Voices follows bills that can affect children and families as they work their way through the legislative process. Every week during legislative session, we publish the legislative update, which you’ll find below.

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This week there was a lot going on at the Capitol, but what trumped all of that legislative session stuff for me was the worldwide announcement about a robot that can melt and re-form itself! In the video, it looks and moves like a cross between a little Lego guy and the transforming, gooey Mind Flayer in Stranger Things. The robot is made of a substance called gallium (a metal with a low melting point) with magnets thrown in it, and was apparently inspired by our little squashy-but-expensive friend, the sea cucumber. Word on the science-street is that someday this transformer can be used to take bad stuff out of our bodies. Could that eliminate the need for, say, stomach or colon surgery? I don’t know, but I can imagine a TON of non-medical applications for this robot too. How cool would it be to have your own little melty-man find that earring under your car seat, get the peach pit out of your garbage disposal, or repair the leak in the waterline to your house without killing that Japanese Maple you got as a wedding present? If “Melty” can learn to unclog and then load a dishwasher, I say “Welcome to the family!”

The melting robot news comes right on the heels of other recent news about ChatGPT, the robot that can write essays and answer questions. Obviously, I, myself, love to write. Also, I am snooty enough to think that my offerings might be a little more interesting than anything a robot can spit out, but I could be wrong. Is this and other Artificial Intelligence (AI) the new calorie-free, sugar substitute of our generation? It may not be as “organic” or pleased with itself as I am, but it may serve a valuable purpose. Can it knock out an easy-to-read report on sea cucumbers without typos and grammatical mistakes – or unnecessary caffeine intake – in a matter of moments? Yes. Could it summarize an 80-page bill without falling asleep or cursing? Probably.

Hey – I have an idea! Let’s plan to make good use of the time and energy these bots give us back. How about if, instead of spending time fixing typos or arguing over paragraph breaks, we spend those minutes on each other? I’d argue that if I added up all the time I spend each year wondering about the placement of commas, it would be enough time to deliver a few meals to folks who are hungry, enough time to listen to a child’s worries about the world, and perhaps even enough time to fix a few of them. Surprisingly, robots, bots, and AI may actually afford us the bandwidth we have been waiting for to feel empathy, practice compromise, and behave with kindness, patience, and generosity. And guess what? Those are foundational ingredients we each need to be happy. They are also the ones government agencies and folks need to best serve their constituents. Heck – maybe with a little dose of time, the empathy, generosity, and compromise parts could result in less hoteling of foster children, more home visiting programs for new moms and babies, more long term stability for afterschool programs and childcare, and overall meaningful systems changes for children and families! Call me crazy, but I say let’s start warming up with kindness and patience now while we are wait for Melty to get here!

Technically yours,


Polly McKinney Advocacy Director

SB 7 (Beach-21st)  Bill Link
Increases the mandatory minimum sentence for serious violent felonies committed with possession of a firearm or knife.
Status: Senate Judiciary Committee

SB 10 (Jones-10th)  Bill Link
Increases penalties for drag racing and also states that any person who is knowingly present and actively facilitating an exhibition of illegal drag racing shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and punished by a fine of at least $250.00. Active facilitation may be evidenced by using a vehicle to block the portion of the roadway closest to exhibition participants allowing the event to take place.
Status: Senate Public Safety Committee

SB 11 (Albers-56th)  Bill Link
Provides for concurrent jurisdiction by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in cases involving the identification, investigation, arrest, and prosecution of an individual or groups of individuals for violation of state laws concerning domestic, cyber, biological, chemical, and nuclear terrorism.
Status: Recommended Do Pass by Senate Public Safety Committee

SB 12 (Albers-56th)  Bill Link
Provides for sentencing to minimum terms of imprisonment for persons convicted of possession of firearms by convicted felons and first offender probationers when the offense for which such person is on probation or has been previously convicted is a forcible felony, a domestic violence felony, or an act of family violence. Among other things, the bill also provides that a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a criminal gang activity offense shall stop the defendant in any related civil proceeding as to matters proved in the criminal proceeding.
Status: Senate Judiciary Committee

SB 30  (Jones II-22nd)  Bill Link
Lessens penalties for possession of two ounces or less of marijuana.
Status: Senate Hopper

No child-relevant bills filed as of Saturday, January 28, 2023

HB 4 (Scott-76th)  Bill Link
Requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to create, operate, and maintain an electronic inpatient psychiatric bed registry.
Status: House Prefiled

HB 5 (Scott-76th)  Bill Link
Requires the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia to make menstrual hygiene products available at no cost to students in certain facilities or portions of facilities of institutions.
Status: House Prefiled

HB 6 (Scott-76th)  Bill Link
Provides for the submission of a waiver request by the Department of Human Services to permit the recipients of certain public assistance benefits to use such benefits for the purpose of purchasing diapers or menstrual hygiene products if the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service makes such waiver available to states.
Status: House Prefiled

HB 7 (Scott-76th)  Bill Link
Establishes a school-linked behavioral health grant program to provide early identification of and intervention for students with mental health or substance use disorder needs and to build the capacity of K-12 schools to support students with mental health or substance use disorder needs in the classroom.
Status: House Prefiled

HB 9 (Scott-76th)  Bill Link
Statutorily requires DBHDD to create, operate, and maintain the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, collect certain data and requires any state-operated registry of available inpatient psychiatric beds, crisis residential beds, or substance use disorder beds to report data for purposes of the access line.
Status: House Prefiled

HB 16 (Thomas-65th)  Bill Link
Extends the sunset provision relating to the use of sick leave for the care of immediate family members to July 1, 2026.
Status: House Industry and Labor Committee

HB 37 (Beverly-143rd)  Bill Link
Requires the Department of Community Health to mitigate the potential loss of Medicaid coverage caused by the discontinuation of the continuous enrollment condition of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act by providing, continuing, and expanding services; and to improve training, processes, technology, and communication to that end.
Status: House Public Health Committee

HB 38 (Beverly-143rd)  Bill Link
Expands Medicaid to cover eligibility up to a maximum of 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Status: House Public Health Committee

HB 41 (Marvin-98th)  Bill Link
Requires that when a person is committed involuntarily for emergency involuntary treatment for mental health and alcohol and drug dependency, the physician’s certificate or affidavits shall be affixed to the court order; Personally identifying the affiants shall be redacted and concealed in these instances.
Status: House Public Health Committee

HB 46 (Au-50th)  Bill Link
Expands enhanced punishment for aggravated assault and aggravated battery committed upon emergency health workers to all healthcare workers in a hospital or healthcare facility.
Status: House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee

HB 62 (Park-107th)  Bill Link
“Georgia Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) Act” – Creates a public, premium formatted health insurance plan for eligible adults with low income.
Status: House Health Committee

HB 63 (Williams-148th)  Bill Link
Requires insurers providing policies for groups of 20 or more to timely furnish claims experience at the request of a group policyholder; to allow such insurers that use other methods to apply to the Commissioner for approval of the use of an alternative form of claims experience reporting.
Status: House Insurance Committee

HB 69 (Thomas-65th)  Bill Link
Creates a one-year pilot program to provide a monthly supplemental benefit of $75.00 for three months to federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients who have been diagnosed with high glucose, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The supplemental benefit can only be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets and cooperative marketing associations.
Status: House Public Health Committee

HB 70 (Thomas-65th)  Bill Link
“Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act” – Requires a nonparticipating provider, prior to performing any healthcare services, to notify a covered person if such services will require $100.00 or more in out-of-pocket costs.
Status: House Insurance Committee

HB 74 (Barnes-86th)  Bill Link
Would allow for Medicaid coverage for the prevention and treatment of lymphedema.
Status: House Public Health Committee

HB 76 (Powell-33rd)  Bill Link
Revises provisions relating to education, experience, and training requirements for licensure in marriage and family therapy.
Status: House Regulated Industries Committee

HB 82 (Jackson-128th)  Bill Link
Limits eligibility for the rural physician tax credit to persons qualifying as a rural physician on or before December 31, 2023; and creates a new tax credit for rural physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.
Status: House Hopper

HB 85 (Cooper-45th)  Bill Link
Requires health benefit policy coverage for biomarker testing if supported by medical and scientific evidence.
Status: House Hopper

HR 43 (Au-50th)  Bill Link
Creates the Costs and Effects of Smoking Joint Study Committee.
Status: House Health Committee

SB 1 (Dolezal-27th)  Bill Link
Makes permanent (by removing the sunset provision) the prohibition on state and local governments from requiring proof of COVID vaccination for government services.
Status: Senate Health and Human Services Committee

SB 8 (Davenport-44th)  Bill Link
Creates the Commission for the Blind and the Visually Impaired.
Status: Senate Health and Human Services Committee

SB 9 (Rhett-33rd)  Bill Link
“Kathleen Cominski Act” – Requires state office buildings to have at least one functional automated external defibrillator on site at all times.
Status: Senate Health and Human Services Committee

SB 16 (Albers-56th)  Bill Link
Authorizes local entities to establish boundaries for the provision of emergency medical services.
Status: Senate Health and Human Services Committee

SB 17 (Rhett-33rd)  Bill Link
Creates a public, premium formatted health insurance plan for eligible adults with income between 100-138% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Status: Senate Insurance & Labor Committee

SB 20 (Kirkpatrick-32nd)  Bill Link
“Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act” – Ensures consumer access to quality healthcare by setting adequacy standards for network plans offered by an insurer.
Status: Senate Insurance & Labor Committee

SB 22 (Kirkpatrick-32nd)  Bill Link
Prohibits the purchase of, sale of, and the offering of samples of hemp products by or to any individual under the age of 18 years old.
Status: Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee

SB 24 (Butler-55th)  Bill Link
Authorizes appropriations for the purposes of obtaining federal financial participation for medical assistance payments to providers on behalf of Medicaid recipients and funding the state’s portion of the cost to expand the Medicaid program.
Status:  Senate Hopper

HB 1 (Kendrick-95th)  Bill Link
Provides for the compensation of pregnant women who but for a fetal heartbeat law could choose to terminate the pregnancy but are compelled to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth to a child.
Status: House Public Health Committee

HB 75 (Roberts-52nd)  Bill Link
Provides that natural persons do not include an unborn child and shall not be included in certain population-based determinations.
Status: House Public Health Committee

SB 15 (Harrell-40th)  Bill Link
Provides that natural persons do not include an unborn child and shall not be included in certain population-based determinations.
Status: Senate Judiciary Committee

HB 3 (Scott-76th)  Bill Link
Provides for grants by the State Board of Education to local units of administration to support students living in poverty.
Status: House Education Committee

HB 8 (Scott-76th)  Bill Link
Requires school attendance policies regarding excused absences take into consideration mental and behavioral health.
Status: House Prefiled

HB 14 (Kendrick-95th)  Bill Link
Requires the Department of Labor to establish criteria for the certification of workforce readiness programs and the certification of workforce-ready graduates. The bill allows that on and after January 1, 2024, an employer that employs a workforce-ready graduate in a full-time job for at least 40 weeks during a 12-month period shall be eligible for an income tax credit in the amount of $9,600.00 for each workforce-ready graduate.
Status: House Ways and Means Committee

HB 39 (Marvin-98th)  Bill Link
Provides that no institution of higher education shall refuse to provide an unofficial transcript to a current or former student on the grounds that the student owes a debt, condition the provision of an unofficial transcript on the payment of a debt, or charge a higher fee for obtaining an unofficial transcript, or provide less favorable treatment for such a request because a current or former student owes a debt.
Status: House Higher Education Committee

HB 51 (Pirkle-169th)  Bill Link
Authorizes local boards of education to use vehicles other than school buses for the transport of all students to and from school and school related activities.
Status: House Education Committee

HB 54 (Carson-46th)  Bill Link
Increases the annual aggregate limit of tax credits available for the qualified education tax credit from $120 million to $200 million per year starting in 2024.
Status: House Ways & Means Committee

HB 56 (Petrea-166th)  Bill Link
Provides for undergraduate full tuition grants to children of law enforcement officers, firefighters, and prison guards who were killed in the line of duty who attend institutions of the University System of Georgia, so long as the eligible student is under 22 years of age and maintains a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or greater.
Status: House Higher Education Committee

HB 65 (Thomas-65th)  Bill Link
“Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy Act” – Provides for a pilot program to provide grants for up to six local school systems to develop learning recovery programs for at-risk students to mitigate COVID-19 related lost instructional time.
Status: House Education Committee

HB 81 (Corbett-174th)  Bill Link
Revises the eligibility criteria for certain capital outlay grants for low-wealth school systems to include systems which achieved a low-wealth ranking during any of the three most recently completed school years.
Status: House Hopper

HB 87 (Erwin-32nd)  Bill Link
Revises and repeals certain provisions for alternative charter schools; provides for the continued operation of state chartered special schools until no later than the expiration of each such school’s current charter with the State Board of Education.
Status: House Hopper

HR 42 (Scoggins-14th)  Bill Link
Constitutional Amendment – Authorizes the General Assembly to provide by law that local school superintendents shall be elected by voters as an alternative to being appointed by local boards of education, if approved by local referendum.
Status: House Education Committee

SB 4 (Davenport-44th)  Bill Link
Enacts the “Blind Persons’ Braille Literacy Rights and Education Act”. Among other things, the bill requires an evaluation of a blind or visually impaired student to determine such student’s need for Braille instruction; and requires Braille instruction in the individualized education program of a blind or visually impaired student as appropriate.
Status: Senate Education & Youth Committee

SB 18 (James-35th)  Bill Link
Allows students and their siblings to attend the same schools so long as they continue to reside in the same resident school system.
Status: Senate Education & Youth Committee

SB 32 (Anavitarte-31st)  Bill Link
“Alyssa’s Law” – Requires local education agencies to implement a mobile panic alert system capable of connecting disparate emergency services technologies to ensure real-time coordination between multiple state and local first responder agencies in the event of a school security emergency.
Status:  Senate Hopper

HB 15 (Kendrick-95th)  Bill Link
Requires the state to establish a task force to evaluate and monitor the broadband equity of state-funded broadband network projects.
Status: House Technology and Infrastructure Innovation Committee

HB 24 (Thomas-65th)  Bill Link
Provides for the placement of a digital monument within the state capitol building or upon the capitol grounds to memorialize the Georgians who have died from COVID-19.
Status: House Special Rules Committee

HB 25 (Thomas-65th) Bill Link
Allows each toy manufacturer that increases its expenditures incurred in this state for materials or labor used directly in the manufacture of wooden toys for children by at least 30 percent from its preceding taxable year to claim a tax credit in the amount of 20 percent of the increase in such expenditures.
Status: House Ways & Means Committee

HB 26 (Thomas-65th)  Bill Link
Requires the Department of Community affairs to include certain indoor air quality provisions in applicable state minimum standard codes to require the installation of indoor air quality equipment and utilization of best practices in new construction permitted on or after July 1, 2024. These provisions include (but are not limited to) HVAC systems that can utilize a MERV 13 filter; adequate humidity control to maintain the humidity near or below 50 percent at room temperature; and fresh air ventilation through HVAC systems.
Status: House Public Health Committee

HB 30 (Carson-46th) Bill Link
Defines the term ‘antisemitism’ has the same meaning as provided for in the working definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) on May 26, 2016. The bill also requires state agencies and departments to consider such definition when determining whether an alleged act was motivated by discriminatory antisemitic intent.
Status: House Judiciary Committee. The bill will be heard in committee this TUESDAY.

HB 32 (Douglas-78th)  Bill Link
Provides that no high school which receives funding under Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20, the “Quality Basic Education Act,” shall participate in or sponsor interscholastic sports events conducted by any athletic association that does not utilize instant replay for high school football championship games.
Status: House Education Committee

HB 44 (Au-50th)  Bill Link
Requires universal background checks in all manner of firearm transfers and purchases.
Status: House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee

HB 68 (Thomas-65th)  Bill Link
Increases the tax credit available to employers that offer certain child care services for employees from 50% to 90% of the taxpayers liability.
Status: House Ways & Means Committee

HB 78 (Alexander-66th)  Bill Link
Requires all employers to implement paid sick leave for employees. Requires an employee to be compensated at the same rate of pay and with the same benefits, including, but not limited to, healthcare benefits, as the employee earns from the employer at the time the employee uses the sick time.
Status: House Industry & Labor Committee

HB 79 (Park-107th)  Bill Link
Revises a state income tax credit based to provide for a state income tax credit equal to 25%of the federal child tax credit, and for an income tax credit equal to 20% of the federal earned income tax credit.
Status: House Ways & Means Committee

HB 83 (Gunther-8th)  Bill Link
Allows owners, operators, lessees, or tenants of the property at which an athletic contest, entertainment event, or performing arts event is being held, or the sponsor of such a contest or event, may restrict access to such property and may reserve the right to revoke the license granted by a ticket at any time and for any lawful reason, including without limitation for safety and security reasons or due to any other lawful purpose.
Status: House Hopper

HB 88 (Gaines-120th)  Bill Link
Establishes protocols for review of cold case murder files by law enforcement agencies.
Status: House Hopper

HB 89 (Bruce-61st)  Bill Link
Establishes the Georgia Equity and Fairness Commission for examining the impact of slavery on the descendants of slaves and recommending appropriate remedies.
Status: House Hopper

HR 10 (Thomas-65th)  Bill Link
Creates the House Study Committee on Public Water Systems Serving Disadvantaged Communities.
Status: House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee

SB 3 (Albers-56th)  Bill Link
“Reducing Barriers to State Employment Act of 2023” – Requires every state department, agency, board, bureau, office, commission, public corporation, and authority to regularly assess the educational, experiential, and training requirements necessary for each position of employment within the entity and identify positions where the educational, experiential, and training requirements could be reduced from their present level; and when practicable, reduce the number of positions for which a four-year college degree is required as a condition of employment.
Status: Senate Government Oversight Committee

SB 25 (Butler-55th)  Bill Link
Increases the Georgia minimum wage to reflect cost of living increases.
Status: Senate Hopper

SR 6 (Gooch-51st)  Bill Link
Agreed upon adjournment resolution (schedule) for the General Assembly through Sine Die (the last day of the 2023 legislative session).
Status: ADOPTED by both chambers

The 2 Minute Advocacy Ask

The Ask:

Ask members of the House Appropriations Health Subcommittee to “Agree” to the governor’s budget direction found on Line 677 of HB 18 (AFY 2023, Dept. of Community Health section):

“The Department [of Community Health] shall submit a State Plan Amendment (SPA) to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand the Express Lane Eligibility program to include Childcare and Parental Services (CAPS), Refugee Cash Assistance, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).”

The Why:

  • Streamlining the process to determine if children are eligible for Medicaid and Peachcare will make it easier to keep kids insured on Medicaid and PeachCare.
  • Georgia has approximately 176,000 kids who lack health insurance. That makes us 4th highest in the number of uninsured kids in the nation. (U.S. Census American Community Survey (2021))
  • In 2021, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation requiring the state to implement Express Lane Eligibility (ELE) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This allows the state to use SNAP and TANF eligibility data to automatically enroll or renew eligible children in Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids® (PeachCare). ELE implementation began in October 2022. This budget note would expand on an existing policy.
  • Because ELE uses available, already verified data to renew coverage for children on Medicaid/PeachCare (known as “ex parte” renewal), the paperwork burden on families and the state is significantly reduced.
  • Learn more about things Georgia can do to help children gain health insurance coverage by checking out this Voices Factsheet!

The Message:

Dear Representative _____ ,

Please agree with the governor’s note on budget line item 677 of House Bill 18 (AFY2023).  It directs the state to “submit a State Plan Amendment (SPA) to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand the Express Lane Eligibility program to include Childcare and Parental Services (CAPS), Refugee Cash Assistance, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).” According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey (2021), Georgia has approximately 176,000 children who lack health insurance. Streamlining ways to determine eligibility for Medicaid or PeachCare is a great way to help them get covered so that they can get the well-checks, vaccinations and diagnoses they need to grow up healthy, happy, and productive. Thank you for your service and for all you do for the children and families of our great state.

The Contact Info:

(click name to email)

Darlene Taylor, (404) 463-2248
Devan Seabaugh, (404) 656-0152
Karen Bennett, (404) 656-0202
Debbie Buckner, (404) 656-0116
Lee Hawkins, (404) 656-7855
Carolyn Hugley, (404) 656-0109
John LaHood, (404) 656-5105
Mark Newton, (404) 656-7855
Jesse Petrea, (404) 656-5115
Ron Stephens, (404) 656-5115
Dale Washburn, (404) 656-0152

Calendar Highlights

Click on the event for registration link

January 31: Mental Health Day at the Capitol

February 2: GA Head Start Association day at the State Capitol (10am to Noon), Room 216 of the Capitol Building

February 15: Reception in Celebration of Children (5-7pm)

February 22: Georgia ACT Housing Day at the Capitol

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