On Feb. 9, I had the pleasure of addressing the Screven County Chamber of Commerce's Eggs and Issues event. It was great to see so many friends and have the opportunity to discuss the work ahead for my colleagues and I in the General Assembly.
With "Crossover Day" just eight legislative days away, the House committee system continues to move at a brisk pace to consider legislation critical to our state's continued prosperity. In this week's newsletter, I want to take the opportunity to update you on some of the measures I have been at hard at work on as well as some of the issues the House considered last week.
The House passed a number of important measures, including House Resolution 37, which creates the Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics for the purpose of studying and determining how best to plan, coordinate, and fund freight logistics across our state.
As the Port of Savannah continues to grow in terms of container traffic and economic importance to our region, this commission is all-too-important to ensuring our state has the infrastructure necessary to reduce traffic congestion and move this additional container traffic from our roads to our rail system.
I was proud to file House Bill 382, which provides for some necessary updates to the language of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act, which the General Assembly passed into law last year. This legislation authorized Georgia to dedicate up to $20 million each year to environmental conservation efforts across this state, and voters overwhelmingly approved the Outdoor Stewardship amendment to our constitution during last year's election.
House Bill 382 provides the necessary definitions and language to enable the Department of Natural Resources to implement this important program.
Also, the House Governmental Affairs committee passed out one of the most important measures our chamber will consider this session: House Bill 316, which provides for our state to update its voting systems ahead of the 2020 election. This legislation recognizes that Georgia must replace its current 17-year-old voting machines and identifies the most secure and easy-to-use system available as a replacement.
Guided by the findings of the Secure, Accessible, & Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission established by Governor Brian Kemp during his tenure as Secretary of State, the House will be recommending the use of touchscreen-marked paper ballots. Touchscreen-marked paper ballots will guarantee the accurate representation of voters' intent, an auditable paper trail, as well as a familiar system interface for voters.
While some continue to advocate for hand-marked paper ballots, they fail to acknowledge that hand-marked ballots disenfranchise disabled voters and increase the likelihood that improperly completed ballots with stray or accidental pencil marks will be invalidated.
In addition, House Bill 316 includes bipartisan updates to our state's election laws that address the absentee ballot process and moving of polling places prior to elections.
As we work hard in the days ahead to strengthen Georgia families and businesses, please do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail (Jon.Burns@House.Ga.Gov) or engage on Facebook with your feedback. It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Burns in the House majority leader and represents District 159.