Last days of legislative session are flying by fast

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Time is going by quickly at the Capitol. We returned to the gold dome on Monday, March 12, to begin the 31st legislative day of the 2012 session. With “Crossover Day” (Day 30) behind us, bills passed by the state Senate have now “crossed over” for consideration in the House. This means that we will spend the last 10 legislative days of the session debating and voting on Senate bills and resolutions that have already passed the Senate. Before Senate bills can make their way to the House floor, however, they must first go through the House committee process. Just as we spent the first few weeks of session in committee meetings examining House legislation, this week we spent much of our time in committee meetings examining Senate legislation. We will continue to hear and review Senate bills this week.

One piece of legislation that did “crossed over” from the Senate is Senate Bill 312. It is now under review in the House Judiciary Committee. SB 312 requires recipients of food stamps to engage in professional development activities, such as furthering their education, enrolling in an adult literacy class, or taking a job training course. This requirement would not apply to those working more than 30 hours a week or part-time students, since they are already furthering their professional development. With the Georgia unemployment rate above 9 percent, this measure will help ensure that those receiving public assistance are taking the steps necessary to become successful, tax-paying workers.

Another piece of Senate legislation discussed by the House Judiciary Committee this week was Senate Bill 316. This bill extends the statute of limitations up to 20 years for offences that harm children. After this change, adults can come forward and report cases of rape, molestation or incest that may have occurred when they were children. With only half of child abuse cases ever reported, this measure will allow prosecutors and victims to seek justice against those that commit these deplorable acts. Reporting abuse can ultimately prevent future abuse from occurring, so these adults may be able to save countless children by coming forward. I encourage you to report any instances of suspected child abuse by calling 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

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Senate Bill 469 also “crossed over” to the House and is currently under review in the House Industrial Relations Committee. SB 469 prohibits mass picketing on private property. While all Americans have a right to freedom of speech, this measure ensures that the rights of property owners are respected during protests.

Though not on the committee, Rep. Taylor, who is on the Public Safety Committee, sat in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee as they began discussing Senate Bill 441. This legislation prohibits individuals from pointing lasers at aircraft and police officers. This is an issue that is important to Public Safety and law enforcement. When pointed at an aircraft from many miles away, a simple laser pointer can cause a large glare on the glass of a cockpit windshield, temporarily blinding pilots and creating a serious safety concern for passengers and people on the ground. In 2010, more than 2,000 pilots reported being targeted by lasers. Although federal law already prohibits individuals from pointing lasers at aircrafts, this measure will ensure an extra level of protection for Georgia citizens and pilots.

Also, in SB 441 is a measure that prohibits people from pointing lasers at police officers. With many weapons containing laser sights, lasers can cause police officers to believe that their lives are being threatened. In 2005, this led to police shooting and killing a 24-year old Florida man after he pointed a laser at a group of deputies and refused to show his hands. SB 441 would help prevent a similar instance in Georgia, and allow police officers to do their jobs without unnecessary distractions.

In addition to SB 312, SB 316, SB 469, and SB 441, the House also received more than 100 other Senate bills and resolutions that are available for consideration. If you would like information on any of this legislation, or any House legislation that is now in the Senate, please visit the House website at and click on the Clerk’s office/legislation link at the top of that page. Once there, you can use the “Legislation Search” button on the left side of the screen to find bills and resolutions by bill number, key words, or even the original sponsor of the legislation.

While much of this week was spent studying Senate bills, we would like to update you on the status of a House bill that we mentioned earlier this session. As you may remember, House Bill 673 would establish a “return to play” policy that requires youth sports coaches to take an annual course on the signs of concussions so that they can prevent youth athletes from continuing to play after receiving a concussion. As currently written, this legislation may unintentionally open parents and volunteer coaches up to potential legal liabilities and discourage parents and volunteers from coaching. HB 673 did not make it to through the House in time for Crossover Day and is thus unlikely to become law this year. However, my colleagues announced this week that the House will form a study committee to continue working on this important legislation. This will allow us to consider the issue next year, after the study committee completes its work and reveals its findings.

We will continue to review Senate legislation in both committee hearing and during General Session. We encourage you to please contact us with any concerns you might have regarding Senate bills or resolutions. Though the legislative session may be coming to an end, we still need to know your opinion on the issues that affect you and your family. You can contact Representative Darlene Taylor at her Capitol Office at (404) 656-0177 or email to Rep. Maddox can be contacted at his Capitol office at (404) 656-015 or email to Thank you for allowing us to serve as your representatives.

Gene Maddox, R-Cairo, is the representative for State House District 172, which includes all of Decatur County. Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasville, is the representative for State House District 173, which includes portions of Grady County and Thomas County.