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Legislative Priorities

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The Legislature was in only 4 days this past week, completing Legislative Days 19-22.  Lots of bills were moving, as you will see below, as we are only 8 legislative days away from Crossover Day (Legislative Day 30 – the last day a bill can pass from one chamber to another in a given year). 

A couple of significant events from the week include the Senate passage of SB 12 and SB 69 by unanimous votes (both bills are listed below), the House Judiciary Committee passage of HB 242 (the Juvenile Justice Reform Bill), and passage of the FY 13 (amended) budget by the Senate on Friday.  The Senate, in fact, tweaked the budget slightly and the House disagreed with the tweaks, so a conference committee has been appointed by the chambers to meet and reconcile differences.

Today, Speaker Ralston’s ethics bills (HB 142 and HB 143) will be on the House floor for debate and a vote.  For the excellent House summary of the bills Click Here (and scroll to the bill numbers). We are hoping to see the House Rules committee put HB 242 (Juvenile Justice Reform), HB 290 (Family Care Act), HB 219 (sealing court records for sex abuse/human trafficking victims) and HB 141 (Human Trafficking Hotline) on the House floor for a vote this week as well.

SB 12 (McKoon-29th) Limits the liability for a governing authority of a school that enters into a recreational joint-use agreement with a public or private entity. (Note:  This bill is touted as a bill to help combat childhood obesity, among other things, because it could help ensure venues where children could participate in afterschool activities.)  Status:  PASSED SENATE, now in House Judiciary Committee.  The identical House version, HB 382 (Powell-171st), is also in the House Judiciary Committee.

HB 284
 (Pruett-149th) “Return to Play Act of 2013” requires public and private schools which provide youth athletic activities to provide information to parents on the nature and risk of concussion and head injury and to establish concussion management and return to play policies.  The bill also requires public recreation leagues to provide information to parents on the nature and risk of concussion and head injury.  Status:  House Education Committee

HB 290
 (Dempsey-13th) An employer that provides sick leave shall allow an employee to use such sick leave for the care of an immediate family member.  Status:  Recommended Do Pass by the House Human Relations and Aging Committee

HB 309 (Harbin-122nd)  “Ava’s Law” – An insurer shall not deny, refuse to issue coverage on, contract with, renew, or reissue or otherwise terminate or restrict coverage under an accident and sickness contract, policy, or benefit plan on a group individual solely because an individual is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or has received treatment for an autism spectrum disorder. Status:  House Insurance Committee.  The Senate version, SB 191 (Albers-56th), is in the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.

HB 337
 (Fleming-121st) A public or private school in this state may acquire and stock a supply of auto-injectable epinephrine pursuant to a prescription issued to the school. A public or private school shall designate an employee or agent trained in the possession and administration of auto-injectable epinephrine who shall be responsible for the storage, maintenance, and distribution of the auto-injectable epinephrine stocked by the school.   Status:  House Education Committee.  The Senate version, SB 195 (Hufstetler-52nd), is in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 404 (Ehrhart-36th) Provides that freestanding pediatric emergency facilities are exempt from Certificate of Need (CON) requirements. Status:  House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 461 (Rogers-29th) Provides for the Department of Community Health to contract with a single Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) for dental services for Medicaid recipients and PeachCare for Kids participants.  Status:  House Hopper

SR 345 (McKoon-29th) Creates the Senate Select Alternative Funding for Medicaid and Other Health Care Federal Funding Committee to undertake a comprehensive study of the percentage of the state budget for health care that is funded by federal money, and the effects on the state budget if there is a significant reduction in or elimination of federal funding for health care for state governments. The committee shall create a plan to address the loss of federal money, including federal Medicaid matching money and other health care funding, and maintain benefit programs and other essential state services, should such a loss happen. Status:  Senate Hopper

HB 242 (Willard-51st) The Juvenile Justice Reform Bill, which substantially revises and modernizes provisions relating to juvenile proceedings and enacts comprehensive juvenile justice reforms.  Status:  Recommended Do Pass by House Judiciary Committee  (For bill summaries and talking points, Click Here)

HB 21 (Oliver-82nd) An adopting parent or parents, a child’s birth relatives, and the child may voluntarily enter into a written post-adoption contact agreement to permit continuing contact between a child’s birth relatives and the child if the agreement is found by the court to be in the best interests of the child at the time the final order of adoption is entered. A post-adoption contact agreement shall be filed with the court no later than 30 days after the filing of a petition for adoption.  Status: House Juvenile Justice Committee (Hoping for a committee vote this week)

HB 141 (Lindsey-54th) Requires the posting of the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in adult entertainment venues, truck stops, bars, bus stations, airports, emergency rooms within general acute care hospitals, urgent care centers, farm labor contractors and day haulers, privately operated job recruitment centers, safety rest areas located along interstate highways in this state, hotels and businesses and establishments that offer massage or bodywork services by a massage therapist.  The model notice will be made available for download by the Department of Public Health on its website. Status:  Recommended Do Pass by House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee

SB 69 (Murphy-27th) Officials and employees of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) must respect the confidential nature of information supplied by children under the supervision of or committed to DJJ who cooperate in remedying abuses and wrongdoing in the juvenile justice system. Any official or employee who breaks such a confidence and thereby subjects a cooperating child to physical jeopardy or harassment shall be subject to suspension or discharge. Such information shared by the child can not be used to assist in the prosecution of the child in juvenile court or superior court or used to the detriment of the child. At least annually, the commissioner shall issue a public report summarizing the number of reports of abuse or wrongdoing received and the general nature of such reports.  Status:  PASSED SENATE, now in House Juvenile Justice Committee

HB 349 (Golick-40th) Addresses criminal justice reform in the adult system.  The bill does, however, include a few items of interest to child advocates: Regarding the sex crimes, the bill allows the court to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence, but only if the prosecution and the defendant have agreed to a lower sentence.  The bill makes the Criminal Justice Reform Council permanent, with appointments to the council of 4-year terms. It also increases the age under which the Child Hearsay Statute applies from 14 to 16.  (For more on the current Child Hearsay Statute, click here.)  Status:  Recommended Do Pass by House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee
HB 219 (Brockway-102nd) Provides for the sealing of court records for children who are victims of sexual abuse or sexual trafficking.  Status:  Recommended Do Pass by House Juvenile Justice Committee

SB 86 (Stone-23rd) Violators of family violence orders may be arrested without a warrant and must go before a judge before the violator may be released.  Status: Recommended Do Pass by Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee

SB 167 (Ligon-3rd) Prohibits the state education agencies from entering into any commitments relating to the federal Race to the Top program, requires hearings and public input prior to adoption of state-wide competencies and content standards, limits the compilation and sharing of personal student and teacher data, prohibits the expenditure of funds for a state-wide longitudinal data system except for administrative needs and federal grant compliance.  Status:  Senate Education and Youth Committee

SB 203 (Ligon-3rd) provide for the establishment of a Curriculum Content Standards Advisory Council to review and revise competencies and content standards.  Status:  Senate Hopper

HB 405 (Mayo-84th) Requires participation in governance training for members of governing boards of nonprofit organizations which are charter petitioners (3 hours before submitting the petition), charter schools (6 hours per year), and state charter schools (6 hours per year).  The State Board of Education shall approve credentialed charter school governance training professionals to conduct such training.  Status:  House Education Committee

HB 456 (Bell-58th) Prohibits a student scholarship organization from awarding any scholarship or tuition grant to an eligible student for use in any qualified school or program that discriminates in hiring or admission on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.  Status:  House Hopper

HB 350 (Peake-141st) Requires national background checks on all employees working in any licensed daycare facility. Existing centers have 4 years to get in compliance, but the rule goes into effect for new centers next year.  The check must to be done every 5 years if the worker is continually employed with a center.  Status:  House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee

HB 354 (Clark-101st) This Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) bill cleans up a lot of language in existing code and makes some other substantive changes, which includes stating that the total number of unrelated children cared for in a Family Day Care Home (for pay and not for pay) may not exceed six children under 13 years of age at one time. The bill also renames “day care centers” as “child care learning centers,” sets parameters for licensed early care and learning programs to carry liability insurance coverage sufficient to protect clients, and states that upon the written request of the commissioner of DECAL, approval by the DECAL board, and when adequate funding is available from DECAL, the Professional Standards Commission may create and implement standards and procedures for certifying personnel to practice in an early care and education program.  Status:  House Education Committee

HB 331 (Scott-76th) Requires day-care centers to have and maintain child safety alarms installed in vehicles they use to transport children and post an alarm inspection report near the entrance.  Status:  House Education Committee

HB 363 (Cooper-43rd) Creates the Georgia Lactation Consultant Licensing Board to license and oversee Lactation Consultants.  Status:  House Health and Human Services Committee

The “Ask”:  Contact House members and ask them to support HB 242 when it comes to the House Floor for a vote. (Click Here for House Representative Contact information)


The Why: HB 242 would update Georgia’s 40 year old Juvenile law. Significant research has been done in the last four decades, and our code should reflect new knowledge, standards and norms.
A few notes: 

  • The Pew Center on the States’ analysis of Department of Juvenile Justice data has shown that the state spends an inordinate amount of money detaining children who are at low risk to re-offend. 
  • Using community-based services to respond to low-risk juvenile offenders can dramatically reduce a child’s chances of returning to incarceration and save money.
  • HB 242 creates consistency and improves procedural fairness.
  • For bill summaries and talking points, Click Here.

For more on the Juvenile Justice Reform, join the JUSTGeorgia coalition.

The Message: “Now is the right time for meaningful and cost-effective juvenile justice reform.  Community evidence-based services not only help children grow into productive adults, but also save the state money. Spending $91,000 a year to lock up a juvenile and getting 65 percent recidivism in return is not working.  Please vote YES on HB 242 when it comes for a vote.”

Advocacy Extra

The “Ask”:  Contact members of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee and ask them to support HB 350 when it comes before the committee.  (CLICK HERE for House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee contact information)

The Why:  HB 350 (Peake-141st) requires national background checks on all employees working in any licensed daycare facility. Currently, only facility directors are required to have national background checks, which means that people with criminal records from other states can come to Georgia and find work caring for our children.  National background checks are required of public school employees and should be required of those caring for children in day care facilities as well.

The Message:  “Please Support HB 350 when it comes before the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. National background checks for all day care employees are crucial to keep our children safe.”


Extra Advocacy Extra

The “Ask”:  Please contact members of the House Educaiton Committee and ask them to VOTE YES when the “Return to Play Act of 2013”  (HB 284  by Pruett-149th) comes for a vote in committee.  (Click Here for House Education Committee contact information.)

The Why:  

  • This bill requires public schools, private schools and public recreation leagues public recreation leagues which provide youth athletic activities to provide information to parents on the nature and risk of concussion and head injury and to establish concussion management and return to play policies.  
  • Concussions are among the most common sport- and recreation-related injuries reported in children and adolescents, and aggregate concussion cases number some 3.9 million per year throughout the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Children and teens are more likely to get a concussion, and take longer to recover than adults. Traumatic Brain Injury, such as a concussion, can lead to significant life-long impairment affecting a child’s memory, behavior, learning or emotions.
  • For information on concussions, Click Here.

The Message: “Please VOTE yes on HB 284, known as the “Return to Play Act of 2013.” Concussions are among the most common sport- and recreation-related injuries reported in children and adolescents, with approximately 3.9 million cases per year in the U.S.  Children and teens are more likely to get a concussion, and take longer to recover than adults. Concussions can lead to significant life-long impairment affecting a child’s memory, behavior, learning or emotions. Educating parents, recreational staff and volunteers is key to preventing such unfortunate and unnecessary outcomes.”

Did you miss last week’s update? Don’t worry, now you can Click Here to find or revisit all of our Legislative Updates from the 2013 session thus far.


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