Welcome to the Voices for Georgia’s Children Legislative Update. Each week of the legislative session, our Update will arrive in your inbox with brief summaries of select legislation and session activity. For those of you who would like to get more involved, the very bottom of each blast will provide an opportunity for advocacy action, complete with message and contact information of key policy makers who need to hear from you.

We hope that this will be a useful resource. Please feel free to forward this blast to others who are interested (or might be interested) in child policy. They can simply click here to receive these emails.

Thanks for making children a priority!

Polly McKinney
Advocacy Director
Voices for Georgia’s Children

P.S. Also, if you are looking for a quirky way to spend a couple of minutes and wondering if real people actually work on this legislative policy stuff, please tune into Polly’s Two Minute-ish Takes. Each week this session, we will deliver a short video, loaded with candor, odd locations and good dose of super raw, super unpolished stand-up legislative commentary from yours truly (and anyone else I can bribe to stand next to me). What it lacks in technical acumen, it makes up for in campy entertainment value! Please watch, but please don’t hold it against us!

P.P.S. AND if you really want to see some cool stuff, be sure to watch our “When I Was a Kid” videos (they come out on Thursday’s!). Each week we interview a lawmaker about his or her childhood to try to get the scoop on how they became who they are. The stories are intimate, fun, and really fascinating!

Hello there! We’re back! Welcome to the Lasik Legislative Session! (20-20. Get it??) You know what I love most about coming back to the Capitol, other than the opportunity to once again wear ridiculous shoes on shiny marble floors? It is the fact that I forget from year to year how fast session can get weird.  Often, the weirdities (new word) cause me to blurt out what I am actually thinking (Definitely NOT a good quality for an advocate/lobbyist!). Let me give you some examples:

1. Polly: “What the hey was that?!”
Answer: The power went out at the Capitol on the first day of this year’s legislative session. Fortunately, there are scads of windows around that building, so it felt more like a third-grade fire drill than an actual crisis. (I haven’t been so entertained by a “Capitol Happening” since a rat ran under the Senate Page Desk a few years ago).

2. Polly: “Huh?”
Answer: House Bill 790 combines changes to the section of law dealing with boxing, wrestling, and martial arts with language about continuing education for structural engineers. I read it twice to make sure I was not hallucinating (I had just finished reading the governor’s budget recommendations (see below), so anything was possible!). Strange bedfellows for sure.

3. Polly: “Is that really my favorite thing?”
Answer: Yes. The recommendation for a $8.5 Million in 20-year bonds to upgrade the elevators on Capitol Hill really is my favorite thing about the Governor’s FY 2021 budget recommendations. And by the way, it’s about time somebody upgraded those things to replace the hamsters running on wheels with real machinery.

What is not weird is the usual stuff – A first week crammed full of (actually planned) events: Wild Hog Supper (CLICK HERE for my “2 Minute Take” video which even reveals the recipe for the hog); Voices GA-CALL Legislative Preview Panel with 18 or so legislators and state leadership talking about important issues for the session (CLICK HERE for the recorded livestream of the event); Healthcare Unscrambled Breakfast Hosted by Georgians for a Healthy Future; Georgia Chamber’s Eggs and Issues Breakfast (with guest appearances by Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Duncan, Speaker Ralston, Senator Perdue, Rep. Calvin Smyre, and three thousand Chick-Fil-A biscuits); – and finishing up Thursday with the Governor’s State of the State (SOTS) address, where he laid out his budget priorities for all to hear.

Speaking of budget, I have pulled some interesting morsels from both the governor’s recommendations for the Amended FY 2020 budget (which addresses changes to be made to the budget for the year we are living in right now) and the (“Big”) FY 2021 budget (which, once passed, it would go into effect July 1, 2020). Scroll down to see what sorts of thing (cuts mostly) are up for discussion this year. If you are curious why there are so many cuts in each, click here to read the Governor’s Budget press release from August.

This week’s joint budget hearings will take place. (“Joint” meaning both House and Senate committees will attend – No medical marijuana jokes, please.) FYI, the only bill that the legislature is required to pass it a balanced state budget.  Somehow, they always manage to pass more than that. Go figure.

Also, in case your cable is out or you have decided that you have seen enough football, Star Wars or Little Women, you can click an impressive array of links below to read reports from exceptionally productive 2019 child-relevant study committees. And as always, scroll even further for summaries for new bills (and a few from last year) as well as a couple of Advocacy Asks to keep you busy.

Anyway, I promise there is more fun in store as we lurch forward into the year. Have a great week! I know I will!


Study Committee Reports

House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality

House Study Committee on Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health

Study Committee on Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (“PANS”) and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infection (“PANDAS”)

House Rural Development Council 2019

Johnny Tolbert III House Study Committee on Heat-Related Injuries, Cardiac Injuries, and Other Sports-Related Injuries

House Study Committee on Workforce Housing

Senate Study Committee on Community Schools

Senate Study Committee on Protection from Sexual Predators

Senate Study Committee on Higher Education Outcomes

Senate Study Committee on Educational Development of African American Children in Georgia

Senate Study Committee on Passenger Vehicle Seat Safety Belts

Senate Study Committee on Gaming and Pari-mutuel Wagering on Horse Racing and Growing Georgia’s Equine Industry

Senate Study Committee on Evaluating and Simplifying Physician Oversight of Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

DBHDD = Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

DCS = Department of Community Supervision

DECAL = Department of Early Care and Learning

GDEcD = Department of Economic Development

DHS = Department of Human Services (houses DFCS = Department of Family and Children Services, as well as DCSS = Division of Child Support Services)

DJJ = Department of Juvenile Justice

DOE = Department of Education

DOL = Department of Labor

DOR = Department of Revenue

DPH = Department of Public Health

GBI = Georgia Bureau of Investigation

CJCC = Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (attached to GBI)

CJCJ = Council of Juvenile Court Judges (attached to Juvenile Courts)

GDC = Georgia Department of Corrections

GOSA = Governor’s Office of Student Achievement

GSFC = Georgia Student Finance Commission

GPDC = Georgia Public Defenders Council

PAC = Prosecuting Attorneys Council

TCSG = Technical College System of Georgia

USG = University System of Georgia

Know Where You Want to Go?

Juvenile Justice/Effective School Discipline

Child Welfare/Vulnerable Youth

Child Health and Safety

Early Care and Learning

Higher Education


2 Minute Advocacy Ask




HB 440 (Ballinger-23rd) Raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17 year-olds. STATUS: House Juvenile Justice Committee.

SB 288 (Anderson-43rd) Restricts access to criminal records where arrests did not result in a conviction, or where certain conditions have since been met (e.g., ten years have elapsed since the conviction, or drug court treatment program or mental health treatment program have been completed). STATUS: Senate Prefiled.


HB 726 (Taylor-173rd) Requires law enforcement agencies to enter the report of missing persons into the data base of missing persons maintained by the National Institute of Justice of the United States Department of Justice. The term “missing persons” is defined as a person whose whereabouts are unknown and who is believed to be in danger because of age, physical or mental health, or physical or mental disability as well as environmental or weather conditions. STATUS: House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

HB 750 (McLaurin-51st) Repeals a statute providing for the right to sue someone who has seduced one’s unmarried daughter. (FYI, the law was found unconstitutional by the GA Supreme Court in 1994 so it has already been invalidated). STATUS: House Prefiled.

SB 287 (Jones-22nd) Eliminates the statute of limitations for rape, aggravated sodomy, and aggravated sexual battery. STATUS: Senate Prefiled.


HB 717 (Mathiak-73rd) “Georgia Licensed Midwife Act” – Allows for the licensure and regulation of midwives. People 18 years and older apply for licensure. Before performing midwifery services to a client, a licensed midwife shall provide (in a language that is understandable to the client) a written disclosure containing information regarding the midwife’s professional standing and other such practical information (e.g. regarding licensure and training, fees and method of billing, and whether the midwife has liability insurance). Licensed midwives may seek consultation with a licensed physician or certified nurse midwife.  The midwife is permitted to order prenatal, postpartum, and well-woman laboratory analyses, obstetric ultrasounds; administer prescription drugs prescribed by a licensed physician or other authorized health care professional; and precept apprentices and student midwives and supervise midwifery assistants. The bill also creates the Advisory Board for Licensed Midwives, which would have six members, all appointed by the governor. The bill also states that any health insurance policy, including Medicaid, that covers maternity care shall not deny coverage provided by a licensed midwife in any setting and shall reimburse at the same rate as for other providers. STATUS: House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 719 (Silcox-52nd) Modernizes HIV-related laws to align with science and support best public health practices for preventing and treating HIV. The bill also permits syringe and needle exchange services without criminal penalties. STATUS: House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 725 (Taylor-173rd) Allows the state to add two or more dental service organization administrators (chosen by DCH via competitive bid) for dental services for Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, and allows for an amendment to the state plan if necessary. STATUS: House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 731 (Stephens-164th) Increases state excise taxes on cigarettes by $1.50/pack; and on little cigars and loose and smokeless tobacco by 42%. STATUS: House Ways and Means Committee.

HB 746 (Kendrick-93rd) Allows individuals who plan to receive an abortion to opt out of receiving informational materials regarding the fetus, including fetal images or the sound of a heartbeat. The physician or the office who is to perform the abortion shall document this decision in the patient’s medical record for at least three years. STATUS: House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 760 (Cooper-43rd) Authorizes of peace officers to take a person to a physician or emergency receiving facility for emergency examination if the officer has probable cause for believing that the person presents a substantial risk of imminent harm to himself or herself or others or is so unable to care for his or her own physical health and safety as to create an imminently life-endangering crisis..   STATUS: House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

HB 784 (Lumsden-12th) Excludes meetings of a local board of education to discuss, vote upon, review, or assess school safety plans from open meetings laws. STATUS: House Prefiled.

HB 789 (Newton-123rd) Creates a surprise bill rating system based upon the number of physician specialty groups (meaning an in-network medical group of anesthesiologists, pathologists, radiologists, or emergency medicine physicians) contracted with a hospital within a health insurer’s network and requires insurers to include hospital surprise bill ratings online and in print provider directories, and advertise such ratings elsewhere. The bill also states that if a hospital’s surprise bill rating is less than four, each insurer advertising such hospital as in-network must describe which qualified hospital-based specialty group types are not contracted with such hospital. STATUS: House Hopper.

HB 800 (Scott-76th) Allows any licensed out-of-state obstetrical/gynecological provider within 50 miles of the Georgia border to be considered an in-state provider so long as the health care provider is licensed in good standing in the bordering state. These providers would receive the same Medicaid rate as other like Georgia providers. STATUS: House Hopper.

HB 801 (Scott-76th) Limits the number of patients assigned to a registered professional nurse in a hospital as follows: Limits the number of patients assigned to a registered professional nurse in a hospital as follows: One patient per nurse in each setting: Postanesthesia care patients under the age of 18, patients in operating rooms (provided that one other person serves as a scrub assistant per patient), critical trauma patients in emergency units, patients in active labor and during birth (one for the mother and one for each baby born), and immediate postpartum (the two hours immediately after birth). Two patients per nurse in each setting: Critical care patients, postanesthesia care patients 18 or older, critical care emergency patients and antepartum patients requiring continuous fetal monitoring. Three patients per nurse in each setting: Step down or immediate care patients, basic or comprehensive emergency medical services patients, postpartum couplets (or 6 total patients), telemetry, and acute rehabilitation. Four patients per nurse in each setting: All pediatric units, psychiatric, medical and surgical, observational, specialty care, and any unit not otherwise listed. Hospitals may face penalties up to $25K/day or sanctions such as revocation of the hospital’s license during which violations continue. STATUS: House Hopper.

SB 303 (Watson-1st) Requires insurers to be more transparent about prices for nonemergency health care services. STATUS: Senate Hopper.

SB 298 (Unterman-45th) Prohibits sale or distribution of cigarettes, tobacco, tobacco related objects, and vapor products (including those that do not contain nicotine) to individuals under the age of 21. The bill also prohibits the use of labeling or packaging made to be attractive to minors. STATUS: Senate Hopper.

HB 745 (Thomas-56th) “Georgia Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act” – Requires perinatal facilities to implement evidence based implicit bias programs for its health care professionals and the compilation and tracking of data on severe maternal morbidity and pregnancy-related deaths. STATUS: House Health and Human Services Committee.



HB 263 (Stovall-74th) Allows a parent or guardian to enroll a student in a school using the address of an individual residing in the school’s attendance zone who has approved such use.  The bill prohibits the parent or guardian from paying or providing any other valuable consideration to the individual for the use of the individual’s address, with the exception that a parent or guardian may reimburse for expenses incurred by the resident in the care of the student. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 444 (Reeves-34th) Changes the name of the “Move on When Ready Act” to the “Dual Enrollment Act” and limits the eligibility for dual enrollment for high schoolers in Georgia based on courses, credit hours, and grades in which students can participate. Under the bill, only courses such as English, math, science, social studies, a foreign language, or CTAE (career, technical, and agricultural education) are eligible for dual enrollment credit. The bill limits (with exceptions) funding to up to 30 credit hours per student and limits dual enrollment to entering or enrolled 11th or 12th grade students. Students are also limited to retaking two courses, in the case of withdrawal or failure, except in the case of extenuating circumstances. Participating high schools are also subject to increased oversight by the Georgia Student Finance Commission. Schools must enter into the participation agreement that outlines the school’s financial obligation to cover tuition, fees, and books for students and provide enrollment data to the Office of Planning and Budget. STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by Senate Higher Education Committee. The bill now moves on to Senate Rules Committee.

HB 476 (Stovall-74th) Mandates that child entertainer students performing during one or more school days shall not be counted absent from school. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 736 (Belton-112th) Establishes a loan forgiveness program for teachers who agree to teach in a turnaround school in a high demand subject area (primarily STEM). Teacher must agree to teach for at least five years and loan forgiveness only applies to cost of tuition and does not include loans attributable to books, fees, or cost of living. STATUS: House Higher Education Committee.

HB 741 Belton-112th) Requires in each turnaround school to retain or designate a master teacher to provide support and mentoring for teachers therein in order for the school to sustain its teacher development efforts and ensure teachers continue to improve in their practices. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 755 (Belton-112th) Requires school districts to provide an allotment sheet itemizing the state, federal, and local allocations to any local charters by July 1st each year.  If the allocation has to be adjusted, the local board must give the charter 30 days’ notice before making the adjustment. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 764 (Jones-25th) Permits unused state facilities to be made available for use by local charter schools and state charter schools. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HB 783 (Thomas-39th) Raises the age of mandatory education for children from 16 to 17. STATUS: House Education Committee.

HR 893 (Scott-76th) Constitutional Amendment – Allows 16 year-olds to vote in school district elections and elections affecting school funding. STATUS: House Governmental Affairs Committee.

SB 282 (Beach-21st) Requires University System of Georgia designated research universities to ensure that at least 90% of early action admissions are offered to Georgia resident students. STATUS: Senate Prefiled.

SB 284 (Thompson-14th) Allows an individual residing in this state who is 20 years old or older, who has not attained a high school diploma or a general educational development (GED) diploma, and who meets any eligibility criteria to enroll in a local or state charter school that serves only over-age students, until he or she attains a high school diploma or GED diploma or no longer resides in this state. STATUS: Senate Prefiled.


HB 720 (Sainz-180th) Clarifies that a term of probation shall follow the mandatory term of imprisonment for persons convicted of a sexual offense and establishes some criteria for risk assessment of those convicted. STATUS: House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

HB 724 (Wilson-80th) Authorizes counties to adopt ordinances governing and punishing the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in the unincorporated areas of a county. STATUS: House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

HB 727 (Anulewicz-42nd) Requires domestic violence and sexual abuse awareness training to be available through continuing education for barbers and cosmetologists. STATUS: House Regulated Industries Committee.

HB 743 (Mitchell-88th) Allows student athletes participating in intercollegiate athletics at postsecondary educational institutions to receive compensation for the use of his/her name, image, or likeness and allows for professional representation of such student athletes (though they must disclose representation to the university). This bill prevents universities from enforcing rules that keep student athletes from receiving certain compensation, including student athletes’ eligibility to participate in sports or receive scholarships or other financial aid. This bill is set to become effective January 1, 2023. STATUS: House Prefiled.

HB 747 (Singleton-71st) Prohibits public and governmental facilities from being used for athletic competitions in which a person who is not a biological male is allowed to participate in athletic events conducted exclusively for males or a person who is not a biological female is allowed to participate in athletic events conducted exclusively for females. STATUS: House Prefiled.

HB 749 (McLaurin-51st) Creates protections to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing and naturally occurring workforce housing in certain designated areas. STATUS: House Prefiled.

HB 751 (Pullin-131st) Prohibits the enforcement of federal and other extreme risk protection orders in Georgia.  (“extreme risk protection order” means an executive order or written order or warrant issued by a federal or state court or signed by a judge or comparable officer, to prohibit a named individual from owning, possessing, or receiving a firearm). This bill preemptively states that no laws, judges, or law enforcement officials may pursue action to remove firearms from individuals without due process. STATUS: House Judiciary Committee.

HB 787 (Ballinger-23rd) Allows Georgia residents to carry a weapon in Georgia if licensed to carry in any other state. STATUS: House Hopper.

HR 874 (Trammell-132nd) Constitutional Amendment – Mandates that public officials who are indicted on felony charges, shall be suspended and shall not receive compensation. Such officials include the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State School Superintendent, Commissioner of Insurance, Commissioner of Agriculture, Commissioner of Labor, and any member of the General Assembly. If the official is reinstated, he/she shall be entitled to receive compensation.   STATUS: House Prefiled.

SB 286 (Anderson-43rd) Prohibits discrimination on the basis of such protective hairstyle in any program or activity conducted by an educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance, or enrolls pupils who receive state student financial aid. It also prohibits discrimination in employment so long as the hairstyle does not impede performance of duties. STATUS: Senate Prefiled.


2 Minute Advocacy Ask

The “Ask”:

Start or build upon a relationship with your own state representative or senator.

The Why: 

Advocating is made easier by nurturing respectful but clear communications with elected officials.

The Message:

“Hi – My name is __________ and I live in your district. Issues such as child health, child welfare, juvenile justice, childcare and learning are important to me. Please be sure to ask ‘Is it good for kids?’ as you study, develop and vote on legislation and budgets of all sorts. Thank you for your time and your dedication to public service. I look forward to more opportunities to work together for the children in our district and in our state.”

The How:

Click here to find your elected officials, and then call or email them with the message above.


Voices’ and Georgia Statewide After School Network Events

The “Ask”: Mark your calendars to attend the following totally awesome events:


Feb.12 (Wednesday) – Voices Legislative Reception honoring the Georgia Department of Education (Freight Depot) (for sponsorship opportunities, please email me and I’ll set you up!)

Feb. 18 (Tuesday) – Talk Justice Tuesday featuring speakers on Raising the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction (State Capitol)

Feb 25 (Tuesday) – Afterschool Day (State Capitol)

March 17 (Tuesday)  – Children’s Day (State Capitol)

Why: Because children are a big deal!

Useful links: