Greetings from the Capitol!
Last week, Winter Storm Leon brought snow and ice to many parts of our great state. Leon’s impact on the metro Atlanta area was particularly harsh. Schools, government, and private businesses, who originally believed the bulk of the storm would hit further South, all released their students and employees onto the highways on Tuesday when the snow began to fall. The combination of icy roads and high volumes of traffic produced gridlock that forced many motorists to be stuck in hours-long traffic jams. The Georgia National Guard, Georgia Department of Transportation, and state troopers quickly got to work to help stranded motorists find shelter and clear the roads of ice, snow and abandoned vehicles. We were pleased to see that many Georgians reached out to those in need with a true spirit of Southern hospitality. Given the conditions, the House postponed all legislative business on Wednesday, January 29 and Thursday, January 30. This action helped ensure the safety of all Members and staff of the Georgia General Assembly, and also kept the roads clear of unnecessary traffic, so that GDOT could get our roads back up and running.
Despite Mother Nature’s disruption, we were able return to the House on Friday, January 31. One of our first orders of business was the passage of House Bill 176, the “Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development Act,” which could result in better cell phone service for Georgians. This legislation would allow previously approved wireless support structures and wireless facilities to be modified without additional zoning or land use review beyond what is typically required by the local governing authority that issues electrical permits. House Bill 176 would streamline the permitting process for companies investing in wireless infrastructure, which would ultimately allow wireless telecommunication companies to increase the cellular bandwidth for Georgians. Increased cellular bandwidth is not only crucial for business and recreational communication, but it is also an essential factor in public safety and emergency response. For example, when thousands of motorists were stuck on the roads last week, many were unable to call their families and friends because phone lines were jammed. Increased bandwidth would have allowed those motorists to more quickly communicate, so they could make those important phone calls. HB 176 will now go to the Senate for consideration.
Also passed on Friday was House Bill 715, which clarifies the acreage of land permitted for development on Jekyll Island. This bill states that the Jekyll Island Authority cannot convert more than 1,675 acres of the total land area of the island into developed land. Additionally, HB 715 designates 12 acres for the expansion of an existing campground, 46 acres for public health, safety or recreation, and 20 acres for unrestricted use, which could be used for future commercial development. Setting these standards for development will ensure that Jekyll Island remains a place of rest, relaxation and recreation for the thousands of Georgians who vacation there each year.
Senate Bill 297 was another piece of legislation that passed the House on Friday. This bill made a technical change to an elections bill that passed in 2013. It gives candidates for municipal or county office the option to waive campaign finance disclosure requirements if that candidate intends to accept or expend less than $2,500 on their campaign. This bill will also cut unnecessary government regulations, so that citizens can more easily run for local office in their county or city.
In addition to passing these pieces of legislation this week, we also took time to recognize some of our brave Georgians in uniform. On Monday, January 27, we celebrated Georgia National Guard Day in the House. Dozens of airmen and soldiers visited the State Capitol, and we recognized their accomplishments on the House floor with House Resolution 1131. We also had the great privilege to Skype with troops who are currently deployed in Afghanistan. It was an honor to show our appreciation to these incredible heroes. We are so grateful for their selfless actions both abroad and at home.
As the 2014 legislative session moves into its fourth week, we will be discussing and voting on more pieces of legislation. We would love to hear your input on any bills that come before the House. If you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw’s Office, 404-656-0177.
Rep. Paulette Rakestraw