By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)
Week nine had a slower pace when compared to the legislating marathon of the last few weeks. The Senate passed 11 pieces of legislation this week and held several committee meetings to hear bills, most of which originated in the House. Now that we are passed the Crossover Day mark and through Legislative Day 32, we have hit the home stretch leading up to Sine Die.
Of the 11 pieces of legislation passed this week, the most significant was House Bill 683, which is the supplemental appropriations budget for the 2018 Fiscal Year. The amended version of the House bill was passed by the Senate on Monday and signed into law by Governor Deal on Friday. While we may have completed the budget process for the 2018 Fiscal Year, we wasted no time getting to work on the 2019 Fiscal Year budget. During week nine, the Senate Appropriations Committee held subcommittee hearings where state agencies, organizations and institutions presented their budget requests. In addition to my role as the Senate Majority Whip, I serve as the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation. It is always beneficial and important to hear how we can improve transportation in the state by allocating necessary funds.
Of the bills passed on the Senate floor this week, I believe House Bill 354 will have the biggest impact on transportation. The bill reconstitutes the Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority (GIMTCA) as a public corporation and an instrumentality of the state. Located in Savannah, where the Port of Savannah continues to grow by the year, GIMTCA aims to bring increased economic growth to the state’s import and export markets.
I am also happy to announce that House Bill 159, the “Adoption Bill,” was signed into law by Governor Deal on Monday. HB 159 is a much needed update to Georgia’s adoption laws and is the first of its kind in nearly 30 years. The bill will allow more children in foster care to be adopted into caring homes, extend the list of family members who can undertake legal guardianship and give parents in difficult situations more options to provide the best opportunities possible for their child.
In addition to this week’s action in the Senate, two of the three bills I sponsored to expand broadband access in rural Georgia saw movement in the House. Senate Bill 232, or the Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) Act, and Senate Bill 426, the Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act, each received their second reading and have been assigned to committee. SB 232 has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee and SB 426 has been assigned to the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee. The third piece of this rural broadband package – Senate Bill 402 or the Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act – received its second reading on Crossover Day and has also been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee for further review. I am confident that each of these bills will continue through the legislative process in the coming weeks and provide a solid starting point for broadband expansion.
Though the pace may have slowed this week, it is going to pick back up first thing Monday morning. There are only eight legislative days remaining and still much work to be done as our time winds down under the Gold Dome. Thank you for the continued opportunity to serve as your Senator, I will be sure to stay in touch as we wrap up the 2018 session. If you ever have any questions, comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office. We are always here to help in any way we can.