Doug Holt: House shifts into gear for final legislative push

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

The House shifted gears last week, moving into the final phase of the legislative session in which we will consider the roughly 120 pieces of legislation passed by the Senate through crossover day. Those bills and resolutions are being reviewed by the committees in the House, and the ones passed out of committee will be available for a possible vote on the House floor. Thus we spent most of our time last week in committee work, and only a small amount on the House floor, where we voted on five bills and resolutions.

SB 309 would create "Taylor's Law," which would give the commissioner of Natural Resources the ability to grant hunting licenses to terminally ill children and youth. The bill is a response to a situation in which a young patient had an illness so aggressive that waiting for the normal season would have left him too weak to participate. The commissioner should have had this kind of discretion in the first place, so I supported the bill, and it passed by 161 to 1.

SB 343 corrects a nonsensical arrangement of responsibilities in the state government. The bill seeks to transfer the duties of comptroller general away from the insurance commissioner to the state accounting officer. Since a comptroller's job is to supervise the quality of accounting and financial reporting, it makes more sense to house it with the accounting function. The offices were probably separated due to some political conflict of years past, which is probably reason enough to undo it. The bill passed unanimously.

The House also saw final action on HB 741, the supplemental appropriations bill that adjusts the current fiscal year. We had passed it out on Feb. 3, and then the Senate sent it back to us with amendments on Feb. 23. A couple of weeks of negotiations have ironed out the differences, with both the House and Senate agreeing to a final version of the budget. The bill is now with Gov. Deal.

In other news, the redistricting map bills for the Morgan and Newton County commissioners and boards of education have passed the General Assembly and been signed by Gov. Deal. The maps were drawn by the commission and school board members last fall, with the assistance of the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office at the Capitol. They were then passed unanimously, which has not been the case in some other parts of Georgia. Many commissions and school boards elsewhere in the state have had acrimonious battles over maps, some of which are still not settled. Unanimous passage of our local maps made it easy for the county legislative delegation to have the bills to enact the maps drawn up and passed through the state Legislature. Thus I think we all owe our local commissioners and school board officials a word of praise for their civil and responsible handling of the map drawing task.

Even though the maps are now state law, however, they have one more hurdle to leap before they go into effect. The federal voting rights act still requires that all election-related changes in Georgia and other Southern states be pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice. Hopefully that step won't be much more than a formality, given the harmonious manner of the drafting and passage of the maps. Once that step is done, the maps will be fully in effect, and serve for the next 10 years.

On Tuesday, Todd Hilton of Mansfield was at the Capitol to serve as chaplain for the Senate. I enjoyed his remarks, as well as the chance to meet his wife Melanie and sons Connor, Evan and Bailey.

Rep. Doug Holt represents District 112 in the state House. He can be reached at 404-656-0152. His email address is Doug@DougHolt.org.