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REPORT FROM THE CAPITOL

3/6/2017 - We were back to work on Monday for our eighth week at the Gold Dome, leading up to Friday, which was Crossover day. Crossover Day marks a crucial deadline for the Georgia General Assembly. This is the last day for bills to pass the legislative chamber from which they first started. As a result, Crossover Day is typically one of the longest days of our legislative session, as we worked into the night to pass House bills to send to our Senate counterparts for their consideration.
I do want to thank the Pickens County Progress for running the long article last week. I try to keep these articles to around 1100 words or so, but I didn't do it right, so you got the long version. I enjoyed speaking to the Bent Tree Lake and Wildlife group on Saturday morning after getting home from Crossover Day at the Capitol at 1 am. Whew! Thanks to them for listening to me. . .red eyes and all.

One of the bills many folks have asked about was House Bill 65, a bill that would bring medical relief to many more suffering Georgians. It passed easily; HB 65 would expand upon Georgia’s current medical cannabis law by adding eight qualifying medical conditions to those that can register and use medical cannabis through Georgia’s Low THC Oil Patient Registry. The Low THC Oil Patient 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 the treatment.
This session, we have focused a great deal of our attention to supporting our state’s rural hospitals and health care needs. We passed legislation to expand the current service cancelable loan program for physicians and practitioners in underserved areas by making loans available to dentists, physician assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses.

House Bill 338 passed the House this week and seeks to improve Georgia’s struggling and lowest performing public schools. I will give a lot of detail on this because a lot of people have asked me about it. HB 338 would create an alternative support and assistance system that falls under the State Board of Education’s (SBOE) intervention power that would be 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 a public school system for at least three years. The CTO would manage and oversee the turnaround schools and recommend turnaround coaches, or individuals experienced in improving failing schools, who would assist in creating initiatives to address and work towards solutions to personal and community conditions, including poverty, wellness, transportation, and adult educational opportunities. Upon identification, the CTO would extend an offer to the affected school systems to enter into an intervention contract. Should the school choose to enter the contract, it removes them from the SBOE’s current intervention process, and if the school refuses the contract, the school would remain in the current intervention process.

Additionally, this bill would expand the SBOE’s ability to remove local boards of education, 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. This legislation will greatly benefit our students attending underperforming public schools across our state and would also allow us to understand the root of the issues plaguing so many of our young learners. This bill had pretty wide-ranging support from most of the organizations involved in education in our state.

I have written in previous articles about the efforts to pass legislation that improves the lives of Georgia’s military personnel. We passed 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 teaching certificates, to better facilitate their entry into Georgia’s workforce when moving to our State. This legislation was introduced following last session’s passage of the 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.

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, for medical services relating to academic enrollment, and for 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.

Yes, we did pass many other bills in the past week, but in the limited space, I could only go over a few here in our paper. You know if you have a question or thought on one you were interested in, you are welcome to call us, and we will fill you in.

Now that Crossover Day is behind us, 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, and 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) 656-7857, or by email at rick.jasperse@house.ga.gov.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your Representative.

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