After three months in Atlanta, April 2 officially brought to a close our 2019 legislative session. Legislative day 40, often referred to as “Sine Die,” which is Latin for “without assigning a day for further meeting,” is our longest day of the year. Sine Die always brings excitement as we work hard until midnight to ensure important legislation moves to the House of Representatives floor in time for consideration. This session, we passed more than 80 bills that now go to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for final approval. Legislation that did not pass will be up for consideration during the 2020 session season.
To further protect our schools, we gave final passage to Senate Bill 15. This bill creates the “Keeping Georgia’s Schools Safe Act,” which works to ensure school safety by requiring public schools to conduct, evaluate and implement a safety plan to effectively respond to threats of violence or dangerous situations within our schools. Under the legislation, every public school must conduct a site threat assessment before Jan. 1, 2021, and reevaluate their school safety plan every five years. All plans must be approved by law enforcement prior to submitting final plans to the Georgia Department of Education. Finally, SB 15 requires schools to use and promote a statewide mobile application “See Something Send Something” to anonymously report suspicious activity or potential threats.
The adoption of House Resolution 48 seeks to protect Georgia’s fishing and tourism industries by opposing oil/gas exploration and drilling activities along Georgia’s coastal waters. Because offshore drilling requires onshore infrastructure, such as pipelines or refineries, this industry could bring unwanted changes to Georgia’s coastal landscapes and communities. This is simply a proactive measure to prevent the possible adverse impacts of drilling on our fishing and tourism industries which rely on healthy, natural environments and safe ocean systems. This resolution, along with local legislation passed by more than 140 Georgia towns and cities along the Atlantic coast, expresses our opposition to offshore drilling and seismic testing to combat the detrimental effects which come with offshore drilling.
Senate Bill 190 will improve custody proceedings for Georgia parents by creating an avenue for parents to petition for a change within their custody agreement through the court system. The bill allows for counterclaim actions enabling parents to bring a counterclaim for contempt; enforcement of a custody order; and modification of legal or physical custody. Further, Senate Bill 190 ensures fairness by giving parents without primary custody the right to petition for a change within their agreement regarding to custody, visitation rights, the child’s health care and education. Parents receiving legal custody, would be responsible for the care and control of a minor, which includes the power to make decisions regarding health care, education, extracurricular activities and religious upbringing. In short, this bill gives parents an avenue for a fair appeals process, regarding custody while keeping the child’s best interest in mind.
House Bill 282 requires law enforcement agencies to maintain physical identity-related evidence, such as DNA evidence, of the perpetrator of an alleged sexual assault until the case is solved. Evidence will be preserved for 30 years from the arrest date, or seven years from completion of their sentence. If there are no arrests, evidence will be preserved for 50 years. Currently, sexual assault evidence is only stored up to 10 years from the date of an alleged sexual assault. We are confident this measure would further improve standards to preserve vital evidence and protect victims of sexual assault until crimes are solved.
SB 103 requires airports owned or operated by a county, city or other government entity to establish at least two priority parking spaces for veterans. Commercial airports would designate new parking spaces near airport entrances, which could be used by a vehicle with a state issued veteran’s license plate.
Georgia’s Hope Act
HB 324, also known as, “Georgia’s Hope Act,” updates current state laws regarding low THC medical cannabis oil. HB 324 allows for the cultivation, manufacturing and dispensing of low THC oil with a lawful valid license. Currently, Georgia patients suffering from certain debilitating illnesses are legally allowed possess up to 20 fluid ounces of medical cannabis oil that contains up to 5 percent THC. While possession of this oil is legal, there is no way to legally obtain the oil in our state.
To address this issue the bill stipulates the following:
• Authorizes the Department of Public Health to issue six private production licenses for two large and four smaller.
• Requires each production licensee to establish, utilize and maintain a tracking system for all phases of production to allow for real-time department access.
• Allows certified pharmacies to dispense medicine.
• Allows two universities to obtain research growing license to study, examine and determine benefits and risks associated with cannabis and hemp production.
• Creates disparity study to monitor the participation rates of treatment.
Our Georgia General Assembly feels the best way to ensure the safety of our patients is to establish a secure, regulated and legal way to obtain treatment, which is what this legislation is intended to accomplish.
While we have adjourned the 2019 legislative session, our work is far from complete as we will continue our efforts for the remainder of the year. As always, we will continue to update you monthly to ensure you are up to date on all happenings within state government. As always, if you need anything at all, please reach out anytime. Thank you for allowing me the humble honor of serving our community under the Gold Dome.
Jason Ridley, R-Chatsworth, represents District 6 in the state House of Representatives.