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.