The 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly begins Monday in Atlanta.
The way the law is written now, Fairfield Plantation is not a legal precinct because of its boundary lines being the gated community property lines. A change in law would legalize gated precincts as long as the gates are open on election day.
Hightower, R-Carrollton, currently serves on the Judiciary Non-Civil, Intergovernmental Coordination and Public Affairs committees. He has been asked to serve on the Public Safety and Homeland Security committees as well and may join those this year.
Other issues that have been raised by local candidates include term limits for state legislators, which Hightower said he does not oppose.
“I don’t mind term limits,” he said. “I think they need to be long enough that people can get a job done. A lot of people don’t realize that our term is two years. They think it’s a four-year term, because they apply it to the president. Four terms for us is only eight years. So anywhere from four to five terms, eight to 10 years, I think that should be enough. I wouldn’t be opposed to that.”
Protecting the Second Amendment is also a major priority for Hightower.
“I am a proponent of the Second Amendment all the way,” he said. “It says we have the right to bear arms and there is no attachment to that. We have a right to bear arms from foreign and domestic enemies. I won’t support legislation that would restrict or put any other obstacles in the way of someone possessing a firearm.”
State Rep. Micah Gravley, representing the Douglas County portion of Villa Rica, said he is looking at legislation that would allow some school personnel to carry a firearm. Hightower likes the idea as long as it would be voluntary rather than something that teachers had to do.
One idea Hightower does not support is legalized horse racing in Georgia.
“The research we’ve been given from other states is that horse racing facilities are not self sustaining,” said Hightower. “They have turned to the state and asked for money or asked to allow casinos to keep them afloat. Right now, in this economic time I don’t think that bringing in something like horse racing would sustain itself.”
Hightower also intends to address an “unintended consequence” of the state’s immigration law. The controversial immigration bill has inadvertently caused a 500,000-strong backlog of professional licenses at the secretary of state office.
HB 87 was passed in 2011 and currently requires all license applicants, such as barbers and plumbers, to submit proof of citizenship before new or renewed licenses are granted. Since then, wait times for licenses have increased five-fold.
“This bill fixes a glitch in legislation passed a couple of years ago,” said Hightower. “I had a couple of constituents come to me with license renewal issues. I went to the Secretary of State’s office on their behalf. He then came to me a couple of months ago and said that because I have firsthand knowledge of this, he wanted me to be the guy that leads the charge on this bill.”
Hightower’s bill, titled House Bill 32, would require proof of citizenship through Secure and Verifiable Documents only once, rather than each time a license is renewed. A similar bill was proposed last year but the session ended before it could be passed.
“I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Rep. Hightower to draft this legislation,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. “This bill will eliminate needless government red-tape and help Georgians get to work faster.”
The SOS worked with Georgia business leaders, including the National Federation of Independent Business to draft the bill.
Hightower said he isn’t aware of any opposition to the bill, but said it is extremely important that it be passed and signed by the Governor as soon as possible.
“Since this didn’t go through last year it has completely overwhelmed the secretary of state’s office,” Hightower said. “This isn’t just a mild correction, it’s desperately needed to streamline to streamline the process.”
Hightower, an attorney, is a Carroll County native and University of West Georgia graduate. He won a special election to finish the term of Tim Bearden after Bearden was appointed director of the Georgia Law Enforcement Training Center by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2011. The 2013 Georgia legislative session will mark the beginning of his first full term as a legislator.