Around midnight on Thursday, March 29, the 2012 Georgia legislative session came to an end. Listed below, are some major issues that gained approval in both the House and Senate, and have been sent to the Governor for his consideration.
House Bill 456 establishes a committee that could recommend the abolishment of various state agencies, if their activity is found to be duplicating other agencies, or is unnecessary for the well being of the state.
HB954 would reduce the time for an abortion to be performed in Georgia, unless the life of the mother is in danger, to 20 weeks of pregnancy. It also includes a provision for an abortion to take place if doctors determine that the baby has a condition in which it would be unlikely to live after birth. HB954 was strongly supported by Georgia Right to Life and other pro life groups. The bill’s primary author, Doug McKillip, told House members during the waning hours of the session, that passage of this measure would save the lives of 1000 babies each year in Georgia. Similar laws have already been enacted in other states around the country, without court interference. States are limited by the U. S. Supreme Court decision, Rowe vs. Wade, in laws they can pass that restrict abortion. It is expected that HB954 will receive court approval, should it be challenged.
HB1176 enacts significant changes regarding Georgia’s criminal justice system. It diverts non-violent offenders away from costly prison beds to less-expensive alternatives. HB1176 is the result of a long time study aimed at punishing and rehabilitating people who commit non-violent crimes using cost saving measures aimed at reducing repeat offenses. It is estimated to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in projected prison spending, while at the same time hopefully achieving better results once offenders complete their sentencing.
Senate Bill 309 would allow terminally ill young people to be issued a hunting permit out of season while they are still healthy enough to hunt, under a special program overseen by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
HB397 strengthens the state’s open records meetings law for the first time in more than a decade. It increases maximum fines to $1000.00 for a first time offense, and $2500.00 for a repeated violation. However, the bill does exempt the State Development Authority from open records scrutiny, when negotiating large projects with out of state companies, aimed at producing increased job opportunities for Georgians. This is done in order to limit competition from other states, by not allowing them to know the incentives Georgia is offering to lure a major job producing industry into our state.
HB861 would require the random drug testing of illegal substances for parents seeking welfare, in order for them to qualify for benefits.
HB797 will allow voters to decide in November whether or not they would like to provide an easier method to establish and fund charter schools in the state. It would essentially nullify a ruling of the State Supreme Court last year that said the Georgia Charter Schools Commission was creating charter schools in Georgia in an unconstitutional manner. Under HB797, a charter school would be a separate institution of public education within a county that could be established by parents with the approval of the State Department of Education. Traditionally, charter schools are allowed to implement innovative approaches to education and are not required to come under many of the rules and regulations from the State Department and local boards of education. They are required, however, to achieve desired results and obtain certain standards in order to continue to be permitted.
SB410 addresses conditions set by the United States Department of Education required of Georgia when it granted a waiver to the state to be exempt from the federal act known as “No Child Left Behind.” It allows the state to set up its own testing and grading, rather than being forced to follow the federal model. House and Senate members felt the “No Child Left Behind Act”, while well intentioned, forced educators to train students to pass specific testing developed by the Federal government, rather than allowing teachers to concentrate on ensuring that their pupils receive a well balanced and overall good education.
HB872 would make it much more difficult to steal and sell various types of metal in Georgia. This legislation came about as a result of a dramatic increase during the last couple of years in the vandalism of churches, businesses, and private homes of such items as air conditioning copper, appliances, travel vehicles, and virtually anything that could be sold as scrap metal.
During the final day of the 2012 legislative session, Paul Voorhees, who has spent time overseas ministering to U.S. solders in Iraq, spoke to the Senate during their devotional time. He called for the restoration of the traditional family structure and the values upon which our nation was founded. “We need to put God back in our government,” he said. “We need to demand what made us great will still be taught.” He said that laws should guarantee that students be allowed to pray at football games without legal restrictions.
Next week, we will report on a number of major issues that did not make it through both houses of the General Assembly.
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