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Emergency Responders to Be Recognized, Honored by Henry County Schools. Luncheon to honor county emergency responders on anniversary of 9/11
HENRY COUNTY, GA – The Henry County School System and the Office of Discipline and Safety will be recognizing and honoring Henry County emergency responders on Friday, September 11, the 14th anniversary of the attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
A luncheon and presentation is planned for members of the Henry County Police Department, Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Henry County Fire Department and EMS. McDonough Presbyterian Church is the host location for the event. Students from the school system will have roles in the presentation to the emergency responders.
WHO: Various Henry County emergency responders, Henry County Schools officials, JROTC cadets, students
WHAT: 9/11 Luncheon honoring Henry County emergency responders
WHEN: Friday, September 11, 2015 – 11:30 a.m.
McDonough Presbyterian Church
427 McGarity Rd.
McDonough, GA 30252
For more information, please contact:
J.D. Hardin, Communications & Community Relations Coordinator
Dr. Earlene Crump, Director of Discipline & Safety
Communications & Community Relations Coordinator
O: 770-957-6601 x161
*Disclaimer For Henry County Schools “The information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged material. Any review, re-transmission, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited. If you received this message in error, please contact the sender and delete the material from all computers.”*Read More
On April 2nd, the House and Senate completed the final legislative day, also known as “Sine Die,” a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for further meeting. Being the final day, we worked late into the night to ensure the passage of important legislation related to transportation and education in our state. While we passed numerous bills in the final days of session, I would like to bring to your attention several key pieces of legislation that were passed to improve the quality of life for all Georgians.
Throughout this 40 day legislative process in the General Assembly, it is not uncommon to see bills change slightly as they make their way through the committee process and pass the House and Senate. Should any one piece of legislation pass in different versions in the House and the Senate, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor can both appoint a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill. Once the conference committee reaches an agreement, their final, agreed upon version of that bill then goes back to the House and Senate for a final floor vote. Both chambers must vote on the conference committee’s version of the bill to ensure that all contents are completely agreed upon by both chambers. Finally, if approved by both House and Senate, the legislation is sent to the governor’s desk for consideration. Here is a recap of some of the important bills passed this session.
- This bill establishes a state budget for Fiscal Year 2016, was given final approval during the last week of session through a House and Senate conference committee. As the only piece of legislation that we are constitutionally required to pass, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget passed unanimously and will guide all state spending from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. This year’s budget was set by a revenue estimate of $21.8 billion, an increase from last year that enables $900 million in new spending. The majority of new funds will go to K-12 education, an investment in our children that accounts for 55%of the state’s budget. These funds will distribute more dollars to local school systems in hopes of eliminating furlough days and raising salaries for teachers. Additionally, the final version of the budget ensures that non-certificated school workers will continue to receive coverage under the State Health Benefit Plan.
- It also prioritizes health and public safety. To address a shortage of healthcare in rural Georgia, HB76 funds new primary care residency slots and includes $3 million to improve the financial health of struggling and closing hospitals in rural Georgia. Public safety is also a key component to the FY 2016 budget, with $100 million dedicated to repairs for Georgia bridges.
- This bill converts the state sales tax on motor fuels to an excise tax of 26 cents per gallon on gasoline and 29 cents per gallon on diesel fuel. The rate will be adjusted annually based on an aggregate of fuel efficiency standards (CAFÉ) and the Consumer Price Index beginning on July 1, 2016. After July 1, 2018 the Consumer Price Index will no longer be used and the index will be based only on CAFÉ Standards. Not only will the new excise rate help raise the necessary funds for Georgia’s transportation infrastructure, but it will also help keep gas prices more stable and predictable for Georgia’s consumers.
- HB 170 also takes precautions to limit its impact on the revenue generated for local counties through local option sales taxes. Under HB 170, local option sales taxes (LOST), homestead option sales taxes (HOST), municipal option sales taxes (MOST), special purpose local option sales taxes (SPLOST) and education special purpose local option sales taxes (ESPLOST) are left untouched. The local sales taxes will not be levied on any price per gallon above $3, and the legislation also authorizes counties to seek voter approval for transportation SPLOST of up to 1%. These measures ensure that local counties and city governments can continue to generate revenue to provide necessary services for their constituents.
- Other sources of revenue in HB 170 will be generated by ensuring everyone pays their fair share in maintaining Georgia’s transportation infrastructure. HB 170 adds an annual fee for drivers of alternative fuel vehicles, who currently pay less for Georgia’s roads and bridges because they buy little to no gas for their vehicles. The fee totals $200 for non-commercial vehicles and $300 for commercial vehicles. The tax credit for low emission or zero emission vehicles is also eliminated, in recognition of the tax advantage that those drivers already receive from their limited need for gas. Another measure implemented by HB 170 is a fee for heavy vehicles, which cause more wear and tear on Georgia’s roads. Required upon registration, the heavy vehicle fee will be set at $50 for vehicles weighing between 15,500 and 26,000 pounds and $100 for vehicles larger than 26,000 pounds. It also eliminates a tax credit given to commercial airlines and institutes a $5 per night tax on hotel stays, with an exception for extended stay lodging. Combined with the changes to gasoline tax, all of these measures are crucial for raising the necessary funds to support Georgia’s transportation infrastructure.
- Finally, HB 170 implements measures to improve transparency and accountability in the distribution of state transportation dollars. The bill requires the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to provide the Georgia General Assembly with a ten year strategic plan, which would outline the department’s use of resources for the upcoming years. The Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank must also meet a set of requirements to make every effort to balance any loans or other financial assistance equally among all regions of the state. The Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank may give preference to eligible projects in tier 1 and tier 2 counties. Additionally, Preference for grants and other financial assistance may be given to eligible projects which have local financial support. This bill also creates the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure to review any future tax reform measures that may come before the General Assembly. I’m proud that HB 170 not only addresses Georgia’s critical transportation needs, but it also ensures that those needs are addressed fairly. Overall, HB 170 ensures public safety on Georgia’s highways and bridges, while also making Georgia a more attractive place for businesses.
- This would improve safety on Georgia’s roads and highways. One measure in SB 76 requires drivers to stop at crosswalks that have flashing beacons. This will improve safety for pedestrians, who must currently step on the crosswalk in order to halt traffic. Other provisions in SB 76 update our state laws for bicycles and motorcycles. One section of the bill will change the existing state law on handle bar height, while another section allows cyclists and bikers to proceed through a traffic light, in the event that the lightweight design of their bike has caused the traffic light to become inoperable. In these situations, the driver must follow all other traffic rules and must ensure that the intersection is clear of oncoming traffic.
- This companion bill to Senate Bill 2 that was passed last week, would allow all high school students, whether in public or private school, to apply to a post-secondary school in order to take one class or more. If accepted, the student could then earn credit for the class at both the student’s high school and the postsecondary institution. This legislation will allow students to move at an accelerated pace that matches their unique career path and interests.
- This would allow local boards to use digital and electronic software instead of physical textbooks. The bill also encourages local boards to purchase all instructional materials in digital or electronic format and to provide an electronic device for students starting in 3rd grade by July 1, 2020.
- These will address the needs of these youth by establishing a Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission and toughen the fines and penalties against sex traffickers. The Safe Harbor would provide a physical and emotional refuge for children to rebuild their lives after experiencing sexual exploitation. Additionally, human traffickers would be required to register as sex offenders, and pay into a new Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to help victims with housing, health care and other services. Funding for the harbor will be derived from penalties and fees on strip clubs, an industry that has been known to participate in human trafficking.
- Originally introduced as Senate Bill 1 and passed unanimously in the House, this bill requires insurance companies to cover up to $35,000 for autism treatment for children 6 years of age or younger.
Now that the legislative session has adjourned Sine Die, Governor Deal will begin reviewing legislation that passed both chambers. If approved by him, these bills will become state law in the coming months. If you have any questions about these potential changes to state code or if you have any suggestions for future legislation, I hope that you will contact me. You can reach me at my capitol office at (404) 656-0213 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, I will be spending a lot more time in the district now, so feel free to contact me locally at (770) 957-3937.
We returned to the Gold Dome on Monday, March 23, 2015. We had a full schedule last week, meeting every day to continually review legislation. We also convened on the House floor every day to continue voting on bills that have been passed through the committee process. Here are some of the bills we discussed this week.
- Senate Resolution 287– This bill would allow Georgians to vote on the creation of an “Opportunity School District” (OSD) in the state of Georgia. SR 287, and its companion legislation, SB 133, were originally proposed by Governor Nathan Deal as part of his comprehensive plan to boost student achievement and create more educational opportunities for Georgia students. In November 2016, Georgia voters will have the opportunity to vote on this measure, which would allow the state to step in and intervene in chronically failing public schools. If approved by Georgia voters, this district would assume all operational and managerial responsibility for failing public elementary and secondary schools. The constitutional amendment would appear on the November 2016 general election ballot and require support from a majority of voters. This means that you will eventually have a chance to decide if the Opportunity School District model should be practiced here in Georgia. In making that choice, I hope that you will study the Opportunity School Districts that have been implemented in other states. You will see that these programs have a proven history of success in expanding educational success and opportunities for all students.
- SB 133-This enabling legislation will establish the Opportunity School District upon ratification of the constitutional amendment set forth by SR 287. The Opportunity School District will provide oversight to schools that are defined as persistently failing, or as scoring below 60 on the College and Career Performance Index (CCRPI), for three consecutive years. The CCRPI is the Georgia Department of Education’s official measurement of accountability.
The jurisdiction of the school district would fall under the control of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, and the Opportunity School District superintendent would be appointed by the Governor and subject to Senate confirmation. The superintendent would be charged with developing operational procedures for the Opportunity School District and providing an annual report of progress and operations to the Georgia General Assembly.
In order to ensure areas needing improvement are addressed appropriately, the Opportunity School District would only select 20 affiliated in any single academic year, and the total number of selected schools would not exceed a total of 100 schools at any given time. Schools would remain a part of the Opportunity School District for at least five years, but not more than 10 years. The process for school selection would include opportunities for parent and community feedback through public hearings, but final selection is at the sole discretion of the Opportunity School District superintendent. Finally, before a school’s oversight is transferred to the Opportunity School District, the superintendent must meet with the administration to discuss the school’s evaluation and options for improvement. By creating an Opportunity School District in Georgia through this process, we could give every child in this state the quality education they deserve.
- Senate Bill 2-This bill, which passed unanimously, would allow local boards of education to award high school diplomas to students who have completed 9th and 10th grade requirements, and are dually enrolled in qualified post-secondary educational programs. The bill would require:
- The student complete state required 9th and 10th grade courses in the core subjects of English, math, science, and social studies, as well as one health and physical education class.
- Test scores associated with the courses must meet the required scores by the postsecondary institution.
- A completion of either an associate degree program, a technical college diploma program, or at least two technical college certificates of credit programs in one specific career pathway.
Also this week, we passed legislation designed to further protect the animals that support our men and women in uniform.
- Senate Bill 72, also known as “Tanja’s Law,” revises the penalties for harming a law enforcement animal in the performance of its duties by creating tiers of offenses based on the offender’s actions. Previously, a person intentionally causing serious or debilitating injury was automatically guilty of a felony. SB 72 clarifies the crime into four separate tiers, so that an individual may be charged according to the severity of his or her crime. This bill makes the harming of a law enforcement animal a high and aggravated misdemeanor with fines ranging between $5,000 and $50,000 with accompanying prison terms ranging from 12 months to 5 years. In addition, the offender must pay restitution to cover the necessary costs of veterinary treatment or the full cost of replacing the animal and its handlers. These animals often times put their own lives at risk for our officers, and SB 72 will allow justice to be served.
- Senate Bill 134-This bill also takes measures to ensure justice is delivered fairly to the citizens of this state. SB 134 attempts to provide certain checks and balances for Georgia law enforcement by closing a loophole in Georgia’s anti speed trap law. Under current law, drivers can fight tickets in speed traps if the law enforcement agency derives more than 40% of their budget from speeding fines; however, current law has an exception that does not count tickets for speeding more than 17 miles per hour above the limit. SB 134 eliminates an exclusion of tickets written for speeds 20 mph over the limit so that citizens can more easily challenge tickets from speed traps. While speeding is a dangerous offense, law enforcement agencies should not create speed traps to generate their revenue.
This was also a very important week in the Senate, as our colleagues across the hall passed the following bills:
- House Bill 1 would decriminalize the use of medical cannabis oil in Georgia in an effort to improve the lives of hundreds of Georgians. After the Senate passage of HB 1, Governor Deal issued an executive order instructing state agencies to prepare for the implementation of this legislation and stated that he would sign HB 1 into law soon. HB 1 will provide immunity for the possession of cannabis oil for individuals with certain medical conditions who have obtained cannabis oil legally in another state. Qualifying conditions under HB 1 include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Seizure disorders
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Mitochondrial disease
- Sickle cell disease.
Now that this legislation has been passed by both chambers, it will soon be signed into law by Governor Deal, and Georgia’s medical refugees can come back home to Georgia. I was proud to see the House and Senate chambers work together and come to a compromise to pass legislation that will help a great number of Georgians.
- A compromise on Senate Bill 1 to address the growing number of children with autism in Georgia. In a press conference held on Thursday, House Insurance Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus) and Senate Insurance and Labor Chairman Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) revealed a two-pronged plan that will allow dozens of Georgia children to receive necessary treatment for autism. First, the plan includes legislation that requires insurance companies to cover autism treatment for children 6 years of age or younger. The measure, includes language from Senate Bill 1 and will be added to House Bill 429 and most likely voted upon next week. The second element to the House and Senate compromise is a new piece of legislation that will be considered during the 2016 legislative session. This bill would create a November 2016 referendum, so that voters could decide on a fractional state sales tax that would fund autism treatment for all children under the age of 18. Between these two measures, I am hopeful that we can begin to address the growing autism epidemic.
Finally, during this busy week, we passed a series of resolutions creating study committees to review various issues affecting our state. House Resolutions 612, 743, and 744 establish House study committees to discuss fibroids education and awareness; annexation, deannexation, and incorporation; and the use of drones. All of these committees will meet throughout the remainder of the year, so that they can prepare any necessary legislation for the 2016 legislative session. Although the 2015 legislative session will soon be ending, these committees are a testament to the work that we will be doing during the interim months.
Next week is the final week of the 2015 legislative session. On Thursday we will adjourn “Sine Die,” which is Latin for “without assigning a day for further meeting.” In this crucial last week, I hope that you will contact me with your questions and concerns. Your comments help guide my decisions at the Georgia State Capitol, and I always enjoy speaking with you. You can reach me at my state capitol office at 404-656-0213 or through email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
Last Friday was the 30th legislative day for the 2015 Georgia General Assembly. Also known as Crossover Day, this date was the final chance for bills to pass at least one of our two legislative chambers. With Crossover Day behind us, we returned to Capitol Hill this week to focus on legislation that has already been passed by the Georgia Senate. To ensure that every bill is fully vetted before its final passage, we spent most of our time this week in committee meetings reviewing Senate legislation.
In its review of Senate legislation, the House Education Committee heard public testimony on a very important measure, the creation of “Opportunity School Districts” in the state of Georgia, or Senate Bill 133. With strong support from Governor Nathan Deal, SB 133 and its companion legislation, Senate Resolution 287, would create an “Opportunity School District” to allow the state to temporarily step in to assist chronically failing schools. Because Opportunity School Districts have been implemented in other states across the nation, we have the advantage of learning about the program from teachers and school administrators that have experience with such schools, and will take that into consideration.
Although most Senate bills are still in the committee process, a few pieces of legislation passed out of their respective committees and made it to the House floor for a vote.
- Senate Bill 51– SB 51 will help patients enjoy greater convenience in Georgia pharmacies by allowing a pharmacist to give a patient a drug that is “interchangeable,’’ or “bio-similar,” with the patient’s currently prescribed, more expensive, biologic drug. As medical innovation continues to advance, more doctors are using complex drugs made from living organisms, called biologic medicines, to treat their patients with chronic diseases like arthritis and psoriasis. By allowing physicians to prescribe and pharmacists to dispense bio-similars, similar to a generic version of biologics, the cost of medication could potentially be reduced by up to 80%. Furthermore, to ensure patients have full disclosure and knowledge of the change, SB 51 requires the pharmacist to indicate the substitution on the original prescription and on its label. SB 51 also requires the pharmacist to notify the prescriber of this substitution within 48 hours so the doctor is aware of the changes made to the patient’s treatment. SB 51 will improve efficiency in the delivery of Georgia’s healthcare by making it easier for patients to obtain their prescribed medications and offering potential cost-saving benefits.
- House Resolution 303– HR303 urges the State Board of Education to develop and implement a comprehensive civics education curriculum to improve students’ civic knowledge and skills. This education should teach students about their legal rights, as well as their responsibilities as law abiding citizens. Classroom discussions on current events, community service opportunities, and extracurricular activities could all be used as means for delivering the important civics lessons.
- House Resolution 302– HR302 strives to increase the number of doctors in Georgia through a plea to the United States Congress. Currently Georgia faces a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural parts of the state. Last year, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed a committee of legislators and health care advisers to study the problem, and the House Study Committee on Medical Education found that the shortage of doctors is primarily caused by a shortage of residency slots in our state. While the state has taken great steps to increase the number of medical students in Georgia, we still need more support from the federal government to help fund residency slots. HR 302 urges Congress to enact reforms to the nation’s federally-financed graduate medical education programs, so that states like Georgia can receive the fair amount of support we need to meet the health workforce requirements of the future. Since doctors tend to reside where they do their residencies, it is important that we offer more residency slots in rural areas to ultimately gain more doctors in Georgia.
Also this week, we also took some time to recognize some distinguished guests in the House chamber. On Thursday, March 18, we welcomed Chris “Ludacris” Bridges to the Georgia State Capitol. Ludacris is a recording artist, actor, and rapper, record label executive, entrepreneur, philanthropist, hip-hop culture icon, and resident of Georgia. He is also the founder of The Ludacris Foundation, which has donated over $1.5 million and 5,000 hours in hands-on service to youth organizations across the country. Ludacris was recognized for his accomplishments with House Resolution 643.
Also on Thursday, we had the pleasure of hearing former Governor Jeb Bush speak before the House chamber. Governor Bush, who served as the 43rd governor of Florida, reminded us that academic achievement should be our number one priority every year. He discussed that diligence in bettering our education system will help every child in Georgia gain the skills they need to obtain good jobs in adulthood. It is clear that education is a key concern in the General Assembly, and I could not agree more with Governor Bush on this matter.
I am also happy to announce that our colleagues in the Senate this week passed a measure that continues to put education as the top priority for state spending. On Friday, the Senate passed House Bill 76, the 2016 Fiscal Year budget, which will guide state spending from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016. The $21.7 billion state budget plan designates a majority of state revenue to education, proving that Georgia’s children are once again our most important investment. Behind education, other priorities include health and human services and public safety initiatives. Now that the Senate has passed their version of the budget, members from both chambers will work together to resolve any discrepancies through a joint conference committee. I look forward to seeing the final version of the budget soon, which we will vote on in the next two weeks.
We also had a town hall meeting on Thursday. Thank you to everyone who attended; it was great to hear from Henry County residents about the proposed legislation.
As we continue working with the Senate to ensure final passage of bills, I encourage you to contact me with any concerns you might have. Your comments are always very important to me, so I hope to hear from you soon. You can reach me at my state capitol office at 404-656-3937 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
- House Bill 131 (or The End to Cyberbullying Act)- This bill strives to provide our children with a safer, healthier learning environment by expanding public school policies on anti-bullying to include any bullying that occurs over the internet, also known as “cyberbullying.” HB 131, would prohibit bullying through the use of technological equipment such as cell phones, wireless communication devices, computers, email, instant messaging, etc. The End to Cyber-bullying Act would apply to any case of cyberbullying, regardless of whether the act originated on school property, using school equipment, or off campus through personal cell phones and social media websites. With the popularity and increased use of technology, this legislation is necessary to address a common problem among our youth. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, 43% of teens were victims of cyberbullying last year, and another study found that cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to those who had not experienced it. Because cyberbullying has such a profound impact on the happiness and health of our students, it is necessary that we take precautions to combat this detrimental act
- House Bill 17 (or the Hidden Predator Act)- A bill aimed at reforming the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims. Under current Georgia law, a child sex abuse victim may only bring action against his or her abuser within five years after the victim turns 18 years old. Current law also bars the victim or their guardian from accessing police and other investigation records in which the victim is the subject of a reported child sexual abuse investigation. HB 17 would provide a 30 year extension to the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims. The legislation would also allow for a retroactive “window” that would provide a two-year time frame for sexual abuse victims, whose civil claims were blocked by the statute of limitations in the past, to file a case against their perpetrator. Additionally, the legislation would amend current Georgia law to allow victims, or their legal guardians, to access police and other investigation records. Not only will HB 17 ensure that justice is served, but it will also help law enforcement officers catch predators.
- House Bill 225– This legislation ensures proper licensing requirements for drivers in app-based ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, which utilize a digital network to connect passengers to rideshare drivers as a form of for-hire transportation. HB 225 is aimed at addressing public safety concerns by creating oversight and putting these rideshare services under the same regulations as taxis and limousines. Unlike rideshare drivers, traditional taxi and limo drivers must go through a state issued background check with fingerprinting to obtain a “chauffeur endorsement,” which indicates that the driver is authorized to operate a vehicle to transport passengers for pay. HB 225 clarifies this discrepancy by requiring rideshare drivers to secure similar “for-hire license endorsements,” and go through background checks. These ride share companies would be permitted to conduct their own background checks and will be subject to state audit. The legislation also requires the companies to obtain the same levels of liability insurance as taxi and limo drivers and either pay state sales taxes or an annual fee for each car in its network. I feel confident that HB 225 strikes a great balance of ensuring public safety, while also supporting an environment that is conducive for popular, innovative ride sharing businesses.
- House Bill 48– This bill honors our brave men and women in uniform by allowing law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders who have sustained a major injury on the job to receive special license plates. Currently special license plates are also available to the family members of fallen service members, and HB 48 extends that privilege to brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Another measure in HB 48 allows disabled veterans to receive free license plates for cars or motorcycles. These heroes and their families make enormous sacrifices for our country, and I am glad that HB 48 provides them with this extra recognition
- House Bill 110– This legislation will legalize the sale of fireworks in the state of Georgia. Currently fireworks are sold in four of our five neighboring states, but Georgia businesses are currently only allowed to sell sparklers. These restrictions lead many Georgians to drive across state lines to buy their fireworks. HB 110 opens the profitable firework market to Georgia business owners, allowing more dollars to stay at home and creating new jobs as these stores open. The money from firework sales will not only boost local economies, but it will also generate new tax revenue. If approved by the Senate and Governor Deal, I look forward to seeing the positive economic impact of HB 110.
We returned to Capitol Hill on Monday, February 9th for the fifth week of the 2015 legislative session. Many bills are beginning to make their way out of committee to receive a vote from the entire House of Representatives. We quickly got to work voting on several pieces of legislation to help the citizens of Georgia.
We kicked off our fifth week of session by passing the Solar Power Free Market Financing Act, or House Bill 57. This legislation, passed unanimously by our body, will make it easier and more affordable for Georgians to put solar panels on their rooftops by allowing individuals to fund solar power installations through third-party financing plans. With the option to finance, more homeowners and small business owners can avoid financial barriers, and pay for the use of these systems over time. If approved by the Senate and Governor Deal, this measure will provide our citizens with more energy options and the opportunity to lower their power bills.
The House also passed a measure this week to improve the quality of life for Georgia’s elderly. House Bill 86 creates the Georgia Adult and Aging Services Agency, which will take on the responsibility of improving services, and ensuring that services are properly and effectively administered to meet the needs of older adults and people with disabilities. The bill would move the current Division of Aging Services out of the Department of Human Services, which is responsible for many other initiatives. This important bill ensures that our seniors receive the full care and attention that they deserve, and I look forward to seeing this legislation make its way through the Senate.
We also continued to focus much of our attention this week on Georgia’s education system and its students. As I have written in previous weeks, education is a top priority in the General Assembly, and the unanimous passage of HB 91 in the House this week further speaks to that point. This legislation would make it easier for some deserving students to obtain high school diplomas. HB 91 retroactively allows former high school students who failed the Georgia High School Graduation Test, an assessment that was phased out in the 2011-2012 school year, the chance to receive a diploma. HB 91 allows those students who met all other requirements for graduation to petition their local school board where they were last enrolled to obtain a degree. HB 91 will tremendously benefit these individuals by giving them the option to pursue postsecondary education and thus helping them succeed in Georgia’s workforce.
Just as HB 91 opens doors of opportunity for former high school students, legislation introduced in the Senate this week is aimed at providing improvement opportunities for schools in Georgia. This week Governor Deal, along with Senator Butch Miller, introduced a senate resolution to create “Opportunity School Districts.” This model of education, which has proven to be successful in several states, allows the state to temporarily step in to assist chronically failing schools. Under the governor’s proposal, a school is considered to be chronically failing if it scored below 60 on the College and Career Performance Index (CCRPI), for three consecutive years. If deemed an Opportunity School District, the state would then temporarily assume supervision, management, and oversight of that school. This measure, which would require a constitutional amendment and referendum from Georgia voters, would ensure that all children have access to the outstanding education that they deserve. I am eager to learn more about the governor’s proposal and the ways that we can address the critical problem of underperforming schools in our state.
Also this week, we passed an adjournment calendar that sets the legislative schedule through the remainder of the 2015 legislative session. Based on this adjournment resolution, the 40th legislative day, marking the conclusion of session, will be on April 2. I hope that you will contact me before that day to provide feedback and way in which I can better serve you and your family. Please stop by and visit if you are in Atlanta or call my office at the State Capitol. The phone number is (404) 6560213
Finally, a group of 4th graders from Community Christian School toured the capitol. It is such a delight to see our youth taking an interest in politics!
On Monday, February 2, 2015, we returned to the Gold Dome for another busy week. My colleagues and I spent much of our time reviewing various pieces of legislation that have been introduced in the House. The House and Senate went into a joint session on Wednesday in the House Chamber for the State of the Judiciary Address, from Chief Justice Hugh Thompson, who was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1994 and was elected by his peers to a four-year term as chief justice in 2013.
Georgia’s judicial system is sound and strong, according to the Chief Justice and head of the state’s judicial branch of government. In his address, Chief Justice Thompson recognized the successful expansion of specialty courts in Georgia. A specialty court, also known as an accountability court or problem solving court, is a cost-effective criminal justice alternative for non-violent offenders. Specialty courts, such as drug and mental health treatment courts, hold offenders accountable through court-supervised treatment programs. In his speech, Chief Justice Thompson shared success stories from some specialty courts in our state. He recognized Superior Court Judge Reuben Green, who oversees a veteran’s court in Cobb County that matches participants with supportive volunteers who are dedicated to keeping our veterans out of jail and mentor them through the program. I was pleased to hear that the 116 Georgia specialty courts have helped more than 5,000 Georgians avoid incarceration.
While Chief Justice Thompson shared the state’s judiciary achievements over the last year, he also spoke of the challenges that lie ahead. One challenge we face in Georgia is providing access to justice. He reminded us that six counties in Georgia are without a single lawyer, and 20 counties have fewer than five lawyers. As a result, judges are seeing a growing number of people who come to court without a lawyer and attempt to represent themselves, which usually results in an unfavorable decision, as the judges do not have the information they need to make just decisions. All Georgians deserve to have access to justice, regardless of their place of residence, or socioeconomic status. To address this challenge and expand access to justice in our state, Chief Justice Thompson asked for support of newly introduced legislation to encourage attorneys to work in underserved rural areas of Georgia. This legislation would create a pilot program in which a small number of law school graduates would receive college loan payment assistance for agreeing to work in an underserved county for at least five years.This bill was introduced in the House this week as HB 236 and will now make its way through the legislative process.
In addition to the State of the Judiciary Address, we saw several bills pass out of their respective committees this week.
- The House Education Committee voted ‘do pass’ on an important measure in House Bill 62. This legislation waives certain residency requirements so that children of active duty military personnel in Georgia have the ability to receive special needs scholarships. Military families are often required to relocate across the country, and these children should not be denied educational opportunities.
- House Bill 65 was considered also, which would increase transparency in local school boards by requiring the boards to hold at least two public meetings before adopting any budget. This would give parents and taxpayers the opportunity to see how their education dollars are being spent and to provide input.
Both HB 62 and HB 65 will now be sent to the Rules Committee before making their way to the House floor for a vote.
While the House Education Committee was busy passing bills, our colleagues in the Senate passed a bill that will strengthen our education system.
- Senate Bill 2 passed the Senate unanimously and would provide high school students with alternative ways to earn their high school diplomas. Students can earn their high school diplomas and start their post-secondary degrees simultaneously. Now that this legislation has passed the Senate, it will go through the committee process in the House as my colleagues and I review the details of the bill.
- Finally, we received some exciting news out of Washington D.C. about the future of The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. In his 2016 budget proposal, President Obama requested that Congress designate $42 million for dredging the river channel that cargo ships use to reach the Port of Savannah. This funding, in addition to the $266 million from the state of Georgia, will help the expansion stay on schedule to be completed by 2020, which will bring jobs and boost our economy.
I wanted to share with you some information about House Bill 244, also known as Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act. The bill is named for Rachel, a young lady who was forced into prostitution by her so-called boyfriend at the age of 17; Rachel is now 20 years old and recovering. Members of the state House and Senate are teaming up to provide more protection against child sex trafficking. Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act will do several things: provide resources for the victims of child sex trafficking and penalize pimps and other people who take part in the sexual victimization of children. I believe this bill will help victims recover and help the fight to end child sex trafficking.
Here are some recent press articles to further familiarize yourself with Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act.
- Bills seek to help sex trafficking victims, penalize pimps
- State lawmakers to propose stronger sex trafficking laws
- New effort by state lawmakers to go after child sex traffickers
- Georgia lawmakers pursue stronger effort against sex trafficking
In the coming weeks, we will be reviewing even more pieces of legislation in committees and on the House floor. If you have concerns or questions about proposed legislation, I hope that you will contact me. I am always eager to hear from you, so that I can better understand what issues are most important to you and your family. Please stop by and visit me at the Capitol if you are in Atlanta during the legislative session, or call my office at the State Capitol and let me know what I can do for you. The phone number is 404.656.0213.Read More
Now that both the Georgia Senate and House have passed HB794, it will head to Governor Deal’s desk. Standing up for what is right for this country starts at home, this bill calls for The Compact for a Balanced Budget. The Goldwater Institute help design the notion the states need to take the lead in reining in the sizable federal budget. You can read there press release here .Read More