Capitol Recap: Week 3
By: Sen. Larry Walker (R - Perry)
The Senate has now completed nine official session days, over the course of three weeks at the state Capitol. In that time, we have already been able to achieve quite a few legislative successes. One noteworthy accomplishment this week was the signing of House Bill 276 by Governor Kemp. This will put into effect the collection and remittance of sales taxes by online marketplace faciliators starting April 1, 2020. I have been a strong supoprter of this bill since it was first introduced, and I am pleased that our local businesses will no longer be at a competitive disadvantage with internet retailers due to the disparity in sales tax compliance.
This week, we also got a glimpse into what much of the legislative session will entail: regular and thorough committee meetings, exhilirating discussion and debate on the Senate floor, and events recognizing and honoring members of the community. With that, the Senate cast one of its first bill votes of the legislative session in supoprt of House Bill 444. HB 444 would revise Georgia’s current dual enrollment program by establishing some guardrails to help ensure its sustainability. In order to maximize dual enrollment’s impact on our students, HB 444 would place a maximum credit hour coverage and adjust the available curriculum to only incude core classes. Dual enrollment is one of the defining features of our state’s education system and has allowed students to graduate high school with a head start toward earning technical certification or a degree that prepares them to enter the workforce. I know right here, in Senate District 20, many students have been able to achieve a postsecondary or technical college education in a way that might not have been finanically feasible without the credits they earned through dual enrollment. We want to give our students the best opoprtunity to become computer scientists, agricultralists, doctors, mathematicians, teachers and more. With these new changes, the state will be able to do so for future generations to come.
The Senate also held its first Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee meeting of the session to discuss House Bill 545, known as the Georgia Right to Farm Act. Agriculture remains Georgia’s number one industry and HB 545 endeavors to preserve a legal climate in which agriculture, agribusinesses and the forest industry can grow and prosper. HB 545 would protect established agricultural and forestry operations, that are operating legally, by limiting the circumstances in which a person can file a nusiance claim against them. Nusiance suits could only be brought by a neighboring property owner, not a third party, and would have to be brought within a specified period of time once the right of action acrues. Parties bringing a lawsuit deemed as frivolous or mailicious would be assessed court and attorney fees. Exceptions that “reset” the established date of operations would be changes that require new permitting by the Georgia Department of Agriulture, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, any federal agency and zoning changes. Georgia’s farmers produce affordable and safe food and fiber to feed and clothe our state, nation and world, and they provide jobs and investment that support rural economies. Georgia’s farmers and foresters face many challenges, such as extreme weather, volatile commodity prices and escalating input costs that threaten their survival. We need to do what we can to help them protect their right to farm.
To wrap up the week, the 8th Congressional District Caucus of the Georgia House and Senate convened for the election of our Georgia Department of Transportation Board Member. We re-elected Mr. Tim Golden, who currently serves as DOT Board Chair, by unanimous consent. Chairman Golden has done incredible work serving our part of the state. He is readily accessible and willing to listen to our needs and concerns. He has been very helpful to me and Senate District 20, and I’m proud to support him and call him my friend. I look forward to contiue working with him to improve our transporation infrastructure.
This past week has been a wonderful reminder of the blessed opportunity I have to serve and I am certain that these next few weeks will be both busy and productive. As we begin to discuss more legislation, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have.
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Sen. Larry Walker serves as Caucus Vice Chairman for the Majority Party. He represents the 20th Senate District, which includes Bleckley, Houston, Laurens and Pulaski counties. He may be reached by phone at (404) 656-0095 or by email at email@example.com.