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Steve Gooch: Update from the Gold Dome week 6
Steve Gooch
Senator Steve Gooch - photo by For the Dawson County News

After committing last week to Appropriations subcommittee meetings, the Senate returned to its usual cycle of business convening in the Senate Chamber and holding meetings for our various other committees. This week was a productive one, with eight bills receiving passage in the Senate and important progress being made on the budget and other legislative priorities.

In the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, we heard an update from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs on the progress of Senate Bill 2. SB 2 passed during the 2019 session and was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Brain Kemp. The legislation enabled Georgia’s Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs) to provide internet services and broadband to their customers directly, or indirectly, through a broadband affiliate. We have witnessed great success as result of this, especially in the rural parts of the state. Importantly, we received a progress report on a mapping project to clearly identify where Georgia’s broadband deserts are, so we can more efficiently allocate resources to expand access.

In the Senate Transportation Committee, I presented Senate Bill 371, which would create the Georgia Freight Railroad Program under the Georgia Department of Transportation. One of the key lessons we learned over the interim, as part of the Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics, was the importance of railways in transporting freight across the state. The Georgia Freight Railroad Program would finance rail enhancement projects, including the acquisition or leasing of rail track. By placing a stronger emphasis on rail, we can reduce some of the traffic congestion on our roadways, while at the same time expanding our capabilities to move goods throughout the state. The establishment of this program will signal Georgia’s commitment to enhancing economic capabilities throughout the state.

Friday, the Senate passed a bill in support of Georgia’s children in foster care. Senate Bill 335 would open the door for more children to find a loving, stable home by reducing some of the mandated training requirements for prospective foster parents, adding certain data collection and tracking procedures for the Clerk of the Juvenile Court and would allow the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services to contract with more child placing agencies to increase the options a child has to find a home. Every child deserves a supportive home and this bill streamlines the process for foster parents to connect with Georgia’s children in need.

Next week’s schedule looks even busier than this one, with five legislative days on the calendar. In addition, the Senate will likely take action on the amended budget for the 2020 Fiscal Year, which recently received passage from the House. With only 24 legislative days remaining, the time we have as legislators to pass and debate bills and resolutions continues to diminish. In the days we have left, we will do all we can to promote policies that put the people of Georgia first. If there’s anything I can do for you, or if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to my office.