Legislative Committees and Weekly Updates
The 2019 Legislative Session will begin on Monday, January 14, 2019! Come back to this page for updates!
General Assembly is now officially halfway over, and “Cross Over Day” is right around the corner. With only 17 days left in this legislative session, I wanted to share bills that have passed on the Committees I sit on (Governmental Affairs, Higher Education, and Small Business Development) along with some important bills of interest to our veterans, our seniors, our community and state that are either pending or have passed in the House (and one in the Senate) to date.
Additionally, I was appointed as Chair of the Clayton County Delegation. I look forward to continue working on behalf of our residents and businesses in this new role alongside my legislative peers.
As your representative at the Georgia State Capitol, I want to know what issues are most important to you, your family, and our neighbors, and I welcome any opportunity hear feedback from my constituents. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Your voice matters! Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
HB 821 has not yet been brought to the House floor for a vote, and the Clayton County Delegation is still in the process of negotiations.
Please stay diligent with your communications to House elected officials statewide and Delta Airlines listed below, and most importantly, continue to pray.
We will continue to keep you updated on this Bill's movement and of course, will let you know as soon as we have a solution. But know that the Clayton Delegation is still working on your behalf.
-Lieutenant Governor (https://ltgov.georgia.gov/contact-lt-governor)
-Speaker of the House (email@example.com)
-Senate Members (http://www.senate.ga.gov/senators/en-US/SenateMembersList.aspx)
-House Members (http://www.house.ga.gov/Representatives/en-US/HouseMembersList.aspx)
-Delta Airlines (https://www.delta.com/contactus/commentComplaint)
Please share this information with everyone in your network who cares about Clayton County and the future of our children and community! You can read and hear more about House Bill 821 via this link on the CCPS website.
The House allocated funds in the AFY 2018 budget for initiatives for children diagnosed with autism, including $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. House Bill 683 also adds 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. Furthermore, the amended budget provides $15.1 million for out-of-home care growth for the rising number of children in Georgia’s foster care system, which has doubled since 2009.
Funding for education and related initiatives makes up some of the largest investments in the AFY 2018 budget. The original FY 2018 budget provided funding for an estimated number of full-time enrolled students, and the amended budget provides $102.1 million for enrollment growth for 7,515 additional students, as well as for charter system grants and State Commission Charter School supplements. The AFY 2018 budget also includes $15.5 million to purchase 200 new school buses for school systems statewide and provides $400,000 to establish a leadership academy for principals across the state. In addition to funding for K-12 education, the amended 2018 budget also contains appropriations for higher education in our state, such as $10.7 million to meet the needs of 4,720 new Dual Enrollment students and $10 million for the Board of Regents to cover the growing cost of graduate-level medical education at Augusta University. Finally, the AFY 2018 budget includes $8.1 million in lottery funds to keep up with the growing demand for HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships and $75,000 to plan for the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations, as recommend by the RDC.
House Bill 740 would prohibit schools from expelling or suspending students in public preschool through third grade for five or more days per school year without first providing the student with a multi-tiered system of support. This multi-tiered system of support includes a team of educational professionals, such as school social workers and guidance counselors, as well as Response to Intervention (RTI), a preexisting program that identifies and addresses students’ academic and behavioral needs to help them succeed in the classroom. The RTI program brings together educational professionals to help identify students’ academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning needs, and if appropriate, the program screens students for hearing, vision, and speech-language disabilities. HB 740 would not prohibit a school from suspending a student who is in possession of a weapon, drugs, or any other dangerous item. There are approximately 15,000 kindergarten through third grade students in Georgia’s public schools that are suspended annually, and approximately 2,600 of those students are assigned out-of-school suspension for five or more days. Rather than continuously suspending and expelling students from the classroom and limiting students’ access to integral curriculum, HB 740 would address students’ underlying needs to help improve their educational outcomes.
Georgia’s film industry has experienced extreme growth over the past decade. In the past fiscal year alone, the film industry had a $9.5 billion economic impact on our state. More than 200 new companies have located to Georgia to support film and television production, and this thriving industry accounts for 92,000 jobs across our state. These jobs have an average annual salary of almost $84,000, which is 75 percent higher than the national average salary. Over the past two years, about 1,900 students have taken courses at the Georgia Film Academy, and these students will make up Georgia’s future film and television production workforce. Programs such as the Georgia Film Academy will help to ensure that film is a sustainable, long-term industry in our state, and I am confident that film and television production will positively impact Georgia and Clayton County for years to come.
Military and Veterans
House Bill 749, a measure that would benefit Georgia’s retired veterans and their families by specifying that military retirement income is excluded from Georgia income tax. If a deceased veteran’s surviving family member, regardless of the family member’s age, were to receive any military retirement income, it would also be excluded from state income tax under this legislation. Our state has passed many military-friendly measures over the past several years, but Georgia is currently one of only nine states in the nation that does not address military retirement pay tax exemptions. If signed into law, this bill would bring Georgia up to speed with other states that have instituted similar pro-military policies.
The House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 700, a military-friendly measure that would update and expand the National Guard Service Cancelable Loan program to cover the cost of graduate degree programs for National Guard members. HB 700 would ensure that these loans, which are used to repay the cost of tuition in exchange for National Guard service, do not exceed the cost of tuition and would also require loan recipients to remain in good standing with the National Guard and serve two consecutive years upon graduation. National Guard members interested in the Service Cancelable Loan program would be required to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and utilize all available funding before seeking the loan. Currently, these loans are limited to undergraduate degree programs and public postsecondary technical or vocational schools, and this program is a proven tool that helps our state recruit and retain National Guard members. About 228 National Guard members currently participate in this program, and extending the program to the graduate level would add about 50 individuals to the program annually and allow Georgia to remain competitive with our neighboring states that have similar legislation.
House Bill 699 would allow firefighters who have served as members of the armed forces to be exempt from firefighter basic training. Current law requires all firefighters to successfully complete a basic training course within one year of their hire date, and the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council determines the content and duration of this course. However, HB 699 would allow individuals who have trained as a member of the United States armed forces, United States Coast Guard, Georgia National Guard, or Georgia Air National Guard to present documentation of such training to the council and receive a firefighter basic training certificate of completion. This bill would make it easier for Georgia’s veterans to begin a career as a firefighter as a result of their service and the sacrifices they have made for our country and state.
Bills of Interest
House Bill 930 is an important transportation measure that would create a new regional governance and funding structure for transit in the 13-county metropolitan Atlanta region. This measure would improve the coordination, integration, and efficiency of transit in the Metro Atlanta region and promote a seamless and high-quality transit system for the Metro Atlanta region. Specifically, HB 930 would create the Atlanta-region Transit Link (the ‘ATL’), a regional transit governance structure that would coordinate transit planning and funding and would oversee all Metro Atlanta transit activity, including planning, funding, and operations. This bill would also improve access to transit funding for the region from state and local sources, and the measure would preserve the current operational and funding autonomy of transit providers, such as MARTA. HB 930 is a product of the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding, which was established by House Resolution 848 during the 2017 legislative session to study Georgia’s transit needs and analyze ways for the state to adequately plan and provide for those needs.
House Bill 635 protect our state’s elderly and disabled adult populations, groups that are particularly vulnerable to neglect and abuse by authorizing district attorneys in each judicial circuit to establish an Adult Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Multidisciplinary Team to coordinate investigations of and responses to suspected elder or disabled adult abuse, neglect or exploitation. These multiagency teams would be made up of the district attorney or his or her designee and representatives from law enforcement agencies, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Adult Protective Services and any other relevant state department, organization or entity. House Bill 635 would grant team members the legal right to share information generated in the team’s investigations, responses and activities with one another, thus allowing the people involved in such cases to work collaboratively to address these issues. The teams would also identify ways to improve local notification and response policies and procedures when an elderly person or disabled adult is abused, neglected or exploited. Elder abuse is on the rise in every county and every city in our state, and this measure would allow for seamless cooperation between those who work for the good of our state’s elderly and disabled adults.
House Bill 79 would protect our information from being unnecessarily saved for an undetermined period of time by requiring law enforcement agencies that obtain license plate information through automated license plate recognition systems to destroy unused data after 30 months. Agencies, however, would be allowed to keep this data beyond 30 months if the data is part of an ongoing investigation or a toll violation. HB 79 would also permit law enforcement agencies to share license plate information with other agencies, as well as impose penalties for unlawfully sharing this information, and captured license plate data collected would be exempt from open records requests. These automated systems are high-speed cameras that use computer algorithms to convert images of license plates into computer data, and currently, there is no limit to how long law enforcement agencies can save this data. House Bill 79 would strengthen our state’s privacy laws and protect Georgians from having their license plate information stored indefinitely or subject to open records requests.
House Bill 678 will increase transparency and eradicate surprise hospital billing for scheduled procedures. This bill provides several consumer protections regarding health insurance and would prevent patients from receiving “surprise” bills, which can 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. Under HB 678, hospitals, health care providers and insurers would be required to disclose to patients which doctors in their treatment team are part of their insurance network, which health care plans they participate in, and which hospitals they are affiliated with prior to providing nonemergency services. If a provider is not in the patient’s network, the provider would be required to give the patient an estimated bill upon request. This legislation would also allow patients to request and obtain information about other medical professionals and hospitals and potential care costs before care is given. Furthermore, patients who receive a surprise bill would have the right to file a dispute with an arbitrator from the insurance department. Finally, HB 678 would require insurance providers to bill patients for services within 90 days, and the patient would have 90 days once they receive the bill to secure payment, negotiate or initiate a dispute. These unexpected and astronomically expensive out-of-networks bills have forced some Georgians into bankruptcy, and two out of three Georgians will receive a surprise medical bill in the next two years. The House’s passage of this legislation is a positive step forward in eliminating this frustrating practice and increasing transparency between patients, health care providers and insurers.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed House Bill 159, which updates Georgia’s adoption laws for the first time in almost three decades and streamlines and expedites all types of adoptions, allowing thousands of children to more quickly and efficiently find their forever families. Its final passage was a major victory for all of Georgia’s current and future foster care children, birth mothers, and adoptive parents.
House Bill 701 overwhelming passed and would update Georgia law by allowing our state to test candidates for all forms of opioids during state employment drug testing, but would not affect those with valid and legal opioid prescriptions. The federal government recently added opioids to federal drug testing laws, and HB 701 would modify state law to reflect this national change. According to the Substance Abuse Research Alliance, Georgia is ranked 11th in the nation in opioid overdoses, and 68% of Georgia’s 1,307 drug overdoses in 2015 were caused by opioids and heroin.
House Bill 661 also passed unanimously in the House, and would change the process for filing and removing tax liens against real estate. HB 661 would update legislation that Gov. Deal signed into Georgia law in 2017, which created a more efficient and transparent method for filing tax liens with the Department of Revenue. HB 661 would keep the efficiencies of the original legislation, but would simply remove the current provision regarding statewide liens and revert back to county-specific liens. This bill would also require every tax lien against realty to be filed with the superior court clerk in the county where the real estate is located. HB 661 would not only simplify the process for filing and removing tax liens, but it would also increase transparency for taxpayers by moving the Department of Revenue’s process to electronic-based transactions and away from paper-based transactions.
House Bill 135 will provide more law enforcement officers with important state retirement benefits and expand the term “law enforcement officer” to include Department of Driver Services (DDS) investigators. These investigators would now qualify to receive up to an additional five years of creditable service in the state’s Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) for prior law enforcement service. DDS investigators would only be eligible for this benefit if they are not receiving retirement benefits from a local government for that same service and if they have been a member of the retirement system for at least ten years.
Georgia is the third largest producer of bees and the tenth largest producer of honey in the nation, which is why House Bill 671 created a specialty license plate to promote the conservation and protection of the honey bee, and would display an image of a honey bee and include the phrase “Save the Honey Bee.” These license plates would be available for purchase, and all proceeds collected from the license plate sales would be distributed to the Georgia Beekeepers Association. These funds would be used to raise awareness about honey bee conservation and would fund and support several associated programs, including beekeeper education and training, prison beekeeping, grants to beekeeping nonprofit organizations, and beekeeping research facilities in our state. The honey bee is absolutely essential in sustaining our state’s ecosystems, and this measure would help to ensure that our state insect and the beekeeping industry are preserved for future Georgians.