We returned to the Gold Dome on Feb. 3, 2014. With the 2014 legislative session heating up, we had a very busy and productive week.
Dozens of committees and subcommittees met to review proposed legislation, and my colleagues and I met on the House floor every day to vote on many different bills and resolutions.
We also heard Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Thompson give his first State of the Judiciary Address in a joint session with our colleagues from the Senate.
In his address, Thompson applauded a series of criminal justice reform bills that we have passed over the last few years. One of the main goals of criminal justice reform was to increase the number of accountability courts in Georgia. Thompson proclaimed that 93 percent of these court graduates remain free of criminal charges and 85 percent are employed. With fewer people in prison, these courts save Georgia more than $20 million in prison costs each year.
In addition to hearing the State of the Judiciary, we also met on the House floor to vote on several pieces of legislation.
One of the bills that we passed last week could have a significant impact on Georgia's education system. House Bill 766 allows students over the age of 16 to obtain coursework credit for work based learning programs.
House Bill 766 enables school districts and businesses to develop partnerships, so that they can better prepare tomorrow's workforce with the skills they need to thrive.
As most of you know, I have spent several years serving on the Lanier Technical College Foundation Board and served for two years as the chair. I am very passionate about technical education, and I believe this bill is a huge step in the right direction. It will allow more flexibility to schools to partner with businesses to provide credit for on the job training. The bill now moves to the Senate, and I am hopeful it will become law soon.
In addition to passing legislation for Georgia's youth, we also passed two pieces of legislation that would make it easier for residents and visitors to enjoy Georgia's outstanding hunting and fishing opportunities.
A bill that I authored, House Bill 740, allows all active duty military personnel and their families to obtain a Georgia hunting and fishing license at the in-state rate, even if they do not list Georgia as their home of record. I am extremely pleased to have been able to get one of my bills through the committee process and passed on the House floor without any opposition this early in session.
Similarly, HB 786 creates a non-resident lifetime infant sportsman's license, so that children from other states can more easily enjoy Georgia's hunting and fishing opportunities throughout their entire life.
Meanwhile, our colleagues in the Senate passed the Amended Fiscal Year 2014 budget, the state's mid-year spending plan, this week. The Senate passed a slightly different version of House Bill 743 than we previously passed in the House last month. The amended budget will now move to a House and Senate Conference Committee to work out a final spending plan to submit for a final vote of the full legislature.
This week I have two more bills already scheduled for a vote on the House floor, with others working their way through committee.
Both the Sludge bill and the LOST bill that I have written about in early articles have now passed the committee process and are headed to the floor. The next few weeks will be busy as we head toward "Crossover Day."
I encourage you to stay informed and to contact me, if you have any thoughts on bills that are under consideration. I will be holding our informational breakfast at Ryan's in Dawsonville at 9 a.m. Saturday. I look forward to seeing you there.
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 by email at email@example.com.