On February 27th, my colleagues and I reconvened at the Capitol to begin the eighth week of the 2017 legislative session. On Friday, March 3rd we reached “Crossover Day,” or the deadline for bills to pass the legislative chamber of origin to still be considered for legislation during session. Crossover Day is typically one of the longest days of our legislative session, and my colleagues and I worked into the night to pass House bills to send to the Senate for their consideration.

Concerning Health Care for Georgians
House Bill 65 is a legislation that would expand upon Georgia’s current medical cannabis laws by adding eight qualifying medical conditions to those that can register and use medical cannabis through Georgia’s Low THC Oil Patient Registry. Individuals with the following conditions would be eligible for the benefits from the registry: Tourette’s syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, Epidermolysis Bullosa, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV, AIDS, peripheral neuropathy, and those who are in a hospice program. Possession of cannabis oil with a maximum of 5% THC and a maximum of 20 fluid ounces would be permitted for these individuals. These individuals would be required to register with the Georgia Department of Public Health after receiving a recommendation from their physician and be placed on the Low THC Oil Patient Registry. They would then receive a registration card exempting them from prosecution in Georgia for the possession of medical cannabis oil that has been legally obtained in another state. The bill would also provide reciprocity regarding medical cannabis registration cards of other states, as long as the medical cannabis in such a person’s possession complies with Georgia’s laws. The registry was created after the General Assembly’s passage of HB 1 during the 2015 legislative session, and there are currently over 1,300 patients registered, proving the success of the program and treatment.

House Bill 427 would expand the current service cancelable loan program for physicians and practitioners in underserved areas. The program would become 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.

Concerning Education in Georgia
House Bill 338 passed the House this week and seeks to improve Georgia’s struggling and lowest-performing schools. This bill would create 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. The turnaround system would be led by a Chief Turnaround Officer (CTO) who would be appointed by the SBOE and would be a Department of Education employee with a minimum of 10 years of experience in K-12 education and experience in a principal position or higher in public school system for at least three years. The CTO would manage and oversee the turnaround schools and recommend turnaround coaches (individuals who are experienced in improving failing schools). This bill would also 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 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 and knowledge skills.

Concerning Georgia’s Military
House Bill 245 is a bipartisan legislation that was passed unanimously. It 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. This legislation is related to the Military Spouses and Veterans Licensure Act which requires professional licensing boards in the state to implement a process by which military spouses can qualify for profession, business or trade temporary licences, licenses by endorsement and expedited licenses. HB 245 corrects this exclusion by authorizing 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 would authorize the Department of Economic Development to create the Governor’s Defense Initiative, a grant program aimed at reviewing economic development 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 proposed goal of the grant; the extent that the grant would better the relationship between the military community and military facilities; 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. Each military community would be required to match these awarded funds allocated by the Department of Economic Development in order to receive the grant. 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 a way to thank them for their selflessness.

Concerning 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 members providing care or guardianship for a child, with contact information for a regional DFCS case worker is is knowledgeable in kinship care and financial assistance information. In addition, House Bill 331, known as the Caregiver Educational Consent Act, would authorize a kinship caregiver to give legal consent for educational 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, but would not affect the rights of the child’s parent or legal guardian.

With Crossover Day behind us, we will spend the remaining 12 legislative days considering Senate bills. Please continue to reach out to me concerning any questions you may have about any bills that are up for consideration during these final weeks.

You are welcome to visit me at my office located at 607-F Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.Atlanta, GA 30334. You may also feel free to call me at 404.656.0287 or send me an email at karen.mathiak@house.ga.gov. You can also stay up-to-date by following my Facebook page.

Thank you for letting me continue to serve and represent you.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Thanks for signing up!