Under the Gold Dome 2018

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Mar 7, 2018 No Comments ›› kirbyforgeorgia

The House began week eight under the Gold Dome on Monday, Feb. 26, and this week was undoubtedly the busiest week of the 2018 legislative session so far. On Wednesday, Feb. 28, we reached legislative Day 28, better known as “Cross Over Day.” Cross Over Day is a critical deadline in the General Assembly, as it is the last day a piece of legislation can pass out of its original chamber and still remain eligible for consideration by the opposite legislative chamber. My House colleagues and I worked well past midnight on Cross Over Day and passed many significant House bills for the state of Georgia. All measures that passed the House this session are now being considered by our Senate counterparts, and conversely, the House will begin to review legislation passed by the Senate.

We unanimously passed a bipartisan measure this week that would update Georgia’s Hidden Predator Act. House Bill 605 would hold negligent individuals or entities that conceal child abuse accountable for these actions. Firstly, HB 605 would extend the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases from age 23 to age 38. Also, HB 605 would lengthen the discovery time period from two years to four years for a victim who experiences psychological or emotional problems as a result of child sexual abuse to report such abuse. Finally, this measure would establish a one-year period for a childhood sexual abuse victim to file civil actions against an entity if the entity: was responsible for the victim’s care; knew or should have known of the conduct that brought about the civil action; or intentionally or consciously concealed evidence of sexual abuse. These changes seek to acknowledge that the effects of childhood sexual abuse can be latent, and the updated Hidden Predator Act would align Georgia’s laws with what scientific research and real world experience have taught us about sexual abuse cases.

Our state has seen an alarming rise in automobile accidents and fatalities in recent years, cell phones and distracted driving play a major role in this increase. To address this public safety issue, my colleagues and I passed House Bill 673 this week, which would establish a hands-free driving law in Georgia. HB 673 would prohibit drivers from holding or supporting a wireless telecommunication device or a stand-alone electronic device while operating a vehicle. This measure would also ban drivers from texting, browsing the internet or watching or recording videos; however, drivers would be permitted to use GPS navigation and voice-to-text features on their devices as well as hands free phone conversations. This hands-free law would not apply while a vehicle is lawfully parked, while reporting an emergency or a hazardous road condition or to utility service providers, law enforcement officers or first responders operating within the scope of their employment. This measure intends to decrease automobile accidents, injuries and fatalities and would make our roadways safer for all Georgia commuters. Let me be the first to say this bill still needs work. However, this issue is important enough that we moved it on to the Senate to continue to improve the bill. You can be assured that both Representative Williamson and I will continue to work with our Senators to improve this bill before final passage.

On Friday the House agreed with the Senate’s version on HB 918 giving final passage to a tax cut for all Georgians. This legislation makes necessary changes to our state’s outdated tax code, which has not been updated in decades, and decreases the tax burden on our citizens by cutting individual and corporate state income taxes. HB 918 doubles the state standard deduction for Georgia taxpayers for all filing statuses, effective Jan. 1, 2018, and would reduce the income tax rate for individuals and businesses from 6 percent to 5.75 percent beginning on Jan. 1, 2019. The legislation would further reduce the tax rate to 5.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2020, but would require approval of the General Assembly and signature of the governor in order to take effect. HB 918 is essentially revenue neutral addressing the state revenue projections resulting from the recent Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This historic tax update will benefit all of Georgia’s citizens by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets.

With Cross Over Day behind us, my House colleagues and I will be thoroughly considering Senate measures in our respective committees, working to improve bills in both the House and the Senate and passing such measures in the House Chamber. Legislative Day 40, our last day to conduct business for the 2018 legislative session, is quickly approaching on March 29, and with this end in mind, I hope that you will contact me with input you might have regarding any pending legislation. I welcome your thoughts and opinions, and I encourage you to reach out to me anytime. My Capitol office phone number is 404-656-0177, and my email address is tom.kirby@house.ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.