It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
–A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. The Georgia 2014 Legislative Session came and went, leaving glory and destruction in its wake, depending on whom you ask. Children’s policy outcomes were mixed (check out our Sine Die legislative update for details), but one thing is for certain: For the first time in a long time – maybe ever – multiple children’s issues were front and center in the policy, politics and news of the General Assembly. Yes, foster care, autism coverage, medical cannabis (to treat seizures in children), and education standards and funding were right up there with the usual scene-stealers of gun rights, tax exemptions and sports stadiums. Who would have thunk it?
Despite all the occasionally uncomfortable drama, stress and maneuvering that played out around child-focused legislation, looking back now, a few weeks after the session end, it was all good. Does it take half a dozen dogfights to get policy makers to pay attention to kids’ needs? I don’t know, but at least they are paying attention. A number of good bills passed, cleaning up more of the juvenile code (SB 364 and SB 365), giving judges tools to reduce children’s exposure to trauma in the courtroom (HB 804), and prohibiting the sale of nicotine vapor products to minors (HB 251), among others. A number of bills failed as well, such as ones on foster care reform (SB 350), medical use of cannabis (HB 885) and autism coverage (SB 397).
All of this activity, however, seems to have inspired new and (hopefully) genuine conversations about policy areas where kids need help. In addition to the declarations of some lawmakers to resurrect failed legislation next year, the Governor has formed a council to address Child Welfare reform and study committees have been created to look at medical cannabis (SR 981), Child Protection (SR 973) and the licensing and inspection of child welfare providers (HR 1723).
Could it be that the legislative version of Tiny Tim has gotten his message through to the Georgia General Assembly? I prefer to think so…but am waiting to hear from the “Ghost of Policy Yet to Come” to be sure.
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