After passing the amended fiscal year 2012 budget last week, we returned to the state Capitol Feb. 6 to begin our fifth week of the session. While we continued to work on legislation aimed at creating jobs and reducing bureaucratic red tape, we also took steps to increase safety for Georgia families and children.
One move towards a safer Georgia was passing House Bill 711, legislation that increases protection for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Supported by the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault, the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, HB 711 provides confidential communication between victims and their advocates at domestic violence and sexual assault centers. This measure ensures information released in a victim’s treatment is not used against them in court.
HB 711 also makes it easier for victims to testify by exempting domestic abuse cases from spousal privilege. This exemption will ensure that batterers cannot pressure their victims not to testify against them under spousal privilege. Similar legislation has been passed in 43 other states. The Georgia Commission on Family Violence, as well as other advocacy organizations supporting this bill, believes that it will enhance the ability of prosecutors to hold those guilty of domestic violence accountable. Having received passage from the House, HB 711 will now go to the Senate for consideration.
We also reviewed legislation that would increase safety for student athletes. House Bill 673 establishes a “return to play” policy for student athletes. This policy ensures coaches, students-athletes and their parents are aware of the risks that athletes face when they continue to play after obtaining a concussion. It also prohibits a student athlete that is suspected of suffering a concussion from playing on the same day without being evaluated by a licensed health care provider.
The “return to play” policy that HB 673 would implement is similar to one practiced in the NFL. This is why several Atlanta Falcons players came to speak to the Health and Human Services Committee in support of the bill and the importance of return to play legislation. It was alarming to hear the statistics on how the lives of student athletes are put in danger when they continue to play with a concussion. From this hearing, we learned that 40 percent of student athletes continue to play after immediately receiving a brain injury. Though the Health and Human Services Committee is still working on HB 673, the hope is that the final version of this legislation will reduce this percentage in Georgia and provide a safer environment for student athletes.
As previously reported, I have co-sponsored metal theft legislation that is still in committee. I am optimistic that a bill will be passed this session to help stop the rampant metals theft that Walton County is experiencing. On the economic front, I have co-sponsored HB 718 that would create a Georgia Capital Acceleration Authority to help support the development and retention of Georgia based startup companies. Currently too many new companies are leaving the state, along with the jobs they create, because of inadequate access to capital.
It appears that the House will have a hearing this week on Rep. Josh Clark’s HB 670. This bill creates a bi-partisan Constitutional Guardian Council to review, evaluate and respond to federal legislation that adversely impacts our state rights. I have co-signed this important bill.
As we move forward with the 2012 legislative session, I will work to keep you informed about legislation that increases safety for Georgians. The House goes back into session on Wednesday through Friday of this week. Don’t forget you can always watch us while in session by going to www.legis.ga.gov/ Streaming/en-US/Both. aspx. Please let me know what is important to you. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.