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Paying honor to special heroes

POSTED: March 28, 2013 9:28 p.m.

Under the Gold Dome, the General Assembly was scheduled to finish the 2013 legislative session Thursday.


There is a flurry of activity, as legislators spend their final days trying to push forward sponsored legislation through committee and onto the chamber floor for a vote. Last week included passage of bills involving a multitude of topics, as well as many motions to agree or disagree on legislation. Any changes made on bills by either chamber require the legislation be sent back to the other chamber with the changes for approval. Motions to agree represent final passage and motions to disagree send the legislation back to the chamber. This long process for legislation, including the time spent in committee, helps to ensure that bills are thoroughly vetted before possible passage into law.


It is always a pleasure to welcome citizens from our area who travel hundreds of miles to Atlanta to visit the legislature and state Capitol. Together with Rep. Jon Burns, we welcomed the Christian Leadership Academy from Rincon to our Capitol on Friday and honored them with a resolution (HR 783). This group, from our local Effingham YMCA, teaches high school sophomores and juniors leadership skills and principles in the areas of family, church, education and business. My predecessor and our former state representative, Ann Purcell, also accompanied the group and led them through the halls of the Capitol, which she is very familiar with.


This week, I also had the opportunity to recognize several outstanding individuals in our state.  As a member of the Peace Officers Association of Georgia (POAG) since 1969, and the former state president, it was truly my honor to recognize this year’s POAG Peace Officer of the Year for Valor. Deputy Jason Ross, of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Department, crawled into the passenger compartment of a vehicle engulfed in flames and saved a woman’s life by pulling her out of the vehicle.


Deputy Ross suffered burns to his face, hands and arms during the rescue but fought through the pain to rescue the lady.


Also acknowledged this week was Capt. James Cosper for his commitment to public safety and improving the lives of the citizens of Georgia (HR 812).  Lastly, the House recognized Capt. Kirk McGlamery (HR 825), a former recipient of the POAG Peace Officer of the Year for Valor, for his 30-plus years of dedicated service to the Georgia State Patrol, most of which were at the Savannah post, and commended him on his retirement.


Last week I discussed the checkbook for our state and the process by which the General Assembly balances the state’s checkbook, just as families do. The House and the Senate began discussions together on Monday during the conference committee to resolve differences and to finalize the fiscal year 2014 budget.


A highly-debated bill this week was Senate Bill 136 (passed 146-17), also known as the Jake and Griffin BUI Law. Governor Deal mentioned during his state of the state address that he wanted to change the boating under the influence law to comply with similar standards with vehicles, and also to analyze age and educational requirements for boat operators.


All of these issues are addressed within SB 136 as it would: lower the legal limit for alcohol consumption from .10 grams to .08 and apply it to both BUI and hunting under the influence (HUI), require boater education courses, add life jacket requirements to children younger than 13, and change requirements for children ages 12-15 operating personal watercraft. This bill now goes to Governor Deal for his signature into law.


On Friday, the House unanimously passed local legislation I sponsored, House Bill 625. This bill will provide a new charter for the city of Rincon.


Also passed this week by the Senate was legislation I co-sponsored, House Bill 350 (passed 44-4). This legislation would prohibit any person with certain criminal violations to be employed by any group-care facility in our state. This would include a child-care center, group day-care home, family day-care home or a child-care learning center.


As discussed last week, I presented Sen. Lester Jackson of Savannah’s Senate Bill 76 (creating a veterans task force) to the full House and it received passage with only one dissenting vote on Thursday. As a Marine Vietnam veteran myself, I have tremendous respect for the men and women who serve, and have previously served, in our military. Their commitment and dedication is critical to our national defense as they deploy and serve around the world.  Assisting these military veterans when they return to civilian life is one of the goals of this task force, and the intent of this veterans appreciation bill.

 
Additional pieces of legislation also passed the House last week and numerous others were heard for consideration in the final three days of session. Identity fraud is a crime which none of us want to become a victim of. Not only does identity fraud take a significant amount of time to fix by contacting your credit card companies, Social Security office, and the credit reporting agencies, but many times people are unaware that someone has stolen part of their information.  Senate Bill 170 (passed 167-1) would add medical identity fraud to the types of identity fraud in Georgia.


Senate Bill 14 (passed 158-3) would create an Alzheimer’s task force to study and collect data to assess the current and future impact of the disease, as well as identify resources available to those with the disease. Many people know at least one person that Alzheimer’s and related dementias has impacted and this task force will develop a comprehensive state plan to be presented to the General Assembly and Governor Deal.


I will still continue to keep you apprised of important legislation that affects your families, your freedoms, and your pocketbooks. Working with and alongside the other members of both the House and Senate, your best interests will always remain my first priority.


Please let me know if I can ever be of assistance to you or your family. Please feel welcome to write to me at 501 Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg., Atlanta, GA 30334, email me at bill.hitchens@house.ga.gov, or call my office at (404) 656-0178.

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