2012-02-15 / Editorial

Sen. Jesse Stone

REPORT FROM THE SENATE

Now that we are in our fifth week of the 2012 session, there are many bills under review by committees. Some have already passed the Senate and are now heading to the Governor’s desk. This week, I’d like to highlight some specific legislation passing through the committees on which I serve.

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, I’m supporting HB 110, which received a favorable committee report. HB 110 would authorize local governments to create uniform registries to list foreclosed and vacant properties. Often, ownership of foreclosed and vacant properties can be hard to establish because many mortgages are bought and sold repeatedly by the lenders and because of the “heir” property problem. This bill will limit the tough fines penalizing noncompliance and create a uniform code for all owners to follow, replacing the current hodgepodge of local ordinances.

Ultimately, this system will simplify finding owners responsible for following municipal maintenance ordinances on vacant and dilapidated property. With Georgia ranked sixth in the nation for foreclosed properties, HB 110 is a step in the right direction to help maintain code enforcement and property values.

A bill that just passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, where I am a member, is SB 350 which deals with the disposition of firearms confiscated by law enforcement agencies. SB 350 would allow certain seized firearms to be given back to the innocent owners or auctioned under very specific guidelines – instead of being destroyed. This would save local government unnecessary expense and proceeds from the sale would return to the general fund.

Two other significant bills, which I co-sponsored, coming out of the Judiciary Committee are SB 316 and SB 383. SB 316 proposes to extend the time for prosecuting sex crimes against minors for 10 years after they reach age 18; for forcible rape the statute of limitations will remain 15 years. Children who are victims are often reluctant or unable to come forward and report such crimes while they are still minors. SB 383 is designed to encourage Georgia , already a transportation hub, to be chosen as a forum for international arbitration. The Chamber of Commerce strongly supports this bill because of its potential to attract more international businesses to our state.

Governor Nathan Deal signed HB 683 into law on Tuesday to eliminate a costly legal mandate from burdening Georgia ’s small businesses. This legislation will reverse a Georgia Supreme Court decision which most people disagreed with. Employers and others can now file garnishment answers through authorized personnel instead of hiring legal counsel, which many small businesses simply cannot afford. This law takes affect immediately.

The Senate has passed SB 333 on Thursday with a vote of 48-0. SB 333 states that notice of foreclosure must be sent to the borrower before a foreclosure sale can occur. This is intended to correct an omission in the Georgia Code that allowed nonresidential property to be sold at foreclosure without first notifying the borrower. I authored this bill to help small businesses and farmers in financial distress so they have the opportunity to bid on their own property.

Other bills that were debated and passed the Senate this week include SB 352 on Prosecuting Attorneys in Certain Courts, SB 351 on Municipal Court Judge Training, SB 343 on the Office of the Comptroller General of the State of Georgia, SB 339 on Georgia Aviation Authority and the Transfer of Aircraft and Personnel, SB 337 on Dentist and Physician Licensure and HB 675 on Approved Nursing Education Programs.

As always, I look forward to hearing from my constituents as we move further into the 2012 session. Please contact me with your concerns.

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