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A new future in Georgia
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With the completion of Legislative Day 28 last week, the State Senate continues to work hard as we approach Day 40, when the 2017 Legislative Session will conclude.

The Georgia General Assembly has made great progress on a number of important issues, many of which will have lasting, positive effects around the state.

Earlier this week, the Senate passed two of our six Majority Caucus Priorities. Senate Bill 1 would create a new Department of Homeland Security and a State Board of Homeland Security that would both be responsible for creating and implementing a sound counter-terrorism strategy. This strategy will give Georgia the opportunity to lead the nation when it comes to fighting domestic terrorism. Under SB 1, critical infrastructure, such as bridges, railroads or power plants, are added as targets suitable to be charged for domestic terrorism.

Senate Bill 5 streamlines the Georgia Lottery's Lottery for Education Account to ensure that Georgia is maximizing our lottery proceeds to fully benefit students across the state. SB 5 would require the Georgia Lottery to increase the funding amount by one percent each year for three years starting at 26.5 percent in Fiscal Year 2018. We must do all we can to ensure that our kids achieve their educational goals and I believe SB 5 is a step in the right direction.

On March 3, a bill I sponsored passed the Senate unanimously. Senate Bill 219 begins a new era in Georgia by establishing rules and procedures for the operation of Automated Driving System Operated Vehicles in the state. Automated driving systems are the future in transportation and SB 219 puts Georgia ahead of other states. Under SB 219, common sense restrictions will be placed on autonomous vehicles while ensuring they comply with state and federal driving laws. The vehicles must be registered as automated vehicles with the Department of Motor Vehicles, must maintain a valid insurance policy and follow speed limits designated by local order. Since human operators are not required in vehicles equipped with ADS, passengers are not mandated to have valid driver's licenses.

I am proud to champion the passage of this legislation which will increase safety on our roads by limiting accidents caused by human error. In 2015, 90 percent of the car accidents that occurred in the nation were caused by human error. Automated driving systems can and will save lives by removing distracted and intoxicated drivers off the road. Georgia has the opportunity to be a leader in the nation and I look forward to championing SB 219 to becoming law.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns about pending legislation. My phone lines and doors are always open.

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