Editor's note: the following is a column submitted by State Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell).
The 2014 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly adjourned at midnight on Thursday, March 20. It was a moment of celebration that closed months of hard work at the State Capitol.
Although many people simply refer to the last day as Day 40, it is also known as Sine Die. On Sine Die, the House and Senate remain in their respective chambers to deliberate and vote on important pieces of legislation until midnight. At this time, the large wooden doors of the Senate chamber are opened to allow the president of the senate – the lieutenant governor – and the speaker of the house to adjourn at exactly same time.
Sine Die is Latin for “without assigning a day or further meeting or hearing.” In other words, the General Assembly is not going to meet again to consider legislation until January 2015.
On day 39, members of the Senate and the House came together in a conference committee to agree to the $20.8 billion Fiscal Year 2015 budget. This represents a 4.6 percent increase from last year’s budget, which will run from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. Georgia maintains a balanced budget and no deficit. I am proud of our fiscal responsibility.
On Sine Die, a bill that would have required insurers to provide coverage for children diagnosed with autism failed to reach passage. I am deeply saddened the House could not come to a consensus and pass this important legislation.
Providing insurance coverage for children suffering with autism has been two-years in the making and something that I intend to continue to push for during the next biennial term.
I try to focus my legislative efforts on families, business and public safety. In the final days of the 2014 session, several of the bills I authored achieved final passage and are headed to the Governor:
SB 207 adds private home care providers to the list of long-term care facilities that fall under the purview of the Georgia Long-Term Care Ombudsmen Program. Under this legislation, Georgians will be afforded an extra measure of protection in private home care settings. This bill will help protect our senior citizens and those with special needs.
SB 235 allows firefighters who perform at least 1,040 hours of annual service to be eligible for membership in the Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund. Current law defines firefighter as a full-time employee who is compensated for their position, holds a current firefighter’s certification while serving and protecting the public. This bill helps those who protect us.
SB 325 clarifies the process for regulating fire protection sprinkler contractors and fire suppression contractors that operate in Georgia. Under this legislation, contractors that violate laws may be denied an application for a license, certificate or permit. Prior to subjecting any person or entity to a fine, the Insurance Commissioner must give written notice by hand delivery or by registered or certified mail of the existence of violations. This bill helps businesses and public safety.
SB 358 expands who can file a missing child report with the Missing Children Information Center (MCIC) to include individuals and institutions charged with the care of foster children. Senate Bill 358 would simply change the current code language from stating that only a parent or guardian can file to include a caretaker, governmental unit responsible for the child, or other person with legal custody of the child. This bill will allow for a more streamlined, efficient process for foster care providers in the event a child is abducted or runs away from their foster care home or facility. This bill helps children.
SB 386 protects sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers, taxpayer ID numbers and financial account numbers, included in court filings. Senate Bill 386 clarifies that where Social Security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, and/or financial account numbers are included, only the last four digits of any such number may be included in the filing. This bill helps prevent identity theft.
SR 788 authorizes the transfer of specific state-owned real property throughout the state for local development purposes. This bill will help create jobs and opportunities.
SR 868 allows for the construction, operation and maintenance of facilities or utilities that go through or intersect property owned by the State of Georgia in the following counties: Appling, Barrow, Bibb, Bryan, Fulton, Gordon, Jasper, Laurens, McIntosh, Monroe, Toombs, and Troup. This bill will help Georgians in their local communities.
In the upcoming months, I look forward to providing you with a more comprehensive update on some of the major bills that passed the Georgia General Assembly and how they will positively affect Georgia businesses and families. Even though my work in the Senate chambers is complete, I will still be working hard in the district and Capitol to serve you. Please call or email me with any questions or concerns.
For more information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at http://www.legis.ga.gov/.