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Sen. McNeil: Week 1 at the Capitol

Sen. McNeil: Week 1 At The Capitol

Sen. Sheila McNeill represents the 3rd Senate District which includes Brantley, Camden, Glynn, and McIntosh counties and portions of Charlton County.

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On Monday, members of the 156th Georgia General Assembly convened for the 2021 legislative session. With the legislature beginning a new biennium this year, many newly-elected lawmakers in both the House and Senate were officially sworn in to represent their districts on Monday. As a member of the Georgia Senate’s freshman class, I was proud to join my colleagues in marking the beginning of the legislative session by taking the oath of office. I am humbled and honored to have been selected by our community to fill the seat as the next Senator for Georgia’s 3rd Senate District. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and tackle the critical issues facing our district and state. Of the multiple topics that require immediate attention from the legislature, passing a fiscally conservative budget and addressing our state’s flawed election system will be my primary focus within the coming weeks.

Last year’s legislative session took a turn with the arrival of COVID-19 in Georgia. With the General Assembly going into recess and finishing up the session in June, it was a year unlike any other. While we are more adjusted to life during a health pandemic, this year’s session will remain different from traditional sessions as lawmakers work to find solutions for pressing issues while taking necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

I applaud leadership in the House and Senate for staying proactive and implementing essential COVID-19 safety protocols for General Assembly members and staff. To prioritize the health and well-being of legislators and staff, we are undergoing mandatory virus testing twice a week, wearing masks when on Capitol premises, social distancing when possible and enhancing office sanitation practices. It brings me great joy to see the Georgia Department of Public Health’s vaccine distribution program in action across the state, and while this does not mean we need to stop practicing basic prevention methods, it does mean that there is light at the end of the tunnel as we work to end this global pandemic. Georgia is moving swiftly through our phased vaccination plan, with Georgians who are aged 65 and older now eligible to receive the vaccine. To receive the most up to date information on vaccine distribution in Georgia, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website at: https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.

Similar to COVID-19 bringing attention to areas within Georgia’s healthcare system that need significant improvement, the facilitation of the 2020 November General Election displayed the need for legislative action to further ensure the security and integrity of elections in Georgia. Sen. Ligon (R – Brunswick) served as a prominent voice in fighting to preserve Georgia’s integrity by leading the Senate’s efforts in investigating the numerous allegations of fraud that took place during the November election. Georgians deserve nothing short of fair and secure elections, and I pledge to continue Sen. Ligon’s (R – Brunswick) fight to ensure the General Assembly passes comprehensive election reform during this year’s legislative session.

Rest assured knowing that we are working diligently to not only continue investigation of any fraudulent activities that may have taken place in November, but to also pass much-needed legislation to prevent Georgia’s election system from being vulnerable to any illegal activity in future elections. Requiring identification for absentee voting, eliminating at-will absentee voting and forbidding the use of ballot drop boxes are all crucial items that I plan to focus.

With week one in the books, and as I continue to settle into my new office at the Capitol, everything is coming together as I embark on my first term serving the citizens of Georgia’s 3rd Senate District. Senators were notified by the Lt. Governor and Senate Committee on Assignments of their committee appointments for this session, and I am pleased to announce that I have been appointed to serve as Vice Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, Secretary of the Veterans, Military, and Homeland Security Committee, and as a member of the Senate’s Education and Youth, and State Institutions and Property Committees. With decades of professional experience and a deep knowledge of the Georgia coast, I look forward to bringing my knowledge and expertise to these key committees.  

As the legislative session progresses within the coming weeks, I encourage you to stay engaged as lawmakers review legislative initiatives that will shape our state for generations to come. I am truly honored to begin serving in this new role, and if I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Guest Columnist
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