and maintenance, significant improvements to the state's public safety infrastructure, and a 3 percent salary increase for non-licensed school employees, including bus drivers and nurses.

House Bill 34

HB 34, also known as the Georgia Right to Try Act, would allow terminally ill patient's access to physician recommended investigational drugs and treatment. The patient must provide written informed consent before treatment, and healthcare providers are not required to cover the costs of treatment. The bill also states that caregivers cannot be held liable for injury or death of a patient as a result of investigational treatment.

House Bill 52

HB 52 requires a permanent parenting plan be created at the end of all child custody orders. Current law provides that a separate court order must be created that is exclusively devoted to the parenting plan.

House Bill 767

HB 767 adds utility service vehicles to the list of vehicles covered under Georgia's Move Over Law. The law instructs drivers to change lanes or reduce speed when approaching stationary maintenance and recovery vehicles parked on the side of the road. The bill also changes the fine for violation of this law from $500 to $250.

House Bill 886

HB 886 allows pharmacies to mail prescription drugs to patients as long as they follow shipping methods approved by the manufacturer, the United States Pharmacopeia and the Food and Drug Administration.

House Bill 859

HB 859 permits gun owners with a valid concealed weapons carry license to carry a concealed handgun in any building or real property owned or leased to a public college, university or other postsecondary institution. The bill provides certain exceptions to this new rule, including athletic sporting events and student housing, which includes fraternity and sorority housing.

State Revenue for February

 Friday, the Governor released February's revenue report. The February revenue outside of that from HB170 is up 24.85% or $234.482 million over February 2015. Year to date, revenue outside of that from HB170 is up 6.74% or $836,093 million. Year to date, additional revenue generated by the passage of HB170, the transportation tax bill, is $486,698 million.

I want your input

If you have ideas about topics you who like to see covered in this newsletter, please let me know by replying to this email. Of course if you have ideas on how to make Georgia a better place to live, work and play I want to hear those as well. Call 404-656-3943 or e-mail BillHeath@BillHeath.net