House, Senate clear out long calendars on Friday

[private]In attempt to revise fireworks legislation enacted a year ago, the Georgia Senate voted 50-1 Friday to pass SB 369.

The bill, which now moves to the House of Representatives, would prohibit the ignition of fireworks near public air use facilities, parks, historical sites, and recreational areas owned by a local or state government. SB 369 also limits the hours when fireworks can be exploded.

SB 369 also authorizes the governor to impose additional regulations on the use of fireworks during periods when a declaration of drought has been issued.

The General Assembly voted last year to legalize the sale and use of fireworks in Georgia.

SB 369 was introduced after legislators received numerous complaints from constituents about the excessive explosions of fireworks on holidays like the Fourth of July.

“The legislation passed last year by the Georgia General Assembly was never meant to be a burden on neighborhoods or law enforcement officials,” said Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga). “It quickly became clear that we needed to add definitions and restrictions.”

SB 369 was one of many bills passed by the Senate and the House on Friday in advance of “crossover day,” the 30th day of the legislative session. Monday is the deadline for a bill to pass one of the two chambers if it is to remain in play for this session.

Other bills that passed Friday:

The House voted 145-3 for HB 952, which provides that the secretary of state can review any actions or rules passed by one of the state’s licensing boards. The bill is a response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could potentially strip licensing board members of their immunity from lawsuits.

The Senate voted 45-0 to pass SB 364, which would lessen the effect of student performance on standardized tests on the evaluation of public school teachers. The bill reduces the impact of these tests on job reviews from the 50 percent level to the 30 percent level.

HB 951, which the House passed by a 127-22 vote, would exempt the sale of Super Bowl tickets and tickets to other major sporting events from the state sales tax.

The tax break, which would be worth an estimated $10 million, was demanded by NFL officials before Atlanta would be considered as the site for a future Super Bowl. The tax break was rolled into a bill that also extends the annual sales tax holiday for back-to-school sales in the summer.

The House passed HB 920 by a 137-14 vote. The bill would restrict civil lawsuits against “passive investors” in nursing homes and intermediate care homes.

The Senate voted 38-13 to pass SB 383, which will make it easier for billboard owners to cut down trees in the vicinity of their billboards.

SB 383 was opposed by Garden Club activists and also produced a rare partisan split in the Senate vote. Republican Sens. Charlie Bethel, Josh McKoon, Chuck Hufstetler, Renee Unterman, and Ben Watson voted against SB 383. Democrats Curt Thompson, Gail Davenport, Ed Harbison, Emanuel Jones, David Lucas, Michael Rhett, and Freddie Powell Sims voted for the bill.

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: billboards , fireworks , Georgia House , Georgia Senate , licensing boards , nursing home investors , Super Bowl tax break , teacher evaluations