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Report from the Capitol

2/25/2019 - The end of week six brings us to the half way point in our 2019 legislative session. Some would say half way home! You can imagine it’s busy; committees are meeting to get the amended budget done and agreed to by both the House and Senate. All the committees on policy are meeting constantly, giving proposed legislation a close look and an honest evaluation.
We had three Pages and Parents from Pickens County this week, what a delight to see them. Gordon County Leadership class was down for a day full of watching and learning. Members from various groups were also at the Capitol representing education, nursing, pharmacy, mental health, and EMS services.
We started this week by convening for a joint session with the Senate to hear the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Chief Justice Harold D. Melton deliver the annual State of the Judiciary address. In his remarks, Chief Justice Melton spoke about our accountability courts, or “specialty” courts, which provide effective alternatives to sentencing for nonviolent offenders. He spoke about the extraordinary number of Georgia children who are placed in foster care, and the challenges that these children face often put them at higher risk of getting into trouble, dropping out of school, having unplanned teenage pregnancies, and ultimately encountering the judicial system as adults. Chief Justice Melton reiterated the importance of keeping children with their families and out of foster care with the help of the Kinship Care program. Kinship Care works to give guardians like grandparents, relatives, and even family friends who serve as guardians the legal authority they need to make medical, financial, and educational decisions for the children.
This week we passed House Bill 130 and House Bill 59 to expand educational opportunities for our K-12 students. In 2010, the Georgia General Assembly established the Georgia Foundation for Public Education (GFPE) to fund, promote, and implement educational initiatives and programs throughout the State. Under HB 130, the GFPE would be authorized to qualify as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the foundation would be able to solicit and accept more funding to carry out its purpose of supporting educational excellence in public schools. Additionally, the House passed HB 59, which would allow parents or guardians on active duty in the military to pre-enroll a student in a local school district when they receive official military orders to transfer to Georgia, instead of requiring the family to establish residency first. This legislation would expedite the enrollment process for these students so that they can continue to learn without interruption.
On Friday we passed the House and Senate’s amended budget that we have been working on for weeks. In it was an additional $20 million for emergency disaster relief assistance to Georgia farmers in counties impacted by Hurricane Michael. 54% of all new revenue is appropriated to K-12 education. 21% of new funds is budgeted for health and human services including an increase of $32 million for Medicaid, $418 million in total appropriations for the Indigent Care Trust Fund, and an additional $250,000 for home-delivered meals.
HB 164 was passed that the fella that sits beside me has been working on for a few years. If it makes it through the process, the fees we are charged when we buy a new tire to take care of disposing of the old tire properly will be used for just that and not go into the general fund. Common sense to me.
If you watched the news, you saw the hearings on election voting machines. The sub-committee working on that met for probably 12 hours this week on the measure and everyone had their chance to say what they thought about the proposals. The bill was changed some and was then passed out of the committee on Friday. Legal voting is a very important issue for all Georgians.
We are getting a bunch of emails and letters on all sorts of issues. Thanks for taking the time to send them and to personally comment on the issue you care about. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with questions or concerns regarding the session. My Capitol office number is 404-656-7153, and my email address is rick.jasperse@house.ga.gov. Please contact me anytime.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative.

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