Week Four 2016 Update
Week four of the 2016 Legislative Session means that a month of session is already behind us. The General Assembly is hard at work, passing legislation that will positively impact Georgians. A number of bills have been passes, while many have made their way to the House floor!
Education is a top legislative priority, which is why we unanimously passed House Bill 801, which will encourage our students to take college courses in certain areas. HB 801 will do the following:
- change the GPA weighting system for HOPE Scholarship recipients who take certain science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses
- directs the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to select bachelor-level STEM courses to receive extra weight when calculating the HOPE scholarship GPA (while student is in college)
- upon completion of certain courses, students will receive .5 added to grade when calculating HOPE Scholarship GPA
- identified courses must be determined to be academically rigorous and lead to jobs in high demand STEM fields
- providing additional GPA weight bridges the skills gap in Georgia without risking scholastic fulfillment of our students
A great workforce is needed for the economy to thrive, which means that passing legislation that heightens the state’s business climate and arms our citizens to succeed in Georgia’s job market is crucial. Therefore, we unanimously passed House Bill 402, which aims to close the skills gap in Georgia. HB 402 will do the following for the state:
- increase business partnerships and participation with local public school systems for K-12 work based learning programs
- under HB 402, businesses who participate in work based learning programs will be offered a discount of up to five percent on their worker’s compensation insurance premiums
- work based learning programs install a strong work ethic in our teens, as well as hands on experience
Two more pieces of legislation were passed this week as well, both of which intend to ease the burden on public safety officers. The first is House Bill 421, which provides enhanced disability benefits to community supervision officers employed by the Department of Community Supervision who become permanently disabled due to an act of external violence or injury incurred in the line of law enforcement duty. These officers will be eligible for a monthly disability compensation of $5 per month for each year of creditable service. Also, the bill calls for a minimum monthly disability retirement benefit equal to two percent of their monthly earnings beginning the month their permanent disability occurred until mandatory retirement age.
The following groups of public safety officers are positively impacted by HB 421:
- deputy conservation rangers with the Department of Natural Resources
- parole officers with the State Board of Pardons and Paroles
- probation officers with the Department of Corrections
- any community supervision officer with the Department of Community Supervision
The House also passed House Bill 690 this past week. HB 690 acknowledges the brave service and sacrifices that public safety officials make for our communities and our state.This bill allows any individual who is a member of the Uniform Division of the Department of Public Safety, a conservation ranger with the Department of Natural Resources, an officer or agent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a district attorney investigator paid from state funds, or an alcohol and tobacco officer or agent of the Department of Revenue to claim creditable service towards retirement if he or she previously worked for a local law enforcement agency for up to five years. In order to be eligible to claim those retirement years, officers must be vested in the state’s Employee Retirement System (ERS) for at least 10 years and ineligible for a defined contribution retirement or pension plan while employed at the local law enforcement agency. HB 690 will allow our public safety officers to recoup their years of service, but will have a zero dollar cost to the state. I was proud to support this legislation and show my unwavering appreciation for the public safety community in Georgia.
As we continue through the legislative session, I hope that you will contact me if you have questions or concerns about these bills, or any other legislation that may come before us. As your state representative, it is my job to represent your thoughts and opinions in Atlanta, and I would like to hear from you before the session adjourns on March 24. Please stop by and visit 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 and your family. My Capitol office number is 404-656-0213 and my email is Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.