On Monday, Jan 29th my colleagues and I reconvened for the 4th week of this year’s legislative session. The week was comprised of bill proposal hearings and passing legislation that will positively affect the lives of Georgia citizens. In this blog post, I want to share with you some details on bills concerning adoption, tax reform, retirement benefits for law enforcement, and the preservation of our state’s ecosystem.
Adoption Law Updates
In a previous blog post, I mentioned that our state’s adoption laws would soon be modernized. House Bill 159 passed unanimously in the House. The House worked with the Senate & the governor’s office to make some amendments and create a bill we could all agree on. This bill includes:
–A four-day revocation period– Currently, birth mothers have 10 days to revoke surrender of the child. This new version of HB 159 will cut that time down to 4 days in order to balance out the rights of the birth mother and those of the adoptive parents.
–Reasonable living expense update– At present, only birth mothers in agency adoptions are allowed reasonable living expenses. Updates to HB 159 would allow birth mothers to receive reasonable living expenses in private and agency adoptions.
–Updates to repeal conflicting laws– HB 159 includes safeguards on temporary powers of attorney. It also requires local boards of education to extend maternity leave and other benefits to adoptive parents. You can read additional, similar updates here.
The updated version of HB 159 is now in the Senate and will soon be on its way to Gov. Deal’s desk for approval. This is an exciting piece of legislation for future adoptive parents and for our state’s children. I will keep you updated on the bills progress in later blog posts.
House Bill 661 and 694-Tax Reform
Another bill that passed unanimously was House Bill 661 which would make the process for filing and removing tax liens against real estate more efficient and transparent. This bill would:
-remove the current provision concerning statewide liens and revert back to county specific liens,
-require every tax lien against realty to be filed with the superior clerk in the county where the real estate is located,
-and increase transparency for taxpayers by updating the Department of Revenue’s process to electronic-based transactions as opposed to paper-based.
The House also passed another bill concerning tax reform last week. House Bill 694 would update the way motor fuel distributors and wholesalers submit their monthly motor fuel tax reports to the Department of Revenue. Currently, distributors file reports electronically if they owe the department $500 or more. This updated bill would require distributors to submit all monthly reports electronically, regardless of the distributor’s tax liability.
House Bill 135-Retirement benefits for DDS Investigators
House Bill 135 would expand the term “law enforcement officer” to include Department of Driver Services (DDS) investigators. Investigators would qualify to receive up to an additional 5 years of creditable service in the state’s Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) for past law enforcement service. DDS investigators that are not already receiving retirement benefits from a local government for the same service and/or if they have been a member of the retirement system for at least 10 years will not be eligible. This bill updates a measure from last year that made it possible for all other law enforcement officers to receive creditable service through ERS.
House Bill 671-Specialty License Plate
The last bill I want to share with you concerns our state’s official state insect—the honey bee. Georgia is the 3rd largest bee producer and the 10th largest honey producer in the US. House Bill 671 would create a specialty license plate to promote honey bee conservation in order to protect an essential player in our state’s ecosystem. All the proceeds from license plate sales will go to the Georgia Beekeepers Association. This effort will raise awareness about honey bee endangerment and support beekeeper education, prison beekeeping, grants for beekeeping organizations, and research facilities.
The 28th day of the 40-day legislative session is called “Crossover Day.” This is the last day for a bill to move from one chamber to another. This means that my colleagues and I will be working diligently as we approach Crossover Day to make sure certain bills get the opportunity to be signed into law this year.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!