Broadband Access Moves Forward with Senate Bill 232

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By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

Friday marked the end of a very busy week at the Capitol. The Senate picked up the pace with committee meetings running late into the night and Senators working hard to pass legislation before Crossover Day on Friday, March 3.

On Tuesday, I introduced Senate Bill 232, the “Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) Act,” to address broadband access issues that affect citizens across the state. Greater access to this invaluable resource has proven to increase quality of life and serve as an economic development tool. SB 232 will address the ways Georgia can move forward and promote the availability and delivery of broadband services to citizens throughout the state. The FIBRE Act defines broadband service as internet access capable of transmitting data at a rate of 25 megabytes for downloading and at least 3 megabytes per second for uploading.

First, SB 232 will govern the ability of local authorities to regulate or charge for the collocation of small wireless facilities in public rights of way under certain circumstances. Any disputes between the local governing authorities and companies wishing to install the small wireless facilities will be handled by the Public Service Commission.

Second, a political subdivision maybe certified as a gigabit ready community if they enact an ordinance for reviewing applications and streamlining permits related to broadband network projects.

Third, service delivery strategies will include plans to promote the availability and delivery of broadband services. The strategies will be used to identify steps which will be taken to ensure that the population of a local government has reasonable and cost-effective access to broadband services.

Fourth, SB 232 redefines the Universal Access Fund to allow the Public Service Commission to fund the deployment of internet services in rural areas. It also reassures reasonably priced access to basic local exchange services.  The commission will ensure that the fund operates in a competitively neutral manner when it comes to competing telecommunication providers.

Fifth, Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs) will be authorized to provide and operate emerging communication technologies to include internet services. They currently serve electricity to approximately 4.2 million Georgians.

Sixth, SB 232 will address tax exemptions for deployment of broadband technology and how SPLOST proceeds are to be used and may be expended for broadband services in rural areas of the state.

Lastly, the Georgia Department of Economic Development will create the Georgia Gigabit Ready Community Site designation program. This designation will help identify sites in the state where business prospects will have access to internet speeds greater than 1 gigabit.

This legislation if passed could be the game changer for internet access in rural Georgia. I look forward to working with my colleagues on SB 232 as it moves through the legislative process. I hope you will reach out to my office if you have any questions, comments or concerns about SB 232 or any pending legislation.
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]

 

Finalizing Georgia’s Budget

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Georgia Senate

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Contact:          Ines Owens, Acting Director
[email protected]
404.656.0028

Finalizing Georgia’s Budget

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

As the General Assembly marches closer to Sine Die, our constitutional duty of passing a balanced budget for Georgia’s government has become our biggest priority for the last few legislative days. The Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) general budget, House Bill 44, is near completion. The Senate and House both have their own versions and each is standing steadfast, so the $25 billion budget will now head to a Conference Committee that will work to come up with a compromise on a budget that is fiscally responsible.

There are a few allocations in HB 44 that I would be glad to see make it out of the Conference Committee. Among them are appropriations for our education system. Under the Senate version of HB 44, teachers across Georgia would get a two percent increase in their base salary and the Teachers Retirement System would receive an additional $223.5 million so it can be fully funded. Additionally, the Senate’s version would provide nearly $17 million to buy new school buses.

Currently, Georgia Public Broadcasting provides video streams of both the House of Representative and Senate chambers. Since the Senate wants to be as transparent as possible to all of Georgia’s citizens, there’s a $485,000 appropriation for the Senate Transparency Project, which would include video streaming of Senate proceedings and committee meetings.

There are also some line items that will directly benefit Senate District 51. The proposed budget would allocate $150,000 to the Young Farmers programs in Fannin County. Also, $1.1 million would be allocated to purchase equipment for a new convocation center and the renovation of Memorial Hall for the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. The Senate FY18 budget recommendation also includes $100,000 in airport aid for the Blairsville Airport.

I’m proud that we are appropriating funds through conservative fiscal policies. If you have any questions about the budget or any legislation that is pending, please reach out to my office. As the pace picks up during our final two weeks, I will keep your input and interests in mind to ensure that legislation we pass will benefit you, your families and Georgia.

For the full version of HB 44 and details related to the Senate version, follow the link below:

http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/en-US/AppropriationsDocuments.aspx

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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]

The Halfway Point

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Georgia Senate

 

 

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Contact: Ines Owens, Acting Director
[email protected]
404.656.0028

 

The Halfway Point

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

This week marked the halfway point of the 2017 legislative session and the end of week six here at the state Capitol. From committee meetings, to the many special guests we honored on the Senate floor, it has certainly been a busy week here, and the pace is sure to continue in the next 20 days.

This week I had the privilege of honoring two talented and smart young ladies from District 51, Taylor Burrell, Miss Apple Capitol, and Chandler Sherry, Miss Apple Capitol’s Outstanding Teen. These two women will represent our area in the Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen preliminary competitions. It was wonderful having them on the Senate floor and I am grateful for their willingness to representing our district with pride.

This week was full of important legislation, so I am going to give you a basic rundown of some of the bills we heard on the Senate Floor, all of which passed and will now travel to the House for consideration:

Senate Bill 2, “The FAST Act – Fairness, Accountability, Simplification, and Transparency – Empowering Our Small Businesses to Succeed” supports businesses, big and small and will reduce the regulatory burdens placed on Georgia’s small businesses. It aims to simplify the licensing processes and to eliminate nuisance taxes.

Senate Bill 3, the “Creating Opportunities Needed Now to Expand Credentialed Training Act”, would encourage high schools and industries to participate in credentialing programs that would allow high school students to earn certified industry credentials while still in school. Areas of focus under this bill include industries in the career, technical and agriculture education programs.

Senate Bill 45, or the “upskirting bill,” would make the observation, filming, video recording or photography under or through an individual’s clothing to view intimate body parts illegal in Georgia. This bill is needed to amend the current outdated law because of today’s technology saturated society. It’s good to see our privacy being protected and our laws being update to reflect changes in modern technology.

Senate Bill 89 would provide investments for railroads to help support transportation across the state. As our state becomes more populated and our economic opportunities expand, it’s important that our infrastructure needs follow as well. By increasing funding to railway, we ensure that our state’s infrastructure needs in freight rail are met for years to come. This bill is extremely important to my colleagues and me and will keep Georgia on the right track for economic success and prosperity.

As always, it is a pleasure to represent you in Atlanta. Your opinion means a lot to me and I hope you will reach out to my office if you have any questions, comments or concerns about pending legislation. Thank you!

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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]

The Amended 2017 Budget

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Contact:          Ines Owens, Acting Director
[email protected]
404.656.0028

The Amended 2017 Budget

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

This week, the Senate passed one of the most important pieces of legislation that we will see all year: The Amended 2017 Fiscal Year (FY) budget. The AFY 2017 budget (also known as the “little budget”) is passed halfway through each fiscal year. AFY 2017 revenue stands at around $24 billion and will be used to make adjustments to our currently under or over funded programs and departments.

One of the biggest changes was to add $27.2 million in funds for salary increases for law enforcement officers. This salary increase is critical to address turnover and to ensure Georgia is retaining top tier talent. Additionally, we added $2.5 million to fund a 57 percent per diem increase for foster parents and $50 million for the creation of the new Georgia Cyber Range in Augusta.

In the amended budget, education makes up the bulk of the budget’s anticipated expenditures. Georgia’s technical schools are becoming a more and more popular alternative for students who wish to pursue career paths in any number of high-demand industries across the state. To respond to the growing number of interested students and to meet the high demand of skilled labor jobs, the budget allots $5.5 million in additional funds for career, technical and agricultural education equipment grants. The budget also calls for an added $16.8 million for our Move on When Ready dual enrollment education program so we can continue to allow high school students to receive college credit.

Other highlights include an additional $91.8 million for adjustments for enrollment growth, $9.1 million State Commission Charter School Supplement, and $9.9 million in grants for our charter school system. These funds are all necessary to ensure that our education system keeps up with the rigorous standards expected of our students.

If you have any questions about the proposed AFY17 budget or would like to review it, you can find it at:http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/Documents/AppropriationsDocuments/FY2017/Amended/AFY17_SAC_FINAL.pdf

If you have any questions about the proposed amended budget or legislation coming through the Senate, please feel free to contact my office.

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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]

Broadband Access Moving Forward

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By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

The Senate reconvened for legislative day five on Monday. Standing committees started meeting to adopt their rules in preparation for bill hearings starting next week. Several pieces of legislation were introduced this week and many more will be dropped as we progress through the session. In the next couple of weeks, I will be proposing legislation addressing the findings of the Joint Senate and House Study Committee on High Speed Broadband Communications Access for All Georgians.

The study committee held regional meetings around the state during the interim to hear from rural Georgians about the challenges and opportunities that exist with broadband access. After hearing from citizens and stakeholders, it is clear that broadband access is an issue that must be addressed across the entire state. Greater access to this resource has proven to increase quality of life and serve as an economic development tool.

The legislation I plan to propose is based on the committee’s recommendations and findings. As the legislation moves through the legislative process, I plan to meet with stakeholders, constituents and people around the state to ensure that any proposed legislation will benefit all Georgians.

For the full overview of the final report, please follow this link: http://www.senate.ga.gov/sro/Documents/StudyCommRpts/2016FinalReportBroadbandAccess.pdf

My work at the Capitol relies on your feedback, so please continue reaching out to discuss legislation with me. I am proud to serve over 200,000 constituents who reach out via email, phone calls and visits to provide feedback. My staff and I appreciate these efforts and want to reassure each and every one of you that every phone call, email or office visit is taken into consideration when casting my vote in the Senate chamber. Although we may not be able to respond immediately, your voices are heard. Please do not hesitate to call or email me at any time. I am in office to serve you!

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]

 

Georgia DOT Contracts Awarded for Senate District 51

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Press Release

 

Contact:           Ines Owens, Acting Director

[email protected]
404.656.0028

 

Georgia DOT Contracts Awarded for Senate District 51GDOT

 

ATLANTA (January 25, 2017) | The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) awarded approximately $8.6 million for road projects in Senate District 51 as part of a $54 million statewide construction and maintenance upgrade. Projects for Senate District 51 were announced as part of the 2016 November and December awards.

 

“Maintenance and upgrades for existing roads continue to be a critical issue for our local communities,” said Senator Steve Gooch(R – Dahlonega). “I commend GDOT for acknowledging the needs within our community and awarding projects to Senate District 51. These projects will increase safety, decrease congestion and ensure that existing infrastructure needs are met.”

 

Dawson County was awarded a project totaling around $3.8 million. This funding will go toward construction of a roundabout on State Route 53 at State Route 183. The anticipated completion date for this project is May 31, 2018.

 

A project totaling around $4.5 million was awarded to address approximately 53 miles of plant mix resurfacing and surface treatment paving at five locations across Fannin and Pickens Counties. These upgrades will be completed by November 30, 2017. Along with this award, Pickens County was awarded an additional project totaling $292,243. This project will increase safety throughout the county by funding signing and pavement marking upgrades at railroad crossing location throughout the county. The anticipated completion date for these projects is May 31, 2018.

 

Information on schedules, lane closures and detours will be made available on the Georgia DOT Website in advance of construction activities.

 

Details on all projects awarded can be found through the Award Announcement Downloads link at https://www.bidx.com/ga/letting?lettingid=16052001. Click on Award Announcement on the right.

 

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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]

2017 Budget Hearings Update

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2017 Budget Hearings Update

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

The Senate reconvened for week two after a day off in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This week was dedicated to Senate and House Appropriation Committee’s budget hearings. Governor Nathan Deal and Georgia’s various agencies outline their policy and budget proposals to the committee members. We also heard from several state economists who presented a positive outlook of Georgia’s economy. They echoed the Governor’s remarks that our state remains number one in the nation for business growth. We are at near full employment and our Rainy Day fund now exceeds $2 billion.

On Tuesday, Governor Deal elaborated on the budget plan he introduced last week in his State of the State Address. Among the governor’s recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) general budget is a $2 billion allocation for transportation funding. These funds will go towards improving and upgrading aging aspects of our transportation infrastructure, such as road repaving, road expansions and bridge repairs. These upgrades will ensure that our state’s roadways remain safe and easily traversable for all those who travel in or around our state.

Education has been and will remain a top priority for us this year. Our graduation rates are at an all-time high and our test scores are outpacing the national average. In order to keep up with the growing demands of our public education system, Governor Deal has recommended an additional $133.2 million for enrollment growth and training, as well as $240 million in bond packages to fund the construction of new schools and school equipment. The HOPE scholarship remains an important pathway to higher education for so many of Georgia’s students and the governor has recommended an additional $49.3 million in order to ensure that pathway remains open.

You can find Governor Deal’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017 amended budget and the Governor Deal’s proposed Fiscal Year 2018 general budget online at https://opb.georgia.gov/.

In the coming weeks, we will begin to hold committee meetings in order to individually evaluate legislation. Your feedback is important to my work on your behalf, so please continue reaching out to discuss legislation with me. I take every phone call, email or office visit into consideration when casting my vote in the Senate chamber. Please do not hesitate to call or email me at any time. I am in office to serve you!

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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]

Insider Advantage/James Magazine Present “Influential Georgians” Awards

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Insider Advantage/James Magazine Present “Influential Georgians” Awards

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IAG CEO Phil Kent and Speaker of the House David Ralston present the ‘Top Legislators’ award to Rep. Barry Fleming, Rep. Stacey Evans, & Sen. Steve Gooch

 

Atlanta’s Commerce Club was the venue yesterday evening for the Insider Advantage/James Magazine “2016 Influential Georgians” reception sponsored by the Atlanta law firm Hall Booth and Smith. Approximately 70 attendees– ranging from various state and local elected officials to prominent business, judicial and political leaders– were welcomed by Insider Advantage/James CEO and Publisher Phil Kent and Hall Booth Smith Managing Partner John Hall.

Phil Kent presents the ‘2016 Influential Georgians Award’ to Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers

Kent presented the “2016 Influential Georgians Award” to Georgia Power Company CEO Paul Bowers.

Bowers became chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power in 2010, having previously served as chief financial officer of the Southern Company. His business, civic and charitable service is wide-ranging an impressive— which is why James chose him for the award. His board memberships include serving on the University System Board of Regents, the Georgia Research Alliance, the Georgia Historical Society, the Atlanta Committee for Progress and the policy advisory board for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. He was also the 2015 chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

A special guest was Georgia House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston, who presented three InsiderAdvantage/James “2016 Lawmakers of the Year” awards. The recipients were state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, who was elected majority whip of the Senate GOP Caucus in 2014 and has been a key policy-maker in the critical area of transportation; state Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna, a lawyer known as a voice for, among other issues, restoring and preserving the HOPE Scholarship; and state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, an attorney who has sponsored numerous criminal justice bills.

Ralston commended Kent along with InsiderAdvantage/James Magazine “for presenting fair and balanced information necessary to all Georgians— and I don’t usually praise the media.”

Attendees included prominent business people, members of the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, various judges and lawyers, the state’s attorney general, Republican and Democrat activists, high-powered lobbyists of government affairs firms, a bipartisan group of state legislators and former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell.

State Senator Steve Gooch, District 51 Wins 5/24 Election

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sos.ga.gov

State Senator, District 51 – REP
County Reporting = County Reporting
County STEVE GOOCH (I) JOHN WILLIAMSON Total
County Reporting Dawson 2948 1120 4,068
County Reporting Fannin 3851 1177 5,028
Forsyth 99 53 152
County Reporting Gilmer 2380 1561 3,941
County Reporting Lumpkin 2580 1210 3,790
County Reporting Pickens 1766 635 2,401
County Reporting Union 3829 866 4,695
County Reporting White 3122 941 4,063
Total: 20,575 7,563 28,138

Lumpkin County Republican Party 51st State Senate District, 9th Congressional District, and U.S. Senate Forum

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Lumpkin County Republican Party Forum 4/30/2016.

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mary kay derrick

Republican Primary U.S. Senate Candidates Dr. Mary Kay Bacallao and Mr. Derrick Grayson

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Republican Primary 51st District State Senate Candidates John Williamson and Steve Gooch

9th group

Republican Primary 9th Congressional District Candidates Roger Fitzpatrick, Paul Broun, Bernie Fontaine and Mike Scupin

 

Sen. Steve Gooch Appointed as Chair of Two Senate Study Committees

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A Careful Legislative Process

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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]

 

 

Against the Clock

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By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

The Georgia General Assembly is racing against the clock in order to meet a significant deadline—the 30th legislative day, which is also more commonly known as Crossover Day. This is the last day that Senate bills can transfer to the House for consideration, and vice versa. This means that all Senate bills must be filed and favorably reported out of committee this week in order to still be eligible for consideration in 2016. Since this is the second half of a biennial legislative term, any bills that fail to meet these important deadlines are considered “dead” and must be re-introduced in 2017. Therefore, the pressure is on to make this a productive and effective legislative week.

Last week, the Senate approved legislation that protects Georgians most closely held religious beliefs. House Bill 757 prevents pastors, ministers and other religious clergy from being forced to step outside their religious beliefs when performing marriage ceremonies. The legislation was combined with a Senate bill commonly known as the First Amendment Defense Act, which added language further protecting the free exercise of religion. HB 757 now also prevents state or local governments from taking discriminatory action against individuals or faith-based organizations with a sincere religious belief about lawful marriage. The legislation will now go back to the House for final approval.

Governor Deal signed House Bill 750, the amended Fiscal Year (AFY) 2016 budget last week. With an additional increase of $1.23 billion, the funding amount for AFY 2016 now totals $23.06 billion. Our focus has now shifted to reviewing the FY 2017 budget, which must be finalized and approved by both the House and Senate before March 24. This is the 40th—and final—day of the legislative session.

Other bills receiving Senate approval last week included:

  • Senate Bill 309: This legislation prohibits public high schools from participating in sporting events that ban student athletes from expressing religious beliefs on his/her uniform. This bill was drafted after a high school student was disqualified from a cross-country race in 2015 because he wore a headband featuring a bible verse. SB 309 now transfers to the House for consideration.
  • Senate Bill 282: Companies that provide credit or financial services would be banned from discriminating against any individual, business, public entity, or trade association who lawfully sell firearms or ammunition. SB 282 now transfers to the House for consideration.
  • Senate Bill 270: This bill would exempt qualified retired law enforcement officers from certain restrictions on the licensing and carrying of firearms. The bill also extends these same benefits to former law enforcement officers who worked out-of-state but are now retired Georgia citizens. SB 270 now transfers to the House for consideration.
  • Senate Bill 329: Students completing post-secondary dual credit coursework and who have earned certification for an “in-need” technical industry would be awarded a high school diploma if this bill receives final General Assembly approval. The bill also expands HOPE scholarship eligibility to these students. SB 329 now transfers to the House for consideration.

It was a pleasure to host Miss Apple Capital Katherine McCauley and Miss Apple Capital Outstanding Teen Kendall Chamberlain in the Senate chamber last week. McCauley and Chamberlain will both represent Ellijay and the North Georgia area at the 2016 Miss Georgia Pageant.

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]

 

 

 

Georgia Senate Passes First Two Bills of the 2016 Session

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News Release by: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

The Senate reconvened after a busy third week of budget hearings and committee meetings. It was also a very productive week in that we’ve finally got the ball rolling on a number of pieces of legislation that are sure to benefit the people of Georgia. We also heard the first two bills of the session on the floor last week, signaling that the 2016 legislative session is well underway.

Senate Bill 137 would expand current Georgia law to allow corporations to collect full property insurance payouts when a residence is completely destroyed by fire. The bill was unanimously adopted. A few days later, we also passed Senate Bill 263, which would allow police officers who are either retiring or have to leave police service due to on the job injury to be able to retain their badge and firearm as compensation. The brave men and women who serve as police officers in Georgia have my greatest admiration and believe I echo the sentiments of the entire General Assembly when I thank each and every one of you for your commitment to the state of Georgia and its people.

Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court Hugh P. Thompson presented the annual State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the House and Senate last week. Chief Justice Thompson outlined a plan for modernizing Georgia’s highest court so that it will only hear the most critical cases in our state, especially ones with the potential to alter existing law. The change will bring Georgia in line with other southern states that have made similar transitions in recent years.

I was proud to recognize the University of North Georgia softball team for their 2015 NCAA Division II Championship. UNG is not only a strong academic institution producing some of the most qualified graduates in the state, but it also has become a formidable contender for sports as well.

Committee meetings also began last week. The committee process is essential because it provides the vetting of legislation, ensuring that it will be of benefit to the people of Georgia before receiving a vote on the floor of the Senate.

This week, budget subcommittee meetings for the AFY 2016 budget will begin. In these meetings, subcommittees will review the AFY 2016 budget for the agencies under their jurisdiction. This is done in order to make sure that all of the funds in the budget are allocated fairly and responsibly, and meets the needs of all the various agencies of the state.

We’re expecting the next few weeks to be fast paced and I am excited to begin moving forward with legislation that will benefit all of Georgia. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, comments or concerns you may have with any legislation this 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]

 

 

 

 

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