State Rep. J. Collins of Villa Rica was assigned to chair the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday as House leaders assigned roles for the 2021-22 legislative term.
Meanwhile, a newly elected lawmaker from Bremen will begin his initial term with House committee assignments as the second week of the General Assembly continued.
Collins, of House District 68, will now chair the public safety committee, which handles legislation dealing with law enforcement and safety issues facing the Peach State. Collins served as the vice-chairman of the committee last year.
Collins will also serve as Secretary of the Juvenile Justice Committee as well as a member of the Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, and the Governmental Affairs Committee.
Meanwhile, newly elected District 18 Rep. Tyler Paul Smith, R-Breman, was given places on three committees: Insurance, Judiciary Non-Civil and Small Business. Smith is an attorney at the Parian Law Firm in Carrollton, and his district includes most of Haralson County and the northwest portion of Carroll.
The House Committee on Assignments is chaired by Speaker of the House David Ralston.
“I am honored to serve as the chairman for such an important committee in the People’s House,” Collins said in a release. “I want to thank Speaker Ralston for his confidence in me, and I look forward to ensuring that we pass meaningful legislation that not only protects our constituents but also supports our public safety personnel who serve and protect us each and every day.”
In an interview with the Times-Georgian on Thursday, Collins said he wants to ensure House lawmakers are passing legislation that protects constituents and public safety officials across Georgia.
House legislators have been pre-filing bills since November, and some have made their way to the Government Affairs committee. But Collins said it will be at least another week until many of these bills will either be dropped or assigned to his committees.
“We’re very fortunate in my district of west Georgia to have some of the finest men and women to wear a uniform and serve us,” Collins said. “I look forward to being able to serve them again under the Gold Dome. As chairman, I’ll always do what I can to protect our Second Amendment rights and pass legislation that has a common-sense approach to public safety.”
When lawmakers from across the Peach State entered the legislative session, there were already close to 70 bills filed, many of them dealing with police reform. They have names such as the Police Accountability Act, the Ethical Policing Act, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, and the Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act.
Collins said he has not seen the Ethical Policing Act, which was introduced by District 76 Rep. Sandra Scott, D-Rex, in December. If passed as written, it could allow a police officer to be sued if they are alleged to have committed misconduct in the line of duty.
“Now more than ever it is important to introduce legislation that allows public safety to do their job,” he said. “My goal for our law enforcement community is when their shift is over, they can go home to their family. We need to continue to raise the bar where public safety is concerned.”
Smith told the newspaper he was pleased with the assignments he had received.
“I’m excited about working in those areas,” he said. “We’ve had some bills that have been dropped, and so we’re still in the early stages of the session. I think the insurance committee is my first meeting on Wednesday or Thursday of next week.”
He said he will be talking with business leaders in west Georgia to see what they need more assistance with amid the coronavirus pandemic. Something of particular interest to him is expanding broadband access as students and employees continue to work from home.
“We’re not out of this thing yet, and we still have a ways to go,” he said. “What have they been doing that works? What hasn’t worked? What can we change to help them? One thing I can specifically point to is rural broadband expansion. With social distancing, I think we need to make sure our internet capabilities are where they need to be because people are working from home a lot more.”