Study committees to look at firearm safety, AI, correction facilities, more

Georgia State Capitol (Stephen Fowler/GPB News)

The 2024 Georgia General Assembly Senate Study Committees are in session starting this week.

Study committees, like bills, are proposed during the legislative session but as resolutions the sponsor believes need further examining during the offseason.

If the respective chamber votes yes to the study committee, Georgia lawmakers and representatives will discuss and study several issues relating to Georgia over a few months to determine if a lawmaker can turn those issues into a bill ahead of next year’s legislative session.

This year’s study committees will analyze several topics, including firearm safety, artificial intelligence, affordable child care, and more.

Senate Safe Firearm Storage Study Committee (Senate Resolution 203)

The Safe Firearm Storage Study Committee will determine if Georgia must make changes to laws relating to firearm storage and children’s access to firearms. The committee will also decide whether Georgia should set aside funding for grants or pilot programs promoting safe firearm storage.

This committee highlights that an estimated 5.4 American children live in households with access to at least one loaded and unlocked firearm and that “securely storing firearms is one way to decrease firearm violence and accidental death,” per the resolution.

In Georgia, pediatricians regularly use a questionnaire when screening parents or guardians about the access in the home to firearms, amongst other dangerous items.

“I am ex-military, and I’ve been trained on the safety and the care of firearms,” Sen. Emanuel Jones of Henry County said at a Jan. 22 committee meeting. “The only thing I’m looking for is to support the work done by pediatricians to expand on that body of work to see if there is anything the state of Georgia can do to enhance the work that are already doing and to see if there’s a possibility of any laws that need to be changed or tweaked to see if there is a way that we can reduce those numbers of injuries that children suffer.”

Senate Study Committee on Improving Family Caregiver Services (SR 323)

The Study Committee on Improving Family Caregiver Services will address policy goals and identify legislative actions to improve the family caregiving industry.

The study committee highlights that “Georgia’s senior population is rapidly growing” and “there are over 1 million Georgians who are family caregivers, and they provide over 1 billion hours of care per year,” per the resolution.

“This is to see how we can improve caregiver services,” Sen. Harold Jones of Augusta said at a Jan. 23 committee meeting. “Something many of us will have to face, and it’s just to basically see how the state can improve on providing those services to help family caregivers when somebody gets really sick — catastrophically sick — and has to go home and be taken care of.”

The committee emphasizes the importance of family caregiving to the health care system, the economic impact on family caregivers in the workforce, and the difficulties they face in caring for their loved ones while working.

Senate Study Committee on Preservation of Georgia’s Farmlands (SR 470)

The Study Committee on Preservation of Georgia’s Farmlands will evaluate farmland protection measures followed by other states to consider measures appropriate for Georgia to protect Georgia’s top industry, agriculture.

The study committee comes after the Georgia Conservancy Now and Forever initiative found that between 1974 and 2016, Georgia lost about 2.6 million acres in crops, hay and pastureland and continues to do so today.

With the loss, Georgia farmers “face numerous economic pressures, including the threat of ligation, cost inflation with respect to supplies and equipment, volatile prices for their crops, and steadily increasing property taxes,” per the resolution.

Farmers are also facing issues from water shortages and the pressure to sell their farmland for the conversion of other uses like solar farms.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Georgia’s economy,” said Sen. Billy Hickman of Statesboro, chairman of the study committee, in a press release. “Our committee will evaluate farmland protection measures from other agricultural states and seek expert advice to develop additional strategies that support and preserve our farmlands for future generations.”

Senate Study Committee on Access to Affordable Childcare (SR 471)

The Study Committee on Access to Affordable Childcare will determine what measures are needed to increase access to affordable childcare in Georgia.

The study committee highlights that “many Georgians struggle to find affordable child care options” for preschool and school-aged children, and the pandemic exacerbated this problem, forcing many child care centers in Georgia to close, “leaving many childcare workers to seek alternative employment,” per the resolution.

Other problems facing child care include:

  • The expiration of allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 put more child care centers, children, parents and caregivers at risk;
  • The effects of inflation on the economy caused an increase in child care costs;
  • Parents without affordable child care options potentially faced about $218 million in lost wages due to a cut in their work hours or being forced out of the workforce.

Senate Study Committee on Artificial Intelligence (SR 476)

The Study Committee on Artificial Intelligence will investigate AI technology and its current and future in Georgia, as “more products and services are using AI in fields such as healthcare, financial services, education, housing and transportation,” the resolution said.

In 2023, at least 25 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, introduced legislation on AI, with 18 states and Puerto Ricans adopting resolutions and passing legislation.

Georgia looks to launch “policies and procedures concerning the development, procurement, implementation, utilization and ongoing assessment of systems that employ AI and are in use by state agencies.”

The study committee will also address the concerns over the potential for misuse of AI, displacement of specific jobs and fields of employment and more.

Senate Study Committee on Veterans’ Mental Health and Housing (SR 527)

The Study Committee on Veterans’ Mental Health and Housing will discuss the issues Georgia veterans face in terms of mental health support and housing access.

Veterans suffer from several crises, including injuries, disabilities, addiction, and mental illness, that, in turn, affect their ability to work and get housing, per the resolution.

The study committee highlights the Housing Assistance Council’s federal study, which estimated as many as 40,000 Georgia veterans live in poverty and nearly 700 are experiencing homelessness.

The committee will also analyze the value of the public and private programs available to Georgia veterans, claiming promoting the services available to veterans is a key step to ensuring them and their families “have the resources and support they need to thrive in the years following their military service.”

“While there is no doubt that we can never repay Georgia’s veterans for their sacrifices, we will strive to ensure that they receive the support and resources they deserve through the work of this committee,” said Sen. Chuck Payne of Dalton, chairman of the committee, in a statement.

Senate Supporting Safety and Welfare of All Individuals in Department of Corrections Facilities Study Committee (SR 570)

The Supporting Safety and Welfare of All Individuals in the Department of Corrections Facilities Study Committee would look at the issues impacting the Department of Corrections to run safe facilities and ensure the welfare of the staff and those in custody.

“From Fiscal Year 2020 through Fiscal Year 2022, the total number of Department of Corrections employees (by Full-Time Equivalent) shrank from 8,158 to 6,169, and the number of employees in the facilities division shrank from 7,527 to 5,546,” the committee highlights in the resolution.

The study committee shares that it is in the best interest of Georgia to look at how the Department of Corrections can enhance the safety and well-being of those at the facilities, “ensuring that policies are both humane and effective,” per a press release.

Senate Advancing Forest Innovation in Georgia Study Committee (SR 786)

The Senate Advancing Forest Innovation in Georgia Study Committee will study how Georgia, a top state in the forestry, timber, and forest products industries, can help other industries while continuing to invest in forestry.

The study committee will investigate the possibilities of Georgia leveraging “the forest products present in abundance in our state to fill critical needs in aviation fuel, energy generation, manufacturing, and other areas,” per the resolution.

“This is simply a study committee that looks at sustainable aviation fuel and looking at different ways that we can bring this industry and help this industry evolve here in Georgia,” said committee chairman Sen. John F. Kennedy of Macon at a March 20 committee meeting.

He added, “A subject matter for us to study, we’ve got lots of great forestry interests and lots of timberland and the world’s largest airport — one of the busiest airlines — all right here. It’s a great place to do it.”

This article comes to Now Habersham in partnership with GPB News

Print Friendly, PDF & Email