A bill that would have banned teen drivers from using even hands-free cellphones behind the wheel didn’t make it through the Georgia General Assembly this year – but expect it to return in 2020.
“It’s not going away,” said Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee.
A distracted driving law that went into effect last July prohibits all motorists from using electronic devices behind the wheel unless they’re hands-free. Lumsden said the original plan was to eliminated the use completely for drivers under 18, except for emergencies, but it wasn’t included in the final bill.
”It’s something we still want to do, but the governor’s office wanted to wait and get more data from the primary bill,” he said.
Rome Police Capt. Chris DeHart said in late February that the city experienced an average 34-percent drop in rear-end crashes since the law went into effect but more time is needed to gain an accurate picture of the effect.
Tuesday is the last day of the 2019 legislative session but the General Assembly runs on two-year cycles. That means any bills that don’t pass this year start next year at the point in the process where they left off.
For example, Lumsden is a co-sponsor of legislation submitted Friday that would increase to $50,000 from $25,000 the fine the state could levy against a nursing home, rehabilitation center or intermediate care facility for licensing violations. HB 722 is cued up for committee assignment in January.
Also on Friday, the Senate passed Lumsden’s HB 33, which extends the time a military service member overseas has to renew a Georgia Weapons carry permit. The measure awaits the governor’s signature.
Tuesday, called Sine Die to signify the session will resume later, is likely to be a long and hectic day at the State Capitol. Lawmakers will have until midnight to push their bills through, either on their own or tacked onto a similar piece of legislation.
Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, saw her HB 553 expanded to 13 pages from 1 page in the House and the Senate tabled a vote on it Friday, possibly to line up amendments from the floor.
The bill was initially aimed at removing an obsolete entity from membership on the State Victim Services Commission. It now also dissolves a number of quasi-governmental entities ranging from the Georgia Tobacco Community Development Board to the Commission on Men’s Health and the Georgia Silver-Haired Legislature.
Any assets and liabilities of those agencies as of June 30 would be transferred to the state.
Dempsey’s HB 187, establishing obesity-treatment coverage for state employees, cleared the Senate Friday.
She, Lumsden and Rep. Mitchell Scoggins, R-Cartersville, also passed resolutions in the House Friday commending the STAR students and teachers in Rome and Floyd County public and private schools.
Scoggins is awaiting votes in the Senate on bills that would provide homestead exemptions from Bartow and Cartersville school taxes for residents of those districts who are age 65 and older.