2023 Session: Week 5 Update
Last week completed the fifth week of the 2023 legislative session. With more than a month behind us, the pace certainly has picked up! More bills made their way out of their respective committees and onto the House floor for a vote. We saw the passage of several House bills that would impact Georgia’s infrastructure, roadways, and transportation laws.
My colleagues and I overwhelmingly passed 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. 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 this week to update several transportation and infrastructure laws. First, to protect the privacy of Georgians, this bill would exempt the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) from open records requests 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 to obtain an individual’s personal information. This legislation would also make changes to how fatal car accidents are handled on our interstate highways and limitedaccess roads. HB 52 would allow coroners or county medical examiners to designate medical personnel to perform certain duties when one of these serious accidents causes a significant disruption to traffic. This would help clear up accidents more quickly, while ensuring that accurate information from the scene is documented.
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. The purpose is to prevent drivers from passing dangerously close to stopped emergency vehicles. This week, we passed House Bill 119 to update this law requiring drivers to move over for any stationary vehicle. A number of drivers and workers have been killed by passing vehicles over the years, and this legislation aims to keep these drivers and roadside workers safe from other motorists.
We also 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 measures seek to promote and enhance safety on Georgia’s busy roads and will now be reviewed by our Senate counterparts.
Last Monday, we were privileged to be joined by Mr. Louis Graziano to honor 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. He also took part in the June 6th invasion of Normandy in 1944. Finally, he 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. Making the day even more special, Mr. Graziano’s visit to the Capitol coincided with his 100th birthday! I was inspired to meet this American hero and hear his incredible story.
The Capitol was a hive of activity this week with many different groups travelling from all areas of the state to meet with legislators. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit with: Rev. Michael Plow man of Liberty Baptist Church in Lyons, Rev. Brian Patrick of Calvary’s Grace Baptist in Ailey, and two of their sons. They were visiting with a large contingency of pastors with Citizen Impact USA; Kasey and Beau Jack son with Toombs County Young Farmers. Kasey is a tireless advocate of agriculture education; Sergeant Chris Moore, Game Warden Jordan Usher (Montgomery County), Game Warden First Class Bobby Sanders (Toombs County), and Corporal Clint Jarriel (Tattnall County), all from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. They protect and serve a large portion of the 156th district. If you would like to know more about the brave work our DNR’s law enforcement division does, you can visit their website at gadnrle.org; Laura Lee Hughes with the Ben Hill County 4-H Program and her crew of incredibly bright students. I enjoyed hearing about the projects they are all working on. The future of Ben Hill County is bright!
I would be remiss if I did not congratulate Captain Robert Tillman of the Vidalia Fire Department. He was recognized at the Firefighters Recognition Day and Legislative Dinner as the Georgia State Firefighters Association 2022 Educator of the Year. I remember the patient, kind way Capt. Tillman taught fire safety to my two sons 13 years ago when they were Cub Scouts.
By the end of last week, we reached Legislative Day 16 and are almost halfway through the 40-day legislative session. 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 the office at 404-656-0325, or email me at [email protected] As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative for district 156.
By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)