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Winter weather wont slow the Senate down
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Georgia was greeted on President's Day with frigid temperatures that lasted throughout the week.

With snow and ice threatening the state, the Capitol was closed on Monday of last week to ensure the safety of all employees. Some areas of the state - including District 51 - were hit harder than others.

The major ice storm caused thousands of North Georgia residents to lose power for several days, and the task of restoring power was not an easy one.

Employees from Georgia Power, Georgia EMC, Blue Ridge EMC, Habersham EMC, Jackson EMC, Sawnee EMC, Amicalola EMC and Jackson EMC worked around the clock to get this crucial utility back up and running throughout the week.

I'd like to offer a sincere "thank you" to these hardworking linemen, as well as the law enforcement officials, fire and rescue personnel, state and local public works departments for their tireless efforts in the bitter cold. I'd also like to thank the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency for their quick response to the storm and their assistance in what could only be considered an enormous clean-up and power restoration effort.

The Senate passed numerous pieces of legislation last week, including Senate Bill 4, an economic development bill which I sponsored, SB 4 seeks to streamline the contracting process in order to maximize the private sector's role in urban redevelopment projects, like the Atlanta BeltLine.

The Atlanta BeltLine, once an abandoned 22-mile railroad corridor, is transforming the city of Atlanta with its network of public parks, trails and greenspace located along a historic 22-mile railroad corridor that once circled the downtown area.

Additional legislation passed this week includes:

Senate Bill 18 establishes policies for the Technical College System of Georgia to grant academic college-level credit for learning from military service, prior work experience or self-study.

Senate Bill 62 removes limitations on probate courts so that they now have jurisdiction over almost all fish and game violations, including the first violation of hunting a deer at night with the aid of a light.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division has historically filed these offenses with probate courts.

Senate Bill 58, called the "Georgia Leadership and Service Admission Act," will allow every member of the Georgia General Assembly, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to recommend a student who meets HOPE Scholarship requirements to a college in the Board of Regents system if that student agrees to participate in Reserve Officer's Training Corps while enrolled in college.

Senate Bill 79 expands the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council's powers and duties for victim's compensation claims.

It raises the capped payout amount for funeral costs to $6,000 and expands the list of family members that can file for compensation.

The Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program helps victims and their families through the emotional, physical and financial aftermath of a crime.

Senate Bill 51 clarifies Georgia law for the dispensing of expensive medical products called biologics.
It defines the terms "biological product" and "interchangeable biological product" to better resemble definitions from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Public Health Service Act.

Senate Bill 72, also called "Tanja's Law," strengthens the punishments for crimes committed against a police dog while the dog is performing its official duties.

The Senate also finalized the amended FY 2015 budget this week. The supplemental appropriations bill has already been signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, and now the Senate will shift its focus to reviewing the general FY 2016 budget over the next few weeks.

My colleagues and I also welcomed a special guest to the Senate chamber last week.

Congressman Doug Collins (GA -9), our faithful representative in Washington, returned to his legislative roots and paid a visit to the Capitol.

I wish to thank Congressman Collins for his outstanding service to the citizens of the 51st Senate District, the Ninth Congressional District, and the great state of Georgia.

I would like to hear your opinion on some of the major issues being proposed in the Georgia General Assembly this year. Feedback on these and other topics help me to better represent you.

Continue to stay in touch with me and share your thoughts as we work through the legislative session, especially as more bills start moving through the legislative process.

As always, I am honored to represent you in the 51st Senate District.

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