2015 Legislative Session Weekly Wrap-up: Week Nine

Dale Rutledge

This past Friday we reached day 30 of the 2015 legislative session. The 30th legislative day marks a crucial deadline for the Georgia General Assembly.  This date, also known as “Crossover Day,” is the final chance for bills to pass the legislative chamber from which they originated. After Crossover Day, all bills passed by the House must “cross over” to the Senate, and vice versa. The remaining ten legislative days will be spent considering Senate bills.

HB 131

HB 131, also known as “The End to Cyberbullying Act,” strives to provide our children with a safer, healthier, learning environment by expanding public school policies on anti-bullying to include any bullying that occurs over the internet, also known as “cyberbullying.” The use of technological equipment such as cell phones, wireless communication devices, computers, email, instant messaging, etc., would be prohibited to stopcyberbullying. The End to Cyberbullying Act would apply both on campus and off campus. In today’s society, technology is used so frequently; this legislation is necessary to address a common problem among our youth. Becausecyberbullyinghas such a profound impact on the happiness and health of our students, it is necessary that we take precautions to combat this detrimental act.

HB 17

HB 17, or the Hidden Predator Act, is aimed at reforming the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims.   Under current Georgia law, a child sex abuse victim may only bringactionagainst his or her abuser up to five years after the victim turns 18 years old.  Current law also bars the victim or their guardian from accessing police and otherinvestigationrecords in which the victim is the subject, HB 17 would amend this so they could access investigation records. HB 17 would provide a 30 year extensiontothe civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims.  The legislation would also allow for a retroactive “window” that would provide a two-year time frame for sexual abuse victims to file a case against their perpetrator.  Not only will HB 17 ensure that justice is served, but it will also help law enforcement officers catch predators before they find their next victim.

HB 225

We passed House Bill 225 with overwhelming bi-partisan support.  This legislation ensures proper licensing requirements for drivers in app-based ride sharing companies, such asUberand Lyft, which utilize a digital network or internet network to connect passengers to ride-share drivers as a form of for-hire transportation. Unlike ride-share drivers, traditional taxi and limo drivers must go through a state issued background check to obtain a “chauffeur endorsement,” which indicates that the driver is authorized to operate a vehicle to transport passengers for pay.  HB 225 clarifies this discrepancy by requiring ride-share driversto secure similar “for-hire license endorsements,” and go through background checks. These ride-share companies would be permitted to conduct their own background checks and will be subject to state audit. The legislation also requires the companies to obtain the same levels of liability insurance as taxi and limo drivers and either pay state sales taxes or an annual fee for each car in its network.

HB 48

House Bill 48 allows law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders who have sustained a major injury on the job to receive special license plates. Currently special license plates are also available to theseindividualsfamily members, and HB 48 extends that privilege to brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. HB 48 also allows disabled veterans to receive free license plates for cars or motorcycles. I’m glad that HB 48 recognizes the brave men an women in uniform in this way.

HB 110

The House passed House Bill 110, which legalizes the sale of fireworks in Georgia. Georgia businesses are currently only allowed to sell sparklers while in four of our five neighboring states fireworks are sold.  For this reason, many Georgians drive across state lines to buy their fireworks.  HB 110 opens the profitable firework market to Georgia business owners, allowing more dollars to stay at home in Georgia and creating new jobs. The money from firework sales will not only boost local economies, but it will also generate new tax revenue.  If approved by the Senate and Governor Deal, I look forward to seeing the positive economic impact this will have.

Our next step will be to begin considering pieces of legislation that have already been approved by the Senate. I hope that you will contact me to express your ideas and opinions during these last few weeks of session,. Please reach out if you have any comments or questions concerning our great state. Your comments are always welcome and are important to me. You can reach me at my office at 678-438-7181 or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.