Legislative Week 7: Bills target voting, teacher shortages

Last week, the General Assembly convened for days 25, 26 and 27 of the legislative session. We are rapidly approaching Day 30, known as “Cross-Over Day” which is the last day that bills originating from the House and Senate can pass out of their respective bodies and be heard by the other body this session. Last week we considered some important measures on the floor and in committee.

For the last several years, Georgia has passed some of the strictest immigration laws in the country. Despite this, a loophole in our elections laws allowed thousands of illegal immigrants to register to vote.

As a result of this problem, we passed House Bill 45, which requires all people registering to vote to prove their citizenship. Birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, passports, and U.S. naturalization documents are among the numerous types of proof that will be accepted. This small step is crucial to preventing voter fraud and preserving confidence in the electoral system.

I have continually heard from people in the education community about the difficulty in finding sufficient numbers of math and science teachers to deal with Georgia’s beefed-up curriculum in those areas. Every day our economy becomes more levered to science and technology, and our children’s ability to compete in the global job market in the future will depend largely on their proficiency in math and science.

Our colleges are simply not producing enough teachers in these areas to meet the current need. For example, our state colleges and universities produced only one certified physics teacher and only nine chemistry teachers. We currently have a close to 20-percent shortage of science teachers in our public schools.

House Bill 280 seeks to address the problem by providing a stipend to new math and science teachers in their first five years of teaching to encourage college students to look at teaching in the area of math and science. Members of the Appropriations Committee said while the bill was being debated on the floor that the funding needed for these increases would be derived from the Board of Regents and will not be a shift from within the Department of Education. It is my hope that this incentive will encourage more teachers in these critical areas.

Last week, legislation that I have introduced on the behalf of Gov. Perdue aimed at protecting innocent parties from incurring unnecessary costs when a meritless lawsuit has been introduced against them passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee.

The legislation would provide for a 120-day stay of discovery whenever a motion to dismiss is filed by a party aiming to get a claim against them that they deem to be without merit dismissed. The discovery stay will provide time for the judge to rule on the motion before significant dollars are expended on discovery.

Fairness dictates that a party should not have to bear discovery expenses (depositions, document production, etc.) if the court ultimately determines that the underlying claim lacked legal merit.

Finally, this week the House and Senate amended our previously set schedule. This new schedule will result in the General Assembly concluding the 40th and final day of the legislative session for this year on April 3.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at my Capitol office at 404-651-7737. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

[Matt Ramsey, an attorney in Peachtree City, represents District 72 in the Georgia House of Representatives.]

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