Legislation I introduced, addressing the issue of who has the right to handle the disposition of the body of a deceased U.S. service member, was unanimously approved by the Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee on Feb. 10.
I proposed SB 355 as a result of several stories from families who were plagued by the decision of who would handle their deceased loved one’s body. Kept in the U.S. Department of Defense Record of Emergency Data, DD Form 93 allows the service member to designate an authorized person to handle their body in the event of death. My legislation would ensure this form is utilized in Georgia, ending any disputes over the matter. SB 355 now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
This week, I also co-sponsored legislation that would provide much-needed assistance to U.S. military veterans who want to attend one of Georgia’s public colleges or universities. SB 405 would allow veterans who have enrolled but have not received their G.I. Bill money to attend classes until that assistance arrives from the Veterans Administration.
Currently, service members returning from active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan are unable to remain in a University System institution while awaiting their financial aid to arrive. Some have been kicked out of school, dropped from classes or assessed fines. This is no way to treat the troops who have put their lives on the line for our country. Our legislation would provide a grace period for these veterans to get their finances in order without delaying their pursuit of a college degree.
Board of Regents officials have expressed support for SB 405. A separate measure, SB 404, would excuse veterans from taking certain classes that they may have taken in the military. Both bills were referred to the Senate Higher Education Committee for its consideration.
Real Estate Loans: The Senate voted unanimously to give final approval to HB 926, which would make it easier for business owners to renew real estate loans with their local bank. State-chartered banks are currently barred from renewing loans to borrowers who owe an amount equal to at least 15 percent of a banks available funds. This measure would eliminate that restriction, allowing these companies to stay in business. The governor signed the bill into law on Thursday.
Revenues Fall Again: For the 14th consecutive month, state revenues declined in January. The 8.7 percent drop from the same month a year ago brings the total revenue shortfall for the first seven months of fiscal year 2010 to $1.28 billion, a decline of 12.9 percent from the previous year. Income tax collections were off 16 percent in January, while sales tax collections were down 5.5 percent. Corporate income tax collections actually experienced a huge 634 percent gain, but that is the smallest portion of revenue and was not enough to offset the other losses.
Communications Deregulation: The Senate approved an amended version legislation that would remove most remaining regulations on the telecommunications industry in Georgia. HB 168 would lower access charges, which are still fixed at 1995 rates, to current market rates. The measure goes back to the House of Representatives for final consideration.
Paperwork Reduction: Legislation has been introduced that is intended to cut government spending by reducing its paperwork. SB 388 was recommended by a task force of business leaders appointed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to suggest ways the Legislature could cut spending in the current state budget. The measure would require state agencies to publish information in an electronic format rather than printing it as a paper document, except in cases where current law requires a printed format. The Senate State & Local Government Operations Committee will consider the proposal.
Ethics Legislation:SB 394, introduced this week, would prohibit anyone who has had an ethics fine levied against them in the past 10 years from serving on the State Ethics Commission. The measure is intended to increase public trust in the Ethics Commission. The Senate Ethics Committee has the bill under consideration.