We got back to work for the fifth week of session on Feb. 8, and by Feb. 11, we reached the half-way mark of the 2016 legislative session, legislative day 20.
With only 20 working days to complete our business, and "cross-over day," legislative day 30, looming, we quickly got to work.
Committees were in full-swing, and many pieces of legislation started making their way over from the Senate to be heard in House committees. This week the House saw bipartisan support and passage of several important bills that will affect all Georgians.
With the conclusion of week five, I have now successfully passed four of the bills I authored this session through the House.
As I have discussed in previous weeks, the General Assembly is always making strides to improve our state's education system, and this week, we continued that effort with the passage of House Bill 739.
The legislation that I authored and have worked closely on with the state school board, members of local school boards and parents over the past eight months.
HB 739 would require the State Board of Education to establish a committee to study and recommend instructional materials and content, if they plan to adopt an approved list.
The bill would also allow for local boards of education to have a review process for any locally approved instructional material.
As a part of this process, for both state and locally approved instructional material, either the local or State Board of Education would post a list of all proposed instructional material and content on their website for public viewing in addition to making all proposed instructional material and content available for individual review upon request.
The process that is outlined in this legislation serves as a way to increase transparency, provide greater access to proposed classroom material, allow for more local control of our education system, and increase parental involvement.
The bill gives parents the opportunity to be more involved in their child's education by providing input on the materials that are being taught in the classroom, and I think more parental involvement will ultimately result in better student performance.
The bill passed with overwhelming success in the House and is now in the Senate.
House Bill 726 was passed in the House on Feb. 10.
This is the legislation I authored to address a double taxation that has been occurring in the state.
Georgia law states that a 23 percent excise tax shall be collected on the cost of tobacco for cigars and little cigars.
In 2015 the Georgia Department of Revenue started conducting audits of cigar stores across the state.
They informed cigar store owners that not only did they have to pay the excise tax on the cost of the tobacco, but that they would also have to pay it on the cost of shipping and on the cost of the federal excise tax.
This meant that the state would actually be taxing a tax.
No cigar store in the state had been paying the tax in this manner prior to the audit.
This legislation makes it clear that we will only collect it on the cost of the tobacco, and HB 726 will end the double taxation issue.
The legislation passed unanimously in the House and is now in the Senate.
Another bill I authored that passed out of our chamber this week by a unanimous vote was House Bill 757, also known as the Pastor Protection Act.
The Pastor Protection Act, modeled after similar legislation in place in several states, reaffirms the separation of church and state in Georgia.
HB 757 assures members of the clergy that they will not be required to perform any marriage which violates their faith.
The bill further protects churches, synagogues and other places of worship, as well as religious organizations from being required by state or local government to host an event which violates their religious doctrine.
The Pastor Protection Act also protects businesses from any ordinance which might require them to be open on a day of rest (Saturday or Sunday).
We saw members from both sides of the aisle take to the well to speak in favor and express their support for this legislation this week.
Too often, our differences become the focus in our chamber, but it was truly comforting to see our body come together on this issue to protect the rights of our citizens.
We are blessed by the freedom of religion in our great nation, and I was proud to stand with a united House to support the rights of all Georgians to uphold your religious values.
I look forward to continuing to work to ensure that every Georgian's religious liberties are protected.
This week will be another busy week of committee meetings and voting on key measures. I encourage you to stay informed on what is occurring at the Capitol.
On Saturday, we will be meeting at 9 a.m. at the Wagon Wheel in Dahlonega for our weekly informational breakfast.
We had a great turnout at our breakfast this past Saturday, and I encourage you to come join us to learn what is occurring at session and to discuss your thoughts and concerns.
I am honored to serve as your Representative at the State Capitol. I am always available to assist you and encourage you to contact me with questions or your opinions.
Rep. Kevin Tanner can be reached on his cell phone at (678) 776-5059, at the Capitol at (404) 656-0152 or via email at email@example.com.