John Douglas - Senate continues to work at intense pace

The 2008 legislative session continued last week as we began to look ahead to March and the looming end of the 2008 session. At this writing, we were completing Day 26 of the session and working hard deliberating bills that will have an impact on the citizens of Georgia. This week, I expect that all committees will be meeting at the Capitol working to pass as many bills as possible within the next four legislative days. Day 30 is the last day bills can pass between the House and Senate or visa versa. It's a key day in the session. After Day 30, each chamber will only consider bills from the other body.

On Friday, the Senate passed a key measure to crack down on the growing problem of illegal immigrants driving in the state. SB 488 passed 50-0 and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. SB 488 allows non-citizens who are eligible for a Georgia driver's license or state-issued ID card to be issued a driver's license without having to surrender their foreign license or foreign ID card. If a non-citizen is unable to produce a foreign license, ID card or valid documentation of lawful presence in the U.S., this bill allows them to be issued a temporary document after the Department of Driver Services (DDS) verifies their lawful presence in the U.S. through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program by the U.S. government. Temporary licenses, permits or special identification cards will expire after three years or after the driver's stay in the U.S. has expired.

The Senate continued to bring innovative ideas to Georgia when it voted to overwhelmingly pass model Internet safety legislation that seeks to protect children from Internet predators. This is the first comprehensive legislation of its kind in the country, and I am proud that our state Senate is leading the way to help curb harmful online activity. SB 474, which I co-authored, brings law enforcement, parents and educators together as a team to help solve this problem. Under the bill, registered sex offenders would be required to provide their e-mail addresses and user names to the state, and their Internet use may be monitored. The legislation seeks to further strengthen the partnership with Internet service providers and law enforcement by granting the ability to obtain records involving a possible sexual offense against a child. In an effort to put more control in the hands of parents, SB 474 also requires Internet access providers to offer subscribers in Georgia the ability to block their child's access to specific Web sites and monitor their child's use of the Internet.

In other news this week, SB 512, a bill I authored, passed the Senate, my fifth bill this session to do so. SB 512 authorizes an increased allowance each semester for every eligible student who signs a contract to enter the Army with an officer's commission from North Georgia College & State University (NGCSU), The Senior Military College of Georgia. The Army has notified NGCSU that it will be required to produce 100 officers a year beginning in the 2012 time frame, up from 45 now. Long known at the "West Point of the South," NGCSU has a first-class reputation throughout the Army as an institution that produces only the finest officers.

As always, please remember to contact me in my office on the issues that are affecting you and your area. I am here to represent you and it is an honor for me to work on your behalf.

Sen. John Douglas serves as chairman of the Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee. He represents the 17th Senate District, which includes Newton County and portions of Henry, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton counties. He may be reached by phone at 404-656-0503 or by e-mail at john.douglas@senate.ga.gov.