2/5/2018 - On Monday, January 30th, we reconvened for a hectic third week of the 2017 session. Committee and subcommittee hearings were in full swing as we considered various bills. We also addressed measures dealing with public safety and agriculture on the House floor.
Most importantly, Pickens Leadership came down on Wednesday to visit. After battling the traffic to the Capitol they entered in to a packed house. It was also Research University Day, and representatives from Ga Tech, GA State, Augusta University, and the Univ. of Georgia came as we celebrated the impact these universities make on Georgia. Many students were there as well as their mascots!! I asked our Senators, Chuck Payne and Steve Gooch, to visit with our folks after session; and I, too, talked about what we do. I wish they could have stayed to see me chair my first committee meeting as Chairman of the Higher Education Committee. We looked at HB 39, the prohibition of sanctuary campuses, and passed it out of our committee on to the Rules Committee. I was excited to be in the position to be able to do that. We then met for the Higher Education Appropriations Committee until 7 pm that night on HB 51, which was presented to a way-overflowing crowd. Thanks to the Pickens Chamber leadership for bringing our citizens down to their Capitol.
On the House floor last week we passed an initiative that will benefit Georgia's public safety sector and keep us in line with federal regulations. House Bill 38, which would distinguish a three-wheeled vehicle that is controlled by a steering wheel from a motorcycle, which is controlled by handlebars. This bill would also update licensing requirements for drivers of three-wheeled motor vehicles. Federal safety standards qualify three-wheeled motor vehicles, equipped with steering wheels, as automobiles. However, current Georgia law considers all three-wheeled vehicles as motorcycles. HB 38 would require drivers of these three-wheeled automobiles with steering wheels to obtain Class C commercial drivers’ licenses rather than Class M motorcycle licenses.
It is no secret that agriculture in our state is extremely important. As a member of the House AG Committee and a proud retired County Agent, I am passionate about protecting our AG industry, which is why I voted in favor of House Bill 49. HB 49 protects farmers from fraudulent practices that occur while selling and acquiring livestock, especially online, while closing regulatory gaps. Georgia law currently requires livestock market operators and dealers to obtain livestock dealer licenses; however, these licenses have no expiration date and no fee association, making it impossible for the Department of AG to track the number of licensed livestock dealers in our state. As a result, fraudulent dealers often take advantage of Georgia farmers. The legislation requires the following:
• Requires licensed livestock dealers and auction operators to apply for and obtain a license from the AG Commissioner every three years.
• Requires the Commissioner of AG to publish the names and locations of licensed individuals online and in writing.
• Revises language on what defines a “livestock dealer” and “surety,” or a letter of credit, certificate of deposit or other written document guaranteeing the faithful performance of the terms of the contract purchase.
• Allows the Department of AG to charge a $25 triennial fee for livestock dealers and livestock order buyers.
• Allows a triennial fee not to exceed $200 for livestock markets based on the surety requirement.
If approved by the Senate and signed by Governor Deal, the requirements of HB 49 will promote greater consistency and transparency within our AG industry, which generates over $71 billion annually into Georgia’s economy.
While our schedules are oftentimes full of important legislative business, it is also imperative that my colleagues and I take the time to honor the dedicated Georgians we are privileged enough to serve. On Tuesday, we remembered and recognized the lives of two courageous officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Peach County Sheriff’s Deputy Daryl Smallwood and Sgt. Patrick Sondron were both shot and killed while responding to a call on November 6 of last year. State Representative Robert Dickey presented House resolutions honoring each officer to the families of Deputy Smallwood and Sgt. Sondron. Their colleagues also joined us in the House Chamber as we paid tribute to the lives of these brave officers and commended the ultimate sacrifice they made to their community and to the State of Georgia.
On Thursday we also voted on the adjournment resolution for the remaining days of session. The last day of session, Day 40, will take place on Friday, March 30th. In the meantime, I will continue to update you on the latest news in regards to your government at work. If you are in Atlanta, or plan on making a trip to the Capitol, please come by and see us. Thank you for allowing me to represent your voice and thank you for the kind words of encouragement and prayers. Your confidence in me means a great deal! If you need anything at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime at 404-656-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.