Friday, March 26, will be the 30th legislative day of the 2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Day 30 is known as “cross-over day” because it is the final day for the House of Representatives to pass legislation in time for it to be considered by the Senate during this session, and vice versa. Because this is the second session of a two-year term, legislation that has not been approved by either house by the end of Day 30 will be considered dead.

 

As a result, the pace of the legislative process picked up last week, with numerous bills approved by the House and sent to the Senate, including the following:

 

  • HB 571, which would change portions of the state’s sex offender laws that have been rejected by recent court decisions. The legislation would allow low-risk inmates to petition the courts to be removed from the sex offender registry after completing their sentences, including those who are disabled, confined to hospice care or who were convicted in “Romeo and Juliet” cases of consensual teen sex. A judge could approve or deny the petition.

 

  • HB 788, which would prohibit animal shelters from using carbon monoxide to euthanize stray dogs and cats. Only lethal injections would be allowed for euthanasia in shelters. I was assigned to the subcommittee of the House Science & Technology Committee that worked on this legislation. Eleven shelters in Georgia are still using “gas chambers,” the nearest one to our area being in Cobb County.

 

  • HB 965, which would authorize local governments to choose whether they want to allow bicycle riding on their sidewalks and also to require motorists to yield to bicycles when they are required to yield to pedestrians.

 

  • HB 979, which would increase the penalties for assault and battery on a member of a law enforcement agency’s explorer program.

 

  • HB 982, which would make it easier for the Department of Revenue to garnish the wages of persons who are delinquent in paying their taxes. I voted against this proposal because it would put the burden of proof on the individual, who would have to appeal the Department of Revenue action to Superior Court.

 

  • HB 1093, which would require city and county governments to furnish the state Department of Revenue with information about businesses that are licensed locally. The department would then cross-check that information against its records to crack down on businesses that are not submitting sales tax to the state. This is a step in the right direction toward increasing state revenues that are now going uncollected.

 

  • HB 1106, which would require animal shelter personnel to scan dogs and cats for implanted microchip identification prior euthanizing the animal.

 

  • HB 1188, which would allow the Department of Revenue to hire up to 10 tax agents trained as state-certified law enforcement officers to handle tax fraud and theft cases, giving them the authority to go undercover, conduct surveillance and confiscate documents. The GBI has been providing this support to the Revenue Department. I voted against the bill because it seemed inconsistent to be hiring more revenue agents while at the same time Gov. Perdue is recommending an additional $2.1 million cut in GBI funding.

 

  • HB 1332, which would block law enforcement agencies from distributing certain explicit crime scene photos of victims. Credentialed journalists would be able to inspect the photos under supervision by GBI personnel but not copy or publish them.

 

Water Bill Sent to Governor

The House gave final approval SB 370, which is the Senate version of legislation that would implement a number of water conservation measures, including requirements for low-flow plumbing devices in newly constructed homes and buildings, an outdoor watering restriction and other measures. The bill, which is similar to HB 1094 passed earlier by the House, now goes to the governor for his signature.

Transportation Funding

The House Transportation Committee approved HB 1218, which would allow voters to consider a transportation sales tax on a regional basis in 12 special districts around the state. The committee’s version of the bill includes an opt-out provision for regions and counties, which Gov. Perdue has said would cause him to veto the legislation. HB 1218 now awaits a vote on the House floor.

 

State of the Judiciary

Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of the Supreme Court of Georgia addressed a joint legislative session on March 16, reminding lawmakers of the serious consequences that deep funding cuts in the court system are having on public safety and business in our state. The chief justice said judicial budget cuts have contributed to a considerable backlog of criminal and civil cases in Superior Courts around the state.

 

Chief Smith Honored

On March 16, Chief Hubert Smith of the Rome Police Department was honored in the House of Representatives on his selection as 2009 Chief of the Year by police chiefs across the state and commended for his 44 years in law enforcement.

 

Agriculture Awareness

March 16 was also Agriculture Awareness Day at the Capitol, and I was pleased to greet and visit with approximately 300 Chattooga County 4-H and FFA students for the event. Agriculture is Georgia’s oldest and largest industry, and it remains a leading source of jobs and income.

 

Rep. Reece may be reached at 404-656-7859 or barbara.reece@house.ga.gov. Rep. Reece serves on the Education Committee, State Institutions and Properties Committee, Science and Technology Committee, and the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee. She is also Secretary of the Rural Caucus.