By: Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry)
With only nine legislative days remaining until the Georgia General Assembly will stand adjourned Sine Die, the previous weeks have been extremely busy yet productive for the Senate. Monday. March 6, 2023, signified Crossover Day, a pivotal moment in each legislative session. The Senate worked late into the evening debating and voting on 51 measures with 50 receiving passage on the floor. The pace has surely ramped up in recent days. I am eager to provide you with an update on a few bills of note that now travel across the hall for further consideration.
Last week, I brought Senate Bill 195 to your attention. Known as the “Freedom to Work Act,” SB 195 is a product of the combined efforts of the Georgia Joint Defense Commission, the 21st Century Partnership and other service member advocates and seeks to address the ongoing concern of occupational licensing for military spouses. I am happy to report that SB 195 passed with unanimous bipartisan support. Veterans, military spouses, and others moving to this state who could fill jobs in high demand fields often face challenges satisfying licensing requirements. Therefore, it is my hope that with this legislation, service members and their spouses will experience fewer hurdles when it comes to obtaining an occupational license in Georgia.
While SB 195 is a step in the right direction, occupational licensing in Georgia remains a growing concern that is shared by a number of my colleagues, including Lt. Governor Burt Jones. As a result, I am excited to announce my recent appointment to chair the Senate Occupational Licensing Study Committee. Established pursuant to Senate Resolution 85, the Senate Occupational Licensing Study Committee will examine our current occupational licensing laws and requirements to determine if they should be modified, replaced or eliminated to encourage, promote, and foster employment and healthy business growth in Georgia. I am honored to serve as chair of this study committee. It is timely, given our current and projected workforce needs, that we examine and review how other states have responsibly reformed occupational licensing to streamline processes, reduce barriers to work, and eliminate unnecessary rules and regulations in order to establish best practices in Georgia. I am thankful to Lt. Gov. Jones for placing his trust in me to spearhead this endeavor and I look forward to working alongside my Senate colleagues to address this issue in the interim.
Speaking of study committees, Majority Leader Sen. Steve Gooch brought Senate Bill 146 to the floor for a vote on Crossover Day. SB 146 is a product of the Joint Study Committee on Electrification of Transportation and seeks to establish the framework for the electric vehicle industry in Georgia. The electric vehicle industry is rapidly growing in Georgia with 30% of consumers already considering purchasing an electric vehicle for their next automobile. Governor Kemp has made it a goal of his second term for Georgia to become an electric mobility hub and Senate Bill 146 will work to achieve that goal. I was proud to support this legislation and see it pass with bipartisan support.
I would also like to take the time to provide you with a brief update on the progression of my sponsored legislation in the House. Senate Bill 106, the “Healthy Babies Act,” has been assigned to the House Committee on Public Health and Senate Bill 110, the “Back the Blue Act,” has been assigned to the House Committee on Insurance. I anticipate both bills will be brought before their respective House committees in the near future. I look forward to providing you with additional updates on the progression of each piece of legislation in the coming weeks.
Each week the Senate welcomes various distinguished guests to the chamber for special presentations. This week, I was joined by President Pro Tempore, Sen. John F. Kennedy, and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Sen. John Albers, as we honored the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council (GFSTC) in the Senate chamber. The GFSTC was recently awarded with the Chief V. Kenneth Elmore Memorial Award from the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications, an award that is presented annually to an accredited agency that has demonstrated outstanding success in promoting professional qualifications for fire and emergency services. I was honored to present the Executive Director of GFSTC and former Mayor of the City of Warner Robins, Randy Toms, with Senate Resolution 108 to acknowledge the council’s good work and receipt of this nationally acclaimed award.
On a similar note, I took a point of personal privilege from the Well in the Senate chamber on Thursday, March 9, to recognize a very important man to me on the occasion of his 81st birthday. My dad, Larry Walker, Jr., is a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. A native of Houston County, he practiced law in Perry for 57 years, served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 32 years, 16 of those years as House Majority Leader, and went on to serve on the Georgia Department of Transportation Board and then the Board of Regents of USG. Still active in the community and on his farm, my father is a remarkable man and I was proud to take a moment to celebrate him in the Senate chamber on his birthday.
With each passing day, the Georgia General Assembly inches closer to Legislative Day 40, and we have much more work to be done, to include finalizing the FY ’24 Budget. The coming weeks will be extremely hectic, but I will remain diligent in my advocacy for responsible public policy and conservative stewardship of taxpayer dollars until the very end. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office, if we can be of help to you or your community.
Sen. Larry Walker serves as Secretary of the Senate Majority Caucus. He also serves as Chairman of the Insurance and Labor Committee. He represents the 20th Senate District, which includes Bleckley, Dodge, Dooly, Houston, Laurens, Pulaski, Treutlen and Wilcox counties. He may be reached by phone at 404.656.0095 or by email at email@example.com.