The Georgia Legislature is quickly approaching the end of the 2010 Legislative Session. We will wrap up this week with Day 30, known as Crossover Day and the last day for Senate bills to pass over to the House of Representatives. The Senate has passed many bills important to saving tax payer’s money, protecting public safety, and protecting Georgian’s health care rights. While the budget and economy have been a top priority, I have also worked to pass many pieces of legislation important to public safety and transportation.

 

Georgia’s law enforcement and emergency personnel put their lives on the line each and every day to protect us from tragedies and save our lives in emergencies. The least we can do is make sure their indemnification funds remain with their families when they make the ultimate sacrifice and fall in the line of duty. It shouldn’t matter if they are married, single or without a dependent. This is why I sponsored and the Senate passed the Jarrett Little Act (SB 414) in memory of Jarrett Little, a Walker County and Fort Oglethorpe firefighter that died in January 2009. This legislation provides that in the case of death or organic brain damage in the line of duty by a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, emergency management specialist, or prison guard, payment from the Georgia State Indemnification Fund may also be made to the deceased person’s parents if the person does not have a spouse or dependents, or to his or her surviving siblings if the person has no surviving parents.

 

The Senate unanimously passed my “Blue Alert” bill which will create a state-wide alert system to speed the apprehension of violent criminals who kill or seriously injure local, state, or federal law enforcement officers. Georgia’s law enforcement personnel are our first line of defense when it comes to public safety. When a peace officer is injured or killed, we must do all we can to apprehend the criminal immediately.

 

Georgia’s rest areas and service to travelers along interstate highways will greatly improve if Georgia is allowed to establish partnerships with private sector companies and franchises. SB 305 urges the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to obtain a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration that would allow commercial operations in rest areas along the interstates in Georgia. The goal is to partner with a private sector to help maintain of rest areas, keep them open later, serve more people, and help local economies.

 

The Senate sent the House a resolution authorizing the GDOT to enter into more construction contracts for buildings, bridges and approaches, rail corridors, and limited or controlled access projects. Current law authorizes GDOT to use the design-build procedure for contracting with no more than 15 percent of the total construction projects awarded in the previous fiscal year. SR 822 will increase the allotted percentage of projects to 30 percent. We will double the amount of transportation construction projects and get them done more efficiently, growing jobs and improving Georgia’s infrastructure

 

Other significant bills passed by the State Senate this legislative session include:

 

Property taxes (SB 342): The most sweeping overhaul of the Georgia property tax system in decades achieved unanimous approval. The Property Tax Assessment and Appeals reform bill is aimed at ensuring all Georgia properties are properly assessed at Fair Market Value and that property owners have guaranteed rights to appeal.  

 

Smash and grab (SB 423): In response to the rash of high profile “smash and grab” burglaries across Georgia, a new crime will be created for these burglaries that are taking a financial toll on Georgia’s retail industry. This bill creates a new statute in Georgia law that defines smash and grab burglaries as entering a retail establishment without authority with the intent to commit theft and causing more than $500 of damage. The Georgia Retail Association reports that Atlanta saw a dramatic increase in these crimes when they escalated from 16 smash and grab burglaries in 2006 to 119 in 2009.  The merchandise loss during that four-year period was nearly $4 million.

 

Health care protection (SB 317): Georgians deserve the right to choose their own health care. The actions by the President and the Democratic-controlled Congress were clearly out of touch with the American people and the people of Georgia. Therefore, the Senate passed the Health Care Freedom of Choice bill, which prohibits any federal mandate from compelling Georgia citizens, employers, or health care providers to participate in any health care system. The bill does not affect current health care services provided in Georgia.

 

Lawful Carry (SB 308): Georgia’s 400,000 lawfully carrying citizens and Georgia’s law enforcement officials are another step closer to having clearer carrying laws under the Georgia Common Sense Lawful Carry Act (SB 308), which will remove confusing provisions from the current law. The final bill removes the confusing public gathering clause and specifically states where a licensed gun owner can and cannot carry their weapon. 

I am honored to serve and represent the 53rd Senate District in the State Senate and as the Senate Transportation Chairman. I am working diligently to move Georgia forward for the citizens of this great state with an improved plan of economic development and transportation. As I work for you this session, please continue to contact me with your thoughts, questions and concerns.

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Sen. Jeff Mullis serves as Chairman of the Transportation Committee. He represents the 53rd Senate district which includes Chattooga, Dade, and Walker counties and portions of Catoosa County. He can be reached at his office in Atlanta at 404.656.0057 or by email at jeff.mullis@senate.ga.gov.