Freshman state Sen. Hunter Hill, a Smyrna Republican, successfully navigated a bill through the General Assembly this session that would allow a foreign national whose Georgia driver’s license expired to extend that license for a 120day window.
The bill is awaiting signature by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Hill explained his bill by using the example of a German citizen who obtains a U.S. visa to work in Georgia for two years for Porsche. In that case, the company may want to extend the German national’s contract, but while the individual is waiting for a visa extension from the federal government, his driver’s license expires.
“So then while the federal government is pending your approval of your visa, you’re not able to drive around, so companies were having to pay for expensive cab fairs,” Hill said. “In some cases, the individual would just go back to their host country.”
Hill said he was asked to carry the bill by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
“It was one of those no-brainers once everyone had it explained to them,” Hill said.
The 120-day extension is only granted once, and the applicant must show that they have submitted their request for a visa extension to receive it, Hill said.
Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman David Connell called it “pro-business” legislation.
“As Georgia, the metro region and Cobb continue to grow our international business profile, SB 122 offers flexibility in the system to be more responsive to the needs of the companies we are trying to recruit,” Connell said. “There are smaller examples, but look no further than Kia and Porsche for good reasons this legislation passed 51-0 in the Senate and 169-2 in the House.”
Another one of Hill’s bill’s awaiting Gov. Deal’s signature, Senate Bill 179, prohibits counties and cities from setting aside contracts for only union labor. “It was just a leveling of the playing field to make sure unions weren’t colluding too much with cities and counties, but it was mostly happening in Decatur and Atlanta,” Hill said. “We’re a right-towork state, and we want to honor that, and you shouldn’t be allowed, as a city and a county, to contract for labor-union-only business. It was happening in a number of areas, but we were more trying to get ahead of the issue, because unions are always trying to grow, and this just gives them one more disincentive for growing in our state.”
Helping veterans get jobs
Hill also carried in the Senate House Bill 188, which would help veterans get employment by allowing the skills they acquired in the military to count toward civilian licensing in such fields as plumbing, HVAC and mechanical engineering fields.
“That’s a great way to give military individuals who have great skills that they’ve accumulated in our service, getting them directly translated to civilian skills in the marketplace, and so that’s going to help our veterans have a better shot at getting employment quickly because, as you know, veterans have a higher unemployment rate than your average citizen,” Hill said.
Hill, who ousted Democrat Doug Stoner from office in November’s election, served three separate tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq in the U.S. Army.
Addressing his success as a freshman lawmaker, Hill said the key is relationships.
“Leadership is about moving the ball forward, and you can’t get anything done in a legislative body on your own, so if you’re just going to go in there and stamp your foot and do this and that, that’s not going to get anything done,” Hill said. “What’s going to get something done is meeting people and going to their office and talking to them and listening, and that’s what I was proud to get some things done by doing that.”