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Parkway funding will be big for Effingham, area
Hitchens Bill
Bill Hitchens

In the second week of the General Assembly, we spent most of our time in committee meetings, reviewing legislation and preparing bills for full House consideration. This session, I am pleased to serve on the Appropriations Committee, the Transportation Committee, the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, serve as vice chairman of the Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee, and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. All of this discussion and deliberation is a solid basis for a constructive legislative session for the betterment of our great state. I am honored to represent you.

The big announcement last week is that $44 million in state funds will be put toward the Effingham Parkway project with the state’s commitment to complete it. The parkway will begin in Chatham County at Jimmy Deloach Parkway and run through Effingham County to Blue Jay Road, having an impact not only on our community but on surrounding counties as well. Businesses will save money on fuel and manpower while families will also experience savings from shortened commute times for work and recreational activities. This project will be completed by 2018, and it is money well spent by our state for our region.

Although most of our time was spent preparing for the work ahead, an important bill came out of the House which I co-sponsored. House Bill 724 states that parole boards must give at least 30 days’ advance notice when an inmate is paroled. Those who must be informed are the district attorney, the presiding judge, the sheriff of each county in which the inmate was convicted, local law enforcement authorities of the county of the last residence of an inmate, and the victim of the crime. Each of these persons must be mailed or emailed about the inmate’s parole status. I believe that this is particularly important if the parolee is a violent offender.

The third week of the session was particularly eventful as I welcomed many friends and colleagues to the gold dome during Effingham County Day on Monday and Savannah/Chatham Day on Thursday. This is a productive time for local officials, businessmen and women, and concerned citizens from our community to discuss issues with legislators that are important for Georgia’s future. It was great to connect with old friends and make some new ones as we all strive together in advancing our state forward so future generations can enjoy working and living here.

An important bill addressed last week was HB 750, which amends last year’s budget and ensures fiscal balance. It passed the House unanimously and is now headed to the Senate for review. The nearly $21 billion balanced budget includes appropriations for healthcare, education and transportation. Our state has always maintained a fiscally responsible budget, one that does not drive Georgia into debt. This is something that all Georgians should be proud of and something to which I am deeply committed. I will report any significant changes to the budget once it comes out of the Senate.

Another bill that was unanimously passed, HB 742, makes permanent an annual Section 179 expense deduction of $500,000 for businesses. This is positive legislation, especially for hard-working small business owners who should not be taxed out of business. I believe that small business owners exemplify the American dream and their enterprises are the lifeblood of our economy. I support keeping their taxes low so that they have the opportunity to succeed.

This week, the Joint Session also had the opportunity to hear the State of the Judiciary address given by Chief Justice Hugh Thompson. Among his comments, Judge Thompson recommended that the Supreme Court of Georgia should handle only the most difficult cases so that justices can give them the time and careful deliberation they deserve. He went on to say that lesser cases such as divorce, wills and land titles should be handled by the Court of Appeals. This is the same recommendation made recently by the judicial review commission.

As we proceed with the legislative session, please know that your concerns, questions, and input are very important to me and invaluable as I strive to represent you to the best of my ability.Please contact me with your thoughts at 404-657-1803 or