District 67 Rep. Micah Gravley has taken the mantle on a project that a former local legislator worked on for several years.
Gravley (R-Douglasville) said Friday he expects to introduce a bill in the House next week to amend the Georgia’s Open Records Act to limit access to “traumatic” 911 calls where people are suffering.
“We’re trying to make sure, quite frankly, that those families and those victims who have had to go through something unimaginable have the protection of privacy that they’re not having to relive it every time it resurfaces on the news or on the Internet,” said Gravley.
Former state Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Winston) had been working with Douglas County E911 Director Greg Whitaker on changing the open records law since the floods of 2009 that killed several people in Douglas County.
Gravley said he has gotten some pointers on how to proceed with the legislation from Hembree, who represented much of Gravley’s current district in the House for several years before losing a bid for the District 30 Senate seat last year. Hembree had planned to reintroduce the law this year before his defeat, according to Whitaker.
Whitaker, who also serves a president of the Georgia 9-1-1 Directors Association, said he has recently talked to his counterpart in Alabama, which passed similar legislation last year.
“Apparently it’s not unheard of and it’s not undoable in the country because it is happening,” Whitaker said. “I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request that we’re trying to do.”
Gravley, a freshman in the House, expressed interest in taking up Whitaker’s proposed changes to the open records law before he was officially sworn in two weeks ago.
“This is kind of coming from Douglas County, so we really need it to be sponsored from somebody from Douglas County that has this district,” said Whitaker.
Gravley is also co-sponsoring the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Act with Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) and others.
That legislation, which is being promoted by the Georgia Municipal Association, would give tax breaks to entrepreneurs who invest in downtown areas by renovating buildings and making other improvements.
The City of Douglasville advocated passage of the law earlier during a meeting with the county’s state legislative delegation earlier this month.
“It’s a job creator bill,” Gravley said. “It’s going to have a positive effect on downtown Douglasville. ... “When you have investors and they know, hey, I can go invest in Douglasville and there’s an incentive for me to go over there, that’s exactly what it’s going to do.”
Gravley is also co-sponsoring a bill with District 68 Rep. Dusty Hightower (R-Carrollton) and others that will expand the definition of controlled substances to include items like bath salts and other chemicals used in the production of drugs such as synthetic marijuana.
Gravley had been noncommittal a few weeks ago when asked about the issue of taxpayers footing the bill for a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. But Gravley said after looking at the issue further, he’s strongly against any kind of public funding.
“You’re asking Falcons fans who can’t afford to go to the games to build a new stadium for their billionaire owner in this economy,” said Gravley. “I love the Falcons ... But the Georgia Dome is 20 years old.”