Hello my friends! As I commence my 11th legislative session for Voices, I know you all must be wondering what it takes to advocate at the state capitol, and what kind of coping skills, personality disorder or anomaly one needs to keep at it year after year after year. Well, put your seatbelt on (even in the back seat) because I’m about to tell you:

In order to be an effective advocate at the at the State House (and to stay employed), it helps greatly to show up. Some believe that Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in fact, Absence will, with all certainty, replace the entire section of a lawmaker’s brain associated with your name, face, issue, history, and shoe choice with a vague recollection of the last time he or she ate meatloaf or laughed at a cat meme. So, showing up is key.

Another tip for long-term legislative endurance is the ability to find moments each day, whether in the metal detector line behind 16 school buses-worth of children, at the ropes with every dentist in the state on dental advocacy day, or overstimulated and cramped in room 132, to go somewhere else in your mind. No, I don’t mean thinking about the Everest-sized pile of dirty blazers in your closet or remembering how your car almost fell through to China in a pothole on DeKalb Avenue. What I recommend is that you think about how warm the sand is on Jekyll Island right about now, or what language they speak in Tahiti and do they really put tiny umbrellas in their drinks. Reminding yourself that life goes on in places without 2-headed claves, doorkeepers, or little bags of peanuts is important. Even brief delusional dreaming can provide a healthy reset to help you get to the finish line.

And my last morsel of advice (though I could go on forever) is that it helps to like people. Not just regular people, but all kinds of people – short, tall, old, young, all political parties and colors, and even those who don’t ever seem to like you back. Why bother, you say? Well, because in a place that is referred to as “the People’s House,” enjoying people can best show you what governing actually means. Many of the things that move our kids and families towards prosperity, safety, health and happiness are won through compromise, excellent listening, and a keen and prevailing desire to “do good.” Actually, I’d estimate that 90-95% of legislation that gets passed by our General Assembly is bi-partisan, bi-cameral, and without much dissent because folks in the state house and in state agencies genuinely want to help the rest of us. I find that comforting, and I try mightily not to take it for granted. Governing is hard work, and the pay is not so hot, plus there is no allowance for hipster clothes or fancy water. So when you pass through the hallowed grounds of the Gold Dome, try to remember that even though people may disagree at times, they all (usually) mean well. As some old guy on an elevator once told me, “We have the absolute worst form of government in the world – except for everywhere else!”

And with that, I am going to direct you to a few interesting things that have nothing to do with my perspective on the world (well, not much, anyway).

First is the fact that it was a light-ish week because it was “budget-hearing week” when all the agencies present their amended FY2020 and FY2021 budgets to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. These hearings are pretty interesting because you get the first real taste of what’s what in the budgets and because the lawmakers can ask the agency heads all kinds of pertinent questions. The hearings traditionally have a guest-appearance by the governor, and a decent “reality-check” by the state economist. This year was no exception. I recommend watching whatever you feel like for the hearings (you can find them here), but I especially recommend watching the economist, Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman. His presentation can be found here and runs from time 00:24:30 to 1:15:00. I never thought I would say this about an economics lecture, but it was fascinating. So if you are fixing dinner or changing a tire and need a little brain-candy, you should watch it.

Other than those hearings, not much happened.  This week, however, will be busy, with many more bills and hearings since the legislature in back in session Monday through Friday for Legislative Days (LD’s) 5-9 (they are only 40 or fewer LD’s per year).

  • By the way, while I have you here, I want to do some shameless advertising for the 2020 Census. We need to make sure everyone fills out their Census forms when it is time (mid-March through April this year) because each person counted will mean about $2300/person/year for ten years from the federal government! As my great grandad used to say, that’s a lot of jack! So please click here to learn more and to download and use a whole bunch of short videos, factsheets, posters, social media toolkits, etc. to share with everyone you know in the whole state. We want to be the best in the country at counting ourselves (and our kids!!!!), but it will take your help. (FYI, kids under 5 years old were the MOST UNDERCOUNTED population in the 2010 census, and 170,000 kids under 5 live in parts of Georgia that are extra hard to count, so we really need to make the Census work).

And with that, read on for bill summaries, and especially the action alerts at the end of this update.

Remember: Every. One. Counts. Especially you and your kids!

Polly McKinney
Advocacy Director
Voices for Georgia’s Children


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 544 (Efstration-104th) Revises procedures regarding emergency involuntary treatment and requires the affidavits of the persons upon which an emergency involuntary treatment order is based to be made part of the patient evaluation and among the documents that influence treatment decisions. The bill also revises provisions around curt ordered outpatient treatment, including accountability and informative measures. STATUS: House Judiciary Committee.

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 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 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 Hopper.

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: 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 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”:

Call members of the House Appropriations Committee and ask them to preserve funding for child-serving agencies.

The Why: 

The governor’s amended FY2020 budget (AFY20) and the FY2021 (FY21) budget recommendations, while attempting toaddress concerns about Georgia’s lower-than-expected revenues,nevertheless, if accepted by the legislature, would result in significant limitations to many of the services, initiatives and supports that help children and families thrive. A few examples of areas recommended for cuts: childcare subsidies, child and adolescent therapeutic services and homes, DFCS supervisors and child protective and benefit eligibility caseworkers, libraries, GBI forensic scientists, Family Connection Partnership, county public health departments, grants for evidence-based therapies for children in the juvenile justice system, and hiring freezes and contract re-negotiations for countless child-serving state workers.

Click below to see some of the cuts affecting children and families:

Governor’s Amended FY2020 Recommendations

Governor’s FY2021 Recommendations

The Message:

Dear Chair _________, ​I am concerned that cuts recommended to the amended FY 2020 and FY 2021 budgets will drastically impact many of the data-driven child and youth improvements Georgia has made over the last decade. Services provided to our children by Family Connection, child protective services, public libraries, county public health departments, community service boards, nurse home visiting, grants for restorative justice, and many other programs and agencies have pulled families out of poverty, protected tens of thousands of kids, and guided our youth towards bright futures. –And a bright future for our children means a bright future for our state! Please restore funds so that we can ensure ongoing success. 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 Committee.


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: