Last week the Georgia General Assembly convened for a slightly shortened week, as we only met for three legislative days. Despite this, Senators had full schedules each day including longer days in the Chamber voting on legislation and working through a heavy volume of bills in our individual committees.

Last week was an especially busy one for me, as I had a few pieces of legislation that I would like to discuss.

Last week, the Senate passed Senate Bill 296, which I sponsored. In 2012, the General Assembly passed a bill that was intended to allow for alternative methods of cremation, specifically the process of Alkaline Hydrolysis which is widely viewed as a more environmentally friendly and gentler method of cremation.

However, a local business owner in our district brought to my attention that current Georgia law still does not explicitly allow for this process and a few changes would be needed before they could move forward with offering this new service.

SB 296 simply removes the word “retort” from current Code and replaces it with a more broadly defined term “cremation device”. Many states across the country already allow for Alkaline Hydrolysis and this new definition would allow for the process to be carried out in the Georgia and would keep the door open for future innovative methods of cremation.

I would also like to mention another bill I sponsored that is garnering a fair amount of attention. In the past few years, our country has witnessed outbreaks of violence at places of worship. In the last 20 years, there have been 46 shootings at places of worship across the country that resulted in 140 fatalities.

Mercifully, many of these attacks were brought to an end quickly after the attacker was confronted by an armed parishioner. In an effort to prevent more lives being lost, Senate Bill 357 would allow places of worship to implement policies, including training requirements, to allow individuals or groups of individuals to carry weapons in their places of worship.

This measure would give places of worship an additional option to provide security for their congregations and would allow attendees feel more at ease while in a place that should feel the safest of all.

This week, the Senate and the House will hold off on convening for any official legislative days and will instead turn their full attention back to the budget. We knew the budget would provide some additional challenges this year and because passing a balanced budget is a constitutional requirement of the General Assembly, we want to do our best to get this right.

We will be holding some Appropriations Subcommittees in the Senate so we can dive into further detail what Georgia’s agencies need to function and what areas we can afford to trim.

This is never an easy process, but a leaner, limited government is never a bad thing. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday, February 18 for Legislative Day 13 when we will get back to our daily business of passing bills and resolutions in the Senate Chamber. If there is ever anything that I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office.

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

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