The 2021 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly completed its business on Wednesday, March 31st and we officially adjourned Sine Die. Much was accomplished in the forty legislative days we had to work. In the two legislative days we had in the final week, we passed meaningful legislation that now heads to the Governor for his signature or veto. Much of our legislation that we considered this week were Senate bills that came over before crossover day ended or legislation that had been amended by one or both Houses, like the budget, and were in a reconciliation committee to work out the disagreements.
One bill I eagerly supported was Senate Bill 107, legislation that created postsecondary education grants through the waiver of tuition and all fees for qualifying foster and adopted students by the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia. The bill provides that students who are identified as homeless or from a foster home situation are eligible for in-state tuition at University System of Georgia institutions for 10 years or until the student achieves a baccalaureate degree, as well as eligible for in-state tuition at Technical College System of Georgia institutions for 10 years or until the student achieves a diploma, certificate, or baccalaureate degree. This is good legislation to help those less fortunate.
Due to recent and ongoing problems with social media, we passed S.B. 78, an invasion of privacy law which creates a felony crime for posting a sexually explicit photograph or video to a website, file sharing site, or message board, that advertises or promotes its services as showing or distributing sexually explicit conduct when the posting was made to cause harassment or financial loss and serves no legitimate purpose to the depicted person.
One bill that impacts our area is S.B. 255 which is a grant program to support border region retail and tourism projects. Under the OneGeorgia Authority, the grant program called the Border Region Retail Tourism Development Program is designed to help areas on a “border region” engage in commerce within 25 miles of the Georgia border.
The House also voted to give final approval to several other important bills this week, including House Bill 146, which would extend paid parental leave to many of our valuable state employees. HB 146 would provide up to 120 hours, or three weeks, of paid parental leave annually to eligible full-time state employees and local board of education employees for qualifying life events, such as after the birth of their child and after an adoptive or foster child is first placed in their home.
We also adopted a conference committee report for Senate Bill 6, or the “Tax Credit Return on Investment Act of 2021,” which would establish opportunities to examine our state’s tax revenue structure, as well as expand tax incentives for several industries to restore our economy.
We also gave final passage to Senate Bill 195 to increase the responsibilities of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission and allow licensed low THC oil producers to partner with universities and colleges, such as Georgia’s historically black colleges and universities, for joint medical research.
House Bill 154 also received final approval and would reform several of Georgia’s adoption and foster care laws, including lowering the age at which a person is allowed to petition for adoption from 25 to 21 years old. These bills will also undergo consideration by the governor, as well as several other pieces of legislation.
In conclusion, I encourage you to please let me know of issues that are important to us in Savannah. Should you visit the Capitol during session, please stop and see me in 608-C of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. My office phone number is (404) 656-0298 and my email is derek.mallow@ house.ga.gov. I look forward to serving all of you.