Part of being a “professional” advocate is answering questions about policy and advocacy from “non-professional” advocates. Frequently, I am offered the opportunity to do so by various educators, associations, kids doing research papers, friends, family, neighbors, and the occasional home repair person. In these moments, I always hope to inspire not only engagement with the governing of our state, but also to deter one more conversation about the slowness of the mail these days, the unhealthy bond we have allowed to fester with co-dependent pets (including fish), or the wonderment of Bernie Sanders’ (and his mittens’) remarkable ability to show up at inaugurations, brew pubsBroadway musicals (which aren’t actually happening, btw), outer space, Forrest Gump’s bench), and other exotic locations all in the matter of 48 hours. That man must either be super tight with Scottie from Star Trek or have an insane number of Frequent Flier miles.

Anyway, all that to say that since this week was a light legislative week with no legislative days (only budget hearings) and subsequently, no new bills to read, I thought I would offer up a short advocacy advice column for your entertainment.

Dear Polly, I am a 43-year-old parent in a green sweater. My children are 12, 9, and 6 and are all doing their virtual learning at home between arguments over who used up more bandwidth, who used up all the hot water, and whether or not Joe Exotic should have gotten a pardon. I have a job (which I am also trying to do online), a new onset of carpal tunnel syndrome and one heck of a migraine. My question is this: Why can’t the folks at the state house fund enough hazmat suits for every kid to go back to school? Exhaustively, Lauren Dontkickyourbrother

Dear Lauren, First of all, I highly recommend taking a step back and realizing that this period of history is considered, by pretty much every metric, to be somewhat less than perfect. That said, state lawmakers are hoping to ramp up broadband connectivity (with $30 Million more in the governor’s budget recommendation for rural broadband grants between AFY20 and FY21), get people vaccinated, and figure out the COVID school conundrum as best they can. (Joe Exotic is on his own.) If you feel strongly about state-funded junior hazmat suits (SFJHSs), I recommend emailing your lawmaker. If you don’t feel strongly about SFJHSs, then simply order yourself a good set of sound-cancelling headphones, one of those carpel tunnel brace thingies, take 6 aspirin and call me in the morning. –Polly

Dear Polly, Try as I might, I simply cannot stay awake reading the FY22 budget, or any of the 146 bills that have been written thus far. Any advice?- Derrick Needstogetanotherhobby

Dear Derrick, First, I salute you for your desire to be a better citizen, hold our lawmakers accountable, and increase the strength of your reading glasses from +2.25 to +2.75 in a single week. Nevertheless, reading budgets and bills, while not a complicated endeavor, has been known to cure even the worst insomniac. I therefore offer up to you a few tricks that I use to remain alert while reading state appropriations bills, as well as others (especially those focused on insurance law, code revision, pharmaceutical regulation and pretty much anything related to banks and banking): 1. Read standing up, preferably in high heels that are a size or two too small. It is nearly impossible to sleep like that. 2. Read everything in Pig Latin. That way you will have to actually read each word and think about where to break it and put the “-ay” sound in. 3. Sing the words in your best approximation of Elvis, Donald Duck, Luciano Pavarotti, or Snoop Dogg. Not only will this keep you awake, but likely your neighbors too. And finally, 4. Don’t read the whole thing at all. Just fall asleep to the sound of crickets, lost whales or your baby’s sleep monitor with the messed-up frequency setting and read the Voices Legislative Update instead. Why you can start right NOW! (see below.) –Polly

And with that, I leave you. (but be sure to do the action alerts at the bottom of the update!)

Polly McKinney
Advocacy Director
Voices for Georgia’s Children

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


HB 15 Scott-76th Requires training on de-escalation techniques for peace officers, including nonlethal and communication tactics, the use of the lowest level of force first and re-evaluation as threat progresses, mental health and substance abuse awareness, and crisis intervention strategies. STATUS: House Hopper

HB 16 Scott-76th Disallows law enforcement agencies from accepting and possessing certain combat equipment from the US Department of Defense, such as controlled firearms, grenades, explosives, controlled vehicles, unmanned aircraft that are armored or weaponized, controlled aircraft that are combat configured, silencers, or long-range acoustic devices. STATUS: House Hopper

HB 21 Scott-76th Revises the offense of unlawful conduct during 9-1-1 call to include bias motivations in calling or otherwise contacting 9-1-1. The bill also provides for a cause of action against persons who knowingly causes a peace officer to arrive at a location, owing to false reporting or bias purposes. STATUS: House Hopper

HB 69 Kendrick-93rd Provides that certain state officers or employees shall be liable when causing the deprivation of certain rights. STATUS: House Judiciary Committee

SB 10 Jones-10th Makes various aspects of participation in drag racing or laying drag an offense and lays out fines and other punishments. STATUS: Senate Hopper

her punishments. STATUS: Senate Hopper

HB 91 Jackson-64th Defines “cash assistance” for temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), basing it on a standard of need that is equal to 50% of the federal poverty level for the applicable family size and which equates to a maximum monthly amount equal to 75% of such amount for each such family size. STATUS: House Hopper

HB 96 Clark-108th States that in all cases in which the custody of any child is at issue between the parents, there shall be a presumption, rebuttable by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, that a child’s interests are best served by equal or approximately equal parenting time with each parent. Alternative forms of custody may be considered by the judge at either a temporary or permanent hearing in the event that there is a finding that clear and convincing evidence exists that either parent is not fit, willing, or able to participate in such an arrangement. STATUS: House Hopper

HB 9 Scott-76th Requires the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and others, to develop guidelines for the use of telehealth services in public schools to provide mental health and behavioral health services to students at school or during any school related function. The bill also defines the term “telehealth. STATUS: House Hopper

HB 34 Belton-112th Allows Georgia to enter into the “Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact”, which would allow qualified audiologists and speech-language pathologists to practice across state lines with other compact members. STATUS: House Regulated Industries Committee

HB 54 Bazemore-63rd Provides for instruction on the best practices for and risks associated with the use of tampons in sex education and AIDS prevention instruction. The bill also encourages physicians and nurses providing a tampon for use by any female patient under his or her care to recite and provide certain written information regarding the best practices for and risks associated with the use of tampons. STATUS: House Education Committee

HB 57 Scott-76th Requires the Georgia Department of Public Health and penal institutions to provide (free of charge) access to, breast pumps such that lactating women can express breast milk postpartum. Requires that women who are incarcerated receive prenatal and postpartum medical care. STATUS: House Hopper

HB 72 Hugley-136th Allows the state to request from the Federal Government permission to extend Pregnant Woman’s Medicaid from six months postpartum to twelve months postpartum. STATUS: House Health and Human Services Committee

HB 73 Hugley-136th Limits the total cost-sharing amount that an insured (public or private) person is required to pay for covered prescription insulin to $50.00 per 30 day supply of insulin, regardless of the amount or type of insulin needed to fill the covered person’s prescription. STATUS: House Insurance Committee

SB 1 Burke-11th Requires entities that receive certain tax credits and that provide self-funded, employer sponsored health insurance plans to submit data to the Georgia All-Payer Claims Database. STATUS: Senate Finance Committee

SB 4 Kirkpatrick-32nd Prohibits patient brokering by drug abuse treatment and education programs and also considers excessive, fraudulent, or high-tech drug testing of certain individuals (the elderly, the disabled, or any individual affected by pain, substance abuse, addiction, or any related disorder, to or by an insurer, broker, or any agent thereof, or directly or indirectly to an insured or uninsured patient) a fraudulent insurance act. STATUS: Senate Health and Human Services Committee

SB 5 Kirkpatrick-32nd Provimdes patient protection measures for patients undergoing sedation in dental settings and for dental procedures in medispas and in physician offices and medispas. STATUS: Senate Health and Human Services Committee

HB 4 Scott-76th Prohibits a local school system from leasing or selling a public school to a private entity unless the public school has been in existence for at least 15 years. STATUS: House Hopper

HB 23 Oliver-82nd Allows affected local schools systems to participate in the annexation dispute resolution process. STATUS: House Governmental Affairs Committee

HB 26 Kendrick-93rd Revises an income tax credit to include historically Black colleges and universities in the list of qualified businesses in which an investment is eligible for a credit of 35 percent of the amount invested against the tax imposed. STATUS: House Ways and Means Committee

HB 27 Kendrick-93rd Revises an income tax credit so that only investments in historically Black colleges and universities are eligible for the credit, which is 35 percent of the amount invested against the tax imposed. STATUS: House Ways and Means Committee

HB 32 Belton-112th Establishes a teacher recruitment and retention program for a refundable income tax credit for teachers who agree to teach in certain rural schools or certain low-performing schools. STATUS: House Education Committee

HB 60 Cantrell-22nd Creates a voucher program for public school students to attend private schools. Eligible students wouldzsss be those whose local public schools did not offer face-to-face instruction in the prior school year, live in low-income households, have been adopted from foster care, have been bullied, or have certain special education needs. STATUS: House Education Committee

HB 66 Oliver-82nd Allows local school systems to become parties to bond validation hearings. STATUS: House Governmental Affairs Committee

HB 67 Martin-49th Extends from June 30, 2021 to July 1, 2026 automatic repeals of certain provisions regarding nonlapsing revenue of institutions in the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia. STATUS: House Higher Education Committee

HB 71 McLeod-105th Creates a pilot program to implement the funding recommendations of the 2015 Education Reform Commission and to mandate pre-kindergarten and kindergarten for all children prior to entering first grade and to include pre-kindergarten programs in the student based allocation of state funds. STATUS: House Education Committee

HB 87 Evans-57th Makes students at the Technical College System of Georgia who are taking remedial and developmental courses for a degree eligible to receive HOPE grants. STATUS: House Hopper

HB 88 Evans-57th Requires HOPE grants to equal the student’s undergraduate tuition amount for the current academic standard year. STATUS: House Hopper

HB 89 Evans-57th Allows students who do not qualify as freshmen but who meet other certain grade point average criteria to be eligible for the Zell Miller Scholarship. STATUS: House Hopper

SB 3 Jackson-2nd Raises the age of mandatory education from 16 to 17. STATUS: Senate Education and Youth Committee

SB 7 Beach-21st Requires designated research universities to ensure that at least 90% of early action admissions are offered to Georgia resident students. STATUS: Senate Higher Education Committee

SB 15 Anderson-43rd Creates a new category of coursework dealing with the history of Black people and their contributions to American society. This course may be taken by students between ninth and twelfth grade and may be required by the local education authority for high school graduation. STATUS: Senate Hopper

SB 17 Jones-10th Creates a certification program for whole child model schools. STATUS: Senate Hopper

HB 70 Kendrick-93rd Requires the composition of each statutorily created board and commission reflect the general population. STATUS: House Governmental Affairs Committee

HB 79 Allen-40th Gives regulation of the dates and times for the lawful use or ignition of consumer fireworks exclusively to counties and municipal corporations. STATUS: House Regulated Industries Committee

HB 95 Lim-99th Creates a refundable earned income tax credit equal to 10% of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that such taxpayer is allowed. STATUS: House Hopper

HR 4 Cantrell-22nd Constitutional Amendment which, starting in 2024, limits House members of six consecutive terms; increases the Senate term to four years with a limit of three consecutive terms and limits the Lt. Governor to two consecutive terms. STATUS: House Governmental Affairs Committee

SB 16 Anderson-43rd Creates the Georgia Commission on Black Women and Girls. The commission would be administratively attached to the Georgia Department of Public Health. STATUS: Senate Hopper

SB 18 Jones II-22nd Eliminates the statute of limitations on the offenses of rape, aggravated sodomy, and aggravated sexual battery; to provide that a prosecution for the offenses of rape, aggravated sodomy, and aggravated sexual battery. STATUS: Senate Hopper

2 Minute Advocacy Asks

The “Ask”:

Call House Appropriations Subcommittees on Human Resources, Education, and Public Safety, and ask them to increase funding for child and adolescent behavioral health services in the FY 2022 budget.

The Details: 

The governor’s FY2022 (FY22) budget recommendation did not include restored funds for the child- and adolescent-focused behavioral health services and supports which were reduced in the pandemic-driven economic hardship which affected the 2021 budget. This year more than ever, many of Georgia’s kids will need access to various mental health services as they reckon with and process their experiences over the last year both in school and out of school.
Check out these Factsheets:

School Based Mental Health Programs and How They Work

Youth Suicide in Georgia

Snapshot of School Based Health and Behavioral Services

Youth Substance Use and Non-Substance Disorders

Georgia’s Crisis in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health

The Message:

Dear Representative __________-, I am concerned about the mental health crisis facing our children and youth as they reckon with their experiences over the past year. Please make sure that the Departments of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities [HUMAN RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE] / Education [EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE] / Juvenile Justice [PUBLIC SAFETY SUBCOMMITTEE] have the funding they need to provide school based mental health services, crisis stabilization and evidence-based and promising treatment and practices to help our kids through this difficult time. Thank you for your service and for all you do for Georgia’s children.

The How:

Click here for contact information for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Resources

Click here for contact information for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education

Click here for contact information for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety


Voices’ Events

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

Jan. 26 (Tuesday) – Talk Justice Tuesday, register here (virtual)
Jan. 28 (Thursday) – Free Your Feels Information Session, register here (virtual)
Feb. 25 (Thursday) – Justice Day, registration link forthcoming (virtual)

Why: Because children are a big deal!