Contributed By: Sen. JaNice VanNess (R – Conyers)
As the Senate approaches its last two legislative days next week, the pace here in the Capitol will only continue to pick up. They will likely be working late into the night debating and passing as many bills as they can, at which point the bills will go to the Governor for final approval. This week though, the Senate debated and voted on over 60 pieces of legislation, hearing 37 of them on Wednesday alone.
While many good pieces of legislation were passed this week, the Senate took up one bill which Senator VanNess held reservations about. House Bill 757, otherwise known as the Free Exercise Protection Act, passed through the Senate late Wednesday night by a vote of 37 to 18. The bill was originally designed to protect the rights of pastors and religious organizations from being liable for civil suits when refusing to perform marriage ceremonies against their religious beliefs. This bill returned to the Senate in the most watered-down version possible, and by passing this legislation, Georgia will no longer look as hospitable to businesses which could have brought crucial jobs and technology to our state.
Senator VanNess voted no on this bill because she felt it does not offer our state any more clarity on the complex subject of religious liberty and the rights of pastors to refuse service to same-sex couples. While she supported the great work of the Lt. Gov. and her fellow Republicans on this sensitive issue, after listening to the input from the citizens of District 43 who opposed this bill, she decided it was in the best interests of both our State and district to vote no.
If you would like read the bill for yourself, please follow this link: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20152016/HB/752.
On Wednesday, Senator VanNess presented HB 902, a bill that would instruct assisted living communities to inform residents of the dangers and symptoms of the flu. This bill will help protect our most cherished senior citizens.
Though this week was largely dedicated to passing legislation, the Senator took some time to head back to District 43 and visit with constituents at the Rockdale Rockers Luncheon, a seniors program at the Rockdale Hospital. This meeting saw an amazing turnout of over 200 people. It was an honor to visit with the hospital’s CEO, Deborah Armstrong, and learn more about the citizens of her district.
In the coming weeks, the Senator will be creating a Citizens Advisory Council to hear input from the people of District 43. She is currently looking for members to serve as Education and Economic Development advisors to help review future legislation and prepare for the next legislative session. Please visit either https://www.facebook.com/janice.vanness?fref=ts or her website http://janicevanness.com/ if you are interested in serving on the Council. Your feedback is critically important to my decisions going forward and she hopes you will continue to voice your opinions.