On Monday, February 5th, the fifth week of the 2018 legislative session began. It was a busy week, as my colleagues and I worked diligently to pass several different bills. I am excited to share with you all that we have worked towards and accomplished over the past week!

House Bill 683 – I am pleased to report that after much consideration by the House Appropriations Committee and subcommittees, House Bill 683 – the AYF 2018 budget, overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 167-8. The AYF 2018 budget recognizes 306.7 million in additional state revenue, which is 1.2% more than what was originally estimated. Some of the highlights of the amended 2018 budget are as follows.

Education:

  • $102.1 million for enrollment growth for 7,515 additional students as well as for charter system grants and State Commission Charter School supplements.
  • $15.5 million to purchase 200 new school buses for school systems statewide.
  • $400,000 to establish a leadership academy for principals across the state.
  • 10.7 million to meet the needs of 4,720 new Dual Enrollment students.
  • $10 million for the Board of Regents to cover the growing cost of graduate-level medical education at Augusta University.
  • $8.1 million in lottery funds to keep up with the growing demand for HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships.
  • $75,000 to plan for the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations.

Health and Human Services:

  • $1 million to fund an electronic visit verification system for home and community-based services.
  • $1.25 million for crisis services.
  • $1.1 million to develop capacity for behavioral health services.
  • $128, 292 in existing funds for telehealth services.
  • the Department of Public Health to provide behavioral health services to children under 21 who are diagnosed with autism.
  • $15.1 million for out-of-home care growth for the rising number of children in Georgia’s foster care system.
  • $100,000 for a statewide medical fair to recruit employees in rural areas.
  • $75,000 for the Office of Rural Health to identify a post secondary institution within our state to house the Rural Center for Health Care.

Miscellaneous

  • $10 million to the One Georgia Authority to fund beach nourishment projects in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
  • $10 million allotted to replenish Gov. Deal’s emergency fund.
  • $3 million to purchase equipment to prevent and combat wildfires.
  • $25.2 million to lengthen rural runways to accommodate larger aircrafts.
  • $5 million for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to implement the statewide criminal justice e-filing initiative.
  • $500,000 for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to purchase supplies needed to process DNA sexual assault kits.

In addition to passing the 2018 AYF Budget this past week, 5 other bills were also passed.

  1. House Bill 700 – This bill is a military-friendly measure that would update and expand the National Guard Service Cancellable Loan program to cover the cost of graduate degree programs for National Guard members. This bill would ensure that these loans, which are used to repay the cost of tuition in exchange for National Guard service, do not exceed the cost of tuition. It also requires the loan recipients to remain in good standing with the National Guard service and serve two consecutive years upon graduation. As of right now about 228 National Guard members currently participate in this program, and extending the program to the graduate level would add about 50 individuals to the program annually, allowing Georgia to remain competitive with our neighboring states that have similar legislation.
  2. House Bill 699 – This is another military-friendly measure. This bill would allow firefighters who have served as members of the armed forces to be exempt from firefighter basic training. This bill would make it easier for Georgia’s veterans to begin a career as a firefighter as a result of their service and the sacrifices they have made for our country and state.
  3. House Bill 701 – This bill, in an effort to address Georgia’s current opioid crisis, would update Georgia law by allowing our state to test candidates for all forms of opioids during state employment drug testing but would not affect those with valid and legal opioid prescriptions.
  4. House Bill 655 – This bill protects the most vulnerable of our citizens, our children. HB 655 would require public schools, as well as local and state charter schools, to post signs with the toll-free phone number of the child abuse hotline. These signs are to be posted in clear and visible public areas. Twenty-seven other states have passed similar legislation, and if HB 655 is signed into law, Georgia would join these states in this effort to stop child abuse nationwide.
  5. House Bill 159 – I am excited to update you on the status of House Bill 159, the adoption bill. After much anticipation, the Senate has overwhelmingly passed HB 159 on Monday, February 5th! The final version of the HB 159, as passed b y the General Assembly, would update Georgia’s adoption laws for the first time in almost three decades! This bill would allow thousands of children to move more quickly and efficiently to find their forever families! I am so pleased with the progress this bill has made and that this legislation is one of the first bills of the 2018 session to go to the governor’s desk for final approval.

Thursday, February 8, marked legislative Day 18, and my House colleagues and I are almost halfway through the 40-day legislative session. As your representative under the Gold Dome, your thoughts and opinions are always important to me, and I want to know which issues are significant to you and your family. If you find yourself in Atlanta during the legislative session, please feel free to visit my Capitol office, which is located at 607 -F Coverdell Legislative Office Building. You may also call my Capitol office at 404-656-0287, or email me at karen.mathiak@house.ga.gov.You can also stay up-to-date by checkout out my Facebook Page.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative!

 

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