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Senate passes first two bills of session
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The Senate reconvened after a busy third week of budget hearings and committee meetings. It was also a very productive week in that we've finally got the ball rolling on a number of pieces of legislation that are sure to benefit the people of Georgia.

We also heard the first two bills of the session on the floor last week, signaling that the 2016 legislative session is well underway.

Senate Bill 137 would expand current Georgia law to allow corporations to collect full property insurance payouts when a residence is completely destroyed by fire.

The bill was unanimously adopted.

A few days later, we also passed Senate Bill 263, which would allow police officers who are either retiring or have to leave police service due to on the job injury to be able to retain their badge and firearm as compensation.

The brave men and women who serve as police officers in Georgia have my greatest admiration and believe I echo the sentiments of the entire General Assembly when I thank each and every one of you for your commitment to the state of Georgia and its people.

Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court Hugh P. Thompson presented the annual State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the House and Senate last week.

Chief Justice Thompson outlined a plan for modernizing Georgia's highest court so that it will only hear the most critical cases in our state, especially ones with the potential to alter existing law. The change will bring Georgia in line with other southern states that have made similar transitions in recent years.

I was proud to recognize the University of North Georgia softball team for their 2015 NCAA Division II Championship.

UNG is not only a strong academic institution, producing some of the most qualified graduates in the state, but it also has become a formidable contender for sports as well.

Committee meetings also began last week.

The committee process is essential because it provides the vetting of legislation, ensuring that it will be of benefit to the people of Georgia before receiving a vote on the floor of the Senate.

This week, budget subcommittee meetings for the AFY 2016 budget will begin.

In these meetings, subcommittees will review the AFY 2016 budget for the agencies under their jurisdiction. This is done in order to make sure that all of the funds in the budget are allocated fairly and responsibly, and meets the needs of all the various agencies of the state.

We're expecting the next few weeks to be fast paced and I am excited to begin moving forward with legislation that will benefit all of Georgia. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, comments or concerns you may have with any legislation this session. I always appreciate and encourage your feedback.

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.