By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
As we wind down week seven in the Senate, we saw several bills pass that would help better protect our law enforcement officers and several other bills introduced for future consideration. Here are a few highlights from legislative days 21 through 24:
Senate Bill 233 or “RFRA” (also called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”) was introduced in the Senate this week. It would basically encourage the state of Georgia to adopt the same provisions or guidelines for religious freedom outlined in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It now is in the Rules Committee for consideration.
SB 203 was introduced which would allow a nonprofit to serve as the governing body for Georgia high school athletics. Right now, the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) serves this purpose, but under this bill a nonprofit would compete with the GHSA by allowing public, nonpublic and home schools to join the nonprofit and subsequently allow their teams play each other.
SBs 154, 155, 160 and 169 all deal with increasing protection by upping the ante on punishment for people who try to hurt our men and women in blue. The biggest of these bills is SB 160, also known as the “Back the Badge Act of 2017.” Among other things, this act would make violent crimes against an officer a minimum sentence of five years without parole. This is important to show our men and women in blue that their safety is a priority and we appreciate what they do to protect us.
In addition to these bills, we also heard SB 8, which would protect consumers against “surprise billing”. I know that many of you were excited to see this come before the Senate as it helps better protect you from unforeseen costs associated with being seen by an out-of-network doctor without your knowledge. This is especially important for rural areas where only one hospital serves a large area.
Next Friday is day 28, also known as Crossover Day. It is one of the most stressful and exciting times during session with the exception of the last day, Sine Die. After crossover day, we can only introduce House Bills meaning that any Senate Bills that do not receive a vote on the Senate floor will have to wait until next year. Because of this deadline, I will be dropping a bill next week attempting to improve cell and broadband service in our state’s rural areas. We will be working tirelessly over the next week, and likely late into Friday night, to pass as many bills as we can in the Senate.
As always, I am honored to represent and serve you at the state Capitol. If you have any questions or concerns about bills that you feel will affect our region, please email me.