2018 Legislative Session – Week 11 Update

Last week, Chipper Jones visited the Capitol and was commended for his outstanding baseball career.

My colleagues and I began the 11th week of this year’s legislative session on Monday, March 19th at the Capitol. With the finish line in sight, we are working towards passing key bills and resolutions before adjourning this 40-day session on March 29th.  In this blog post, I’ll share some of the bills we were able to pass.

A Response to School Violence

On Monday, the House unanimously adopted House Resolution 1414. This resolution would create the House Study Committee on School Security to study ways to curb incidences of violence in order to provide safer learning environments for students, teachers, and staff members. HR 1414 is a response to the recent, tragic mass shooting that has devastated our country. The 9-member House Study Committee on School Security would explore conditions, needs, and issues associated with school security in order to recommend legislation necessary for preventing similar tragedies. The committee would hold 5 hearing to discuss ways to decrease violence in schools and also how to respond if is does occur. Any findings for proposed legislation would be filed by December 1st, 2018.

Improvements in Education & Future Employment

The House also passed Senate Bill 139 and House Bill 759  last week which are additional pieces of legislation concerning our state’s students. SB 139 would allow local school systems, charter schools, colleges, and career academies to create and submit new focused programs of study to the State Board of Education for consideration. Examples of current focused programs are finance information technology and health and science manufacturing. SB 139 would require the State Workforce Development Board to develop and promote an annual list of industry credentials and state licenses that students can earn in middle or high school such as computer certifications. This list would include credentials and licenses related to high-demand occupations with wages of at least 70% of Georgia’s average annual wage. Local school systems would be required to submit an annual report to the Department of Education with the number of students who are earning an industry credential or state license from the high-demand careers list, and the Department of Education would report the number of students earning such credentials or licenses to the governor, president of the Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as post the list on their website each year. Lastly, House Bill 759 would expand the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program by allowing students who previously qualified for the scholarship to be exempt from the requirement that the student must attend a Georgia public school the year prior. These measures will further equip our state’s students to find meaningful employment after completing their education.

Veteran Mental Health

My colleagues and I adopted House Resolution 1137 which urges the president and Congress to enact federal legislation that would provide members of the armed forces with mental and physical health assistance prior to being discharged. As you may already know, service members often return home with PTSD and other mental or emotional health conditions that make returning to civilian life difficult. We must do what we can to provide the necessary support for these men and women to help them transition back to normalcy.

Protecting Lottery Winners

The House passed Senate Bill 331  in order to protect the identities of Georgia’s lottery winners. SB 33l would require the Georgia Lottery Corporation to keep all information on lottery winners of $250,000 or more confidential upon the winner’s written request. As it stands,  lottery winners may request for their identity to be protected but news sources can still obtain information. Other states have implemented similar legislation in order to prevent lottery winners from scams and additional life-threatening possibilities. SB 331 would give lottery winners the ability to truly remain anonymous and protect themselves and their family members.

Fighting Dementia-Related Diseases

In order to make sure that citizens with dementia-related diseases are best cared for, the House passed Senate Bill 444 or the “Senator Thorborn ‘Ross’ Tolleson, Jr. Act.” This bill would establish the Georgia Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias State Plan Advisory Council to Advise the governor, the General Assembly, the Department of Human Services, and all other state agencies on the state’s Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias State Plan. The council would recommend strategies to reach the state plan’s objectives and will review progress towards these goals and how resources for individuals with dementia-related diseases have been implemented. This council will consist of leaders in various health, human services and aging-related departments, divisions associations, councils, and committees. Additionally, the governor would appoint individuals with expertise in relevant fields to the council. Lastly, this council would submit a report to the governor and the General Assembly on their work every three years.

Connectivity For all Citizens

The last bill I want to share with you is Senate Bill 402 or the “Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act.” This act would lay the groundwork for expanding broadband services throughout the state by promoting public-private partnerships. The Georgia Technology Authority would be authorized to create any programs or policies needed to coordinate statewide broadband implementation efforts. Under this legislation:

– The Department of Transportation would plan for and implement a policy for the use of rights-of-way on interstate highways and state-owned roads to deploy broadband services.

-Qualifying electric membership corporations and telephone cooperatives would be allowed to provide and operate broadband services, wireless services, and other emerging communications technologies.

-The “Georgia Broadband Ready Community Site Designation Program,” would be established to allow communities to apply to be designated as “broadband ready,’ qualifying them for grant programs and tax exemptions.

-The Department of Community Affairs would develop the “Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative,” to offer funding for qualified broadband providers to deliver broadband services in unserved areas.

Lastly, SB 402 would outline the rates and fees charged for attachments to utility poles and wireless support structures belonging to a local authority, local governing authority, political subdivision providing retail electric service, EMC, and cooperative. The goal of SB 402 is to ensure that all Georgia citizens, especially our state’s rural citizens, have access to high-speed internet.

My colleagues and I are currently in the 12th and final week of this year’s legislative session. We will adjourn on March 29th.  You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for legislative term here. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!