Rep. Jesse Petrea column: Legislators neutral on Skidaway incorporation issue

There has been much discussion recently over the proposal to incorporate Skidaway Island as its own city as residents prepare to vote on the issue March 19. In order for such a vote to take place, state law had to be passed. According to long established precedent in Georgia, when there is a grassroots movement to pursue the incorporation of an area, it is to be put to a referendum of the people. We allowed that.

However, it is important for our citizens to understand that neither Sen. Ben Watson nor myself have any reason or intention to take a side in this decision. We have been neutral since this movement began to pursue incorporation and remain neutral today.

As legislators who believe the people as a whole have the right to determine self-government, we felt obligated to introduce the bill that gave the people of Skidaway Island the right to make this decision through referendum. Early voting is now underway, and at 7 p.m. on March 19 we will know what the people have decided.

We do want all citizens of Chatham County to understand that the legislation we passed is one that would lower and not raise taxes. We insisted on that.

The bill was originally introduced in 2017 and was passed in 2018 and again in 2019. This followed a 2016 study done and financed by The Landings Association which found the idea to be workable. Sen. Watson and I began hearing from citizens in overwhelming numbers asking for the opportunity to vote on incorporation. We participated in multiple town hall meetings with huge attendance and they signaled strong support for the opportunity to vote on the issue. Further, we received formal requests from each neighborhood association board on the island as well. Our concern was not for how they wanted to vote but did they want the opportunity to vote.

That said, we know there are a large number of people who do not want to create a city and would rather let Skidaway Island remain under the leadership of the Chatham County Commission. All residents should go to the polls on March 19 or before and cast their ballots.

The good news is that whether or not Skidaway Island incorporates, the island community will be just fine. It will still be a great place with some of the most philanthropic citizens in our state and will continue to be one of the most beautiful islands in Georgia. And, after 20 years of discussion, the issue will finally be put to rest.

Rep. Jesse Petrea represents District 166 in the Georgia House of Representatives. His district includes all of Skidaway Island.

Rep. Jesse Petrea named Chairman of House Human Relations & Aging Committee

ATLANTA – The Georgia House of Representatives’ Committee on Assignments named State Representative Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) as the Chairman of the House Human Relations & Aging Committee.  Rep. Petrea will also serve as a member on the Science & Technology, Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, Game, Fish & Parks and Health & Human Services committees.

“I am honored to be entrusted with this chairmanship,” said Rep. Petrea. “I have spent my entire career as an advocate and a provider of services to the aged, developmentally disabled and physically disabled populations. These Georgians are our most vulnerable. Our committee will continue to solve the problems faced by these populations to ensure the greatest quality of life for all.”

The House Committee on Assignments, chaired by House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), is charged with making all House committee assignments for the members of the Georgia House of Representatives.

For a complete list of all House Committee assignments, please click here.

Rep. Jesse Petrea column: Lawmakers look to ‘create a better Georgia’

On Monday, Jan. 14, we will convene the 2019 Georgia legislative session in Atlanta. This year I have multiple bills I am working on to create a better Georgia. Today, I would like to explain my two legislative priorities for 2019.

First, I will attempt again to accomplish something that I have sponsored since my first term in the legislature. I have pre-filed House Bill 7 which would eliminate the state income tax on military retirement income. This is the right thing to do for the men and women who protect this country with a career of military service. Never in our history has a smaller percentage of veterans protected so many in our country.

Further, it will level the field to attract disciplined and skilled men and women to live and work in Georgia. Our industries and businesses desperately need this workforce. Many veterans retire at 40 to 50 years of age and are ready for a new career. They have the skills, discipline and work ethic that our employers so desperately need. However, currently, our neighboring states offer them huge cost savings. In Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina, these veterans can save 5.75 percent of their income because these states do not tax this income as we do in Georgia.

Since being elected, I have made public safety my primary focus. So this year my second priority is to sponsor the Georgia Illegal Immigration Protection and Public Safety Act. Currently in Georgia prisons are some 1,360 criminal aliens. These are criminals convicted of serious crimes. For example, 193 for child molestation, 65 for aggravated child molestation, 134 for murder, 103 for armed robbery, 98 for rape, 42 for statutory rape, 61 for kidnapping, 45 for manslaughter and 18 for vehicular homicide. All 1,360 of these individuals had at least one Georgia victim. All of these 1,360 crimes were avoidable. Had our federal government done its job, none of these illegal immigrants would have been present to commit these crimes.

My bill does the following:

• Requires law enforcement officers, who receive verification from the federal government that a suspect is an illegal alien, to alert the prosecuting attorney of that illegal status.

• Requires discovery, before sentencing, if the federal immigration authorities (ICE) have placed a detainer request for the illegal alien and notify the court before the prisoner is released into Georgia communities.

• Requires all Georgia law enforcement agencies to honor ICE detainers. There would be legal penalties for officials who violate these rules. Importantly, the law would be enforced regardless of race, religion, national origin, etc., and will protect witnesses to crimes.

• Requires the State Department of Corrections to make public a list of the total non-citizen prison population, their home countries and their immigration status, and update the list every 90 days.

Only federal courts can deport criminal illegal aliens. However, it is our common sense duty to report crimes to ICE.

I ran for office to offer ideas and to support policies that improve Georgia. I am excited about the opportunity to do so again during this 2019 session.

Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-District 166) is entering his third term in the Georgia House of Representatives and represents most of Chatham County’s island communities.

Viewpoints: Georgia legislature readies to address full agenda


[Photo from Wikimedia Commons]
Georgia lawmakers go “under the gold dome” as the 155th session of the Georgia General Assembly opens at the Capitol in downtown Atlanta.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston will welcome the 236 legislators as they begin approximately three months of work. Duncan will preside over the Senate, the first time in 12 years someone other than Casey Cagle had that role. Ralston, meanwhile, enters his ninth year leading the House.

Legislators, including our eight-member local delegation, will address a range of issues facing the state, with bills and resolutions that pass both chambers moving on to new Gov. Brian Kemp to be signed into law. Kemp is expected to present his agenda, including his first budget, during the session’s opening week.

Pressing matters for the legislature include school safety, the state’s voting system, healthcare coverage for the uninsured and support for rural hospitals, education funding and spending, gaming and gambling, gun rights, immigration reform and rural development initiatives.

Our local delegation will be among the leaders at the Capitol. Chairmanships won’t officially be awarded until the session begins, but both our local senators, Lester Jackson and Ben Watson, are expected to lead committees, and Jackson is the head of the Democratic Black Caucus.

On the House side, Reps. Ron Stephens and Bill Hitchens expected to head committees while Reps. Carl Gilliard and Jesse Petrea are considered strong candidates.

The local legislative priorities include continued support for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, funding for a Savannah Convention Center expansion, extension of a historic preservation tax incentive, dollars for funding for facilities and programs at our area public colleges and universities, and pushing for a study on replacing or elevating the Talmadge Bridge.

“All I’ve ever seen in my time in the Georgia General Assembly is a delegation that works together and for the most part a legislature working together,” Rep. Jesse Petrea said. “I’m sure that will continue.”