By: Sen. Bill Heath (R – Bremen)
The Georgia General Assembly has now completed 20 of its 40 legislative days. The pace of things has certainly picked up at the Capitol. The Senate approved 11 Senate Bills and the Fiscal Year 2017 amended budget. We worked with our counterparts in the House to pass the budget for final approval by the Governor on Thursday. We will now turn our focus to the Fiscal Year 2018 general budget.
Below is an overview of legislation we passed out of the Senate this week:
Senate Bill 2, also known as the FAST Act, would clear up a lot of the red tape by removing some of the duplicative aspects of our licensing and permitting process for small businesses. This legislation also addresses accountability for those who issue licenses or permits when delaying the return of important documentation by imposing a fee, set to increase for each day they are delayed. This would give our small businesses a bit more breathing room and opportunity to grow. Our small businesses are currently suffocating in needless regulation and nuisance taxes and SB 2 moves us in the right direction to addressing this problem.
Senate Bill 16 received quite a bit of attention over the last week. The bill would reduce the amount of THC used in medical cannabidiol from five percent to three percent, but would also include autism as a condition legally allowed to be treated by low THC oil. Currently, twenty states allow medical marijuana without a restriction on THC levels and sixteen states allow medical cannabidiol but do include a restriction on THC levels. Georgia’s current proposal of three percent mirrors Alabama’s standard but is higher than fourteen other states whose levels are less equal to or less than one percent THC levels.
While this bill is not a silver bullet, it would go a long way in bringing help to many in our state who suffer from autism, as well as protecting the fragile minds of our children from the negative effects of high amounts of THC. While it is not a perfect solution, I am comforted by the peace it will bring to many throughout our state. Although Georgia and other states are working on legislation dealing with medical marijuana and THC levels, it is important to note that under federal law, marijuana is illegal and the federal government has not legalized any form of marijuana.
Senate Bill 45 would outlaw using an electronic device to film under or through a person’s clothing in order to view intimate body parts. It’s a shame that it took us this long to codify this act as illegal activity and although we are moving in the right direction, we must remain cautious. The bill would still allow the use of recording devices in dressing rooms, allowing some room for a potential issue down the road.
We also passed Senate Bill 89, “Georgia Right Track Act,” which would provide investments for our state’s aging railways, railroad facilities and railroad equipment. While the railroad may be an old technology, it is still remarkably efficient for transporting freight from our ports and other commercial hubs to our cities. This bill would promote commerce throughout our state, while at the same time easing the congestion on our crowded roads by carrying more fright on trains than by truck.
While it’s important that we pass out legislation which will make Georgia safer, healthier and a better environment for our businesses, it is equally important to give due attention to every bill that comes across our desks and ensure that it has been properly vetted. If I can ever be of any help or can address any concerns, you can always get in contact with my office.