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Bills are piling up 

A closer look at some of the potential legislation being considered at the state capitol

There are more than 1,600 bills and resolutions circulating at the state capitol during this year’s legislative session. The future of HOPE funding and immigration reform have been the center of attention this year, but that doesn’t mean that’s all that’s going on under the Gold Dome. With about a week and a half left in the 2011 session, we present a few of the good, bad and ugly pieces of potential legislation that could be headed into the pages of the Georgia Code.

HB 16: One of dozens of pre–filed pieces of legislation by 43rd District Representative Bobby Franklin, this bill would repeal the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act of 2009. That law allows Georgia Power to add a steadily increasing surcharge to customers’ bills in order to finance construction of new reactors at Plant Vogtle. It was passed as a means of circumventing the normal regulatory process. Although it was given a first read on the House floor back in mid–January, the bill to repeal the Financing Act hasn’t made it to a committee hearing.

HB54: This bill would allow a person to carry “a weapon or long gun” in a place of worship. This would seem to raise myriad theological questions – does one need more protection than God can offer? Where do handguns and messages of universal love intersect? According to code section 16–11–127 there are only seven places in the state where guns are prohibited, including mental health facilities and bars where owners don’t permit weapons. By July there might only be six places. This bill is awaiting action by the Judiciary Non–Civil Committee.

HB 126: Were the Governor to sign this, there would be a new state holiday, known as Patriots Day, every year on April 19. The new holiday would serve “to remind citizens of our Revolution and the sacrifices endured during the years of struggle for American Independence.” On April 19, 1775, the British gathered near Concord, Massachusetts prompting the ride of Paul Revere and the “Shot heard round the world.” No word on whether we’d get a day off. The bill has been recommitted to the Rules Committee, who would set a date for a potential vote.

HB 347: It doesn’t have a catchy name like some other pieces of legislation, but HB 347 could be called the Oxendine Law, because the former Insurance Commissioner and one–time front–running gubernatorial candidate prompted its creation following the discovery that he’d circumvented professional certification exams by signing his own license papers before he resigned as Insurance Commissioner. The legislature is now tasked with closing that loophole. Ox told the AJC that he thought it better to sign his own forms because his presence might be a distraction for other test–takers. The bill has been read and referred by the Senate after passing the House.

HB 401: This bill, known as the “Presidential Electability Assurance Act” would require candidates for President of the U.S. to deliver certain documents to Georgia’s Secretary of State in order to prove their eligibility to run for the office. It also creates additional requirements for the candidate beyond those dictated by the Constitution. The bill made national news – the latest evidence that the “Birther” movement (those who don’t believe President Obama has a legitimate US birth certificate) is still alive and well in Georgia. HB 401 is sitting in committee.
SB 9: Known as the “Georgia Energy Freedom Act of 2011,” it will give the Governor power to delay implementation of any federal program “to address greenhouse gas emissions” until after exhaustive reviews are done to ascertain the impacts on the budget, economy, consumers, families and businesses (large and small). There’s no timeline for completion of the review, or who would be responsible for conducting it. This has passed the Senate and is now awaiting reading by the House.

SB 40: Part of the State Senate’s fixation on the 10th Amendment (as opposed to job creation or fixing education), this bill would counter federal regulation seeking to phase out the manufacturing of incandescent light bulbs. The bill says that if the light bulbs are manufactured in–state, and not exported to other states, then the federal Congress has no right to regulate them, because the Constitution only gives Congress the right to regulate inter–state commerce. This has passed the Senate and is awaiting reading by the House.

SB 80: If passed, the bill will require anyone convicted of a felony, or certain sex crimes, to have some of their DNA collected for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s new DNA bank. If your DNA is collected, and then it’s discovered you’re innocent, you can contact the GBI and they will “expunge” you DNA from their bank. The Senate committee reported favorably it, but it hasn’t been scheduled for a vote.

SB 89: A bill with distinctly local flavor, SB 89 would give the Mayor of Savannah the power to set the agenda for all City Council meetings. Currently, because of the City’s Charter, that power rests with the City Manager. The law would take effect starting in January 2012. It’s been read and referred by the Senate, but hasn’t come up for a vote.

SB 91: Another bill related to local politics, this one would give the Chairman of the Chatham County Commission the ability to run for a third term. Current Chairman Pete Liakakis is about to complete his second term, and this bill would allow him to appear on the ballot again this year.

SB 148: Taking the previous SB 91 a step further, this bill would remove any term limit on the Chatham County Commission Chairman. A chairman could serve “until his or her successor is elected and qualified.” This bill has also been read and referred by the Senate, but hasn’t come up for a vote.

SB 150: Despite the controversy over legislation that would enable municipalities to hold referendums on whether to allow Sunday package sales of alcohol (SB 10), the legislature isn’t ruling out every expansion of liquor sales in the state. SB 150 would allow municipal golf courses to sell wine and liquor by the drink if they obtained the proper licenses. Currently, publicly owned courses can only sell “malt beverages.”

SB 175: This bill would create the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission. After the 2010 Census results were tallied, the state’s population growth netted us another seat in the House of Representatives. The process of redistricting will be necessary to carve out another district. According to the bill, the commission tasked with the process will consist of seven members – six political appointees and one chosen by the six members. If the seventh member can’t be agreed upon, then the Supreme Court gets to choose. The commission will be charged with presenting a redistricting plan to the General Assembly, and would be dissolved after their plan was approved or rejected.

 

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Patrick Rodgers

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