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Legislature reaches important deadline on Crossover Day

POSTED: March 23, 2011 4:00 a.m.

Crossover Day marks an important milestone in the legislative process. It falls on Day 30 of the 40-day legislative session and is the last day that bills can cross from one chamber to another.

 

In an effort to pass important legislation before the deadline, the Senate debated and voted on a list of 50 bills on Crossover Day.

 

Moving forward, we’ll start taking up House bills and working on compromises between similar legislation in conference committees.

 

Among some of the higher profile legislation we passed this week was Senate Bill 225, which aims to reduce the size of state government by discovering and eliminating government waste.

 

Under the “Georgia Government Accountability Act,” all state agencies and programs would be analyzed to identify areas of duplication or those not considered an essential service mandated by the Georgia Constitution.

 

The bill creates a joint Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee comprised of 14 General Assembly members. The committee would be tasked with reviewing and scrutinizing every state department to determine the efficiency, effectiveness and productivity of each agency. Over a thorough study, the Committee would ultimately rule on the validity and/or public need of each entity or individual function within that entity.  Duplicated services, low productivity, effectiveness of the entity, and performance measures would be some of the factors in deciding on the justification to continue funding the entity with taxpayer dollars.

 

The legislature’s attempts to strengthen Georgia’s immigration reform took an important step this week with the Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 40, which strengthens the use of E-Verify for Georgia businesses.

 

Public agencies and private companies working on public projects have stricter penalties if they do not use E-Verify to verify the immigration status and employment eligibility for newly hired employees.

 

However, the bill exempts businesses with five or less employees, protecting the small mom-and-pop shops from complying with mandates they simply can’t afford.

 

The bill is expected to go through more changes before final passage. The House has also passed its version of immigration reform, which includes some stricter and further-reaching provisions. Both bills will go to a conference committee, where members will negotiate the terms of each and develop a piece of compromise legislation.

 

The Senate also unanimously passed my legislation to ensure that anyone convicted of a criminal offense against a minor is prohibited from driving certain commercial vehicles, including school buses and motor coaches.

 

Everyday, we put our children on the bus to school without knowing if the person driving could pose a threat to their safety.

 

Senate Bill 57 requires the Department of Drivers Services to review the criminal history of applicants to determine if they have been convicted of any criminal offense against a minor before issuing or renewing a commercial driver’s license with a passenger or school bus endorsement. 

 

On Wednesday, I was honored to join Governor Nathan Deal at the Economic Development Summit held at North Georgia College & State University. The summit brought together business, technology and education partners to discuss how to leverage broadband infrastructure with the thriving industries in our region.

 

I was proud to introduce Deal as the event’s keynote speaker, which also featured presentations from Intel and Microsoft.

 

Our community is already making great strides in advancing our technological infrastructure with the North Georgia Network, which will connect 12 North Georgia counties to a broadband system. This will allow rural communities to become key players in the growing regional economy. 

 

 

Sen. Steve Gooch represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.

 

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