The Georgia legislature wrapped up the 2017 legislative session in the wee hours of Friday morning leaving the dust to settle on the nearly 400 votes cast. Where does that leave State Representative Bill Werkheiser, who represents Tattnall, Evans and a portion of Wayne counties, with regard to voting measures?
At a 97.7% passage rate. Werkheiser topped the list of voting in favor of legislation that came to the House floor, voting NO just nine times during the 2017 session. A total of 431 votes were cast, though 40 were for attendance.
The General Assembly took up a plethora of important issues over the last three months, but also dozens of bills that stirred controversy around the state. Locally, Werkheiser ruffled feathers after voting in favor of budget cuts to Georgia’s Soil and Water Conservation Commission which led to the near-immediate closure of Statesboro’s regional office, cutting jobs and eliminating resources utilized by those in the agriculture industry.
Werkheiser also voted in favor of:
- House Bill 452 which was amended in the Senate during the final hours of the session. The bill allows for persons to be arrested and charged with domestic terrorism, though the language angered First Amendment activists who say the bill could target protesters – peaceful and otherwise – and the federal government already had such laws in place.
- House Bill 338 which is Governor Deal’s replacement bill for the failed Opportunity School District Amendment that flopped in November. The bill allows for takeovers for what the state deems as “failing schools.”
- House Bill 202 which increases the salary of the Governor to $175,000 annually
- House Bill 208 which increases the hunting and fishing licensing fees
- House Bill 225 which adds a sales tax to rideshare purchases like Uber and Lyft as well as any other transaction which originates online — food delivery, Air B&B, etc.
- House Bill 280 – the campus carry legislation to allow lawful Weapons Carry Permit holders over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm on public university campuses
- House Bill 37 that suspends any funding from public and private universities in Georgia if they allow sanctuary safe havens for illegal immigrants on campus
- House Bill 199 which grants tax credits to persons/companies that invest in the entertainment industry
- House Bill 264 which doubles the state bond amount for the Georgia World Congress Center from $200 million to $400 million
- SB 201 which dictates that business owners must allow employees to use paid leave time to care for family members, despite company policy, if the employer already provides sick leave
- Senate Bill 183 that allows state dollars to back bonds issued to private developers of the State Road and Tollway Authority
- Senate Bill 193, known as the “Friends with Benefits Bill,” which allows patients diagnosed with venereal diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea to obtain an extra antibiotic prescription for their sexual partner or partners.
- Senate Bill 70 which extends the Hospital Bed Tax for an additional 3 years
Werkheiser voted NO on:
- House Bill 125 which gives a tax credit to anyone who has their yacht repaired in Georgia if over $500,000
- House Bill 239 which would have required low-voltage contract engineers to take continuing education classes
- Senate Bill 153 which loosened regulations on optometrists treating patients
- House Bill 217 which increased the total state cap for student scholarship organizations at schools like Pinewood Christian Academy and Bulloch Academy
- House Bill 204 which allows 501(c)3s to operate innkeeping facilities under a tax exemption
- House Bill 142 which would have assessed late fees on businesses that do not provide employees with necessary tax paperwork in a timely manner
Werkheiser also supported measures like the expansion of the rural hospital tax credit which will benefit Evans Memorial hospital. He sponsored HB 243, which prohibits local governments from adopting ordinances that require an employer to pay an employee for work they have not performed due to last minute changes in schedule and HB 261 which retroactively allows anyone who was sentenced between March 18, 1968, and October 31, 1982 – and served one year or less – to go back and apply for their charged to be disposed (if it was a first offender crime).
Despite sponsoring Refugee Day at the Capitol in 2015 and 2016, Werkheiser did not present a resolution doing such this year. He did, however, introduce a resolution for a coal ash study committee and a resolution recognizing the 30th annual law enforcement cookout.
Bill Werkheiser was elected in an uncontested primary election in 2014.