Legislative Update – Week 3 – 2019

The Georgia General Assembly returned to the Gold Dome on Monday, January 22, for the third week of the 2019 legislative session. This week, we spent more time meeting in our committees to consider proposed legislation. In spite of the weather-related closings across the Atlanta area, the House of Representatives convened as scheduled. By the end of a busy and productive week, a number of bills passed out of their committees, and we completed Legislative Day Seven before nearly one million visitors arrived in Atlanta to celebrate Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, February 3.

This week, the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee held a hearing to consider two bills that came from the Rural Development Committee’s legislative recommendations, House Bills 22 and 23. HB 22 would amend the Rural Telephone Cooperative Act to allow telephone cooperatives to provide, improve or expand broadband services to our rural communities with or without the purchase of a landline. Similarly, HB 23 would allow electric membership corporations (EMCs) and their affiliates to provide broadband services. HB 23 would prohibit cross-subsidization between an EMC’s broadband service and its electric or natural gas services, and yearly audits would be conducted to ensure cross-subsidization does not take place. Additionally, HB 23 would prohibit EMCs from disconnecting broadband service if a customer fails to pay their electric or gas bills or vice versa. After the committee carefully reviewed these bills, HB 22 and HB 23 passed out of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee and are now in the Rules Committee.

Consequently, if these bills are signed into law, EMCs and telephone cooperatives could apply for federal grants and loans for broadband expansion through the USDA’s Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program). If enacted, HB 22 and HB 23 could open the door to allow for additional, federal assistance for our rural citizens. As this session continues, I am eager to see these bills and other rural-development related measures make their way through our legislative process so that we can continue to help our rural neighbors.

Not only was this the third week of the 2019 legislative session, but it was also “Super Bowl Week” in Atlanta. The City of Atlanta braced itself for the arrival of an estimated one million visitors for the weeks’ worth of Super Bowl festivities. The expected economic impact that the Super Bowl will have on metro Atlanta and the entire state is estimated between $198 million and $400 million. Georgia’s airports, hotels and local businesses will benefit tremendously from this year’s Super Bowl, and the state as a whole will also benefit from an increase in state and local tax dollars from tourist spending. After the most recent Super Bowl, the Twin Cities area of Minnesota saw close to $32 million in state and local tax revenues. As this year’s host state, Georgia has a unique and exciting opportunity to showcase all of the great things that our state has to offer. Here at the Capitol, we are excited to host a nationally celebrated event that will display the wonderful state that we call home.

I am always delighted to host groups from Walton County, and this week I had the pleasure of having Leadership Walton and Youth Leadership Walton visit me at the Capitol.  Both of these groups, organized by the Walton County Chamber of Commerce, seek to increase the capabilities of our future business and government leaders by exposing them to various aspects of our community such as economic development, public safety, education, non-profits  and government.  I am encouraged by the quality of the group each year, as it is always filled with bright, motivated people who are Walton Proud!

In the coming weeks, House committees and subcommittees will continue to meet more frequently to review proposed bills that could help make Georgia an even greater place to live and work. I encourage you to provide me with your input and thoughts on proposed legislation as I serve you and your family here on Capitol Hill. Please visit my office, which is located inside the Capitol building in room 415-B. You can also reach me by phone at my Capitol office at 404-656-5024 or by email at bruce.williamson@house.ga.gov.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

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