From the Desk of Representative Jeff Jones
Legislative Update Week 9, March 13, 2015 - Crossover Day
On Friday, March 13, we reached day 30 of the 2015 legislative session. Each year the 30th legislative day marks a crucial deadline for the Georgia General Assembly. This date, which is also known as “Crossover Day,” is the final chance for bills to pass the legislative chamber from which they originated, either the House or Senate. After Crossover Day, all bills passed by the House must “cross over” to the Senate, and vice versa; we will then spend the remaining ten legislative days considering Senate bills. As a result, we were in session for long hours for several days to ensure a quality review of as much legislation as possible before the critical “crossover” deadline. I have been impressed that, of all of the bills that legislators draft, only those bills that are truly important make it through the tedious committee process to come to the House floor for a vote.
Below is a discussion of a selected number of bills that passed the House this past week, of which there were many. A complete list of the Bills that passed the House this past week can be viewed by clicking on this link: Sponsored Legislation
Hidden Predator Act (HB17) : I Voted YES
The Hidden Predator Act, House Bill 17, was another bill passed this past week, authored by Rep. Jason Spencer, D 180, in the best interest of Georgia’s children. This important bill is aimed at reforming the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims. Under current Georgia law, a child sex abuse victim may only bring action against his or her abuser up to five years after the victim turns 18 years old. Current law also bars the victim or their guardian from accessing police and other investigation records in which the victim is the subject of a reported child sexual abuse investigation. HB 17 would provide a 30 year extension to the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims. The legislation would also allow for a retroactive “window” that would provide a two-year time frame for sexual abuse victims, whose civil claims were blocked by the statute of limitations in the past, to file a case against their perpetrator. Additionally, the legislation would amend current Georgia law to allow victims, or their legal guardians, to access police and other investigation records. Not only will HB 17 ensure that justice is served, but it will also help law enforcement officers catch predators before they find their next victim.
End to Cyberbullying (HB131): I Voted YES
One of the bills passed this past week, House Bill 131, strives to provide our children with a safer, healthier learning environment. If you have kids, you may have personally experienced the horrible way some kids treat each other, or you may know a family with a child that has been the target of cyber bullying. Cyber bullying can have a devastating impact on the target kids.
“The End to Cyberbullying Act” would expand public school policies on anti-bullying to include any bullying that occurs over the internet, also known as “cyberbullying.” Under HB 131, bullying would be prohibited through the use of technological equipment such as cell phones, wireless communication devices, computers, email, instant messaging, etc. The “End to Cyberbullying Act” would apply to any case of cyberbullying, regardless of whether the act originated on school property, using school equipment, or off campus through personal cell phones and social media websites. With the popularity and increased use of technology in today’s society, this legislation is necessary to address a common problem among our youth. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, 43 percent of teens were victims of cyberbullying in the last year, and another study found that cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had not experienced cyberbullying. Because cyberbullying has such a profound impact on the happiness and health of our students, it is necessary that we take precautions to combat this detrimental act.
Feral Hog Hunting Bill (HB475): I Voted YES
Feral Hogs are a serious problem in many areas of Georgia, including South Georgia. Many property owners have experienced first-hand the destructive nature of these animals. For example, Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, a historic site on Hwy 17, has a serious problem with Feral Hogs tearing up and destroying these historic grounds. HB 475 amends Title 27, relating to game and fish, to allow for the hunting and trapping of feral hogs. The bill establishes that a wildlife control permit may be issued to authorize the hunting or trapping of feral hogs from within or while on a motor vehicle by a Georgia resident without a hunting or trapping license, if such hunting occurs on premises owned or leased by his or her immediate family and is used primarily for raising or harvesting crops other than timber or for containing livestock or poultry, and, except during deer season, at night with a light. The firearm restriction on hunting feral hogs is removed and the shotgun shell capacity restriction for hunting deer and bear is removed.
Wrongful Conviction Recovery (HB230): I Voted YES
This bill amends the Georgia Code, with respect to the Claim's Advisory Board, to compensate those individuals who have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated in a state prison. In order to be compensated, a claimant must prove that: he/she was convicted of a crime and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment; he/she served all or part of that sentence; the claimant proclaims his/her innocence; and the claimant's innocence and wrongful conviction has been established by verifiable and substantial evidence. The amount of compensation per year is set at $50,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment.
Uber Bill (HB225): I Voted YES)
You may have used one of the new driver services such as Uber or Lyft if you have traveled to Atlanta or other larger metro areas around the country. To my knowledge, neither Uber or Lyft have come to Glynn, McIntosh or Long Counties, but the services are growing rapidly in popularity as an alternative to traditional taxi and limo services. This legislation is the result of the negotiations between the Public Safety Committee and Uber. After much debate and compromise, this legislation will deregulate certain aspects of for-hire drivers and limit the regulations with regard to cars for hire and taxis in Georgia. Uber and Lyft both support the measure.
Technology Fee on Citations (HB338): I voted NO
This bill would have added add a $5 technology fee in some jurisdictions to be tacked on to traffic citations. I voted no because there are already too many fees being tacked on to our citations. If the technology makes sense in that it is cost effective and will save taxpayers money, then it should be implemented on that basis, not as a new fee to taxpayers. This bill did not pass the House.
Now that Crossover Day has passed, we will begin considering pieces of legislation that have already been approved by the Senate. During these last few weeks of session, I hope that you will contact me to express your ideas and opinions. Please also let me know if you have any comments or questions regarding issues facing our great state. Your comments are always welcome and are important to me. You can reach me at my capitol office at (404) 656-0126 or by email at email@example.com.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Brunswick, GA 31525