Last week the Senate completed week seven of the 2019 session and our 25th legislative day. We debated and voted on 28 pieces of legislation in the chamber and our committees held their final meetings before Crossover Day this Thursday, March 7. Of the 28 bills that passed, I am proud that two of those are bills I sponsored.
On Feb. 25, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 66, the “Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act,” which 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 to parts of our state that do not have access or experience limited internet services. Senate Bill 66 is the result of years of hard work and compromise with local governments, telecommunications conglomerates and members of the General Assembly.
With the growing demand for internet access for purposes greater than entertainment, this bill, which similar legislation has already been passed in 22 other states, will ensure that we do not fall behind in meeting the needs of Georgians. SB 66 is one of three bills (the others being SB 2 and SB 17) introduced this session to address the expansion of broadband into rural parts of Georgia. Both SB 17 and SB 66 have passed the Senate and are now in the House for their consideration.
On March 1, the Senate also unanimously passed Senate Bill 154, which I sponsored to address complaint procedures regarding coroners’ conduct. SB 154 would extend the Georgia Coroners Training Council’s duties to include reviewing complaints from outside parties and making recommendations concerning the retention, suspension or removal of a coroner from their position. This legislation is now in the House and I hope it will receive support so that it can be sent to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.
In addition to these bills passing the Senate, below are some highlights of what else passed last week:
· Senate Bill 15, “Keeping Georgia’s Schools Safe Act,” would require public schools to conduct threat assessments every four years by a third-party agency and would streamline communication efforts between schools, the Department of Education and all relevant public safety agencies.
· Senate Bill 18 would allow patients and doctors to speak directly regarding care without having to involve insurance companies and their contracts.
· Senate Bills 115 and 118 address telehealth technologies and would allow patients to be seen by a doctor over the internet. Under these bills, the process for the visits is outlined along with a provision stating that visits such as these would be covered under the patients’ health insurance plans.
· Senate Bill 158, “Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act,” would make changes to Georgia Code regarding sex trafficking. Under SB 158, penalties for those found guilty of sex trafficking would be increased and the age at which a victim of sex trafficking is defined as a minor would be updated.
These are just a few of the highlights from week seven. As we work through week eight, we will be in chamber four days, including Crossover on Thursday. We will be in chamber late into the evening this week addressing more than 50 Senate Bills which must pass our chamber on Thursday to be eligible in the House.
While the hours will be long, I believe it is important we take all the time that is necessary to completely vet and debate any legislation voted on. I will update you later this week on what passed, what didn’t make the cut and what pieces of legislation may have been amended in the process. If you have any questions, concerns or feedback as we work through this week, please do not hesitate to reach out. My staff and I are always here to help.
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as the Senate Majority Whip. 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 email@example.com.