2015 Legislative Session Weekly Wrap-up: Week One

Dale RutledgeMonday, January 12, 2015, was the start of the 153rd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly, marking the first day of the 2015-2016 term. All 180 members of the Georgia House of Representatives were sworn into office and speaker David Ralson (R-Blue Ridge) and Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones (R-Milton) were both reelected to their respective positions.

Governor Nathan Deal held his inauguration and also delivered his annual State of the State address, where he conveyed his assessment of the current condition of our state government and goals for continued success in the new year.

In his address, Gov. Deal addressed the following key points:

– Georgia’s notable progress through the creation of 319,000 jobs and a 643 percent increase in the state’s rainy day fund and the future growth for the upcoming years, as companies like Mercedes-Benz USA and Porsche North America relocate their headquarters to Georgia.

– Existing needs to be addressed in the coming months by the General Assembly.  He called for the establishment of an Education Reform Commission to continue to improve our education system. This commission will be studying the following topics regarding our education system: increasing access to Georgia’s early learning programs, recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, expanding school options for Georgia’s families, examine the most appropriate ways to modernize our Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula, which was created in the 1980s.

– He also suggested a constitutional amendment to create Opportunity School Districts, meaning the state would help to rejuvenate failing public schools. The General Assembly will continue to invest in education, with  this year’s budget, along with his proposal for next year’s budget, brings in over one billion additional dollars for K-12 education.

– He continues to look at improving the quality of life for Georgia’s children by recommending additional funds for the Department of Family and Children Services. He also expressed support for the decriminalization of medical cannabis oil in Georgia for those that have obtained it legally in another state, meaning those who purchase the medical oil in another state could legally come back to Georgia.

– His last topic was on Georgia’s increasing transportation needs. Georgia is now the 8th most populated state. A cut to the state’s revenue from the excise tax has caused a rise in fuel efficient vehicles, so we will be working together with Governor Deal to fill in those budgetary gaps.

After Gov. Deal announced his goals, he then released his budget proposals on January 16. Just as in his State of the State address, he also made education a top priority in the state’s budget.For the Amended Fiscal Year 2015 budget for the current fiscal year, he designated $8.3 million directly to local school systems and an additional $35 million in grants to help classrooms across the state gain greater access to broadband internet. In his Fiscal Year 2016 budget, he set aside more than a half a billion dollars in new funding for Georgia’s education system, including $280 million that will help local school systems increase instructional days, eliminate furlough days, and enhance teachers’ salaries.

I wanted to share a few highlights from his budget proposals. My hope is to provide you with more information next week, once my colleagues and I carefully review the recommendations in our Joint Budget Hearings with the Senate. Head over to our website www.house.ga.gov to watch our hearings online, watch the House in action, view live and archived committee meetings, and review legislation that we are considering.

We also received our committee assignments for the 2015-2016 legislative term, this week. I am proud to announce that Speaker Ralston and the Committee on Assignments appointed me to serve on the following House committees: Ways and Means and Transportation committees.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as we move throughout the legislative session this year. You are always welcome to visit me at my office, which is located at 1320 Lakehaven Pkwy McDonough, GA. 30253. You may also call my office at 678-438-7181, or reach me via email me at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

March 8, 2013 Weekly Update

 

Week Ending March 8, 2013

As your representatives, it is important for us to consider your views throughout the legislative process.  Please feel free to call our capitol office at 404-656-0109 or email us to tell us what you think about the issues facing our state. 

           Thursday, March 7th marked the 30th legislative day of the 2013 session.  Known as “Crossover Day,” this critical point in the session marks the last chance for most bills to pass the legislative chamber from where they originated.  This is because by the end of Crossover Day, all legislation passed by the House must “cross over” to the Senate, and vice versa.  As a result, any House bill that has not passed the House by the end of Crossover Day will have little chance of becoming law this year, because the remaining ten legislative days will be used to consider Senate bills.  Due to this deadline, the House worked long hours this week, debating and voting on lengthy lists of pending legislation.

 

One of the bills passed this week that may directly affect your family is House Bill 123, the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act.  This legislation would allow parents to petition their local school board to convert their traditional public school into a public charter school. HB 123 also provides parents and teachers several options for transforming low-achieving schools.  These options would allow parents and teachers to decide whether their low-achieving school should: 1) remove administration; 2) restructure the school; 3) allow students an option to transfer to a better performing school in the district; 4) utilize a school management team; and/or 5) impose student improvement plans. To enact these options or convert to a charter school, more than 50 percent of parents or teachers would have to sign a petition. The petition would then go before the local school board for consideration, who could defeat the petition by a simple majority vote.  If, however, a petition is supported by more than sixty percent of parents or teachers, the board must have a two-thirds vote to reject the petition.  This measure is intended to engage students, inspire teachers, and involve parents in their children’s education.

 

Another bill passed this week would help veterans find jobs after returning home from serving their country and protecting our freedom.  House Bill 188 creates the potential for newly honorable discharged veterans who have received training in certain specialized skilled trades to receive an initial professional license for that trade from the Secretary of State.  The bill does this by creating a committee that would identify military jobs with requirements that meet or exceed Georgia requirements for certification in skilled trades applicable to HVAC, plumbing, electrical contracting, utility foreman or residential light commercial contracting.  If their research shows it is appropriate, the committee could allow an exemption from some Georgia requirements for veterans with these skills.  The committee could also certify military spouses living in Georgia who have a skilled trade certification from another state if the committee determines that the other state’s requirements meet or exceed Georgia’s requirements.  This will help our state fill the 60,000 vacancies in these skilled trades expected over the next seven years and reduce the number of unemployed veterans in Georgia.

 

One of the most debated bills on Crossover Day, House Bill 512, would allow licensed weapons holders who have gone through the process of finger printing, a background check, and a mental health inquiry to obtain a Georgia Weapons License (GWL) to carry their firearms in more places in Georgia than currently allowed by state law.  This bill, known as the Safe Carry Protection Act, would allow property owners – not the government – to decide whether a licensed weapon holder may carry a gun in their places of worship and establishments that primarily serve alcohol beverages. The bill would also allow GWL holders to carry their firearm in a government building that is not afforded the protection of security services at the entrances or exits of the premises.  Additionally, HB 512 would allow gun owners to carry their firearms on most areas of public college campuses, but would not allow weapons in residence halls or competitive sporting events. 

 

Further, the Safe Carry Protection Act would no longer require fingerprinting for GWL renewal, but would continue to require fingerprinting for first time applicants.  Another important section of this bill creates uniformity in Georgia gun laws by making the General Assembly solely responsible for regulating possession, ownership, transfer, licensing, and registration of firearms or other weapons, as well as gun shows. HB 512 would also give each local Board of Education the option to designate one or more administrators to possess a weapon in a school safety zone. The bill additionally addresses the issue of gun owners who unknowingly bring their weapons to commercial airports.

 

Moreover, the Safe Carry Protection Act improves Georgia’s gun laws by strengthening mental health inquiries for obtaining a Georgia Weapons License. HB 512 would make it mandatory for a probate judge to perform an inquiry with the Georgia Criminal Information Center (GCIC) to determine whether applicants for a Georgia Weapons License have received involuntary treatment ordered by a court or medical professional. Applicants who have received involuntary treatment within the last five years could only receive a license if the probate judge determines that the applicant is mentally fit. The bill also prevents any person falling into any of the following categories from receiving a Georgia Weapons License: (1) anyone who has been under the care of a guardian or a conservator appointed to represent that person as a result of a mental illness or substance dependency within the last five years; (2) anyone who has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial; (3) anyone who has been found not guilty by reason of insanity; (4) anyone who is a registered sex offender; or (5) anyone who has made a threat against another person that was reported to the GCIC within the last five years.

 

This week we also passed House Bill 287.  This bill was introduced in response to the numerous comments we received from Georgians who were upset by a reduction in the state Archives’ operating hours. Georgians contacted their state representatives to let us know they wanted the archives to stay open, and we listened. Your emails, letters, and phone calls led us to pass HB 287, which would reassign the Division of Archives and History from the Secretary of State’s office to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

 

In addition to House Bills 123, 188, 512, and 287, we also passed House Bills 34, 36, 45, 78, 94, 104, 124, 125, 127, 131, 132, 139, 146, 150, 184, 189, 192, 197, 199, 203, 207, 211, 215, 229, 238, 240, 256, 266, 268, 271, 276, 287, 289, 296, 297, 310, 317, 318, 323, 332, 337, 345, 350, 354, 361, 362, 365, 371, 372, 375, 381, 382, 389, 399, 400, 402, 407, 434, 443, 451, 454, 458, 463, 473, 475, 482, 486, 487, 497, 494, 499, 506, 513, 511, 517, 520, 536, 537, 538, 539, and 540, as well as House Resolutions 73, 107, 502, 549, and 603

 

Now that this legislation has been approved by the House, it has been sent to the Senate for consideration. If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, these bills will become law.  You can learn more about these bills and track their progression through the legislative process by visiting our website at www.house.ga.gov.

Now that Crossover Day has passed, the remaining ten legislative days will be used to consider legislation already passed by the Senate. Please let us know if you have any comments or questions regarding this Senate legislation. We will be sure to consider your comments as the Senate bills begin to make their way through the House committee process.

We welcome you to visit us at the capitol during this legislative session. You can also reach out to us with your questions or concerns by contacting us at:

Dale Rutledge, District 109

404-B Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.

Atlanta, GA 30334         404.656.0109 – Office

Andy Welch, District 110

404-F Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.

Atlanta, GA 30334         404.656.0109 – Office

Brian Strickland, District 111

404-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.

Atlanta, GA 30334         404.656.0109 – Office

Dale Rutledge
District 109

 Dale Rutledge at desk on floor

Andy Welch
District 110

 Andy Welch at desk on floor

Brian Strickland
District 111

 Brian Strickland at desk on floor

Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

March 1, 2013 Weekly Update

 

Week Ending March 1, 2013

As your representatives, it is important for us to consider your views throughout the legislative process.  Please feel free to call our capitol office at 404-656-0109 or email us to tell us what you think about the issues facing our state. 

            Friday, March 1, 2013, marked the 27th legislative day of the 2013 legislative session. Now that we’re almost three quarters through session, the House is considering more legislation than at any other time this session. We spend longer days at the capitol, and vote on more legislation. Some of the bills we passed this week would strengthen Georgia’s ethics laws, modernize Georgia’s juvenile justice code, and create uniformity in the way Georgia teachers are evaluated.

 

            House Bills 142 and 143 would strengthen Georgia’s ethics laws by banning expenditures by lobbyists on individual members of the General Assembly and by making common sense changes to the campaign contribution disclosure requirements. HB 142 specifically bans gifts of tickets to athletic, sporting, recreational, musical concerts and other entertainment events from lobbyists to state officials, which is currently allowed. The only exception would be for events where all members of the General Assembly are invited like the annual legislative day held at UGA, Georgia Tech or other collegiate sporting events held in Georgia.  Food and beverages may be provided to legislators only at group events where all members of the General Assembly, all members of the state House or Senate, all members of a standing committee or subcommittee of either body or a caucus of either body are invited.  HB 142 also restores power to the Georgia Government and Campaign Finance Commission by empowering it with rule making authority.  Further, it clarifies and broadens the definition of who must register as a lobbyist.  HB 143 will require greater transparency in campaign finance by requiring disclosure of all contributions of more than $100 received between January 1st of each year and the convening of the General Assembly’s regular session.  These campaign contributions would have to be disclosed with five days of the beginning of the legislative session.

 

            House Bill 242, or the Juvenile Justice Reform bill, would substantially revise and modernize provisions relating to Georgia’s juvenile proceedings and enact comprehensive juvenile justice reforms.  These changes have been discussed by advocacy organizations for years and many were recommended by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which Governor Nathan Deal asked to study the state’s juvenile justice system and formulate ways to improve public safety while decreasing costs. Among the changes enacted by HB 242 are general definitions of key terms used in juvenile courts and guiding principles that would apply in all juvenile court proceedings. HB 242 would also provide consistency with national standards for cases involving children who have been abused or neglected by the adults responsible for their well-being. Additionally, the bill would create a new approach for children who have committed acts that would not be against the law if they were adults, such as skipping school, running away from home, or violating curfew. This bill also revises current law regarding how Georgia courts determine a child’s competency in juvenile proceedings. In addition to the many changes made to Georgia law governing juvenile proceedings in state courts, HB 242 makes some changes to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

 

            House Bill 244 would create uniformity in the way Georgia teachers are evaluated by establishing a single statewide educator evaluation system. This evaluation system has been piloted in 50 districts across the state, and teachers, superintendents, principals, and advocates who participated in the pilot program all came together to publicly support this bill.  The evaluation system implemented by HB 244 would become effective no later than the 2014-2015 school year, and would apply to teachers, assistant principals, and principals. Creating this evaluation system would ensure all public school teachers and school leaders in Georgia receive the feedback they need to grow and improve in their profession. This evaluation would recognize the outstanding teachers in this state, and identify specific areas that teachers can improve to become outstanding teachers. Because the evaluations will be used to help educators receive the feedback they need to do the best job possible, the evaluation system would include measures to protect educators’ privacy. 

 

      In addition to House Bills 142, 143, 242, and 244, we also passed House Bills 70, 141, 155, 156, 175, 177, 187, 205, 210, 226, 252, 266, 274, 281, 283, 293, 302, 315, 320, 324, 327, 328, 329, 336, 384, and 388. Now that this legislation has been approved by the House, it has been sent to the Senate for consideration. 

We welcome you to visit us at the capitol during this legislative session. You can also reach out to us with your questions or concerns by contacting us at:

Dale Rutledge, District 109

404-B Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.

Atlanta, GA 30334         404.656.0109 – Office

Andy Welch, District 110

404-F Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.

Atlanta, GA 30334         404.656.0109 – Office

Brian Strickland, District 111

404-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.

Atlanta, GA 30334         404.656.0109 – Office

Dale Rutledge
District 109

 Dale Rutledge at desk on floor

Andy Welch
District 110

 Andy Welch at desk on floor

Brian Strickland
District 111

 Brian Strickland at desk on floor

Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Week Ending February 8, 2013 Update

combined 3 rep newsletter logogThe fourth week of the 2013 legislative session proved to be an important week under the Gold Dome.  Committees met to consider legislation, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of the Georgia Supreme Court delivered the State of the Judiciary Address, and we ended the week by approving the Amended Fiscal Year 2013 state budget.

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