Last week, the Senate completed the 2019 session when we adjourned Sine Die on April 2. Since the Crossover Day deadline on March 7, the Senate has been working on vetting and debating House bills while also ensuring the Senate’s priorities are moving through the legislative process in the House. I am proud to say that several of our caucus priorities made it out of both chambers and have now moved to the governor’s desk for his final approval.

One of our priorities is the expansion of broadband access to all Georgians with a focus on addressing the needs of our citizens who have limited or no access at all. I want to commend our caucus for taking the lead on this important issue and passing three pieces of legislation to expand broadband access.

The three pieces of legislation addressing broadband access are Senate Bills 2, 17 and 66 which all received final passage by both chambers. SB 2 would authorize Georgia’s 41 EMCs to provide broadband services to their customers. Under SB 2, EMCs are prohibited from cross subsidizing broadband from other services they provide. Additionally, the final version includes a provision that authorizes electric easements to including broadband infrastructure.

Senate Bill 17, the “Rural Telephone Cooperative Act,” which unanimously passed through the Senate, would allow telephone cooperatives in Metter, Newington, Rentz and Statesboro to provide internet services and broadband to their customers in over eight counties and 10 cities.

The Senate also unanimously passed Senate Bill 66, the “Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act,” which would streamline wireless broadband deployment by allowing for a standardized application process for 5G companies to collocate small wireless facilities (antennas) on existing or new poles. This legislation also addresses the use of public rights of way by wireless providers to deploy broadband to parts of our state that do not have access or experience limited internet services.

We look forward to the governor signing SBs 2, 17 and 66 into law so that all Georgians can have access to reliable broadband.

Another priority for our caucus this year and every year is the safety of our children and the educators who are preparing them for a bright future. I am proud of our caucus for taking the lead on this issue and introducing Senate Bill 15, the “Keeping Georgia’s Schools Safe Act,” which is the omnibus school safety legislation. This legislation would put into place parameters schools have to follow to reduce the threat of violence in schools. Although guidelines would be outlined, each school board would have local control on how to implement threat assessments, drills and coaching on what action to take against a potential threat. I have worked with the sponsor of the bill and our Governor to ensure SB 15 can be signed into law so our children and educators not only feel safe, but are truly protected during their time of learning and teaching.

Along with protecting our children, we recognize that every child needs to have every resource available to help them succeed within our education system. During the 2018 interim, the Senate Study Committee on Dyslexia did a great job of researching what is currently being done in our state to provide assistance to our citizens diagnosed with dyslexia. After numerous meetings, we found out that there is no statewide standard regarding the education of dyslexic students, even though dyslexia is one of the most common learning challenges.

To address this very important issue, our caucus made Senate Bill 48 a top priority. Under the guidance of SB 48, the state would implement several new standards for ‘dyslexia education in public schools including requiring the Board of Education to develop policies that address dyslexia screenings for all kindergarten students, as well as referrals for students with identified dyslexia characteristics in grades one through three. I am proud that SB 48 received final approval from both chambers and is now waiting for the governor’s signature.

For the bills that have received final passage, we will work with the governor to guarantee they receive his approval. In the next several weeks, I will keep you updated on the progress of these bills and any others that will have an impact on you and your families.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions, concerns or feedback. My door is always open and I am never too busy to hear from you, my constituents.

State Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, serves as the Majority Leader of the Senate. He represents Senate District 30 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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