Last month we kicked off the 2024 Legislative Session, and I am proud to be back under the Gold Dome to represent all hardworking Georgians. Over the next several months, my colleagues and I will debate and discuss meaningful legislation that will improve the lives of the citizens of our great state.
Additionally, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Oversight, I will be hearing bills relating to issues of transparency and accountability in government.
As of Feb. 2nd, we have wrapped up the fourth week of session, and much has already been accomplished. On the topic of government accountability, one of the bills I have introduced this session is Senate Bill 381, the “Assuring Quality in Government Act.”
This bill would implement a voluntary survey after a phone call with a state agency asking the following questions: (1) “Was the person with whom you spoke courteous?” (2) “Did the person with whom you spoke resolve the issue that was the subject of your call?” (3) “If you were an employer in the private sector, would you hire the person with whom you spoke to work for you?” and (4) “Approximately how long did you have to wait on the phone to talk to a person?” This is a necessary and beneficial bill as it provides a means of determining the effectiveness of state agencies and whether they are resolving the issues of the people they serve.
Senate Bill 378 is another important bill of mine which increases the penalties in our state for those convicted of child sex trafficking. Great strides have been made fighting human trafficking in Georgia, but it remains a prominent issue that demands further action.
There must be severe penalties for those targeting our children and this bill does that by increasing the minimum penalty to 30 years plus lifetime probation, and the maximum penalty from 50 years to life imprisonment. This legislation will give Georgia the strongest anti-trafficking penalties in the country and send a message to traffickers that God’s children are not for sale.
Last week the Senate passed Resolution 465 creating a select committee to investigate Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for alleged financial and ethical improprieties.
The clear conflict of interest in her relationship with head prosecutor Nathan Wade and the alleged misuse of public funds for lavish vacations demands investigation. We in the Republican Caucus believe that there is ample evidence to suggest that her prosecution of Donald Trump along with several Georgia Republican leaders is and has been politically motivated.
In addition, Senate Bill 358 was heard and passed by the Senate. This measure would authorize the State Elections Board to investigate the administration of primary and general election laws by the Secretary of State and local county election officials.
SB 358 is a significant step towards enhancing the oversight and effectiveness of our election process. This precaution ensures there would be no conflict of interest in the event that an investigation involving the Secretary of State, or their office, must take place.
Another important issue that passed through the Senate this week dealt with the legalization and regulation of sports betting. I strongly oppose the legalization of sports betting in the state of Georgia, and I am disappointed that it was passed.
While there remains the requirement of a constitutional amendment to allow sport betting in Georgia, I believe this enabling legislation to be a step in the wrong direction.
The continued push for gambling expansion is both unnecessary and harmful to Georgia’s citizens. A large portion of those who participate in sports betting are college-aged young adults who are more susceptible to addiction. Even the NCAA has issued rulings banning their own affiliates from participating in sports betting.
Lastly, I would like to extend an invitation to students between the ages of 12 and 18 to serve in our Capitol Page Program. I encourage any students interested in the legislative process to apply for our program to spend a day at the Capitol. Under Georgia law, it is an excused school day and a great civics lesson.
As session progresses, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions regarding legislative matters. The people of the 16th Senate district will always remain my top priority and at the forefront of every decision I make.
[Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Oversight. He represents the 16th Senate District which includes Lamar, Spalding and Pike counties and a portion of Fayette County. He may be reached at 404-656-0078 or by email at email@example.com.]