During our fourth week of session, the Senate was busy at work with several committees hearing and vetting legislation. We also voted on our first two pieces of legislation and I am proud to say that both received unanimous and bipartisan support. It is always great to see all of our members come together on issues that will impact the lives of all Georgians.

An issue that is a top priority for leadership, including the governor’s administration, is expanding broadband access to all Georgians. Although great progress was made last year, our caucus realizes that there is much more work that needs to be done. I am happy to say that this week one piece of legislation addressing this critical issue was heard in committee and should be voted out of committee next week.

Senate Bill 17, the “Rural Telephone Cooperative Act,” was heard in the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee. This legislation would allow telephone cooperatives in Statesboro, Metter, Newington and Rentz to provide internet services and broadband to their customers. Additionally, SB 17 would raise the limit to 15,000 customers for each of the four telephone cooperatives, adjusting for rapid population growth and need for broadband in rural areas. Under the current law, these cooperatives can only provide service to a maximum of 1,500 customers. I look forward to the committee passing out SB 17 in addition to holding a hearing on Senate Bill 2. This legislation mirrors the language in SB 17 and would allow EMCs to deploy internet services and broadband to their customers.

Along with important committee work, the first piece of legislation we passed is Senate Bill 25 which clarifies when a person traveling in the opposite direction of a stopped school bus must stop.

Currently, because of unintended consequences from legislation passed last year, drivers can pass a stopped school bus when traveling in the opposite direction when just a turn lane is present. This change has caused confusion among drivers, law enforcement and school officials. Along with this confusion, it has resulted in safety issues for our children which makes the clarification language in SB 25 a time sensitive issue. SB 25 states that a driver encountering a stopped school bus on the opposite side of the road can keep driving only if traffic is separated by a grass median, unpaved area or physical barrier. I am proud of the Senate for their quick action on this critical issue and we hope the House can do the same.

Additionally, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 19 which creates the Georgia Commission on Freight, Innovation and Logistics. The commission would review Georgia’s current statewide freight infrastructure to see what improvements can be made through a new comprehensive business strategy. Improving our statewide freight and logistics infrastructure and creating vocational programs that will fill future workforce needs are critical to retaining our status as the No. 1 state in which to do business. I am proud of our chamber’s unanimous support on this issue and we look forward to the House taking the same action so that the great work of this commission can begin.

Lastly, we adopted the adjournment resolution which sets the calendar for the remainder of the 2019 session. Before the Senate adjourns Sine Die on April 2, 2019, we have several five-day legislative work weeks along with some days designated for committee work.

Although we will be busy in chamber and committee meetings, my staff and I are always available to assist with any questions and concerns you may have. We encourage you to reach out and if you are in Atlanta to stop by for a visit. Our door is always open and we are here to serve you.

State Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, serves as the majority leader of the Senate. He represents the 30th Senate District which includes portions of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties. He can be reached at 404.463.2478 or by email at mike.dugan@senate.ga.gov.

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