Monday, March 6, 2023 marked the official deadline for bills and resolutions to pass in their respective chambers in order to qualify for final passage come Sine Die. Crossover Day serves as a pivotal moment during each legislative session and this year was no different. The Senate debated late into the evening hearing and voting on 51 measures. 50 of those bills now make their way to the House for further deliberation. I am pleased to provide you with an update on a few bills of note that passed this week.
I am delighted to announce both of my own bills passed in the Senate on Legislative Day 28 with strong bipartisan support. SB 146 sets the framework to regulate charging stations for Georgia’s rapidly growing electric vehicle industry. The Georgia Department of Economic Development estimates over 42,500 electric vehicles are currently registered in the state, and we have heard testimony that nearly 30 percent of customers are considering an electric vehicle for their next purchase. Georgia has a proven record of investing early in resources, infrastructure, and job skills needed to support business growth and economic development. The passage of SB 146 is another example of Georgia’s continued effort to be a leader on that front and the state is well on its way to becoming the electric vehicle hub of the southeast. I was proud to champion this legislation and am eager to provide you with updates on SB 146 as it progresses through the legislative process in the House.
On a similar note, Senate Bill 193, also passed the Senate on Crossover Day. As I have previously outlined, SB 193 aims to increase broadband services and accessibility across rural parts of Georgia. Broadband services are an essential component to businesses, education and healthcare systems, the state’s leading agriculture industry, and most importantly, the overall quality of life for the people of Georgia. SB 193 will prepare Georgia for state and federal grant programs to expand broadband deployment across the state and would require the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to determine locations eligible for state or federal funding programs administered by the state for improved broadband services. Increased access to broadband internet services is vital for Georgia’s economy and I am pleased to see this legislation pass with bipartisan support.
As part of our efforts prioritizing Georgia’s students the Senate passed SB 211 and SB 233 this week. SB 211 will establish a Georgia Council on Literacy to address the low literacy rates among the youth in our state. The Council will work with local school systems to develop and implement school wide literacy plans to get students reading earlier. There will also be attention given to individual students from Kindergarten through the fifth grade to ensure they are reading at proficient levels. SB 233 is a historic school choice bill that will provide our students trapped in failing public schools with greater opportunities for alternative education. This bill will provide any student attending a school in the bottom percentage of our ratings with a $6000 scholarship towards a private school or homeschool program of their choice. It is the view of the Republican Caucus that our students should not be forced to remain in failing schools just because of their zip code.
I was also proud to support Senate Bill 195, sponsored by my friend and colleague Republican Caucus Secretary Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry). Known as the “Freedom to Work Act,” SB 195 is a product of the combined efforts of the Georgia Joint Defense Commission and seeks to address the issue of occupational licensing for military spouses. Specifically, military spouses who were issued an occupational license from another state. While Georgia continues to excel in workforce development, it is inevitable that in order to maintain that standard, a large percentage of Georgia’s workforce will include out of state licensees. SB 195 would allow service members and their spouses to utilize their military certification, work experience, or licenses acquired in another state to obtain an expedited license in Georgia. It is imperative to properly equip Georgia’s growing workforce and supply our working professionals with increased accessibility to continue their employment endeavors, without unnecessary bureaucratic delay. This is an area of concern Lt. Governor Burt Jones is prioritizing. This week, he announced the creation of four priority Senate Study Committees, one of which is the Senate Occupational Licensing Study Committee, established pursuant to Senate Resolution 85, legislation I signed on to. It is my hope this study committee will uncover additional ways to address Georgia’s current occupational licensing laws and requirements.
Following Crossover Day, much of the Senate’s time will be dedicated to debating and vetting legislation from across the hall. In addition, Senate Appropriations Subcommittees are ramping up again to analyze House Bill 19, the FY 2024 Budget. These deliberations are often detailed and heavily debated. However, this step in the legislative process is a necessity to ensure all taxpayer dollars are allocated properly to best fit the needs of Georgia’s citizens. I look forward to providing you with additional updates on HB 19 as the bill progresses through the Senate. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns. It is always a pleasure to serve you here in Atlanta.
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Leader of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and Pickens Counties and a portion of White County. He may be reached at 404.656.7872 or via email at email@example.com