The Georgia House of Representatives kicked off the fifth week of the 2023 legislative session on Monday, February 6. With more than a month of session behind us, the pace certainly picked up this week. More bills made their way out of their respective committees and onto the House floor for a vote, and we saw the passage of several House bills that would impact Georgia’s infrastructure, roadways and transportation laws.
My colleagues and I overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation this week to protect our critical infrastructure overseen by the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), including the Port of Savannah. House Bill 35 would give the GPA’s security employees the ability to preserve and protect its properties, projects and certain areas surrounding its coastal campuses. Specifically, GPA security personnel and peace officers would have the authority to investigate criminal incidents and handle traffic offenses within one mile of their properties, including making arrests and controlling and investigating pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents. This legislation would also support the surrounding communities by allowing local law enforcement to dedicate less resources to this state authority’s operations and easing some of the burden on local law enforcement that comes with having such a successful port system along our coast. Local municipalities impacted by the port system have also expressed their support for HB 35, and this legislation has been sent to the Senate for its consideration.
Additionally, we passed House Bill 52 on the House floor this week to update several other transportation and infrastructure laws. First, to protect the privacy of Georgians, this bill would exempt the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) from open records when a driver’s data on public roadways reveals their vehicle information or other personally identifiable information. This provision would ensure that no one could use the Open Records Act in an attempt to obtain an individual’s personal information from this agency. This legislation would also make changes to how fatal car accidents are handled on our interstate highways and limited-access roads. HB 52 would allow coroners or county medical examiners to delegate medical personnel to perform certain duties when one of these serious accidents causes a significant disruption to traffic, which would give medical examiners more flexibility and allow medical personnel to arrive to the scene in a more timely manner. This would also help clear up accidents more quickly, while still ensuring that accurate information is documented from the scene. Additionally, under this bill, the state would be able to provide permits to mobile home manufacturers to transport units that are up to 84 feet in length; Georgia is home to nine mobile home manufacturing facilities, and by allowing the transportation of these longer units, this industry could remain on par with our neighboring states. Finally, this legislation would authorize GDOT board election notifications to be sent via email instead of mail, and this bill would also update language in our laws to help streamline GDOT’s process for public-private partnership contracts and alternative contracting methods. Many times, our job as state legislators is to make sure existing laws keep up with our state’s ever-changing needs, and this legislation would ensure that our transportation department’s operations are in line with our latest infrastructure challenges and needs.
On Thursday, we passed legislation to update two laws that would affect Georgia drivers. Currently, Georgia’s Spencer Pass Law requires drivers to safely change lanes or slow down when approaching stationary emergency or service vehicles on our roadways so that drivers do not pass directly next to stopped emergency vehicles. This week, we passed House Bill 119 to update this law to also require drivers to move over for any disabled vehicle, such as another car or tow truck, that displays flashing hazard lights and/or yellow, amber, white or red lights if it is safe to do so. A number of drivers and workers who provide crucial services to drivers have been killed by passing vehicles over the years, and this legislation aims to keep these drivers and roadside workers safe from other motorists. Then, we passed House Bill 120 to update the list of individuals with a suspended, revoked or canceled license who are eligible to apply for a limited driving permit, which restricts where and when these individuals are allowed to drive. Under HB 120, individuals convicted of driving under the influence of a controlled substance or marijuana could also apply for one of these limited driving permits. Both of these measures seek to promote and enhance safety on Georgia’s busy roads and will now be reviewed by our Senate counterparts.
The House passed four more bills this week that I will briefly highlight. House Bill 55 serves as the annual revision for our state’s banking and finance laws, which gives us a chance to remove redundancies and update certain terminology in Georgia law each year. House Bill 77 would add a fourth superior court judge in the Dougherty Judicial Circuit; this fourth judge would first be appointed for a year and a half, and a nonpartisan successor would be elected in 2024. To comply with federal law, House Bill 175 would update the state’s Uniform Carriers Act effective date to January 1, 2023. Finally, we passed House Bill 183 to authorize temporary operating permits to be issued in lieu of temporary license plates in certain situations.
While we were in the House Chamber this week, my colleagues and I took time to honor Mr. Louis Graziano on his incredible bravery as a U.S. soldier in World War II. Born in 1923, Mr. Graziano is the last surviving World War II veteran to witness Germany’s surrender. Mr. Graziano was a master sergeant and fought in the third wave of the Omaha Beach invasion on D-Day. After D-Day, he also fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he almost lost his feet to frostbite, and he took part in the June 6th invasion of Normandy in 1944. He then served at the Special Headquarters Command in Reims, France, where he witnessed Germany sign the surrender document and then took the Germans to meet General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mr. Graziano’s visit to the State Capitol coincided with his 100th birthday, and I was inspired to meet this American hero and hear his incredible story.
By the end of this week, we reached Legislative Day 16 and are almost halfway through the 40-day legislative session. We will return to the State Capitol on Monday, February 13 for another packed week of lawmaking as we get closer to the infamous “Crossover Day,” which is the last day a bill can pass out of the House or Senate for the first time and still remain eligible to become law this year. As your representative, it is extremely important for me to hear which issues are significant to you and your family, especially before the Crossover Day deadline. If you find yourself in Atlanta during the legislative session, please feel free to schedule a visit to my Capitol office. You may call my Capitol office at 404-656-0152, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.