Sen. William Ligon serves as Chairman of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. He represents the 3rd Senate District which includes Brantley, Camden, Glynn, and McIntosh counties and portions of Charlton County. He can be reached by phone at 404.463.1383 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With five back-to-back session days last week, members of the Senate and I were able to get a head start on productive discussions surrounding some of the most important legislative topics for our state. On top of committee meetings and chamber hearings, I also introduced Senate Bill 318.
SB 318 recognizes and protects the constitutional right to freedom of speech, press, religion and association on our higher education campuses. As found in the Supreme Court cases of Healy v. James and Sweezy v. New Hampshire, public colleges and universities play a key role in the facilitation of ideas and the development of our society. We expect our educational institutions to nurture civic responsibility and inculcate in our students an abiding respect for American ideals, particularly those natural rights that are recognized in the First Amendment.
Our colleges and universities cannot ignore their responsibilities to ensure that our students can freely and peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Under SB 318, the state would prevent our institutions of higher learning from creating so-called “free speech zones” tucked away in out of the way campus locations. To allay fears that the legislation would allow too much disruption, there are a few tailored restrictions on some types of expressive activity to prevent disruptive activities within the learning environment.
Furthermore, the legislation would protect the freedom of association for our students. Many student organizations exist on campus, but some have come under increasing pressure to compromise their leadership and membership standards to admit those who would actually work against the very purpose of the organization. That is the polar opposite of what the freedom of association means. Of course, when it comes to their open meetings and programs, any peaceful visitor must still be welcome to attend.
On a more local level, I have been working to protect the Satilla River corridor from contamination from a proposed landfill. The way I see it, proper site protocols and environmental guidelines must be followed to safeguard the Satilla River watershed. Furthermore, the proposed dump site is located in close proximity to a school.
I am encouraged by the fact that many of Brantley County’s residents are being vigilant and active in making their voices heard to the Environmental Protection Division. I recently attended a citizen-led meeting at Waynesville Primary School where many people showed up to discuss their concerns with one another in order to develop a plan to stop the proposed landfill. Citizen involvement is what it takes at the local level, and I am doing all I can to support their efforts. I will soon introduce legislation to protect this vital watershed.
In addition, one problem we have in Georgia is the fact that we are subsidizing the dumping of out-of-state coal ash in our landfills by only requiring a $1.00 tipping fee per ton. Yet, the regular tipping fee on other waste products is $2.50 per ton. I also have legislation, Senate Bill 123, which would erase the subsidy by requiring the same $2.50 tipping fee for coal ash.
As the legislative cycle goes on, I will continue to monitor issues that affect you. Please pray for a session that brings blessing instead of harm to Georgia’s citizens. If you would like to discuss any of my legislation, or other bills on the table, contact my office and let me know how I can work to serve you.