With two legislative days remaining until sine die (adjournment), we in the General Assembly are working hard to pass meaningful legislation that reinforces our values, protects our families and promotes job growth.
Protecting religious freedom
On Wednesday, the House and Senate passed legislation to protect religious liberty in Georgia, House Bill 757. This landmark bill includes the Pastor Protection Act, which the Georgia House previously passed, and a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, to ensure that people of faith are protected when exercising their religious beliefs. This measure also includes specific language that prohibits the unjust discrimination against others. I support this compromise legislation and spoke in favor of this bill on the House floor.
School testing reform
This week, the State House approved Senate Bill 364, called “The Quality Basic Education Act,” which reduces the number of mandatory, high-stakes tests our students are required to take. This bill also reduces the weight that testing has on teacher, principal and assistant principal evaluations in Georgia. As such, this bill would reduce the testing burden on our students and provide much-needed balance and flexibility in measuring teacher effectiveness. Throughout this session, the General Assembly has heard the concerns of teachers and administrators, and I am proud to support this bill on behalf of our educators.
Pushing back against government overreach
To protect business owners and farmers, the General Assembly passed HR 1343, which urges the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington to withdraw its proposed “Waters of the United States” Clean Water Rule. This proposed federal rule would expand federal oversight to nearly all bodies of water in Georgia, including many which previously were not subject to Washington regulation. I therefore stand with Governor Nathan Deal, Attorney General Sam Olens and the business and agricultural communities in Georgia in opposing this proposed federal rule.
Keeping children and families safe
Last week, the House passed several pieces of legislation aimed at promoting public safety and protecting our families from harm. Specifically, we approved Senate Bill 350 and Senate Resolution 558, which propose a constitutional amendment to dedicate tax revenue from fireworks to fund trauma care, fire services and local public safety organizations in Georgia.
The House also approved Senate Bill 193 regarding domestic family violence. Under this proposed bill, when a battery is committed between household members and the perpetrator has a criminal record that includes a separate forcible felony between household members, such perpetrator will be guilty of a felony.
Proving high-speed broadband communications
Last Monday, the House passed Senate Resolution 876 to create the Joint High-Speech Broadband Communications Study Committee. This study committee will meet prior to next session and will work to find ways to expand high-speed internet access throughout Georgia. Expanding broadband internet access can help promote economic development and provide educational resources to underserved communities.
This week, we welcomed Effingham County High School senior and three-time state wrestling champion Isiah Royal to the Capitol. Isiah works hard in the classroom and gym to accomplish his goals and we are proud of his continued success!
I was proud to join Gov. Deal and Screven County Extension Coordinator Ray Hicks to present the 2016 Georgia Farmer of the Year award to John McCormick from Screven County. I have no doubt that John will represent Georgia well as he competes for the title of Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year later this year.
We also greeted Kim Kaiser from Bulloch County this week at the Capitol. With her delicious, pecan cheddar cheese straws, Kim won the Snack Foods Division of Georgia’s 2016 Flavor of Georgia competition!
As always, it is an honor to represent District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly. If I can ever be of service to you, please do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or engage on Facebook (FB.com/JonBurnsGA).
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House Majority Leader.