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2015 Legislative Session Check-In

February 16, 2015
The Senate Chamber without people

With the end of last week, we have completed 15 legislative days in the Georgia General Assembly — over a third of the 40 days allotted to us under the Constitution — but our work has just begun. 

On our first day, we completed the organizational tasks assigned to us by ‎the State Constitution, adopting our rules, electing officers and appointing committees. The Senate Majority Caucus outlined its agenda, with a focus on protecting children, strengthening families and creating jobs.

In our first 15 days, the full Senate acted on 6 major pieces of legislation. The Senate approved Governor Deal's amended Fiscal Year 2015 State Budget, making mid-year adjustments to accommodate growing school enrollment and meet economic development objectives. Both the House and Senate agreed to add language to the budget stating that health benefits for school bus drivers, cafeteria workers and janitorial staff should be preserved.

The Senate also passed Senate Bill 1, an initiative to address the growing epidemic of autism.  One in every 68 children will suffer from some form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  SB 1 lays out a strategy for delivering early intervention services to these children, giving them the best possible chance to lead happy, productive and independent lives and potentially saving the state millions of dollars in costly expenditures for institutional care. The bill is now before the House, where we trust that it will be carefully considered.

We also unanimously approved Senate Bill 2, which allows high school students to pursue schoolwork at an advanced pace, allowing college coursework to count toward high school diplomas.  

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 3, the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act, which allows parents to temporarily transfer custodial rights to another adult during times when extenuating circumstances impact the ability to properly care for the child, reducing the need for costly and disruptive foster care placements.  Floor amendments to the bill make sure that it will not be misused to circumvent child abuse investigations.

Two other measures passed by the Senate, Senate Resolution 7 and Senate Bill 8, are designed to help children who have been sexually exploited. They create the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission, toughen the penalties against those who capitalize on the sexual victimization of children and provide funding for helping those child victims.

A total of 120 Senate bills have been introduced, and the pace of our work will rapidly increase.  I will continue to keep you posted.

About the Author

Senator David Shafer serves as the President Pro Tempore of the Georgia State Senate.  He represents the 48th Senate District, which includes portions of Fulton and Gwinnett counties.  He may be reached at (404) 656-0048 or by email at david.shafer@senate.ga.gov.

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