Week Two Update 2018

Last Tuesday, January 16th, marked the second week of this year’s legislative session. My colleagues and I spent the majority of the week with one of our most pressing responsibilities—working on the budget. The General Assembly is required to pass a balanced budget every year, and we do that by hearing from committees, state agency heads, and reviewing Governor Deal’s recommendations. The House and Senate Appropriations committee met throughout the week for joint budget hearings.

Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget (FY 2019 budget) proposal is the largest to date in Georgia’s history! Our state has seen tremendous economic growth over the past few years, and this proposal reflects that. Georgia’s economic success paves the way for even greater improvements in education, transportation, healthcare, and other areas that affect all citizens.

Each year that we are able to maintain our title of the “No. 1 State in which to do Business” means more possibilities for growth in countless areas. The Governor highlighted the fact that Atlanta is a contender to host Amazon’s second headquarters. Our state economy has been consistently improving, so this does not surprise me!

Gov Deal gave his budget recommendations for several areas that I will highlight below.

TRASPORTATION

The FY 2019 budget recommendations appropriates a great deal to our state’s infrastructure to ensure that it grows with our population and transportation needs.

  • $1.9 billion to maintain and enhance our transportation infrastructure
  • $100 million for bridge repair and replacement
  • $25 million allocated from the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget (AFY 2018 budget) to expand runways at 11 airports.

 

EDUCATION

Gov. Deal has also allocated a great deal of funds to our state’s education system. Investing in our state’s future leaders is vital to our state’s continued success. The AFY 2018 budget includes:

  • $102.1 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth
  • $10.7 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program.
  • Fund allocation recommendations for the FY 2019 budget include:
    $30 million to assist low‐wealth school districts
  • $127.6 million to fund K-12 enrollment growth and training for Georgia teachers.
  • $1.8 million for the REACH Georgia Scholarship program.
  • $361.7 million for our state’s Teachers Retirement System

 

HEALTHCARE

Georgia has invested nearly $240 million in behavioral health since 2011. Because of this, we have see a notable decline in the number of citizens committed into our behavioral health hospitals. We want to see even more improvements in healthcare in the years to come. Gov. Deal’s healthcare recommendations include:

  • $15 million to continue to fund Georgia’s intellectual and developmental disabilities waiver services and to provide supportive housing for Georgians in need.
  • $ 3.5 million from the AFY 2018 budget and $7 million from the FY 2019 budget towards the Children’s Autism Initiative.
  • $22.9 million to fund crisis services, therapeutic foster care, Apex grants, telehealth services, suicide prevention, wraparound services, supported employment and education, and opioid prevention & treatment.

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

In my last blog post, I highlighted the success of accountability courts. These court systems provide alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. The FY 2019 budget includes allocations for $5 million towards accountability courts, so we can continue establishing and operating them throughout our state. This will help low-level offenders get the assistance they need to get back on track and keep them out of the prison system.
Programs & Initiatives

Gov. Deal lastly gave his budget recommendations for certain programs and initiatives to meet the needs of Georgia citizens’ overall well-being. This included:

  • $15.1 million for growth in out‐of‐home care utilization
  • $10.1 million to continue to increase Georgia’s foster parent per diem rates
  • $3.6 million to increase out‐of‐home care provider rates
  • $256 million for Medicaid expense growth and to offset federal revenue and settlement loss.

The General Assembly heard more budget proposals from Gov. Deal that I will update you on as session continues. The House Appropriations subcommittees will hear and review even more proposals this week. Leaders of these subcommittees will eventually pass along their respective portion of the budget to their committees before the draft goes before the full House Appropriations Committee. This committee is tasked with reviewing and passing balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.

MORE SESSION UPDATES – HOUSE BILL 159

Last week, the Senate passed their version of HB 159. This bill passed unanimously in last year’s session and would modernize our state’s adoption laws for the first time in nearly 30 years. The House will review the Senate’s amendments the this bill, and we hope to get this bill signed into law very soon!

As you read this, my colleagues and I are working towards creating a balanced budget for our state and passing legislation that will support our state’s continued growth. Return next week to learn about the third week of the 2018 legislative session!

You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for legislative term here. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

Session Has Begun – Week One Update 2018

On January 8th, the House joined together for the first week of the 2018 legislative session. This is an exciting and important time for my colleagues and I. We are currently hard at work on passing legislation that will improve the lives of Georgia citizens. The first order of business was for Governor Nathan Deal to deliver his final annual State of the State address.

After four decades of service to the state of Georgia, Governor Deal will retire. We were all encouraged by his speech which covered his hopes for the future and how far Georgia has come. Since Gov. Deal has been in office, Georgia’s unemployment rate has dropped from 10.4% to 4.3%, over 675,000 private sector jobs have been created, and Georgia has been named the number 1 state to do business with for the last 5 years.

I’m sure you have noticed the increase in GA film production over the past few years. Gov. Deal touched on this as well. There are now over 200 new companies located in the state of Georgia in support of our growing film industry. An impressive 92,000 jobs are tied to this industry! In addition to this, roughly 1,900 students have taken courses at the Georgia Film Academy. These individuals will eventually go on to support and further grow the industry. I’m excited to see how far our state goes in this area.

Gov. Deal touched on our improvements in education as well. Since he took office, state spending on education has seen a $3.6 billion increase which brings us to $14 billion in state education expenditures. You may recall the allocation of funds to create the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. This center opened in June 2017 to give educators the skills they need to improve literacy in our schools. Gov. Deal highlighted the center’s namesake First lady Sandra Deal for her terrific work as an educator.

My colleagues and I were also reminded of how far the HOPE Scholarship has come. When Gov. Deal took office back in 2011, the HOPE Scholarship and other grant programs were nearing bankruptcy. In response to this, Gov. Deal created reforms that kept these programs afloat along with the HOPE Career Grant program. This program covers the cost of technical school tuition for students in one of the 17 strategic industry, high-demand fields. 99.2% of these students have found employment!

The state of Georgia has also seen great strides in criminal justice reform initiatives. For example, our state’s accountability courts have been successful to say the least. These courts provide sentencing alternatives for non-violent offenders and have significantly decreased the prison population. Today, there are 149 reform programs and all of Georgia’s judicial circuits manage at least one kind of accountability court.

Finally, Gov. Deal spoke on his budget recommendations. For the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget he proposed:

  • $102 million for K-12 enrollment growth
  • $10.7 million for growth in Georgia’s Dual Enrollment program
  • $43.6 million for the Indigent Care Trust Fund and Medicaid
  • $15.1 million for child welfare services to care for children in state custody
  • $2.4 million for autism services for children under the age of 21
  • $17.6 million for Forestland Protection Act grants
  • $10 million for beach nourishment projects
  • $25.2 million for airport runway extension projects

For the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, Gov. Deal proposed:

  • $361.7 million for the Teachers Retirement System
  • $127 million for K-12 education
  • $30 million to assist low-wealth school systems
  • $28.8 million for child welfare services to fund out-of-home care growth and foster care per diem increases
  • $22.9 million to implement recommendations from the Commission on Children’s Mental Health
  • $5 million for accountability courts to implement new courts and expand existing courts
  • $31 million for transportation
  • $100 million to repair roads and bridges

 

These recommendations will guide the General Assembly’s decisions as we do our best to create a balanced budget.You will learn more about what will be included in the budgets as session continues.

While most of this first week of session was spent getting to work on legislative decisions, we took time to celebrate College Football Playoff National Championship Day. On the first day of session, the House adopted House Resolution 867 which recognizes Dan Corso, president of Atlanta Sports Council, and commends the Atlanta Football Host Committee for organizing the championship game. While we were not victorious, hosting the National Championship was a first for Georgia and that is something to be proud of!

We are currently in our second week of session working towards creating important, impactful legislation for the state of Georgia. Each week, you can return to my blog to read updates on the 2018 legislative session.

You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for legislative term here.

Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

Holiday Light Spectacular at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Holiday Lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway

The Atlanta Motor Speedway is full of fun year-round and the holiday season is certainly no exception. I hope you’re prepared for some festive fun because the Holiday Light Spectacular will stop you in your tracks. There are so many activities that you will be able to find something to please everyone you bring along.

Start your night off by driving through the giant winter wonderland light display. Here you can expect everything from giant reindeer flying above your head to long lighttunnelsof over three million lights. After the grand entrance, head down to the Village for your kids to meet Santa and tell him all of the things they are wishing for this Christmas. After that, head down to my personal favorite part: the carnival. If you love Ferris wheels, carousels, games, face painting, and delicious holidaytreats, this is the spot for you. With a wristband, you will have unlimited rides all night! Don’t worry mom, there is plenty for you to enjoy too. Santa’s Village has tons of shopping at local business vendors so you can get all of your holiday shopping done and maybe even buy a little something for yourself. After all of the fun, I know your stomachs will be growling so I recommend heading to Tannery Row Ale House to sit back, relax, and enjoy an exceptional dining experience. If you’re still hungry at the end of the night, you can sit by the open fire to warm up and enjoy frees’mores.

Need even more reasons to race down to the speedway? This Friday just so happens to be Cookies for a Cause where you can #DecorateforDonations alongside local Metro Atlanta Chefs. One hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit Speedway Children’s Charities and will remind you and your family what this season is really all about. If you can’t make it on Friday, plan to head over on Saturday for a showing of The Polar Express. All of  this fun is waiting for you in Henry County at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I hope you get the chance to enjoy celebrating at this great local attraction with your loved ones.

The Holiday Light Spectacular is open every day until Wednesday, December 30th this year, except on Christmas Day. Show hours are from 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm through the end of the month.

Source: Holiday Light Spectacular Info and Atlanta Motor Speedway

Photo Credit: Holiday Light Spectacular Info

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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