By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)
Every bill passed by the Georgia General Assembly undergoes a careful and methodical vetting process before it is signed into law. Hundreds of bills are filed each year, but only a small number will make their way to Governor Deal’s desk at the end of the legislative session. This is why many bills sometimes take several years to become law—and while this may be frustrating to supporters of the bill, it is a good thing. We want to review every potential benefit and disadvantage in order to prevent the need for follow-up legislation.
An example of this multi-year process is House Bill 859. Also known as the “campus carry” bill, the legislation would allow anyone with a valid weapons carry license to legally carry a handgun on a college campus. The weapon must be concealed and cannot be carried onto property used for athletic events or student housing. This legislation has been fiercely debated for several years, with critics citing safety concerns. However, this is legislation that actually increases safety and allows responsible, competent college students to appropriately protect themselves.
The Senate fulfilled our constitutional obligation last week by passing House Bill 751. This is the Fiscal Year 2017 General Budget, which runs from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. The budget allocates approximately $23.7 billion in state funding, and is the largest state budget since the 2008 recession. Although we continue to practice strict fiscal responsibility when establishing the budget, the increased total is a good sign of Georgia’s continued growth and prosperity. House Bill 751 includes more funding for road projects and maintenance, public safety improvements and a 3 percent salary increase for our hardworking school employees. This bill has now been transferred back to the House for approval of the Senate’s changes.
Two House bills that I carried in the Senate also received approval last week. House Bill 767 would require drivers to follow specific safety procedures when passing utility service vehicles that are stopped on the road with flashing lights. Under current law, these procedures must only be followed when passing stationary tow trucks or highway maintenance vehicles. House Bill 767 adds utility service vehicles to this list. The other bill, House Bill 172, would allow alcohol to be responsibly consumed on a homemade or inflatable raft. While this might seem like an insignificant bill, this has been a gray area for many years. This clarifies the legalities of enjoying a beverage while tubing or floating the river.
Please continue reaching out to me with any questions, comments or concerns about legislation during the 2016 legislative session. I always appreciate and encourage your feedback!
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at [email protected].