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Doug Holt: Pace picks up on House floor

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

The pace on the House floor picked up again last week. We voted on 34 bills and resolutions.

HB 215 would make it illegal for anyone who is listed on the State Sex Offender Registry to receive a driver's license allowing them to operate a commercial bus, which would include school buses. A previous law that had attempted to address this issue apparently ran into constitutional issues, so it was necessary to revise the method of dealing with the problem. I supported the bill, and it passed by 157 to 4.

HB 456 is titled the "Georgia Government Accountability Act," and would create a review process to examine the efficiency and value of various arms of state government. Under the bill, a sunset advisory committee composed of legislators would routinely look at all state agencies and departments that receive state appropriations. The committee will examine whether an agency is meeting the mandate of legislation which created it, and could recommend it be abolished and direct that legislation be drafted toward that end. It is interesting to note that Georgia has over 500 independent authorities, some of which have not had board meetings in years. We passed a very similar bill last year, but it got bogged down in the final days of the session. I voted in favor of the bill, and it passed by a very partisan 108 to 50.

HB 692 is a strong reaction to the scandal last year involving falsification of test scores by teachers and school system officials. It would create a process for repeal of a teacher's salary increase or bonus that was based on falsified test scores. The bill also has a mechanism to allow systems to reclaim funds that have already been paid. The measure passed by 140 to 2, with my support.

HB 641 is a substantial revision of the juvenile code, which has been in the works for over five years. It is intended to clear up sometimes conflicting sections of this law, a problem caused by decades of piecemeal legislating on the topic. It also makes changes to pursue a policy of more effective early intervention, and to make a more careful discrimination of who shouldn't be directed into institutions where their experience would likely increase their inclination toward crime. The initiatives are expected to be both more effective in setting these children on a path to a productive life, and to save the state money that would have been spent were such children put into a more traditional correctional arrangement. These changes are meant to dovetail with the more general criminal justice reform that Gov. Nathan Deal is championing. After a fairly lengthy question and answer period, the bill passed unanimously.

HB 898 seeks to create a specialized type of bank corporation to be used by firms in the business of facilitating credit card transactions, sort of the back-office processing necessary to make business by credit cards work effectively. While I am normally interested to support an appropriate legal environment for private industry, the author of the bill never really answered the question of just why a new legal structure would be advantageous for firms in this line of business. That, in my experience, is sometimes an indicator that an unspoken ulterior motive is involved. Thus I voted "no" along with several other legislators, but the bill passed by 135 to 20.

HB 954 seeks to restrict the availability of abortion, based on scientific studies establishing that unborn children can experience pain as early as 20 weeks of age. The bill would ban abortions beyond that threshold, except for limited circumstances primarily related to the health of the mother. As one might expect, we held a very long debate on the measure. For me, having long held strong pro-life views, the vote was not a question. I cast a "yes," and the measure passed by a fairly party line 102 to 65.

Rep. Doug Holt represents District 112 in the state House. He can be reached at 404-656-0152.