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Update from the Capitol - 2/24/2017

tyler harper By: Sen. Tyler Harper (R - Ocilla)

We have officially passed the halfway point of the 2017 session and we’re beginning to get to some bills that will have a direct impact on the lives of Georgians throughout the state.

On Tuesday, we celebrated a day I look forward to each year, FFA Day at the Capitol. It was great to see folks from the district up here to recognize all of Georgia’s FFA members and celebrate the great work they do. As a former member of FFA, I can personally speak to the many benefits of their programs and the work they do to teach students the skills they need to become leaders in the agriculture industry. This organization has had an incredible impact on our district and I thank them for all that they do.

 

It has been a great week for our law enforcement personnel at the Capitol, as we passed a series of bills on Friday meant to increase the penalties against those who commit crimes against our peace officers and would also create a commission that will work to make sure our officers are appropriately compensated for their work.

The biggest of these measures was SB 160, better known as the “Back the Badge Act.” Recently, police officers across the state and country have been the targets of numerous threats and violent activity. This bill seeks to impose harsher punishments against those who commit violent acts against our officers. Under the current law, someone who harms a public safety officer receives a sentence of five to 20 years in prison. However, SB 160 imposes a mandatory minimum sentence by preventing any part of the 5 year minimum sentence from being suspended, deferred or probated. It would also call for additional punishments for the crimes of obstructing police officers, blocking highways, and committing a riot in a prison. A lot of effort went into this bill and I feel it reflects Georgia’s commitment to protecting those who serve every day to protect us.

Sen. Greg Kirk (R – Americus) also introduced a number of bills aimed at improving the quality of life for our law enforcement officers. Senate Bill 154 would increase the punishment and fines required of anyone who is convicted of aggravated assault or battery against a public safety officer, as well as increasing the payments made to families of officers who are killed in the line of duty.

Our officers don’t always receive the compensation reflective of all the hard work they do. SB 155 would establish the Local Law Enforcement Compensation Commission whose responsibilities would include examining the salaries and benefits of local law enforcement officers and reviewing compensation. Through this Commission, we can begin to look at ways to continue to make sure our officers are receiving compensation commensurate with their work. 

We also celebrated the Fraternal Order of Police Day at the Capitol this week. It was great to see so many friends in the local and state law enforcement community and to speak with them about some of their concerns and a few of the legislative initiatives we’re working on to make their lives easier. It was especially meaningful to have them here during a week where law enforcement priorities were front and center here at the Capitol.

I was also pleased to recognize the Georgia YMCA, its Center for Civic Engagement and representatives from Georgia’s “Y” Club at the Capitol on Thursday. We were joined by Youth Governor Chan Creswell, Youth Lt. Governor Brooks Fletcher and Youth Speaker of the House Sarah Lee who shared a few words of advice to the Senate. These students have a bright future ahead of them, no matter what path they choose, and it was a pleasure to recognize them in the Senate.

We are quickly approaching Crossover Day which, this year, falls on Friday, March 3. Crossover Day is the final day in the legislative session that Senate Bills can pass the Senate Floor with enough time to have the opportunity to be heard in the House before the end of the session. This means we’ll stay busy in our committees working on legislation to pass to the full Senate before that deadline. It also means Friday will be a late night, as we’ll likely work well into the evening discussing and passing legislation.

If I can ever be of any help, please do not hesitate to get in contact with my office. It’s always nice to hear from folks in the district and I want you to know that your opinion is valuable to every decision I make here under the Gold Dome. It remains an honor to serve District 7.