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Legislative & Policy Updates

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What does it take, you may ask, to advocate at the capitol?  Well, I could torture you with an insomnia-curing monotone and a 57-slide presentation about the nuance of a good talking point, but by now, I bet you all expect something a little more lively.  With that in mind, here are a few tips to help a person weather the storm that is the legislative session:

  1. Have gum. Chew it and share it.
  2. Have Rolaids.  Just chew.
  3. Have a sense of humor, preferably a little on the jaded side.
  4. Bring snacks.  The cafeteria at Floyd towers closes at 2 pm.  Chew.
  5. Keep sets of reading glasses and lipstick/chapstick in every pocket of every coat and bag.  Seeing is important and Being Seen (smiling!) is important.
  6. Don’t use the elevators.  There are only two of them and they move at the speed of tectonic plates.  (Plus, stairs help one with one’s FitBit.)
  7. Bring your own portable lipstick charger for your phone (not to be confused with Tip #5).  There is nothing worse than being hamstrung by a 14-inch cable to one of the poorly placed outlets in the halls or committee rooms.  And, let’s face it, there is only so long a person can go without checking Instagram.
  8. Dress nicely but wear layers! Every room in that place has its own climate.  I recommend a nice mittens/parka combo for Room 341 (it’s like a meat locker in there!), plus a range of jackets, scarves, sweaters and blouses until you are down to the formal swimsuit/flip-flop option for Room 132 (The Sauna).
  9. Know your material or know how to admit you don’t know it.  Honesty is a nice impression to leave with a lawmaker.
  10. Start with the idea that everyone you meet there wants what’s best for the state.  Always respect that.  Just remember that your “best” may not look like their “best.”

Okay, now down to business.  This week was busy as a one-legged horse in a pari-mutuel…well, let’s just say it was really, really busy.  The House passed their version of the amended FY 2016 budget and kicked it over to the Senate. As far as child relevant bits, nothing really changed from the Governor’s recommendations. Now it is the Senate’s turn to vet and vote on it.  They will have a bunch of hearings on it this week.  In the meantime, the House will dig deeper into the “Big Budget” also known as the FY 2017 Budget.

In other news, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, The Honorable Hugh P. Thompson, delivered the State of the Judiciary Address to a joint session.  He talked about a myriad of things, one being the fact that “while [Georgia’s] population has nearly doubled since 1983, the number of Georgia judges has grown only 16 percent. “  Wow.

Thompson also sang the praises of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Reform, giving shout outs to a lot of the key players in that space.  You can read the whole address here.

As a side note, the Criminal Justice Reform Council met on Thursday and voted on the last of this year’s proposed recommendations, so look for a report from the Council in the days to come.

On top of all that, lawmakers were wearing out the carpets in the legislative council offices getting their bills drafted and dropped.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that the committees will be kicking into full speed now that the gang has shaken off its winter holiday stupor.  Read below to see what’s new and what’s starting to move.

vulnerable youth

HB 713 (Raffensperger-50th) Makes causing a child to be conceived as a result of rape, incest, or trafficking for sexual servitude an additional ground for terminating parental rights. STATUS: Assigned to the Welch Subcommittee of the House Juvenile Justice Committee.

HB 725 (Cantrell-22nd) Child Abuse Records Protection Act.  Adds ‘tribal entity’ and prosecuting attorneys to those who may access child abuse records.  Expands requirements to be included in a court protective order and provides for immunity for child advocacy centers in releasing child abuse records under certain circumstances.  STATUS: Assigned to the Atwood Subcommittee of the House Juvenile Justice Committee.

HB 825 (Smith-125th) Requires the child welfare agency to notify the Department of Defense Family Advocacy Program when there is a report of child abuse by a military parent or guardian. The bill also adds military law enforcement to the list of appropriate police authorities to which child abuse can be reported. STATUS: House Juvenile Justice Committee.

HB 845 (Setzler-35th) Provides immunity from criminal liability for individuals acting in good faith who are in possession of materials or images to assist law enforcement officers or the Division of Family and Children Services when the health and safety of a child are being adversely affected and threatened by the conduct of another. STATUS: House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

SB 255 (Stone-23rd) Updates garnishment proceedings, including those for child support payments. STATUS: Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 278 (Unterman-45th) Increases the penalty provisions relating to pimping and pandering.  The bill also requires registration on the State Sexual Offender Registry when an individual is convicted for the third time for pandering. STATUS: Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

SB 193 (Bethel-54th) Makes the second offense of battery committed between household members a felony if the defendant has previously been convicted of a Georgia-recognized, forcible felony committed between household members anywhere in the United States or its territories or in any foreign nation recognized by the U.S.  The punishment is imprisonment for 1-5 years. STATUS: Recommended DO PASS by the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

SB 297 (Jackson-2nd) Allows state employees who are adoptive parents to be able to use up to six weeks of accrued annual or sick leave to care for the child after placement. STATUS: Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee.

juvenile justice
HB 730 (Powell-32nd) Adds the Commissioner of Juvenile Justice and the Commissioner of Natural Resources or their designees as voting members of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. STATUS: Recommended DO PASS by the House Juvenile Justice Committee.

HB 792 (Brockway-102nd) Permits students or employees at post secondary schools to carry tasers or stun guns and use them for defense of self or others. STATUS: House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

HB 820 (Kendrick-93rd) Requires school personnel to develop and implement a documented behavior correction action plan including specific, measurable, attainable, and timely goals and strategies when a K-3 student has been placed in out-of-school suspension for the third time during the same school year, out-of-school suspension for a second time within a four-week period within the same school year, or an alternative education program. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 828 (Fludd-64th) Provides a tax credit to employers who employ a qualified parolee in a full-time job 40 weeks during a taxable year.  The credit is $2,500 per qualified parolee. STATUS: House Ways and Means Committee.

HB 829 (Sharper-177th) Requires that the whereabouts of a student are investigated when a student does not show up within five minutes of the start of class. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 846 (Watson-172nd) Revises requirements for notification of crime victims to include when an offender is released into the custody of any other state or the federal government or released from a compacting state. STATUS: House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

HB 874 (Reeves-34th) Amends the juvenile code to provide an exception to the general principle that “what happens in juvenile court stays in juvenile court” when the evidence relates to criminal street gang activity.  The bill also lessens the classification of terroristic threat from a felony to a misdemeanor, unless the threat was a death threat, but increases the minimum sentence for a terroristic threat or act, when such threat or act is done as retaliation or intimidation of witnesses. The bill adds a prohibition relating to the recruitment of street gang members, increases prohibitions and raises mandatory minimum sentences for the participation in criminal street gang activity and makes it easier to introduce as evidence prior acts of criminal street gang participation or activity. The bill also sets out separate penalties for inmates and non-inmates regarding items prohibited by inmates.  STATUS: House Hopper.

SB 261 (Seay-34th) Provides a tax credit to employers who employ a qualified parolee in a full-time job 40 weeks during a taxable year.  The credit is $2,500 per qualified parolee. STATUS: Senate Finance Committee.

SB 279 (Harper-7th) Includes the Commissioner of Juvenile Justice and the Commissioner of Natural Resources as voting members of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. STATUS: Senate Public Safety Committee.

healthandsafety2
HB 774 (Atwood-179th) Limits the time and dates explosive consumer fireworks may be used and allows counties and cities to regulate by ordinance the use of such fireworks within their boundaries. STATUS: House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

HB 722 (Peake-141st) Limits the number of in-state manufacturers of cannabis oil to a minimum of two and a maximum of six. Manufacturers would cultivate, produce and dispense the final product and create a “seed-to-sell” tracking system. The bill also adds post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome and intractable pain to the list of diseases that qualify patients to receive cannabis oil. The bill also clarifies that cannabis oil treatment is not required to be covered by medical assistance (e.g., Medicaid) or PeachCare for Kids. STATUS: House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

HB 684 (Martin-49th) Adds approved safety net settings, including nonprofit clinics, health care facilities, long-term care facilities, and school based programs to the list of places where dental hygienists can perform their duties without direct supervision. STATUS: House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 746 (Benton-31st) An employer that already provides sick leave shall allow an employee to use that existing sick leave for the care of an immediate family member. STATUS: House Industry and Labor Committee.

HB 797 (Kirby-114th) Changes current law so that only children under 18 are required to wear helmets when riding a motorcycle or moped. STATUS: House Motor Vehicles Committee. WILL BE HEARD IN COMMITTEE THIS MONDAY.

HB 817 (Sharper-177th) Requires that youth baseball players receive instruction in baseball dugout safety and encourages the use of protective covering over baseball dugouts. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 819 (Kendrick-93rd) Requires the Department of Education, in consultation with the Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and mental health experts, to develop a list of training materials for awareness in mental health, behavioral disabilities, and learning disabilities. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 824 (Alexander-66th) Requires employers to offer up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per year for all full-time employees. In addition, sick leave can be used to care for family members. STATUS: House Industry and Labor Committee.

HB 852 (Buckner-137th) Allows active duty service members transitioning out of military service to use their state of legal residence to register their family members with special needs for a Medicaid waiver. STATUS: House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 727 (Battles-15th) Limits the time and place fireworks may be used, including prohibiting use near electric plants, water and wastewater treatment plants, hospitals, nursing homes, other health care facilities, property owned or operated for counties and cities, and at public gatherings when a law enforcement agency or local fire department determines that the use of fireworks is not in the interest of public safety. Additionally, no one under the influence of alcohol or drugs may use fireworks. STATUS: House Regulated Industries. WILL BE HEARD IN COMMITTEE THIS MONDAY.

HB 768 (Hawkins-27th) “Georgia Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act” – Allows contribution of funds to tax-exempt accounts to pay for the qualified expenses of individuals with significant disabilities with onset before age 26, meet the conditions of disability as defined by SS, SSDI, or are certified under pending IRS rules. Income earned by the accounts and withdrawals for qualified disability expenses would not be taxable. Individuals may only have one ABLE account, and total annual contributions may not exceed $14,000. Aggregate contributions to an ABLE account would be subject to the State 529 account limit of $235,000. Withdrawals for non-qualified expenses would be subject to tax and a 10% penalty.  Upon the beneficiary’s death, a claim for the remaining account assets may be used to reimburse Medicaid for payments made from the date the account was created. STATUS: House Ways and Means Committee.

HB 219 (Jones-167th) Exempts some privately owned swimming pools
from inspection and licensing requirements.  Such pools include pools at condominiums, country clubs and therapeutic pools operated by medical facilities. STATUS: House State Planning and Community Affairs Committee. WILL BE HEARD IN COMMITTEE THIS MONDAY.

HB 498 (Hawkins-27th) Adds the word “diagnose” to the Licensed Professional Counselors practice act. STATUS: Recommended Do Pass by the House Regulated Industries Professions-Boards-Commissions Subcommittee.

SB 308 (Unterman-45th) Establishes a Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program within the Department of Public Health, using monies from the Indigent Care Trust Fund. Providers receiving the grants would use them for services that encourage childbirth instead of voluntary termination of pregnancy and would include medical services, counseling, assistance with housing, nutrition and adoption. STATUS: Senate Hopper.
EARLYCARE

HB 649 (Cooper-43rd) “Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act” creates an advisory committee and process for licensure of lactation consultants. STATUS: Recommended DO PASS by the House Health and Human Services Committee.

education

HB 402 (Lumsden-12th) Allows unpaid work-based learning students to be deemed employees for purposes of workers’ compensation coverage STATUS: Recommended Do PASS by the House Industry and Labor Committee.

HB 739 (Tanner-9th) Makes state approval of school instructional material and content optional.  Local school systems shall have control of which items are purchased, designate a coordinator, and allow for public review of selections. Clarifies that supplementary and ancillary materials do not have to go through the review process or be posted on the website.  Notice must be given to parents and the materials must be available in a hard copy upon request. STATUS: Recommended DO PASS by the House Education Committee.

HB 814 (Glanton-75th) Allows the Department of Education to establish a unique identifier for each student whose parent is an active duty military service member or member of the National Guard. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 816 (Mitchell-88th) “Georgia Student Religious Liberties Act of 2016”- Allows voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints in public schools, class assignments and in limited public forums for student speakers at non-graduation and graduation events.  Allows students to organize religious groups and activities. STATUS: House Judiciary Committee.

HB 848 (Clark-98th) Establishes the Blue Star Family Scholarship Program, which creates a school voucher program for children of military service members. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 861 (Casas-107th) Creates an income tax credit up to $1,000 for education expenses for children in home study programs. STATUS: House Ways and Means Committee.

HB 864 (Casas-107th) Expands the definition of eligible post secondary institutions for the Move On When Ready program to include those that are accredited by an agency recognized by either the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the United States Department of Education. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 865 (Dudgeon-25th) Creates a tax exemption for corporate donors to ‘BEST’ (Business and Education Succeeding Together) student scholarship organizations.  A child could be considered BEST-qualified if he/she was enrolled in and attended for at least six weeks a Georgia secondary or primary public school or who is eligible to enroll in a qualified first grade or kindergarten program. The six-week requirement would be waived, however, if the school the student normally would attend is determined by the Office of Student Achievement to be a low-performing school, or if the student is the subject of officially documented cases of school-based physical or verbal violence; the requirement also would be waived if the student was enrolled in a home study program for at least one year immediately prior to receiving a scholarship or tuition grant or was already served by an existing student scholarship organization for the prior school year. STATUS: House Hopper.

HB 701 (Casas-107th) Requires at least 12 hours of instruction in alcohol and drug use prevention for students in grades 3-12. STATUS: WITHDRAWN.

HB 801 (Jones-47th) Includes coursework in computer science as optional rigor requirements for HOPE and provides for weighted scores for STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) college coursework. STATUS: House Higher Education Committee.

SB 264 (Beach-21st) Establishes standards for horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering.  A percentage of revenue from the races would be allocated to the Lottery for HOPE scholarships. STATUS: Recommended DO PASS by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

SB 287 (James-35th) Provides a special (voluntary) home room for secondary school at-risk students so they can have access to special services supporting completion of a high school diploma. STATUS: Senate Education and Youth Committee.

SB 310 (Ligon-3rd) Prohibits the implementation of competitive education grants over $20 million for pre-k-12 until a written analysis is provided and the grant terms are ratified by the General Assembly. STATUS: Senate Hopper.

SR 828 (Fort-39th) Changes the Opportunity School District ballot language to read “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow an appointee of the Governor to take over local school operation, buildings, and control of all federal, state, and local funding if a school has low scores on standardized tests or for any other reason a future legislature may allow?’ (Language currently passed to be on the ballot reads “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”) STATUS: Senate Education and Youth Committee.

HR 1017 (Dudgeon-25th) Allows each local board of education to levy and collect development impact fees within any area of its school system which has had enrollment growth of at least 15 percent over the preceding five-year period. The proceeds shall be used to pay for a share of the cost of additional educational facilities to serve new growth and development in the same area where the fees are imposed. STATUS: House Government Affairs Committee.

misc

HB 859 (Jasperse-11th) Allows students at least 21 years old to carry a gun on post-secondary campuses, except in student housing, including fraternity and sorority houses, and at sporting events.  STATUS: House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

HB 870 (Strickland-111th) States that high schools that receive state funding cannot participate in an athletic association which prohibits religious expression on the clothing of student athletes or which prohibits member schools from organizing and playing scrimmage matches, games, or other athletic competitions with nonmember schools. STATUS: House Hopper.

SB 309 (Jones-25th) States that high schools that receive state funding cannot participate in an athletic association which prohibits religious expression on the clothing of student athletes or which prohibits member schools from organizing and playing scrimmage matches, games, or other athletic competitions with nonmember schools. STATUS: Senate Hopper.

SB 301 (Tate-38th) Limits the hours that fireworks may be used. STATUS: Senate Public Safety Committee.


2 Minute Advocacy Ask for the Week:

The “Ask”: Call House Appropriations Committee members and tell them that you support the additional funds for state workers as well as the additional funds in high-turnover child-serving job categories.

The Why: Children fare best when there are reliable personal relationships, system consistency, and sustained institutional knowledge.  Much of the work performed by our state’s child-serving workers, while deeply meaningful, is labor-intensive, with little reprieve, and sometimes dangerous.  With some turnover rates hovering around 35 percent, it is paramount that the state is able to keep seasoned, trained and qualified staff in these positions (which usually pay less than private market rates).

The Message: “Hi – My name is ___________.  Please support the additional funds for state workers as well as funds in high-turnover child serving job categories such as those in the areas of juvenile justice, child health, child welfare, early education and K-12 education.  Thanks you for your service and for your leadership for the children of Georgia.”

The How: Click here to contact members of the House Appropriations Committee to call or email them with the message above.



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