Early voting for the May 22 Primary Election runs until May 18. Don’t forget to cast your vote for the best candidate who fights for the development and interests of our state. My friends and colleagues David Knight, Dale Rutledge, and Brian Strickland are campaigning for reelection in the State House, and Rick Jeffares is running for Lieutenant Governor.
You can find your poll location here.
Fish Fry Fundraiser for Rick Jeffares
Please join me on May 8 for a Fish Fry Fundraiser supporting Rick Jeffares for Georgia. The fundraiser will be held at the home of Bill and Martha Jones at 642 Stark Road, Jackson, GA 30233 and will take place from 6-8pm. Any and all contributions are welcome. Specific contributions include $250 per couple, Gold ($1,000), Silver ($500), and Bronze ($250). Please make checks payable to Rick Jeffares for Lieutenant Governor, P.O. Box 767, Jackson, GA 30233. You can RSVP by calling (770) 775-4880 or emailing email@example.com. I hope to see you there.
McDonough’s beloved Geranium Festival will take place next Saturday, May 19! See you on the square for food, local vendors, and more. Learn more here.Read More
My colleagues and I reconvened last week for “sine die,” our twelfth and final week of the 2018 legislative session. Sine die, a Latin term, translates to “without assigning a day for further meeting.” Because this was our final opportunity to meet, we worked late into the night to ensure the passing of significant legislation. Below are the important bills successfully passed.
Crime Victim Protection
The House unanimously passed these adjoining bipartisan measures towards crime victim protection:
- Senate Bill 127 – This bill will allow victims to be heard by the court if and when they are denied their constitutional rights to participation and information. If the victim makes a written request to the prosecuting attorney to be notified of all proceedings, provides appropriate contact information, and asserts that no notifications have been provided, the victim will have 20 days to file a motion to be heard.
- Senate Resolution 146 – This bill is also known as“Marsy’s Law,” and it will provide crime victims with explicit rights in the Georgia Constitution by placing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. These rights would include the following:
- Reasonable, accurate and timely notice of any court proceedings or schedule changes involving the alleged crime
- Reasonable and timely notice of the arrest, release or escape of the accused
- The opportunity to be heard in any proceedings involving the release, plea or sentencing of the accused
- To be informed of his or her rights
- Senate Bill 154 – In an effort to justly convict those in a position of authority who are responsible for sexual assault, this bill expands the definition of sexual assault by specifying it in a first and second degree. Definitions and exceptions include:
- This bill is applicable to employees and agents of any school, community supervision offices, probation offices, law enforcement agencies, hospital, correctional facilities, juvenile detention facilities, disability services facilities or child welfare and youth services facilities, as well as psychotherapy counselors and practitioners and employees, agents and volunteers of licensed facilities that provide drug and alcohol treatment, senior living care or hospice services.
- Sexual assault in the first degree would be considered as sexually explicit conduct with a victim under a person of authority’s care or supervision. The conviction would be a prison sentence of one to 25 years, a fine of a maximum of $100,000, and registry as a sex offender.
- Sexual assault in the second degree would be considered as sexual contact with a victim under a person of authority’s care or supervision. The conviction would be a prison sentence of one to five years and a fine of a maximum of $25,000; however, registry as a sex offender would not be required unless the offender is convicted of a second or subsequent offense.
- Exceptions include: If the offender did not have supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim at the time of the offense, if the victim is younger than 16-years-old, if the victim is between 14 and 16-years-old and the offender is 18-years-old or younger, and if the victim is at least 16-years-old and the offender is younger than 21-years-old.
- Senate Bill 407 – As the last criminal justice reform bill to be passed under Governor Nathan Deal’s administration, this bill is quite detailed and thorough. Specificities include:
- The Bail System: Authorizing courts of inquiry to set bail for city ordinance violations; prohibiting courts from imposing excessive bail; requiring courts to only impose conditions reasonably necessary to ensure court attendance and protect public safety; and requiring courts to consider the accused’s financial resources, earnings and other economic factors when determining bail.
- Local Ordinance Violations: Allowance of the defendant to satisfy any fines or fees through community service, and courts could waive, modify or convert fines and fees if the court finds that the defendant has a significant financial hardship.
- Misdemeanors: The Judicial Council of Georgia would develop a uniform misdemeanor citation and complaint form for use by law enforcement officials, and the misdemeanors would be allowed to be prosecuted by accusation, citation or citation and arrest. The list of misdemeanor crimes an officer can arrest by citation, and prior to the offender’s release, would also be expanded. The officer would be required to review the accused’s criminal record and ensure the accused’s fingerprints are obtained.
- Driver’s Licenses: Accountability court judges would be authorized to order the Department of Driver Services to reinstate or revoke driver’s licenses or limited permits as a reward or sanction for actions in the accountability court, and the court would be permitted to grant petitions for early termination of probation that the state does not oppose within 90 days of receiving the petition.
- Supervision Fees: Fees collected on pay-only probation would be capped at the rate in the private probation company’s contract, and the court would provide probationers who fail to report a 10-day grace period from the time the officer mails a letter to the probationer, as long as the probationer reports.
- Firearms: Several provisions regarding firearm theft and those prohibited from possessing a firearm are included in this bill, and the Department of Community Health would be authorized to share information on the prescription drug monitoring program database with federal agents and would allow for disclosure to out-of-state prescription drug monitoring programs operated by governmental entities.
- Technical College System: Technical College System police officers would be allowed to arrest for offenses committed on or within 500 feet of a Technical College System property.
- Other: Provisions for courts to implement electronic filing and payment systems and protections for first offenders’ records.
- Senate Bill 427 – This bill would enforce our state’s child support laws to mirror the federal regulatory changes that went into effect on Jan. 20, 2017. Requirements include:
- Courts must consider an obligor’s, or an individual that owes child support, earnings, income, ability to pay child support and the basic needs of the recipients of such support when making a final determination of child support. If a parent fails to produce reliable evidence of their earnings, their income for the current year may be assigned by the court based off the parent’s ability to earn and other economic factors. If the parent is incarcerated, their income may be assigned based off their actual income and assets available, not off their pre-incarceration wages.
- Courts would be prohibited from treating incarceration as willful or voluntary unemployment or underemployed when setting a child support amount.
- Creating and administering a designation program to encourage economic development and attract technology-enabled growth, which would promote statewide broadband deployment
- A child’s enrollment in a public health care program, such as Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids, may satisfy the health care requirement for providing for the child’s health care needs in a child support order; however, such enrollment would not prevent a court from ordering parents to insure their child.
- Senate Bill 401 – In an effort to better prepare our students for their future careers, this bill would require middle school students to receive counseling on career evaluation. All students would be required to develop a graduation plan before the completion of eighth grade. High school students would receive guidance and counseling on their career interests, as well. The Department of Education would then review each school counselor’s role, workload and program service delivery in grades six through twelve, and report research to the State Board of Education and the Georgia General Assembly. This bill seeks to ensure that students are provided with the tools needed to explore their career interests.
- House Resolution 1698 – In order to learn how to best spur economic growth in the rural areas of our state, this resolution hopes to explore ways to streamline the use of public rights-of-way while maintaining equitable compensation and local control. In order to establish equability among current and future communications services providers, the RDC will be urged to examine new pole rates, rentals and pole ownership. In order to learn how to properly manage public rights-of-way, the RDC will be urged to solicit input from the Georgia Department of Transportation, local governments, communications services providers and other relevant parties.
- Senate Bill 426 – This bill would attempt to extend broadband services to the rural sections of our state by authorizing electric membership corporations (the EMC) to supply and operate these services in counties with a population of 50,000 or less. These authorizations would only be made if the EMC secures a certificate of authority from the Public Service Commission.
The Fiscal Year 2019 Budget
- An additional $166.7 million for local school systems
- $16 million for school security
- $100 million in bonds for transit
Now that the 2018 legislative session is complete, all measures that were passed by the House and the Senate will now be sent to Governor Deal for reviewing, signing, or vetoing in the next 40 days. If the Governor fails to sign or veto any legislation in the 40 day period, that legislation will officially become law; any bills the Governor does choose to sign will officially become law as well. Although my work in this year’s session is officially over, I look forward to continuing to serve District 110, and I encourage you to call or email me with any questions or concerns. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov.
With only five work days remaining until “Sine Die,” my colleagues and I were extremely busy this week in our respective committees. The following bills were passed during Week Ten:
- Senate Bill 357 – Also known as “The Health Act,” this bill would create the Health Coordination and Innovation Council of the State of Georgia under the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. Made up of 18 members consisting of commissioners, directors, and health care professionals, this council would be responsible for the following:
- Streamlining and coordinating all components of our state’s health care system
- Bringing together academic, industry and government experts and leaders to share information, coordinating the major functions of Georgia’s health care system and developing innovative approaches to stabilize costs and improve access to quality health care
- Serving as a research forum to identify our state’s greatest health issues and promote cooperation between private and public agencies to test new ideas
- Evaluating the effectiveness of previously enacted and ongoing health programs; determining how to best develop new approaches and promote innovation to improve Georgia’s health care system; and maximizing the effectiveness of existing resources, expertise and improvement opportunities
- Establishing an advisory board that would provide guidance to the council
- Senate Bill 118 – This bill will take effect on January 1, 2019 if signed into law and it would benefit children with autism in Georgia by establishing the following:
- Increasing the age of coverage for autism spectrum disorder treatments from six-years-old to 20-years-old
- Increasing the coverage limit from $30,000 to $35,000 per year
- Requiring insurers to provide coverage for applied behavior analysis, which is recognized as a necessary medical treatment for autism
- Senate Bill 406 – In an effort to protect our senior citizens, this bill would establish the Georgia Long-term Care Background Check Program, responsible for comprehensive, fingerprint-based criminal background checks on elder care providers, personal care homes, or assisted living facilities. This bill would also create a central caregiver registry where a family member or guarding could access this information. These requirements would take effect on October 1, 2019 for new applicants and January 1, 2021 for existing employees and owners if this bill is signed into law.
- House Resolution 1376 – Hospitals are a major economic factor in our state, and this bill seeks to help rural hospitals flourish by encouraging the House Rural Development Council to request information on the financial conditions (profitability, community benefit, cash revenue and viability projections) of hospitals experiencing a financial crisis.
- Senate Bill 330 – Also referred to as the “Georgia Agricultural Education Act,” this bill would update agricultural education programs in Georgia by establishing the following:
- Requiring programs to be based on the nationally recognized three-component model of school-based agricultural education (daily classroom and lab instruction; hands-on, experimental learning through a supervised agricultural experience program; and leadership and learning opportunities through participation in agricultural education programs, such the Georgia Future Farmers of America)
- Authorizing the Department of Education to establish an elementary agricultural education pilot program to determine whether such a program would be appropriate for statewide implementation
- Senate Bill 82 – Applicable for Georgia National Guard reserve members stationed in Georgia or listing Georgia as their home of record, this bill would classify members of the Guard and United States Armed Forces as eligible for HOPE scholarships and grants.
- Senate Bill 395 – In an effort to benefit our state’s military, this bill would create the Georgia Joint Defense Commission, which would be responsible for the following:
- Advising the governor and the Georgia General Assembly on state and national-level defense and military issues
- Recommending policies and plans to support the long-term sustainability and development of Georgia’s active and civilian military
- Developing programs to enhance communities’ relationships with military installations
- Serving as a task force to prepare for potential base realignment or military installation closures in the state
- Submitting an annual report to the governor and the Georgia General Assembly on the state of Georgia’s military installations, as well as a tactical plan for navigating a possible base realignment or military installation closure
- Establishing the Defense Community Economic Development Grant Program to assist military communities with projects, events and activities that promote military installations
Local Alcohol Sales
- Senate Bill 17 – Expected to increase sales by $100 million, this bill would permit the authorization of alcoholic beverage sales beginning at 11am on Sundays.
As we draw nearer to the completion of the 2018 legislative session, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office or call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
“Crossover Day,” the busiest day of the entire legislative session, was on Wednesday, February 28th of week eight. Since this was the last day a piece of legislation could pass out of its original chamber and still remain eligible for consideration by the opposite legislative chamber, my colleagues and I worked late hours to ensure the passing of significant bills. Now that “Crossover Day” has passed, all legislation that passed the House is being reviewed by the Senate, and all legislation passed by the Senate is being reviewed by the House. We passed the following measures this week:
House Rural Development Council
- House Bill 951 – Passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support, this bill would create a central information and research hub for rural leadership training and best practices called the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation (CRPI). Located within a college or institution of the University System of Georgia that awards Bachelor of Science degrees in rural community development, these centers will be offered guidance by a 12-member Georgia Rural Development Council. Through collaboration with the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Agriculture, these centers would be responsible for research and study of issues affecting rural economic development. A deputy commissioner for rural Georgia would also be created.
- House Bill 887 – This bill would establish the following:
- The Georgia Communications Services Tax Act, allowing municipal corporations and electrical membership corporations (EMCs) to provide broadband service in unserved areas within their corporate limits
- The Local Government Communication Services Fair Competition Act of 2018, expanded to include all communication services, not just cable services
- The allowance of communities to apply to be certified as broadband ready through the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA)
- The requirement of GEMA’s director to develop a grant program that would award projects to qualified broadband providers who request the least amount of money to expand in unserved areas
- The authorization of GEMA to create a broadband availability map of the state showing unserved areas and publish the map on GEMA’s website
- The regulation of an authority’s pole attachment rate
- House Bill 764 – In an effort to expand the current list of qualifying medical conditions for low THC oil treatment, this bill added two additional illnesses to that list, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intractable pain. After applying for Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry under the Georgia Department of Public Health at the recommendation of their physicians, these individuals would receive an identification card exempting them from medical cannabis oil possession prosecution in Georgia. The legal possession amount would be a maximum of 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil with a maximum of 5 percent THC.
- House Bill 605 – By updating Georgia’s current Hidden Predator Act, this bill seeks to keep individuals or entities who conceal child abuse accountable for their actions by doing the following:
- Extending the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases from age 23 to age 38
- Lengthening the discovery time period from two years to four years for a victim who experiences psychological or emotional problems as a result of child sexual abuse to report such abuse
- Establishing a one-year period for a childhood sexual abuse victim to file civil actions against an entity if the entity: was responsible for the victim’s care; knew or should have known of the conduct that brought about the civil action; or intentionally or consciously concealed evidence of sexual abuse
- House Bill 673 – This bill would create a hands-free driving law in the state of Georgia, prohibiting drivers from holding, supporting or reaching for a wireless telecommunication device or a stand-alone electronic device while operating a vehicle; banning them from texting, browsing the internet or watching or recording videos; permitting them to use GPS navigation and voice-to-text features on their devices; and charging any violations with a misdemeanor. First-time offenders would also receive a 2-point deduction on their driver’s license; repeat offenders would undergo a staggered point deduction system. The following will not be applicable for violation: operating these devices while a vehicle is lawfully parked, while reporting an emergency or a hazardous road condition or to utility service providers, law enforcement officers or first responders operating within the scope of their employment.
Identity Theft/Credit Fraud
- House Bill 866 – In an attempt to decrease the amount of identity theft, this bill would update current credit reporting agency laws, prohibiting them from charging a fee for freezing or unfreezing a consumer account.
- House Bill 718 – After presenting proper documentation, this bill would allow students to have up to five excused absences for military affairs sponsored events if their parent or guardian currently serves or previously served in the armed forces, Reserves or National Guard; however, not all Georgia school systems would be required to adopt this policy.
- House Bill 930 – Although this bill was introduced weeks ago, it was overwhelmingly passed in the House this week with a vote of 162-13. This bill will do the following for the metropolitan Atlanta region:
- Facilitate transit coordination, integration, and efficiency
- Promote a seamless and high-quality transportation system
- Create the Atlanta-region Transit Link (ATL) Authority to coordinate transit planning, funding and operations
- Establish state and local funding sources to improve transit access
Now that we have officially completed “Crossover Day,” the House will continue to review Senate measures and pass them in the House Chamber. Our final day of the 2018 legislative session is March 28, and I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office or call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
“Crossover Day” is now only a week away, so our seventh week of session included bill voting, committee overview and discussion of legislation, and the annual State of the Judiciary address delivered by the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Chief Justice P. Harris Hines. A few of those bills and the address are highlighted below.
- House Bill 918 – After proper introduction by Governor Nathan Deal and House and Senate members, this bill was overwhelmingly passed. This bill would improve Georgia’s outdated tax code by doing the following:
- Reduce the income tax rate for individuals and businesses from 6 percent to 5.75 percent beginning on Jan. 1, 2019
- Reduce the tax rate to 5.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2020, but requires approval of the General Assembly and signature of the governor in order to take effect
- Eliminate the sales tax on jet fuel
- Address the state revenue projections resulting from the recent Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
- Double the state standard deduction for Georgia taxpayers for all filing statuses, effective Jan. 1, 2018
House Rural Development Council (RDC)
- House Bill 769 – The more rural parts of the state of Georgia require better access to quality health care, and this bill seeks to improve that access. The entirety of this bill includes:
- Allowing for remote pharmacy orders
- Updating credentialing and billing practices
- Establishing the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability
- Establishing micro-hospitals
- Creating a grant program for physicians practicing in medically underserved rural areas of the state
- House Bill 735 – This bill would attempt to incentivize investment in rail infrastructure by creating an income tax credit (50 percent of the maintenance expenditures during the taxable year, capped at $3,500 per mile of railroad track) for track maintenance expenditures on owned or leased short line railroads.
- House Bill 876 – In an effort to increase business for Georgia’s tree farmers, lumber market, and sawmills, this bill would prohibit counties and municipalities from banning the use of wood products as a construction material, as long as the products meet the state minimum standard codes and the Georgia State Fire Code.
- House Bill 853 – This bill would be beneficial to the 300 to 500 public school students that are treated at psychiatric residential treatment centers. It would exempt them from paying tuition or fees to a local school system when they are admitted under a physician’s order into these centers.
- House Bill 732 – In an effort to fight horror of sex trafficking in our state, this bill expands the definition of sex trafficking by including anyone who patronizes sexually explicit conduct from a sex trafficking victim. A sentence of five to 20 years would be charged to anyone who commits this offense.
- House Bill 840 – This bill gives active-duty military members 60 days to make full payment of their due taxes without penalties. These taxes include: unpaid special, occupational or sales taxes and license, and regulatory or administrative fees incurred and usually expired while they are in a combat zone.
State of the Judiciary Address
- This annual address seeks to update our General Assembly on the judicial branch’s accomplishments and future objectives. Chief Justice Hines, head of the judiciary, talked about the newly elected judges, the future election of a new state Supreme Court justice, Gov. Deal’s fifth appointment to Georgia’s highest court, the recent accomplishments of Georgia’s criminal justice reform, and the recommendation of the creation of a statewide business court to handle complex financial cases.
“Crossover Day” is this Wednesday, February 28. This day marks the last day a bill may pass out of its original legislative chamber and remain eligible for consideration in this legislative session, so my colleagues and I are prepared to commit to even longer hours of study and work as we prepare for it. As always, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
With the halfway mark behind us and “Crossover Day” only a few days away, week six was a substantially busy and productive time for my colleagues and I. Below are summaries of the bills discussed and passed during this legislative week.
- House Bill 487 – This bill was overwhelmingly passed and seeks to give Civil Air Patrol disaster service volunteers the same flexibility and leave allowances as American Red Cross volunteers by granting paid leave for no more than 15 work days per year to participate in specialized emergency service operations. In doing so, Civil Air Patrol volunteers will no longer lose seniority, pay, vacation, compensatory time, sick time or earned accumulated overtime at work because of their emergency situation assistance.
- House Bill 678 – This bill strives to eliminate “surprise” hospital bills for Georgia citizens, which can sometimes be 10 to 12 times higher than in-network charges when an out-of-network doctor participates in their treatment team during an elective procedure. With this bill, patients will now be able to request and obtain information about other medical professionals and hospitals and potential care costs before care is given, file a dispute with an arbitrator from the insurance department, and give the patient 90 days to secure payment, negotiate or initiate a dispute after receiving a “surprise” bill.
- House Bill 79 – In an effort to protect citizen’s data, HB 79 would make it a requirement for law enforcement agencies to destroy unused data such as license plate information after 30 months. Information and data would only be allowed to be kept if it is part of an ongoing investigation or toll violation. There is no current law that restricts the amount of time law enforcement agencies can keep this data.
- House Bill 749 – Unanimously passed, this bill would exclude military retirement income from Georgia income tax. It would also exclude military retirement income received by a deceased veteran’s surviving family member, regardless of the family member’s age.
- House Bill 740 – By providing students with a multi-tiered system of support, this bill hopes to lessen the amount of students suspended each year. This bill would also prevent expulsion and suspension in public preschool through third grade for five or more days per school year without first attempting the aforesaid multi-tiered system of support, except students who are in possession of a weapon, drugs or any other dangerous item.
- House Bill 635 – This bill would allow the establishment of an Adult Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Multidisciplinary Team for investigations of elder/disabled adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Created by the district attorney or his or her designee and representatives from law enforcement agencies, these teams would work collaboratively to improve response procedures and policies on elderly or disabled adult abuse.
- House Bill 930 – In an effort to improve Metro Atlanta transportation and traffic, this bill would provide a new regional governance and funding structure for that area. It would also create the Atlanta-region Transit Link (the ‘ATL’). The responsibilities of this link would include coordinating transit planning and funding and overseeing Metro Atlanta transit activity.
My colleagues and I are now only 17 working days away from our adjournment, “Sine Die.” In our remaining weeks, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
My colleagues and I remained hard at work during our fifth week of the 2018 legislative session, as we are only a few weeks away from “Cross Over Day.” This week, we passed House Bill 683, the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget, which is arguably the most important legislative piece we will pass during our entire session.
Highlights of the AFY 2018 Budget
Passed with a vote of 167-8, HB 683 sets the AFY 2018 budget to $25.3 billion. This budget seeks to obtain growth in education, healthcare/human services, and key initiatives recommended by the House Rural Development Council (RDC). Now that it is being reviewed by the Senate, we can shift our focus to the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.
- Education – Some of the AFY 2018 budget’s largest investments are in education. They include the following:
- $102.1 million for enrollment growth for 7,515 additional students, charter system grants, and State Commission Charter School supplements
- $15.5 million to purchase 200 new school buses for school systems statewide
- $400,000 to establish a leadership academy for principals across the state
- $10.7 million to meet the needs of 4,720 new Dual Enrollment students
- $10 million for the Board of Regents to cover the growing cost of graduate-level medical education at Augusta University
- $8.1 million in lottery funds to keep up with the growing demand for HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships
- $75,000 to plan for the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations, as recommend by the RDC
- Health and Human Services – The following investments were set aside for health and human services appropriations:
- $1 million to fund an electronic visit verification system for home and community-based services
- $1.25 million for crisis services, $1.1 million to develop capacity for behavioral health services, and $128,292 in existing funds for telehealth services in allocations for autism
- Funding for a program coordinator position in the Department of Community Health and for a program support coordinator in the Department of Public Health to provide behavioral health services to children under 21 who are diagnosed with autism
- $15.1 million for out-of-home care growth for the rising number of children in Georgia’s foster care system
- $100,000 for a statewide medical fair to recruit employees in rural areas
- $75,000 for the Office of Rural Health to identify a postsecondary institution within our state to house the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability
- $1 million for more behavioral health crisis stabilization beds
- Natural Disasters & Other Critical Needs – Georgia was impacted by several natural disasters this year. The following appropriations were made for those critical needs:
- $10 million to the OneGeorgia Authority to fund beach nourishment projects in communities that were impacted by Hurricane Irma
- $10 million to replenish Gov. Deal’s emergency fund
- $3 million to purchase equipment to prevent and combat wildfires
For other needs of our state:
- $25.2 million to lengthen rural runways to accommodate larger aircrafts in an effort to increase economic development and investment in the Georgia’s rural communities
- $5 million for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to implement the statewide criminal justice e-filing initiative
- $500,000 for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to purchase supplies needed to process DNA sexual assault kits
- House Bill 700 – Unanimously passed, this bill would improve the National Guard Service Cancelable Loan program by expanding their coverage to the cost of graduate degree programs for National Guard members. These loans are currently only available for undergraduate degree programs; by expanding the program to the graduate level, the program will receive 50 additional individuals annually. These loans will not exceed the cost of tuition, and recipients would be expected to remain in good standing with the National Guard, as well as commit themselves to two years of service upon graduation.
- House Bill 669 – Currently, all firefighters must complete a basic training course within one year of their hire date. HB 699 would eliminate this necessity for former members of the armed forces, including the United States Coast Guard, Georgia National Guard, or Georgia Air National Guard.
- House Bill 701 – Georgia is currently facing a destructive opioid epidemic. This bill was overwhelmingly passed in an effort to fight this crisis, and it would allow opioid testing for all state employment drug testing, with the exception of those with valid and legal opioid prescription.
- House Bill 655 – In an effort to stop child abuse, HB 655 would require public, local, and state charter schools to post signs with the toll-free phone number of the child abuse hotline operated by the Division of Family and Children Services and the Department of Human Services.
- House Bill 159 (Update) – My colleagues and I have been anticipating the passing of HB 159, and the Senate finally did so on Monday, February 5. After nearly two-and-a-half years of refinement by State Representative Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), this bill will ultimately bring thousands of children to their forever homes more quickly and more productively. Now that the bill has been passed by the General Assembly, it will make its way to Gov. Deal’s desk for final approval.
My colleagues and I continue to work diligently as we draw nearer to the halfway mark of our 40-day session. I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
During our fourth week of the 2018 legislative session, we persisted in our discussion of bill proposals and subsequent passing of meaningful legislation. The following bills were passed this session:
- House Bill 159 – One of our most substantial accomplishments this week was the unanimous passage of House Bill 159, the piece of legislation on current Georgian adoption laws that I described previously as it was being reviewed by the Senate. After thorough examination by my House colleagues, the Senate, and the governor’s office, HB 159’s amendments were approved and reviewed with additional changes, which means this bill will be sent to Gov. Deal’s desk for final approval after being passed by the Senate. These changes include:
- An update on the revocation period for Georgia birth mothers from 10 days to 4 days
- Access to reasonable living expenses for all birth mothers, refining the current law that only birth mothers in agency adoptions are allowed reasonable living expenses
- Safeguards on temporary powers of attorney
- House Bill 661 – HB 661 also passed unanimously, and it seeks to update the process for filing and removing tax liens against real estate. This update keeps the efficiencies of the original legislation, removes the current provision on statewide liens, and reverts back to county specific liens.
- House Bill 694 – Also passed unanimously, House Bill 694 would provide an updated method of submitting monthly motor fuel tax reports for motor fuel distributors and wholesalers. Distributors are currently required to only submit reports electronically if the submission is $500 or more, and this bill would require monthly reports to be submitted electronically regardless of the amount.
- House Bill 135 – Also this week, the House passed a measure to provide more law enforcement officers with important state retirement benefits. House Bill 135 seeks to provide state retirement benefits to an expanded group of law enforcement officers by including the Department of Driver Services (DDS) investigators. An additional five years of creditable service would become available to them in the state’s Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) for prior law enforcement services.
The Official State Insect
- House Bill 671 – Our official state insect, the honey bee, is an essential factor in our state’s ecosystem and economy. As the third largest producer of bees and the tenth largest producer of honey in the nation, Georgia remains a leader in the beekeeping industry. This bill will promote the conservation and protection of the honey bee by creating a specialty license plate with the phrase “Save the Honey Bee” and making this plate available for purchase.
My colleagues and I remain engrossed in our legislative duties as prepare ourselves for the following weeks of session, including legislative Day 28, “Crossover Day.” I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
By the end of our third week in session, we reached Legislative Day 10, a marker of our one-fourth completion of the overall 40-day session. We remained busy this week with introductions recommended by our interim House councils and commissions, and we also finalized our adjournment resolution.
Georgia’s economic prosperity, although widespread, has not reached all parts of our state, and some areas need improvement. In our previous session, the House Rural Development Council (RDC) was established through House Resolution 389, followed by extensive, rural community research and an eventual presentation of two reports that outline how to improve these community’s economy.
- House Bill 735 – This bill is the first rural development-related bill that the House has ever considered, and it would encourage investment in rail infrastructure in rural Georgia by creating a tax credit for short line railroad track maintenance expenditures.
- House Resolution 848 – This resolution was adopted in the 2017 session, and it established the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding, which examines Georgia transportation issues and discovers ways to improve them. We are expecting to discuss legislation on this topic this session, as the transit commission has been researching over the 2017 summer and fall seasons.
We also determined our calendar for the remainder of the 2018 legislative session this week as we worked with our Senate counterparts. Legislative Day 40, the final day of our session and otherwise referred to as “Sine Die,” will take place on Thursday, March 29.
The House Rules Committee
The House Rules Committee held its first official meeting on Thursday, January 25. This committee is vital to our session, as they determine which bills are worthy of debate and eventual vote on our House floor once they have been passed out of their respective subcommittees. Once these bills are passed by the Rules Committee, they are heard on the House floor the following legislative day, which means voting for our first pieces of legislation will likely begin next week.
Review of Gov. Deal’s Budget Proposals
This week, we took the next step in developing a balanced state budget based off of Gov. Deal’s recommendations by holding hearings with the House Appropriations subcommittees. Once Gov. Deal’s proposals are reviewed in our Appropriations subcommittees, the House floor will draft a bill for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget and another bill for the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) budget.
- The AFY 2018 Budget – This budget, which covers our current fiscal year until June 30, is nicknamed the “small budget.” It uses a more precise estimate of state revenue to account for any differences between anticipated and actual state revenue.
- The FY 2019 Budget – Nicknamed the “big budget,” this budget covers our entire state budget for the fiscal year of 2019 starting July 1. It is based on projected state revenue for the upcoming fiscal year, and each portion will be passed by its respective Appropriations subcommittees, and reviewed and passed by the full House Appropriations Committee.
- Rules Committee – Once the complete budgets are passed by the House Appropriations Committees, they will then be passed on to the Rules Committee that places them on the House calendar. From here, they will be discussed on the House floor before being voted upon.
- Senate – After being passed by the House, these budgets will be passed along to the Senate and undergo the same process. Because of their likely differences from their original editions, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor will appoint a conference committee to resolve these differences.
- Final Vote – Final voting takes place after the conference committee comes to an agreement, and both chambers must agree on the contents of the bill before approval. After being approved, these budgets finally reach Gov. Deal’s desk, where he has the choice to sign or veto the legislation. If signed, these budgets become state law.
Congressman Doug Collins
On Thursday, January 25, my colleagues and I enjoyed a visit from distinguished Georgian and former state representative Congressman Doug Collins. Along with his praise of our dedicated work and legislative example, he also brought updates from our state’s congressional delegation in Washington D.C. We were honored by his presence and we admire his commitment to improving our state.
National Guard Day
Thursday was also National Guard Day at the Capitol, and we took some time to honor the men and women of the Georgia National Guard by presenting them with House Resolution 902. The Georgia Department of Defense employs over 10,891 Army National Guard Soldiers, 2,746 Air National Guard Airmen, 583 State Defense Force members and over 600 state employees. Since 9/11, over 18,000 Georgia National Guard members have been deployed overseas, and more than 200 are currently being deployed. These selfless men and women provide military-ready forces to the president and disaster response forces to the governor, and we are thankful for their contribution to the state of Georgia.
As we continue with the 2018 legislative session, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. I serve as a member of the Code Revision, Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Regulated Industries committees, and I encourage you to contact me to discuss any measures that will be discussed by these committees or any other legislation that may interest you. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
During the second week of the 2018 legislative session on Tuesday, January 16, my House colleagues and I convened for legislative Day Five and legislative Day Six of the session, and also began one of our most significant annual undertakings, the state budget process. The process begins with the joint House and Senate Appropriations committees’ review of Governor Nathan Deal’s budget recommendations.
Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget
Because of our state’s exceptional recent economic development, Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget is the largest budget our General Assembly has ever been presented with. Georgia has become an economic national leader, and Gov. Deal’s proposal hopes to contribute even further to our state’s financial success. The General Assembly also heard testimonies from various state agency heads as they expressed their fiscal needs, which our final budget will supply with state funding.
Once these proposals are reviewed by the House Appropriations subcommittees, each respective subcommittee will pass portions of the state budget to the full House Appropriations Committee, which will then examine and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.
- Transportation – Georgia’s transportation network is a significant factor in the future and continued success of our state’s economy. Gov. Deal’s FY 2019 budget recommends more than $1.9 billion in annual, transportation infrastructure funding, as well as an additional $100 million for bridge repair and replacement. In the governor’s Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget proposal, he also allocates more than $25 million to runway expansion in both urban and rural areas of our state.
- Education – Both Governor Deal and his wife, First Lady Sandra Deal, have a passion for education and our state’s school system. Gov. Deal’s AFY 2018 budget includes $102.1 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth and $10.7 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program. For the governor’s FY 2019 budget proposal, he allocates $30 million to assist low‐wealth school districts and adds $127.6 million to fund K-12 enrollment growth and training and experience for Georgia teachers. An allocated $1.8 million would go towards the the REACH Georgia Scholarship program, which would allow the program to disburse an additional 226 statewide scholarships and expand into 44 new school districts. An additional $361.7 million was also proposed for our state’s Teachers Retirement System, which would fully fund Georgia’s employer contribution.
- Healthcare – Since our state’s $240 million investment in behavioral health, Georgia has seen a significant decline in individuals civilly committed to behavioral health hospitals. The governor seeks to improve this number even further with his proposal of $15 million to funding Georgia’s intellectual and developmental disabilities waiver services and to the construction of supportive housing. Gov. Deal’s also recommends to contribute to the Children’s Autism Initiative with $3.5 million in the AFY 2018 budget and almost $7 million in FY 2019 budget. Per recommendation of the Commission on Children’s Mental Health, other recommendations to the FY 2019 budget include: $22.9 million to fund crisis services, therapeutic foster care, Apex grants, telehealth services, suicide prevention, wraparound services, supported employment and education, and opioid prevention and treatment.
- Criminal Justice – Gov. Deal has worked diligently to make his criminal justice reform initiatives successful, and they received additional funding in his budget proposal. Georgia’s accountability court system is one of these initiatives, and it gives low-level, non-violent offenders sentencing alternatives; for example, rehabilitative services are offered as a substitute. A total of $113.9 million has been allotted to these statewide courts since 2012, and the FY 2019 budget includes an additional $5 million.
- Other Highlights – Additional proposals include: funding for Georgia’s child welfare services, including $15.1 million for growth in out‐of‐home care utilization; $10.1 million to continue to increase Georgia’s foster parent per diem rates; $3.6 million to increase out‐of‐home care provider rates; $256 million for Medicaid expense growth to offset federal revenue and settlement loss.
Our colleagues in the Senate also passed House Bill 159 and added House Bill 359 during this week’s session.
- HB 159 – This bill will update Georgia’s adoption laws. No modernizations have made in nearly 30 years on this subject, so this bill was passed unanimously and successfully.
- HB 359 – This bill was vetoed by Gov. Deal last year, and it concerns temporary powers of attorney.
Gov. Deal’s Major Announcements
- State of Emergency Issue – Gov. Deal issued a state of emergency for 83 of Georgia’s central and northern counties impacted by winter weather on Wednesday, January 17. Because of this winter storm, our budget hearings were rescheduled and the House and Senate meetings were postponed to Thursday afternoon; however, the storm could not hinder our legislative duty, and we remained dedicated to finishing our work.
- Amazon’s Short List – Our assembly has long anticipated the release of Amazon’s short list of Top 20 finalists for the company’s second headquarters, and Gov. Deal announced Atlanta’s placement on that list on Thursday morning. As one of the top states in which to do business, Georgia has a strong advantage over other states in this site selection process, and I look forward to seeing the final outcome.
Our legislative session will reconvene on Monday, January 22. I hope that my session updates will continue to help you stay informed on legislative matters that impact our community and state as a whole. The House website has several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session: a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos and detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.
If you ever find yourself in Atlanta during session, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More