Georgia legislative update from the Georgia Gold Dome

Week 10 of the 2021 Legislative Session from Georgia Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe)

Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) is a member of the Georgia House of Representatives and represents District 115, which covers Walton County. He was first elected to begin serving in the Georgia House on Jan. 14, 2013 and was subsequently re-elected four more times. His current term ends on Jan. 8, 2023.

Williamson gives below a summary of the state of the Georgia Legislature in this 10th week of the 2021 Session.

  • Senate Bill 163 was passed by the House this week to provide a solution to the court’s handling of backlogged cases. When the Statewide Judiciary Emergency eventually ends, SB 163 would allow chief judges of Georgia’s superior court judicial circuits or state courts to continue to suspend statutory speedy trial deadlines until the deadlines could be reasonably met. The bill includes a sunset date of June 20, 2023, to specifically target this backlog, but the chief justice of the Supreme Court would also have the ability to reinstate the speedy trial requirements at his or her discretion before this sunset date. This bill is a top priority to the Judicial Council and Georgia’s superior and state courts this session, and I am confident that this legislation will extend necessary support to the courts as they work through the case backlog over the next few years.
  • The House overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 88, which offers several innovative solutions meant to strengthen the teacher pipeline for Georgia schools. First, SB 88 would allow the Georgia teacher of the year to serve as advisor ex officio to the State Board of Education, ensuring that our best teachers can help guide this important agency. Additionally, this bill would require local school systems to support a nontraditional teacher certification pathway for veterans to become certified teachers. This legislation would also revise the state’s tiered evaluation system for teachers to allow schools to focus their observational resources towards teachers who need more support in the classroom. SB 88 would also require the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) to create innovative programs to promote teacher education programs at Georgia’s historically black colleges and universities. Finally, this legislation would direct the PSC to provide aspiring teachers with increased coursework in differentiated instruction and reading fundamentals, which would better prepare new teachers before they enter the classroom. This Senate measure would ensure that Georgia is recruiting and retaining the brightest educators for our students and work to steer Georgia schools in the best direction for years to come. 
  • The House gave final passage this week to Senate Bill 34 to support survivors of human trafficking as they rebuild their lives in Georgia. In addition to victims of family violence, SB 34 would also allow human trafficking victims to petition for a name change “under seal,” which means these petitions would be processed by the court confidentially and would not become a part of public record. Not only would this legislation provide privacy and peace of mind to these survivors, it would also allow them to remain safe and protected from those who exploited them. This legislation would work in lockstep with the House’s recent legislative efforts to restore justice and wellbeing to survivors of human trafficking, and SB 34 has now been sent to the governor’s office to be signed into law. 

The House also passed the following bills during the 10th week of the session:

  • House Bill 703, which would provide for nonpartisan elections for the Bleckley County probate judge; 
  • House Bill 704, which would provide for nonpartisan elections for the office of chief judge of the Magistrate Court of Bleckley County, as well as provide for the sitting chief judge of this magistrate court to serve out his or her term of office; 
  • Senate Bill 5, which would require individuals to have a dentistry license to administer conscious sedation in a dental facility or “medispa,” but this bill would allow certain medical professionals to administer such sedation under the supervision of a licensed dentist or anesthesiologist; this bill does not apply to physicians and does not expand the scope of the practice of dentistry;
  • Senate Bill 43, the “Non-Covered Eye Care Services Act,” which would prohibit insurers from requiring an ophthalmologist or optometrist to accept a payment amount set by the insurer for services that are not covered eye care services under the covered person’s eye care benefit plan as a condition to join or participate in its provider network, as well as allow these eye care providers to decide whether or not to offer discounts for non-covered services or products, regardless of the insurer;
  • Senate Bill 66, which would authorize the Georgia Foundation for Public Education to create a nonprofit corporation which could receive private donations to fund grants to public schools, and this bill would authorize an income tax credit for education donations and end the Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation on December 31, 2021;
  • Senate Bill 140, which would authorize the state to dedicate a monument in honor of former Governor Zell Bryan Miller at the State Capitol using private funds;
  • Senate Bill 143, which would correct a reference in the statutory affidavit of non-payment for mechanics and materialmen;
  • Senate Bill 168, which would allow the board of directors of a Georgia corporation to hold annual and special shareholder meetings wholly or partially by means of remote communication unless otherwise provided by the corporation’s by-laws or articles of incorporation;
  • Senate Bill 169, which would allow public procurement officers to accept surety bonds with electronic signatures and electronic corporate seals, as long as the signature and seal comply with the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act and other Georgia code;
  • Senate Bill 182, which would require counties, municipalities and consolidated governments to treat fence detection systems the same in zoning and permitting matters as alarm systems and prohibit these government entities from prohibiting the installation or use of fence detection systems that comply with Georgia code;
  • Senate Bill 210, which would allow and provide guidelines for the issuance, regulation and usage of digital license plates for motor vehicles;
  • Senate Bill 221, which would provide for the allowance of eight different leadership committees for the purpose of campaign financing for Georgia political offices, and these leadership committees would be authorized to receive contributions and make expenditures to elect or reelect a political candidate in both majority and minority parties.

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