Week Eight Update 2017

On Friday, March 3rd we reached legislative day 28, also known as “Crossover Day.” Crossover Day marks a crucial deadline for the Georgia General Assembly as this is the last day for bills to pass the legislative chamber from which they originated to remain eligible for consideration for the session. It’s typically one of the longest days of our legislative session. We worked into the night to pass meaningful and significant House bills to send to our Senate counterparts for their consideration.

House Bill 427

My colleagues and I have focused a great deal of our attention to supporting our state’s rural hospitals and health care needs, and this week,we demonstrated our support for these areas by overwhelmingly passing legislation to would expand the current service cancelable loan program for physicians and practitioners in underserved areas. Here are just a few benefits of House Bill 427:

  • It would expand the program by making loans available to dentists, physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses who have completed their medical or health care education and would allow those loans to be repaid by those health care practitioners agreeing to provide health care services in rural areas.

  • It would address the shortage of physicians and other health care practitioners in underserved rural Georgia and reflects a statewide push to solve this issue, as the bill’s intent is to attract quality providers to areas in dire need of medical assistance.

    House Bill 338

The General Assembly has proven its commitment to improving educational opportunities for Georgia’s students year after year through wide-ranging public policy. House Bill 338 passed the House this week, and I look forward to seeing the long-term positive effects of this legislation:

  1. It seeks to improve Georgia’s struggling and lowest performing public schools.

  2. It creates an alternative support and assistance system that falls under the State Board of Education’s (SBOE) intervention power, or schools that receive an unacceptable rating, in the form of a turnaround school which would create a new level of governance to oversee these schools that choose this turnaround alternative.

  3. This bill would expand the SBOE’s ability to remove local boards of education and would create a Joint Study Committee on the Establishment of a State Accreditation Process to explore the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a state public school and school system accreditation process and a Joint Study Committee on the Establishment of a Leadership Academy to study the possibility of establishing a leadership academy for principals and school leaders to grow in their leadership knowledge and skills.

  4. It will greatly benefit our students attending underperforming public schools across our state and also allow us to understand the root of the issues plaguing so many of our young learners.

    House Bill 245

We saw the passage of several bills this week that would further improve Georgia’s status as a “military friendly” state. House Bill 245, a bipartisan measure that received unanimous passage, would require the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to streamline the process to allow military spouses to qualify for temporary certificates, certificates by endorsement or expedited certificates to better facilitate their entry into Georgia’s workforce when moving to our state.

Military Spouses and Veterans Licensure Act: a measure requiring professional licensing boards in the state to implement a process by which military spouses can qualify for profession, business or trade temporary licenses, licenses by endorsement and expedited licenses.

The Military Spouses and Veterans Licensure Act addressed a real concern thousands of military families faced, but the act inadvertently omitted teacher’s licenses from eligibility. HB 245 authorizes military spouses who serve as certified educators in another state to teach in Georgia’s public schools, allowing the individual to immediately begin working upon relocation while they await permanent licensure.

House Bill 470

Another bipartisan bill that passed unanimously this week and would create a better quality of life for our military personnel was House Bill 470. House Bill 470 would authorize the Department of Economic Development to create the Governor’s Defense Initiative, a grant program aimed at reviewing economic development opportunities at and around military installations and providing assistance to communities surrounding these facilities. A military community would submit a grant application to the Department of Economic Development, and the department would determine the grant amount on a case-by-case basis by taking into account  the following:

  1. The proposed goal of the grant.

  2. The extent that the grant would better the relationship between the military community and military facilities.

  3. The promotion of the military installation’s economic development investment into the military community; or assistance in efforts to protect the military installation from a federal review.

In order to receive the grant, each military community would be required to match these awarded funds allocated by the Department of Economic Development. HB 470 would provide military communities with the opportunity and financial means to simultaneously invest in the communities and protect Georgia’s precious military installations. Our military installations represent the single largest economic development investment in our state, providing thousands of jobs to their surrounding communities. Investing in these communities encourages stronger relationships between military installations and the communities they host. Our military personnel and families make great sacrifices to ensure our safety, and this measure, and other the military-friendly bills passed this session, are the least we can do to thank the brave men and women who selflessly protect our freedoms.

House Bill 330 & 331

Finally, the House unanimously passed two bipartisan bills to improve kinship care in Georgia. House Bill 330 would require the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to provide kinship caregivers, meaning relatives or family friends who have taken on the responsibility and guardianship of a child, with contact information for a regional DFCS case worker who is knowledgeable in kinship care and financial assistance information.

House Bill 331, known as the Caregiver Educational Consent Act, would authorize a kinship caregiver to give legal consent for educational services, medical services relating to academic enrollment and curricular and extracurricular participation, making it easier for kinship caregivers to enroll children in school. The bill would create the Kinship Caregiver’s Affidavit, a form that would be valid for one year and would designate the caregiver as a school’s point of contact for the child regarding attendance, discipline and educational progress, but would not affect the rights of the child’s parent or legal guardian. There are over 100,000 children in Georgia in kinship care, and this legislation would provide support to these families across the state by simplifying processes and providing caregivers with necessary resources to help them raise a child.

All bills passed by the House must “cross over” to the Senate and vice versa. We will spend the remaining 12 legislative days considering Senate bills. In these last days of the 2017 session, I hope you will reach out to me if you have any questions on bills that may be up for consideration during these final weeks. As your representative, your thoughts and opinions on these important issues are essential to my decision-making process. I appreciate your input and am happy to answer your questions. 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.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative!