Happy Holidays: How to spend the season

The holiday season is upon us and there are plenty of ways to celebrate in District 109. Here are a few festive events for you and your family to enjoy!

Conyers – The Last Living Christmas Tree
photo: property of Rockdale Newton Citizen

This year is the last change you’ll get to see The Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist Church of Conyers. After 17 years of performing, they’ve decided to put on one last grand show. There will be over 100 singers, an orchestra, and the church will be beautifully decorated. Bring your family and friends on Dec. 8th, 9th, and 10th for the show. More info here: The Last Living Christmas Tree

McDonough- Fill the Bus Campaign
photo: property of Henry Herald

The Fill the Bus campaign is an annual effort to make Christmas special for hundreds of children in Henry County. Every year, people fill the bus with toys which eventually go to the Community Cares Toy Shop where families in need will be able to select gifts. The bus will make several stops throughout Henry County until Dec. 5. Find out how you can help here:
Henry collects donations for Christmas toy shop with ‘Fill the Bus’ campaign

Henry County – Holiday Events
Henry Herald Staff Photo: Brian Hadden

December’s Calendar is full of family-friendly events including Christmas parades, festivals, and opportunities for children to meet Santa. You can read more details on these upcoming events here: Henry Celebrates the Holidays with December Events

I Want To Hear Your Feedback.

With the new legislative session being right around the corner, I want to know what’s on the minds of the voter.

What do you want to see accomplished in District 109? What are your questions and concerns? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and will help me serve you best. I look forward to hearing from you!

I participated in Take Your Legislator To Work Day.

Here I am photographed with Hannah ( to my left) and her co-workers.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month! I was honored to be asked to participate in Take Your Legislator To Work Day. The program is led by APSE: The Association of People Supporting Employment First. This organization created the program to raise awareness of the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities, and to show that employment should be the preferred outcome of publicly funded services for people with disabilities. I got the pleasure of going to work with Hannah Hibben at the Great American Cookie Co, located within the Locust Grove Tanger Outlets. She gave me a tour, I talked with her co-workers, and I learned about Hannah’s experience in the workplace. Click the following link to learn more about this terrific program: Take Your Legislator to Work Day
I Want To Hear Your Feedback.
With the new legislative session being right around the corner, I want to know what’s on the minds of the voters.

What do you want to see accomplished in District 109? What are your questions and concerns? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and will help me serve you best. I look forward to hearing from you!

Recovering from Hurricane Irma and Improvements in Education.

Hurricane Irma: Citizens and States come together

I hope everyone in District 109 is doing well and recovering from Hurricane Irma. It was more than a trying time for us, and most of all for the evacuees in search of refuge in our state. It was encouraging to see our state working together in that time of crisis.

I applaud the deputies, city employees, power linemen, hospital workers, helpful citizens, and everyone else who was instrumental in responding to the storm and its victims. Read this update from Sheriff Eric Levett about Rockdale’s experience with Hurricane Irma: Rockdale comes together to weather the storm

McDonough’s Union Grove HS beats national average on ACT

I was proud to learn that the Henry County Schools district is reaching new academic heights. We’ve scored 19.8 in the GA district category, 21.4 in the state, and 21 in the U.S. State Superintendent Richard Woods attributes this success to reducing the number of state-mandated tests and, of course, to the dedication of students and educators. To learn more about Henry County’s academic success, read this article: McDonough’s Union Grove HS beats national average on ACT

I Want To Hear Your Feedback.

With the new legislative session being right around the corner, I want to know what’s on the minds of the voter.

What do you want to see accomplished in District 109? What are your questions and concerns? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and will help me serve you best. I look forward to hearing from you!

House Resolution 798 and The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program.










On March 30, 2017, the House passed House Resolution 798. The purpose of this resolution is to create a committee tasked with studying the conditions, needs, and issues surrounding Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program in order to determine its effectiveness. I serve as chairperson of this committee.

“What is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program?”

The LIHTC program was established to incentivize and encourage developers and investors to create affordable housing. Developers receive federal income tax credits under this program and sell the rights to the credits to investors.

The committee and I want to ensure that this program is running efficiently. We will look into how many housing units are actually being created, how cost effective the housing projects are, how the program is making use of tax payers resources, etc. The LIHTC program has a large budget, so the committee wants to make sure funds are being used in the best possible way.

I Want To Hear Your Feedback! 

With the new legislative session being right around the corner, I want to know what’s on the minds of the voter.

What do you want to see accomplished in District 109? What are your questions and concerns? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and will help me serve you best. I look forward to hearing from you!

District 109 Updates That Concern You


Photo Credit: Henry Herald Staff Member- Asia Ashley

McDonough Opens Former Courthouse For Community Input-

McDonough city officials are asking for your input on how to use the former Municipal Court building located on Macon Street. Some have suggested that it be turned into a museum or even some kind of community facility. This is an opportunity for you to get involved in improving the community and learn about fellow citizens’ concerns.

What do you think this building should be used for? If you have any ideas on how to turn this property into something constructive for the community, email your suggestions to elyles@mcdonoughga.org.

Read more about this story here.

New Performing Arts Center Coming To Stockbridge-

A new performing arts center is in the works for Henry County. It will be located adjacent to Fairview Elementary School in Stockbridge. This new facility will ease parking issues at Fairview Elementary and will be a wonderful resource for teachers and students.

Read more about this new facility here.

The Race For The Fallen Charity Event-

The Race For The Fallen 5k & 1 mile returns to McDonough on September 9th. Proceeds from this race will go to families of fallen law enforcement officers. Sadly, life does not slow down after losing a loved one. These family members need our help and encouragement.

This race is a fun way to help the people in your community! All ages are welcome to come out to the Salem Baptist Church Recreation Complex for this event.

For more info & registration visit the race website.

Do you have questions about what I’m doing to advance District 109? Feel free to reach out to me with any questions, concerns, or thoughts on happenings in Henry County! I am proud to serve as your representative and look forward to hearing from you.

Office Number: 404.656.0254


Recent Education Bills and How They Will Affect You.

If you are a parent or a concerned citizen, I’m sure you are always thinking about growth in the education system. It is vital that our state’s young population get all of the education opportunities needed to grow into productive adults.

In the 2017-2018 Legislative Session, my colleagues and I voted several bills into law that will help our young Georgia citizens to make even bigger strides. Read some highlights from this year’s session below.

House Bill 338- Additional help for Schools

House Bill 338 will go into effect on July 1st, 2017 in order to improve Georgia’s lowest performing public schools. This bill will:

-create an alternative support and assistance system that falls under the State Board of Education’s intervention power in the form of a turnaround school. This turnaround school will create a new level of governance to supervise schools that choose this alternative.

-allow the State Board of Education to remove local boards of education, to create a Joint Study Committee on the establishment of a State Accreditation Process, and to create a Joint Study Committee on the establishment of a leadership academy designed to help teachers and principals grow.

Learn more about this bill here.

House Bill 331- The Caregiver Educational Consent Act

The purpose of HB 331 is to allow a kinship caregiver to give legal consent for educational services, medical services related to academic enrollment, and curricular & extracurricular participation. This bill will create the Kinship Caregiver’s Affidavit which is a form that will be valid for one year and designates the caregiver as a school’s point of contact. This bill will not affect the rights of the child’s parents or legal guardian, but would make life much easier for kinship caregivers and the children they look after. HB 331 goes into effect on March 3, 2017.

Learn more about this bill here.

House Bill 237- Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation

House Bill 237 establishes the Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation which allows for individuals, corporations, and communities to financially assist our state’s low-performing schools. This bill will make it possible for taxpayers to give private donations, so the fund can give grants to schools in need. HB 237 will go into effect on April 27, 2017.

Learn more about this bill here.

Thank you for reading. If you have any further questions about education in our state or about what I am doing to advance District 109, feel free to reach out to me!

Office: 404-656-0254

2017 McDonough Geranium Festival

The 40th Annual Geranium Festival is this Saturday, May 20th—9am to 5pm. This free street festival has been a McDonough citizen favorite for many years now, and you should plan to check it out.

Have you never been? You can expect local artisans, activities for kids, festival food, and a fun day with family and friends on the McDonough Square.

Parking is also free for this event! You can park at the Henry County High School and take a shuttle to the Square. You also have the option to park in  the Judicial Center Parking Deck and walk a short distance to the festival.

Don’t forget to visit local business in the square for lunch and additional shopping! This festival is a fun way to support McDonough business and learn about the community’s organizations, churches, non-profits, and more. For more details on the festival, visit the official Geranium Festival website  or their Facebook page. I hope you enjoy welcoming warm weather and outdoor fun this Saturday!

Week Eleven Update 2017

I was honored to recognize the Level 9 World Xtreme State Champions on March 24th.

The Georgia General Assembly reconvened under the Gold Dome on Monday, March 20 for day 36 of the 2017 legislative session. With sine less than a week away, the House had another busy week of reviewing legislation in committee hearings, voting on bills and resolutions on the House floor and giving final passage to several bills that will now be considered by Governor Deal. In these remaining days and weeks of the session, one might assume that our Capitol business is winding down, but on the contrary, we have especially ramped up our House efforts to perfect legislation before the 2017 session comes to an end.

Senate Bill 206

Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent defects in children from birth to age three, and early intervention is critical for these children, as oftentimes hearing loss can result in speech and literacy deficiencies. The House overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 206, also known as the Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Act, a bipartisan measure that would provide hearing aids to children in Georgia.

  1. This bill would require that health insurance plans in Georgia cover the cost of hearing aids for children 18-years-old and under who have been diagnosed with hearing loss.
  2. Hearing aid coverage would be limited to $3,000 per hearing aid, and insurers would be required to repair or replace one hearing aid per hearing impaired ear every 48 months for those who are covered.
  3. Insurance plans would cover all medically necessary services and supplies, including the initial hearing aid evaluation and all follow up appointments. The bill clarifies that these requirements would not prohibit a health benefit plan from providing more generous coverage to an insured individual, nor can a health benefit policy deny coverage to an individual because he or she was previously diagnosed with hearing loss.
  4. It will provide deserving children in Georgia with hearing aids and allow children with hearing loss to lead an unaffected life.

Senate Bill 108

The House has passed several measures to improve our state’s military installations and honor and improve the lives of our active duty military personnel, families and veterans. Women veterans oftentimes have different needs than those of their male counterparts, and it is essential that the General Assembly leads the way in ensuring that Georgia meets the unique needs of our female veterans. Passing the House unanimously, Senate Bill 108 will…

  1. Instruct the Department of Veterans Service to create and maintain a women veterans’ office to better serve Georgia’s nearly 100,000 female veterans.
  2. This office would conduct outreach to female veterans to inform them of federal and state veterans’ benefits and services eligibility, as well as assess the specific needs of women veterans regarding benefits and services.
  3. The office would also review programs, research projects and other initiatives designed specifically to aid Georgia’s women veterans, with a focus on issues such as child care and military sexual trauma.
  4. The office would also recruit and train women veterans to serve as mentors for those participating in a veterans’ court division, which provides an alternative to the traditional judicial system for cases involving a veteran defendant.

House Resolution 462

Another military-friendly measure that passed this week was House Resolution 462. HR 462 was adopted unanimously and further confirms the House’s commitment to strengthening Georgia’s military installations and supporting our troops, their families and our veterans. House Resolution 462 reaffirms the House’s dedication to our military personnel by signaling that the House would take all actions it deems appropriate to improve their quality of life, empower them to contribute to our nation’s defenses and maximize the value of our military installations. HR 462 reiterates the House’s sincere desire that the State of Georgia remains integral to our national defense. We are proud to support our armed forces, and by reaffirming our commitment to the military and adopting HR 462, we are sure to continue this trend of passing military-friendly legislation into the future.

  1. Georgia has the fifth largest military population in the country, and with an annual impact of $20 billion, our military is one of our state’s biggest economic drivers.
  2. The Department of Defense directly employs almost 150,000 Georgians and is indirectly responsible for an estimated 330,000 additional jobs in the state.
  3. Our state is home to approximately 750,000 veterans, making Georgia state the eighth largest state in terms of veteran population in the nation.

Senate Bill 174, Senate Bill 175 and Senate Bill 176

Throughout his time in office, Governor Deal has made it his mission to transform Georgia’s criminal justice system, giving offenders a second chance, saving taxpayers money and enhancing public safety in Georgia. To further expand upon these reforms, the House overwhelmingly passed three criminal justice reform bills this week: Senate Bill 174, Senate Bill 175 and Senate Bill 176. These landmark criminal justice reforms have been nationally recognized and emulated in other states across the country, and these measures will continue to build upon Governor Deal’s efforts in promoting rehabilitation and productive citizenry and enhance Georgia’s already remarkable criminal justice reform legacy.

  1. SB 174 would allow the Council of Accountability Court Judges to establish a peer review and certification process to guarantee that veteran court divisions are following the council’s standards and are adhering to the same policies, procedures and standards of other accountability courts in Georgia.
  2. SB 174 would allow the Board of Community Supervision to offer educational, skills-based programs for probationers to encourage employment and successful reentry into society.
  3. SB 174 would give judges the ability to require fines, fees or restitution payments as a probation condition with the option to waive the payment if the court finds a significant hardship.
  4. SB 175 would allow juvenile court judges to issue parental compliance orders in cases involving a delinquent child in order to promote the child’s rehabilitation and welfare and encourage parental involvement.
  5. SB 175 would expand a court’s options when determining how to proceed in cases involving a child that has been deemed incompetent but has committed a crime.
  6. Under SB 175, a court would be allowed to temporarily detain juveniles who pose a threat to public safety.
  7. SB 176 would offer a lower cost alternative to arrest and incarceration when an individual fails to appear in court for a non-serious traffic violation.
  8. Under SB 176, an individual who commits a minor traffic violation would be issued a traffic citation, and the officer would then release the individual for further appearance before the proper judicial officer. If the individual fails to appear for court, the court would notify the accused a second time by mail before issuing a bench warrant, giving the individual 30 days to dispose of the charge or waive arraign and plead not guilty.

House Bill 44

Each legislative session, the General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced state budget, and this week both the House and Senate gave final approval to House Bill 44, the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget. The FY 2018 budget guides all state spending from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, and the final version of HB 44 resulted from the collaborative efforts of a conference committee made up of House and Senate members.

  1. HB 44 was set by a revenue estimate of $24.9 billion, a $1.25 billion increase from the original 2017 state budget, and addresses some of our state’s critical needs and moves our state forward for our citizens.
  2. HB 44 focuses on our state’s most vulnerable citizens and includes funding for many of the House’s top priorities, such as child welfare, military communities and services members and rural communities.
  3. HB 44 supports our military population by providing funds for additional school counselors in school systems with large military student populations, additional scholarships for Georgia National Guard members and additional veterans support positions.

HB 44 is a win for each one of Georgia’s 10 million plus citizens and is sure to have long term, positive impacts on our state. The FY 2018 budget now heads to Governor Deal’s desk for his final approval.

March 24th marked legislative day 38. My fellow House members and I will now be quickly and efficiently reviewing and passing quality legislation to send to Governor Deal. During this last week of the 2017 legislative session, it is especially important to me that I consider your opinions and understand your concerns, so please do not hesitate to contact me to express your thoughts on any pending House or Senate legislation. My Capitol phone number is 404.656.0254 and my email address is dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. As always, I am honored to serve as your representative.

Week Ten Update 2017

Day 34: Cheerleading Team of the Year

On Monday, March 13, my House colleagues and I resumed our legislative business on Capitol Hill for legislative day 32 and the tenth week of the 2017 legislative session. With only a few legislative days remaining to complete our work before sine die, the House had a packed legislative agenda this week. We continued meeting in committees to review bills and voted on significant pieces of legislation on the House floor. Sine die is around the corner, and the pace has surely quickened as we continually strive to make Georgia the best state to live, work and play.

Senate Bill 85

We kicked off our week by passing Senate Bill 85, a bill that supports Georgia’s growing craft brewery and distillery industries. This legislation has been in the works for some time. SB 85 would allow craft breweries and spirit distilleries to sell limited amounts of their products directly to their visitors. Currently, breweries and distilleries are only permitted to distribute their products to customers through facility tours, but SB 85 would remove this requirement and allow these establishments to sell their products to the public for consumption both on and off the facility’s premises. SB 85 would allow malt beverage brewers and manufacturers to sell up to 3,000 barrels of malt beverages per year for consumption on and off the premises with a limit of 288 ounces per consumer per day for consumption off-premises. Spirit distilleries could also sell up to 500 barrels of distilled spirits per year for consumption on or off the premises with a limit of 2,250 milliliters per consumer per day for consumption off-premises. Currently, our state’s three-tier system requires breweries and distilleries to sell their products to a wholesale distributor who then sells the products to a retailer where the products are then sold directly to consumers. SB 85 would provide an exception to Georgia’s three-tier system, and with SB 85, Georgia would join the 49 other states that allow direct sales from breweries, bringing Georgia’s policy in line with other states and meeting the demands and needs of this growing marketplace. This bill supports Georgia’s small businesses and would make our state more economically competitive, further solidifying Georgia’s reputation as the No. 1 state in the country for business.

Senate Bill 169

This week we overwhelmingly passed a bill to honor our state’s law enforcement officers and give Georgians a way to show their appreciation to these brave men and women. Senate Bill 169 would create a specialty license plate with the phrase “Back the Badge” displayed across the bottom of the plate in support of Georgia law enforcement officers. These license plates would be available for purchase, and the proceeds from license plate sales would be distributed to the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Georgia, a fund that prepares Georgia’s peace officers for retirement and provides retired law enforcement officers with pension benefits. My colleagues and I are immensely grateful for Georgia’s law enforcement officers’ heroic and selfless service to our state, and this measure provides a mechanism for Georgians to thank and express support for the peace officers who put their lives on the line for each and every citizen.

Senate Bill 96

Senate Bill 96, a measure designed to improve lives by expediting the organ donation process, passed unanimously out of the House this week. SB 96 would:

  1. Expand the list of non-physician medical personnel authorized to determine or pronounce death if it appears the patient died of natural causes.
  2. It would authorize registered professional nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to pronounce the death of a patient in a nursing home or hospice care facility in the absence of a physician, regardless of the patient’s organ donor status.
  3. It would improve the quality of care of recently deceased individuals in Georgia while also improving the lives of many organ donation recipients.

Senate Bill 47

The House saw the unanimous passage of another measure this week that would provide a licensure exemption to allow certain visiting, out-of-state medical practitioners to legally provide services while they are in Georgia. Senate Bill 47 would permit out-of-state physicians, physician assistants and athletic trainers traveling with a sports team to provide care for athletes and coaching staff during sporting events in Georgia. The visiting practitioners would be required to be licensed and in good standing in another state, and this licensure exemption would require an agreement with the sports team before care could be provided. Such out-of-state medical personnel would not be authorized to provide care or consultation services to Georgia residents, practice at any Georgia health clinic or facility or write prescriptions in this state. Under current Georgia law, out-of-state physicians, physician assistants and athletic trainers are not permitted to provide care to their teams while they are in Georgia for a sporting event, but SB 47 would let these traveling health care providers perform their medical duties while visiting our state. There are 22 states with similar legislation, and enacting this legislation in Georgia would further encourage reciprocity between states.

Senate Bill 109

Another bill that the House passed this week was Senate Bill 109, a measure designed to quickly and effectively mobilize the day-to-day movement of out-of-state emergency management services (EMS) personnel across state lines during a declared emergency.

  1. It would create the Recognition of Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact (REPLICA) to allow emergency EMS personnel to enter Georgia and provide care to communities and citizens during declared emergencies by the governor.
  2. It would support the licensure of military members separating from active duty tours and their spouses, promote compliance with EMS personnel laws in member states and authorize member states to mutually recognize member state licenses.
  3. It would encourage member state cooperation and regulation and facilitate the exchange of information regarding EMS personnel licensure and rules between member states. The compact has been enacted in eight other states and would become fully operational once 10 states have enacted the compact.

House Bill 146

The House saw the final passage of House Bill 146 this week, one of the first of many bills this session to receive final approval by both chambers of the General Assembly. House Bill 146 would require fire departments to provide adequate insurance coverage for Georgia’s firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer. Because of their line of work, firefighters are exposed to dangerous cancer-causing carcinogens, and according to research, firefighters more likely to be diagnosed with certain cancers than the general population. Georgia’s courageous firefighters selflessly put themselves in harm’s way, in spite of the health risks associated with their occupation, to keep our families and communities safe. As a reflection of the General Assembly’s gratitude for their service, this bipartisan measure received overwhelming support in both the House and Senate this legislative session. This critical legislation will now go to Governor Deal’s desk for final consideration.

House Resolution 173

On Tuesday, March 14, the House recognized some of its most admirable citizens in honor of National Guard Day at the Capitol. As we celebrated National Guard Day in the House chamber, Adjutant General Joe Jarrard and members of the Georgia National Guard joined us and were presented with House Resolution 173 commending the Georgia Department of Defense’s 10,908 Army National Guard Soldiers, 2,896 Air National Guard Airmen and 509 State Defense Force members. These men and women serve the U.S. Department of Defense’s combatant commanders as ready military forces, as well as support homeland defense and provide civil authorities with defense support with the governor’s consent. Georgia’s Army National Guard is the eighth largest in the country, and last year alone, the Georgia National Guard deployed more than 600 soldiers and airmen. Our state’s valiant warriors are true patriots and make tremendous sacrifices to defend our freedoms. It was an honor to recognize the remarkable and distinguished Georgia National Guard members under the Gold Dome.

With only legislative five legislative days remaining in the 2017 session, the House will be busier than ever during this crucial time to ensure that the legislation being considered is good policy for Georgia and its citizens. As we continue working with the Senate to ensure the final passage of legislation this year, please do not hesitate to contact me with any concerns you may have about bills being considered at your State Capitol. Stop by my office at the State Capitol, call my capitol office at 404.656.0254, or reach out to me via email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative!

Week Nine Update 2017

On Monday, March 6th, we returned to the Gold Dome for legislative day 29, beginning the ninth week of the 2017 session. With Crossover Day behind us, the House went back to work this week and began to focus on legislation that was already passed by our counterparts in the Senate. We spent much of our time this week reviewing Senate bills in House committee meetings to ensure that each bill is fully vetted before its final passage. My colleagues and I still have much more work to complete for the citizens of this state before sine die.

Senate Bill 69

As House committees shifted their focus to measures from our Senate colleagues this week, some Senate bills began making their way through the committee process and onto the House floor for a vote. Senate Bill 69 was voted on by the House this week and passed overwhelmingly. This bill would eliminate the duplicative registration requirements for those who produce, process, distribute or handle any certified organic food or products in Georgia. Currently, these individuals are required to register with both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Georgia Department of Agriculture before producing, processing, distributing or handling any food or product labeled “organic.” Under this legislation, certified organic producers would no longer be required to register with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and would only be required to register with the USDA. Both the state and national Departments of Agriculture currently use these registration requirements, which are identical between both agencies, to compile individual lists of Georgia’s certified organic producers. While the Georgia Department of Agriculture would no longer collect this data under SB 69, the department would continue to provide public access to this list on its website by linking to the USDA’s list. By eliminating this unnecessary and redundant state certification requirement, we would improve and simplify this process for Georgians who provide organic foods and products to our state.

Senate Bill 78

My colleagues and I passed another Senate bill this week dealing with the Georgia Department of Agriculture that would better ensure the quality of our food. Senate Bill 78 passed by a wide margin in the House and would authorize the Commissioner of Agriculture to issue variances or waivers to certain Department of Agriculture rules and regulations. Variances or waivers would be issued to rules regarding food contamination and misbranding within the food retail service industry, including establishments such as grocery stores and meat markets that make food products like smoked salmon and beef jerky.

  1. SB 78 would authorize the Commissioner of Agriculture to grant a modification to all or part of a food safety requirement or rule if the rule would create a substantial, unique and obvious economic, technological, legal or other hardship that would impair that person’s ability to continue to function in the regulated practice or business.
  2. Under SB 78, in order for the commissioner to grant an individual a rule waiver or variance, the individual must first demonstrate that the rule can still be achieved through an alternative method, and variances or waivers would not be authorized if doing so would be harmful to the health, safety or welfare of the public. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already permits this flexibility at the federal level, and this bill would simply afford Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture this same flexibility to help those subject to the department’s rules while also continuing to protect the health of our citizens.

Senate Bill 102

Passing the House overwhelmingly, Senate Bill 102 will preserve life and incentivize statewide health care facility improvements.  

  1. It would create the Office of Cardiac Care (OCC) within the Department of Public Health. This office would be responsible for designating qualified hospitals throughout the state as “emergency cardiac care centers,” similar to Georgia’s stroke and trauma care centers.
  2. The legislation would establish a three-level emergency cardiac care designation system for these centers with each level providing various degrees of care to help emergency medical technicians quickly determine the most appropriate hospital for cardiac patients depending on the patient’s needs.
  3. The OCC would be required to conduct sites visits and collect, analyze and report data on all out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and heart attack patients in hopes of improving survival rates and providing comprehensive care to patients.
  4. It would give hospitals the option to apply through the OCC to be designated as an emergency cardiac care center if the hospital meets certain criteria, and grants would be awarded to hospitals in need of funding in order to be designated an emergency cardiac care center.
  5. The OCC would submit an annual report to the governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House and the chairpersons of both the House and Senate Health and Human Services committees specifying the number of hospitals that have applied for grants, the number of applicants eligible for grants, the number of grants to be awarded and the name and amount awarded to each grantee.
  6. The OCC would provide the medical directors of Georgia’s licensed emergency medical services providers with an annual list of designated emergency cardiac care centers and also maintain a copy of the list in the OCC and online.

House Resolution 389

In addition to passing Senate bills this week, the House also voted on and adopted a number of noteworthy House resolutions, which are typically not subject to the Crossover Day deadline. One resolution, House Resolution 389, would create the House Rural Development Council to identify the challenges and economic development opportunities in Georgia’s rural communities, an issue that has been at the forefront of many discussions this session. The House Rural Development Council would be made up of 15 members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House and would be tasked with examining the various challenges facing rural areas across our state. This council will also explore potential legislative solutions in policy areas such as education, infrastructure, health care access and economic growth incentives to revitalize our rural areas. Beginning April 1, 2017, the council would lead a thorough, intensive and systematic two-year study of rural Georgia by holding meetings throughout rural areas on a regular basis to hear from local officials, educational and business leaders, healthcare providers, civic groups and individuals interested in offering input. The council would submit two reports detailing its findings and legislative recommendations, with the initial report to be submitted by December 31, 2017 and the second report to be submitted by December 31, 2018. Although Georgia is the No. 1 state in the nation to do business, not all parts of our state have enjoyed the same levels of economic success, and rural Georgia faces its own unique challenges. The House Rural Development Council would provide our legislators with the opportunity to examine and seek solutions to these distinctive issues in rural parts of our state, and I look forward to seeing rural Georgia thrive as a result of this council’s work.

House Resolution 490

In addition to passing these bills and resolutions this week, my colleagues and I also had the chance to honor some very deserving Georgians. On Thursday, March 9, Major General James E. Rainey and men and women of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield’s Third Infantry Division joined us in the House chamber as the House of Representatives recognized Third Infantry Division Day at the Capitol. Fort Stewart is home to more than 20,000 active duty military soldiers and has been distinguished as the top U.S. Army installation worldwide six times. The Third Infantry Division, which is based at Fort Stewart, has the one of the most successful combat records of any U.S. Army division, having been deployed in both world wars, the Korean War, the Persian Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Additionally, the Third Infantry Division played a key role during the Cold War, and 51 Third Infantry Division members are Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. The House commended Major General Rainey and the Third Infantry Division with House Resolution 490 for their heroic service and great sacrifices for the people of our state and nation, and I am honored Fort Stewart and its courageous soldiers call Georgia home.

House Resolution 492

Finally, we took time this week to celebrate Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the State Capitol. House Resolution 492 recognized March 6 as Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. This day was dedicated to honoring Georgia’s highly trained and professional certified peace officers who daily put their lives on the line to serve and protect every one of us. Georgia’s approximately 54,000 certified peace officers serve across many state agencies. All of these officers must undergo a comprehensive training program that includes classroom instruction, practical skills building sessions and advanced specialized courses based off of their specific sections, such as criminal investigations and legal and organizational development. Georgia’s certified police officers enforce traffic laws and investigations, provide criminal investigation and forensic laboratory assistance, respond to natural disasters and promote and facilitate overall crime prevention and public safety. We have lost 699 officers in the line of duty throughout our state’s history, including nine officers within the past year alone, and it was only fitting that we honor the lives of the brave men and women we have lost and those who continue to serve and protect our communities.

March 10th marked legislative day 31 of the 2017 legislative session. As we continue working with the Senate to ensure the final passage of meaningful legislation, I encourage you to contact me in the weeks remaining with any concerns you might have about any of the bills that are up for consideration in the House or Senate. Your comments are always important to me, and I hope to hear from you soon. You are always welcome to stop by my office at your State Capitol, and you can reach me at my Capitol office phone number, which is 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative!