Week Ten 2016 Update
Last week was busy, both on the House floor and in committee meetings. The legislative session is coming to a close, and many House and Senate bills are being considered by Governor Deal.
The House unanimously passed Senate Bill 364, known as the “Quality Based Education Act,” which would revise annual performance evaluations for public school teachers and state mandated testing. This bill is the result of meetings with multiple education professionals from across the state.
The following changes would occur to performance evaluations for teachers:
- Student growth would account for 30 percent of the evaluation, down from the current 50 percent
- Professional growth would account for 20 percent
- The test component would be lowered from 70 percent to 40 percent
SB 364 would also do the following for public school testing in Georgia:
- Reduce number of state mandated tests from 32 to 24 for students in grades K-12
- Done by removing social studies and science milestone tests in grades 3-6 and 7
- All local school systems would be asked to move testing to end of year to ensure maximum exposure to material
- Formative testing adding to 1st and 2nd grades to measure progress and early learning
We also unanimously passed Senate Bill 402, which would pause new applications for licensure of narcotic treatments (until June 30, 2017) as well as create a commission to study the current licensure requirements. Current license holders will be able to renew their licenses during the pause. Until the pause ends, the State Commission on Narcotic Treatment Programs (established under this bill), would study the need for any changes to ensure safety in the state. The commission would be charged with the following:
- Examine the current licensure requirements for adequacy
- Assess how the current requirements and enforcement of the requirements effectively benefit patients
- Determine if the geographic service areas are reasonable and balanced between population density and service proximity
- Determine the cause and effect of hospital admittance for overdose and incidents of suicide, if any, in relation to the adequate licensure and oversight of these programs
- Hearing expert testimony on the effectiveness of nonnarcotic, medically assisted treatments for narcotic dependence and determining what legislative changes, if any, are needed
We also passed Senate Bill 350 as well as Senate Resolution 558, which would allocate funds from firework sales in Georgia to trauma centers, fire services, and local public safety purposes. SB 350 would allocate the following:
- 55% of the excise tax revenues from all state firework sales to the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission
- 40% of the excise tax revenues from the firework sales would go to the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Commission (which trains state fire safety officials)
- 5% of the tax revenues would go to local governments to be used for public safety purposes and the operation of 9-1-1 systems
Senate Resolution 558 is the companion legislation to SB 350 and would amend the Georgia Constitution in order to allocate the excise tax funds, if approved by voter referendum on the November ballot.
We passed Senate Bill 193, which would make it a felony if a person commits family violence and has a prior conviction for the same in Georgia, or in any other state. Prosecutors could issue a felony instead of a misdemeanor, closing a loophole. The crime would be punishable for one to five years.
Another bill passed, Senate Bill 367, would do several things for the state’s justice system.
- Courts with jurisdiction over DUI or boating under the influence cases will be able to create a division tasked with dealing with them.
- Juvenile courts will be able to create a family treatment court division to address family issues concerning alcohol and drug abuse.
- Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice will be allowed to operate charter schools within state juvenile justice facilities.
- Those who have suspended licenses because of criminal conviction will be able to receive their license sooner. Time spend in prison will count towards license suspension time.
- The SB will add court-mandated activities such participating in programs and accountability court to the list of limited driving exemptions.
- Ths SB bill will edit the Georgia First Offender Statute to allow courts to set a date when a defendant will be exonerated of guilt as long as the defendant cooperates with the sentence and does not become a repeat offender.
- Probation stipulations have been amended so that if an individual fails to pay a fine or report to his/her probation officer and will require them to attend a hearing in court.
Furthermore, inmates who have served sentences for certain drug-related offenses or repeat offenders of nonviolent felonies will be eligible for parole if they have completed at least 6 year of their sentence, earned a high school diploma, and have had no serious violations in the past 12 months of jail. Individuals who have been convicted of drug felonies will be allowed to apply for the SNAP benefits after their release to help them transition back to a normal lifestyle. Lastly, SB 367 will forbid professional licensing boards from refusing a license to an individual because of an arrest. The only exception is if the crime is related to an occupation they were trying to be licensed for. This bill is going to help citizens who have committed crimes to transition and be productive citizens again. We want to help and support all of our citizens while keeping our state safe.
On Monday of last week, we were honored to have Atlanta Braves legend Henry “Hank” Aaron and his wife Billye join us on the House floor, where we honored them for their work in the community. Aaron played 21 seasons with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, and finished his last two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was a MLB All-Star for 21 seasons, and holds most records for All-Star selections. Aaron is most well-known for his 715th homerun on April 8, 1974 which broke Babe Ruth’s record. Since his retirement from baseball, Hank and Billye Aaron have been very active in their community, working with the Andrew Young Foundation and the Morehouse School of Medicine to advance the education of African-American citizens.
Next week will be the final week of the 2016 legislative session. On Thursday, March 24 we will convene one final time this session for legislative day 40, or “sine die,” the last day we have to pass any legislation this year. If you have any questions or wish to give me your input, feel free to reach me at my Capitol office at (404) 656-0213 or by email at Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to be your representative.