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Session 2018: Week 8

Session 2018: Week 8

Week eight included the much-anticipated “Crossover Day,” the last day a piece of legislation can pass out of its original chamber and still remain eligible for consideration by the opposite legislative chamber. On “Crossover Day,” my colleagues and I remained busy late into the night ensuring the passing of many bills. The House will now review all measures passed by the Senate while they review all measures passed by the House. The following bills were passed this week:

House Rural Development Council

House Bill 951 was overwhelmingly passed with bipartisan support, and it would create the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation (CRPI), a central information and research hub for rural leadership training and best practices located within a college or institution of the University System of Georgia that awards Bachelor of Science degrees in rural community development. These centers will be offered guidance by a 12-member Georgia Rural Development Council and also collaborate with the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Agriculture, and a deputy commissioner for rural Georgia would also be created.

House Bill 887 would establish the Georgia Communications Services Tax Act, allowing municipal corporations and electrical membership corporations (EMCs) to provide broadband service in unserved areas within their corporate limits; the Local Government Communication Services Fair Competition Act of 2018, expanded to include all communication services, not just cable services; the allowance of communities to apply to be certified as broadband ready through the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA); the requirement of GEMA’s director to develop a grant program that would award projects to qualified broadband providers who request the least amount of money to expand in unserved areas; the authorization of GEMA to create a broadband availability map of the state showing unserved areas and publish the map on GEMA’s website; and the regulation of an authority’s pole attachment rate.

Medical

House Bill 764 would include two additional illnesses on the list of qualifying medical conditions for low THC oil treatment — post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intractable pain. Once these individual’s applications have been approved at the recommendation of their physicians, they would receive an identification card exempting them from medical cannabis oil possession prosecution in Georgia. They would be allowed to legally possess a maximum of 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil and a maximum of 5 percent THC.

Child Abuse

House Bill 605 would hold child abusers accountable by extending the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases from age 23 to age 38, lengthening the discovery time period from two years to four years for a victim who experiences psychological or emotional problems as a result of child sexual abuse to report such abuse, and establishing a one-year period for a childhood sexual abuse victim to file civil actions against an entity if the entity: was responsible for the victim’s care; knew or should have known of the conduct that brought about the civil action; or intentionally or consciously concealed evidence of sexual abuse.

Public Safety

In an effort to decrease automobile accidents in Georgia, House Bill 673 would create a hands-free driving law that would prohibit drivers from holding, supporting or reaching for a wireless telecommunication device or a stand-alone electronic device while operating a vehicle; ban them from texting, browsing the internet or watching or recording videos while operating a vehicle; permit them to use GPS navigation and voice-to-text features on their devices while operating a vehicle; charge any violations with a misdemeanor; deduct 2 points from first-time offender’s driver’s licenses; and create a staggered point deduction system for repeat offenders. The following are not considered violations: operating devices while a vehicle is lawfully parked, while reporting an emergency or a hazardous road condition or to utility service providers, law enforcement officers or first responders operating within the scope of their employment.

Identity Theft/Credit Fraud

House Bill 866 would prohibit credit reporting agency laws from charging a fee for freezing or unfreezing a consumer account.

Military

House Bill 718 would allow students to have up to five excused absences for military affairs sponsored events if their parent or guardian currently serves or previously served in the armed forces, Reserves or National Guard if they are able to present proper documentation. Not all Georgia school systems, however, would be required to adopt this policy.

Transportation

House Bill 930 has now passed the House with a vote of 162-13. In an attempt to improve transportation in the metropolitan Atlanta area, this bill will facilitate transit coordination, integration, and efficiency; promote a seamless and high-quality transportation system; create the Atlanta-region Transit Link (ATL) Authority to coordinate transit planning, funding and operations; and establish state and local funding sources to improve transit access.

With “Crossover Day” behind us and our final day of session, March 28, drawing nearer, my colleagues and I will now begin the process of reviewing measures passed by the Senate while the Senate reviews measures passed by the House. In these busy times, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office or call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 228-A State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5099, and I can be reached via email at david.knight@house.ga.gov. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

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