4/1/2019 - Sorry I didn’t have an article last week. I wrote it, and Marcia checked my grammar, but I took off to Atlanta before I sent it out. These last few weeks of the legislative session are hard, as they are five days a week, early till late. Back home I have been trying to get everything pruned and ready for spring, and this weekend I was excited to see how my tomato and pepper seedlings have sprung up and look so nice. This past week was our 11th week of session, and as I write this, we have one more day, Tuesday, to finish our work for this session. Our work may be done on Tuesday, but it doesn’t stop, as we have study committees, special study committees, meetings, and listening to do year-round.
I have been working with the Senate sponsor on a bill that would improve educational opportunities for children with dyslexia in Georgia’s public schools. When we look at reading in our schools, the various forms of dyslexia may be a real contributor to some children not being able to read as well as they should. We passed Senate Bill 48, where the State Board of Education (BOE) would implement policies for referring students in kindergarten through third grade for further screenings if a teacher identifies dyslexia or similar learning disorders in students. Not only would this bill help with the early detection and intervention of dyslexia, but it would also utilize the BOE to implement training programs and offer certification to provide guidance and to better equip our educators to teach dyslexic students. Additionally, SB 48 would create a three-year pilot program to help the BOE demonstrate and evaluate the effectiveness of early reading assistance programs for students who have risk factors for dyslexia.
Another meaningful piece of legislation that passed in the House this week was Senate Bill 158. This impactful measure would strengthen Georgia’s current anti-human trafficking laws and provide greater resources and care for victims of human trafficking. SB 158, or the “Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act,” would authorize the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to provide emergency care and supervision for a child victim of human trafficking without a court order or the consent of a parent or legal guardian. SB 158 would also allow local authorities and citizens to seek civil penalties against businesses or property owners that have received three or more separate sexually-related charges or indictments that occur on the premises within a 12-month period.
We passed a bill to continue in our efforts to promote broadband expansion in rural Georgia. Senate Bill 66, or the “Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act,” would help streamline the deployment of small cells, or small wireless facilities, in public rights-of-way by placing limits on fees that providers could pay and by implementing deadlines for local governments to follow during the permit application process.
We fulfilled our only constitutional obligation by giving final passage to the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY 2020) budget, or House Bill 31. We completed our legislative responsibility with the adoption of a conference committee report, which set the final FY 2020 budget at an estimated $27.5 billion. Amongst several important appropriations, more than 50 percent of the FY 2020 funds are allocated for education, 22 percent for health and human services, and 8 percent for transportation and economic development. The FY 2020 budget includes several House priorities, but one of our proudest highlights includes funding for the largest salary increase in our state’s history for teachers AND certified personnel, which raises their base pay by $3,000 starting in July of this year. Other highlights place a particular emphasis on women and children’s issues, such as program funding to address the high percentage of maternal mortality in Georgia and additional funding for our most vulnerable Georgians, including the elderly and foster children.
Well, I ran out of space. I will add more during the next few weeks to keep you informed. With only one legislative day remaining, my House colleagues and I will be working hard next week to pass meaningful legislation for all Georgians. The last legislative day will surely be the busiest day of the session, and I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions or input on any measures being considered by the General Assembly. You can call my office number at (404) 656-7153, or email me at email@example.com.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your Representative.