We concluded week ten on Friday and now just have one full week before Sine Die on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. With four legislative days to go and one committee work day, we have a lot of work to do before our time under the Gold Dome comes to an end for the 2019 session.
I am proud that three of the bills I sponsored to address broadband expansion in Georgia – Senate Bills 2, 17 and 66 – have been making their way through the legislative process in the House. Senate Bill 2 would allow EMCs to provide internet services and broadband to their customers directly or indirectly through a broadband affiliate. This legislation received a “do pass” recommendation by the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. Another bill I sponsored that received a “do pass” recommendation from this committee is Senate Bill 66 which passed the Senate unanimously. SB 66, the “Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act,” would streamline wireless broadband deployment by allowing for a standardized application process for 5G companies to collocate small wireless facilities (antennas) on existing or new poles. This legislation also addresses the use of public rights of way by wireless providers to deploy broadband. I look forward to both of these bills moving to the House Floor for a vote before Sine Die.
The third bill addressing broadband expansion, Senate Bill 17, was adopted by the House on March 21. SB 17, the “Rural Telephone Cooperative Act,” unanimously passed through the Senate would allow telephone cooperatives in Metter, Newington, Rentz and Statesboro to provide internet services and broadband to their customers. Altogether, these four co-ops provide service to over eight counties and ten cities. This service could be provided directly or indirectly.
Along with these bills making their way through the legislative process in the House, our chamber addressed over 50 House Bills in committees and debated on 25 pieces of legislation in the Senate Chamber. Of the 25 bills, I would like to discuss a measure that I believe moves Georgia in the right direction to preserving life and ensuring that Georgia remains a pro-life state. After over four hours of debate, the Senate adopted House Bill 481 along party lines. The debate was filled with passion on both sides on an issue that none of the 56 members took lightly. HB 481, the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act,” establishes that as soon as a heartbeat is detected during a pregnancy, the baby in the womb has protections under the law and the pregnancy cannot be terminated. There are four exceptions when a pregnancy can be terminated up to 20 weeks – current law – including medical emergencies putting the pregnant women’s life in danger, non-viability of the pregnancy, rape or incest. Additionally under HB 481, the unborn child would be counted in Georgia’s census and the expecting parents would be able to claim a state tax deduction as soon as a baby’s heartbeat is detected.
While this was a hard and emotional debate to have, I believe it was necessary to ensure that Georgia becomes one of the strongest pro-life states in the nation. Preserving the life of a baby that could one day change the world is very important to me along with giving those who cannot have children on their own a chance to adopt and have a family. Since the Senate made changes to the House version of HB 481, it will now go back to the House for final approval and then hopefully to Governor Brian P. Kemp for his signature. While states like New York took the position that a baby can be aborted up to birth, I am proud that Georgia is preserving life when it begins – the moment a heartbeat is detected.
If you have any questions about HB 481 or any legislation that has passed so far, please do not hesitate to reach out. I am always happy to hear from you and to address any concerns you may have. My office is always open.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.