Last Thursday marked the 30th legislative day of the 2013 session.
Known as "Crossover Day," this critical point in the session marks the last chance for most bills to pass the legislative chamber from where they originated.
This is because by the end of Crossover Day, all legislation passed by the House must "cross-over" to the Senate, and vice versa.
As a result, any House bill that has not passed the House by the end of Crossover Day will have little chance of becoming law this year, because the remaining 10 legislative days will be used to consider Senate bills. Due to this deadline, the House worked long hours this week, debating and voting on lengthy lists of pending legislation.
I worked with the Department of Natural Resources, the Marina Owner Association and members of the Lake Lanier Home Owner Association over the past few weeks on House Bill 497. I presented this bill on "Crossover Day."
The bill will help to streamline the boat registration process, and it passed with only one no vote.
I also went to the well last week to present House Resolution 502. This resolution passed unanimously, and it brought the total to three bills passed this session that I authored. I have been told this was the most passed by any freshman member of the House this year.
I was especially proud of House Resolution 502, and I feel it has the opportunity to bring positive results to our state.
My family and I join all Georgians in our concern for our children and the violence we continue to hear about and witness in our schools and communities. I have three daughters that all attend public school, and I feel strongly that we need to do everything we can to protect them without interfering with law abiding citizens' constitutional rights.
This is a much more complex issue than many would have us to believe. Most of us can agree that guns are not injuring and killing our children, but people are.
Most acts of violence carried out are not done by what the media and others call assault weapons, and I do not feel that limiting their access will address the underlying problem.
I do, however, feel that we need to take an in-depth and serious look at these issues. I believe inaction is not an option, but I also believe that knee-jerk reactions without proper research and consideration will not address the root causes of violence.
I spent 18 years in local law enforcement and several years on the State Board of Corrections. During my tenure I constantly came into contact with individuals when they were in crisis.
We have a mental health system that is currently designed to intervene in most cases only after a person has reached the point of crisis. Our system was originally designed around a hospital-based recovery system, but we have transitioned away from this method. Many of the facilities that once treated those with severe cases of mental illness have closed, leaving a void in our mental health safety net across our state. Many individuals currently serving in our jails and prisons suffer from untreated mental illnesses.
Stigma, lack of adequate resources, workforce challenges and lack of awareness to available resources are all factors that contribute to those suffering from a mental illness to not receive adequate treatment.
I believe it is imperative that we work to revamp our mental health system and to ensure that our mental health safety net is in place. We must do everything we can to provide adequate access to reach these individuals prior to a crisis.
Over the past few weeks I have worked with members of the leadership in the House and with the commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and his staff on this important issue.
House Resolution 502 will establish a joint study commission to study our mental health system. Members of the commission will be appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker of the house.
The commission will bring experts together to identify policy and legislative changes that will then be reported to the governor and other leaders by Dec. 31 of this year. This will most likely result in legislation being brought forward next year.
Over the past two years the state has taken on criminal justice reform, education reform and juvenile justice reform.
I am excited to be a part of the team that will work hard to bring about mental health reform in our state.
In doing so I believe we can provide better services to those suffering from mental illness and work to improve the safety and security of our children and all of our citizens.
Now that Crossover Day has passed, the remaining 10 legislative days will be used to consider legislation already passed by the Senate.
Rep. Kevin Tanner can be reached on his cell phone at (678) 776-5059, at the Capitol at (404) 656-0152 or by e-mail at email@example.com.