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Working to protect the rights of Georgia citizens
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This week, a number of bills were introduced that aim to protect Georgians’ fundamental rights.


I have co-sponsored two more bills that will protect the gun rights of Georgia citizens. The first, Senate Bill 98, expands the authorized areas for those with a valid weapons carry license to include all but the following: courthouses, prisons, jails, detention centers, school safety zones and the premises of a nuclear power facility. Another bill (SB 102) changes some terminology and definitions related to the carrying and possession of firearms and streamlines carry provisions. 


As a supporter of right to life, I joined several of my fellow senators this week in announcing the introduction of a bill to ensure the protection of human life.


Senate Resolution 153 is a human life amendment that defines a person as “irrespective of age, race, sex, health, function, or condition of dependency, including unborn children at every state of their biological development regardless of the method of creation, whether through fertilization, cloning or a functional equivalent.” Because the resolution is a Constitutional Amendment, it will go before the voters to allow them to determine if our government should ensure that all life is protected. 


Each year, the chief justice delivers an update to the legislature on the state of Georgia’s judicial system. This year, we were honored to welcome Chief Justice Carol Hunstein to the Capitol where she discussed the need for sentencing reform in Georgia, which has the fourth-largest prison system in the nation and costs taxpayers $1 billion a year.


Following her speech, the governor announced legislation to establish a special council dedicated to reforming Georgia’s criminal justice. The council would be required to make recommendations to the legislature no later than Jan. 9, 2012. Governor Deal noted the importance of making our communities safer while increasing offender accountability, improving rehabilitation efforts and lowering costs. 


In transportation news, the Senate passed legislation this week that urges the Georgia Department of Transportation to have a standby list of private contractors for state weather emergencies. After the ice storm in January that shut down Metro Atlanta and much of the state, it’s evident that there needs to be a statewide coordinated effort going forward in dealing with icy road conditions. Senate Resolution 31 also calls for DOT to pre-authorize local governments to aid efforts for clearing state roads when necessary. 


The DOT recently held elections for its 13 board members, who represent each of Georgia’s congressional districts. I’d like to congratulate Emily Dunn, who was unanimously elected to fill the remainder of my term for the 9th District.


A Fannin County native who now resides in Blue Ridge, Dunn is the president of Tom’s Amusement Company Inc. and is vice president of the Board of Directors for the Amusement and Music Operators Association.


She has also served on the Fannin County Board of Education since 2000 and is chairman of the Fannin Literacy Action Group. Her community involvement includes serving on the Board of Directors for North Georgia Technical College, the Board of Trustees for Fannin Regional Hospital and as chairman of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce from 2006 to 2009, where she is still an active member. Dunn will serve the remaining two years of my term until April 2013. 


The House recently passed an $18.1 billion budget for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. The Senate is expected to take up the budget next week, which will outline our spending plan until July 1. We will then turn our attention to balancing the budget for the following year. We are also continuing our work to sustain the HOPE scholarship. If we do nothing to reform HOPE, the program will not be able to fund its obligations by 2013. A bill is in the process of being drafted, and we expect to begin moving it through the legislative process soon.



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