It was a busy week in the State Senate and there were several interesting developments.
Since I became Chairman of the Senate Higher Education committee, I have emphasized to the chancellor the need to get a handle on the escalating costs of college. There will be a study committee on this subject in the off session and I was pleased to see the Board of Regents has indicated no tuition increase in any of our colleges for 2016-2017.
The second Attorney General opinion has been issued stating unequivocally the state (including Senator Fran Millar and Representative Tom Taylor) has no control over the FEDERAL Refugee Resettlement Program. The opposition needs a new issue.
It has been reported that the House bill eliminating the DeKalb CEO position and redoing the commission districts will languish in the delegation.
Therefore I introduced SB 378 to accomplish this purpose and hope to pass it out of the Senate this week. It eliminated the CEO position and includes seven commission districts; four majority African American districts to fit our demographics; three in South DeKalb; one on Memorial Drive; and keeps the cities mostly intact in a district. I can assure you the Democrats when in control would never have been this fair (personal experience). The bill lets the people vote this November and would become effective January 1, 2019.
Much has been written about HB757 (Pastor Protection) which passed the Senate. I voted against engrossment (no amendments allowed) and believe the final version of this bill has not been decided. It now goes back to the House to agree, amend or disagree.
Here are the facts on this legislation:
HB 757 respects all lawful marriage. This includes same-sex marriage and recognizes the religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. It provides equal protections to all lawful marriages.
HB 757 is a “live and let live” bill and truly adheres to the ideal of allowing individuals to live their lives as each sees fit.
This legislation only impacts government interaction with faith-based organizations or a person who holds a sincerely held religious belief, specifically as it relates to marriage.
The legislation prevents government from adversely altering an organization’s tax status, contract or public eligibility, or access to public forums, if the organization holds the religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.
This bill does not exempt public officials tasked with issuing marriage licenses from completing that duty and are specifically excluded from any protections in HB 757 (see lines 139 – 141)
This bill does not offer protections for criminal behavior committed under the guise of religious belief or expression.
Part 1 of HB 757, also known as the Pastor Protection Act, protects the rights of ministers or religious practitioners in their free exercise of religion and prevents civil action based on a refusal to perform marriage or other sacraments.
Your thoughts and comments are appreciated and welcome.
Senator Fran Millar