2018 Legislative Session – Week 10 Update

March 14th was Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the Capitol. Gov. Deal addressed several members from GA’s law enforcement agencies to recognize them for their service.

My colleagues and I reconvened for the 10th week of session on Monday, March 12th. There are only a few working days left in this year’s session, so the House is busy with committee meetings and passing Senate measures. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the bills we were able to pass.

Senate Bill 357 – The Health Act

In order to improve our state’s healthcare policies, the house passed Senate Bill 357”The Health Act.” This bill would establish the Health Coordination and Innovation Council of the State of Georgia under the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget to coordinate components of our state’s health care system. SB 357 would also establish an advisory board to provide guidance to the council. Responsibilities of this 18-member council would be to bring together academic, industry, and government experts and leaders to share information, organize functions of Georgia’s health care system, and develop innovative ways to stabilize costs and improve access to quality care. Members would conduct research in order to identify Georgia’s health needs and would promote cooperation between private and public agencies. This council will consist of commissioners and directors from health and human services-related departments and divisions, including a director of health care policy & strategic planning, and health care professionals appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the House of Representatives. This bill is vital for addressing issues in our health care systems and providing citizens with the best quality care.

Updates in Autism Treatment

Another health care related bill that my colleagues and I were able to pass is Senate Bill 118. This bill would ensure that children with autism have access to the necessary treatments and therapists in order to lead healthy lives. SB 118 would increase the age coverage for autism spectrum disorder treatments from 6 years old to 20 years old and would increase the coverage limit from $30,000 to $35,000 per year. Lastly, this bill would require insurers to provide coverage for applied behavior analysis, which is considered a necessary medical treatment for Autism. If signed by Gov. Deal, SB 118 would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. I hope to see every child with autism receive the treatment they need to live a healthy, successful life.

Preventing Elderly Abuse

The House passed Senate Bill 406 which would create the Georgia Long-term Care Background Check Program. This program would require elder-care providers in personal care homes or other assisted living facilities to undergo fingerprint-based criminal background checks. This would apply to owners, applicants for employments, and current employees. If signed into law, SB 406 would take effect on Oct.1, 2019 for new applicants and on Jan. 1, 2021 for existing employees and owners. Additionally, the Department of Community Health would establish and maintain a central caregiver registry so that a family member or guardian seeking to hire a caregiver for an elderly person would have access to information on eligible and ineligible persons.

House Resolution 1376 -The RDC and Health care

House Resolution 1376 urges the House Rural Development Council (RDC) to solicit input from Georgia’s hospitals on their financial conditions, including profitability, community benefit, cash revenue, and viability projections for hospitals in financial crisis. This resolution would encourage the RDC to hear from the hospital industry on any changes or legislation that would help sustain our state’s health care system. There is a wide discrepancy among hospitals concerning how much indigent and charity care they provide. Some Georgia hospitals are doing well while others suffer or are even at risk of closing their doors. This measure would provide the RDC with the information they need to improve hospitals in rural Georgia.

Senate Bill 330 – Improvements in Agriculture

The House passed Senate Bill 330, also known as the Georgia Agricultural Education Act. This bill would require agricultural education programs for students in grades 6 through 12 to be based on the nationally recognized 3-component model of school-based agricultural education. This 3-component model would consist of:

-daily classroom and lab instruction,

-hands-on learning through a supervised agricultural experience program,

-and leadership & learning opportunities through participation in agricultural education programs.

The Department of Education would be in charge of creating curriculum and standards for the program with input from agricultural educators. Lastly, this bill would allow the Department of Education to create an elementary agricultural education pilot program to determine whether such a program should be implemented throughout the state. Agriculture is the biggest industry in Georgia, so we would do well to encourage the proper instruction and opportunities to our young citizens.

HOPE & Georgia’s Armed Forces Members

Senate Bill 82 would allow members of the Georgia National Guard or of a reserve component located in Georgia to be classified as legal residents under eligibility requirements for HOPE scholarships and grants. Eligible individuals would be Georgia National Guard members or reservists stationed in Georgia or those who list Georgia as their home. Under current law, only active-duty military service members, their spouses and dependent children are eligible to receive HOPE scholarships and grants. This bill would expand this benefit so more men and women who serve the state of GA can have access to higher education.

Senate Bill 17- The “Brunch Bill”

Senate Bill 17 would allow local governing authorities to authorize alcoholic beverage sales beginning at 11 AM on Sundays. This bill would only apply to licensed establishments that derive at least 50% of their total annual gross sales from food sales or from room rentals for overnight lodging. If signed into law, the results of this bill is expected to increase sales by $100 million and generate approx. $11 million in additional state and local tax revenue. SB 17 would allow voters to decide whether to approve of early Sunday sales within their communities.

As this year’s session comes to a close, I encourage you to reach out to me with questions and concerns about the bills the General Assembly is working on passing. 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!

2018 Legislative Session – Week 9 Update

Monday, March 5th, marked the 9th week of the 2018 legislative session. The week consisted of committee hearings and reviewing Senate bills. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the measures we were able to pass including the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

Passing a Balanced Budget for 2019

My colleagues and I are required to pass a balanced budget for each year. On March 9th, we passed House Bill 684—the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) budget. The FY 2019 budget is $26 billion which is an increase of $1.03 billion over the 2018 budget. Continue reading to learn how these funds are allocated.

Improvements in Rural Georgia

The House Rural Development Council (RDC) is tasked with studying the needs of rural Georgia in order to discover ways to boost the economy and health of the area. A portion of the FY 2019 budget is allocated towards several initiatives that will help these rural areas based on the recommendation of the RDC. The budget includes funds for:

– The Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown marketing program – a downtown development attorney to help Georgia’s small towns secure redevelopment grants,
-A deputy commissioner of rural Georgia
-The Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations
-Soft skills training and character education development for rural Georgia’s lowest performing schools
-Education: a mobile audiology clinic and a birth to five literacy & numeracy.
-Rural health programs: 2 rural surgical fellowships at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital, a statewide residency recruitment fair for rural medical facilities, insurance premium assistance for physicians who practice in underserved counties with one or less physicians, 10 regional Emergency Medical Services (EMS) training positions to train EMS personnel in rural Georgia, and the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center.

Funding for Education

A large portion of the budget is always allocated towards education. The FY 2019 budget allocates:

-$119.5 million for K-12 enrollment growth and training and experience for an additional 6,552 students and 1,869 teachers.
-$361.7 million for the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) to support 117,957 retired and 218,193 active TRS members.
-Funding for two Advanced Placement exams, one STEM exam and one non-STEM exam, for low-income students, as well as dollars for the new Chief Turnaround Officer program to help Georgia’s schools in most need of assistance.
-$1.6 million for a student mental health awareness training program, including response and intervention training, for students in preschool through 12th grade.
-$111 million for the University System of Georgia enrollment growth and increased square footage.
-$5.5 million for the Technical College System of Georgia enrollment growth and increased square footage.
-$27.1 million for the Dual Enrollment program.
-$2.7 million for 1,177 additional HOPE and Zell Miller private scholarships.
-$65.3 million for 27,832 more HOPE and Zell Miller public scholarships.
-$8 million for school security grants to improve security in response to the recent tragic school shooting in Florida

Funding for Healthcare

Another significant portion of the FY 2019 budget will go towards improvements in the heathcare system. The budget allocates:

-$16.9 million for a 4.3 percent provider rate increase for nursing homes.
-$962,022 for increased background checks for long-term care facility owners and employees.
-Funding for a program coordinator position and to develop capacity in the Department of Community Health and the Department of Public Health to provide behavioral health services to autistic children under the age of 21.
-$568,057 towards the Marcus Autism Center to cover the cost of treating autistic children with the greatest needs.
-$2 million to address Georgia’s maternal mortality rates.
-Funds for Mental Health initiatives- funding for four new respite homes, 13 new Georgia APEX Program grants to expand mental health services to students in 100 more schools, telemedicine equipment and services, and high-fidelity wraparound services training. Additionally, funding is allocated to expand the Georgia Crisis Access Line’s operating hours and create a mobile application to provide mental health crisis services. Lastly, $2.2 million is allocated for Department of Human Services care coordinator positions to improve mental health outcomes for foster care children.

Needs of the State

The FY 2019 budget also allocates funds to meet other various needs and implement economic development projects. For example:

– $15.1 million for growth in out-of-home care and $15.2 million in additional funding to increase foster care per diem rates for relative and child placement agency foster care providers.
-Funding to clear hurricane debris and remove sunken vessels along our coastlines
-Funding for Georgia’s accountability courts and for 9 additional assistant district attorney positions and 9 assistant public defenders to support juvenile courts.
-Funding for transportation infrastructure construction, maintenance, and improvements.

The entire budget includes funding for several more needs, visit this link for more info-FY 2019 budget 

Small businesses – The Fast Act

In addition to passing the budget, the House was able to pass Senate Bill 2—“The FAST Act – Fairness, Accountability, Simplification and Transparency – Empowering Our Small Businesses to Succeed.” This bill would enhance accountability, expedite local government permitting processes, and reduce regulatory burdens on small businesses by removing certain regulations that make it more difficult to conduct business in Georgia. It would allow the Department of Community Affairs to establish “Ready for Partnership Georgia,” which is a voluntary best-practices certification program for each county and municipality in Georgia. Under SB 2, a 13-member group would develop best practices and standards for certifying counties and municipalities as “Ready for Partnership Georgia” and would establish a process to review, renew, and revoke the certifications. The certification would be based on metrics including county or municipality licensing and permitting fees, the time required by the local government to process license and permit applications, and the consolidation of forms & documents to avoid repetitive or duplicative information requests.

The BRACE Act

Another measure we successfully passed was House Resolution 1225. This resolution urges Congress to pass the Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy (BRACE) Act. This act would make permanent the federal Railroad Track Maintenance Tax Credit, also known as the 45G tax credit, which would be used for rail improvement and enhancements. The 45G tax credit allowed short line and regional rail lines to claim 50 cents for every dollar spent, up to $3,500, per mile on track improvements. According to findings of the RDC, the BRACE Act would greatly boost the economic growth of rural Georgia. A permanent 45G tax credit would incentivize continued rail maintenance and improvements.

Improvements in Education

House Resolution 1162 would create the House Study Committee on the Establishment of a State Accreditation Process to explore whether a state accreditation process for Georgia’s public schools and school systems should be formed. This committee would have 5 members that would explore the resources and structure needed for a state accreditation entity. This committee would also look at ways to align accreditation review with charter renewal for charter systems and contract renewal for strategic waivers school systems, explore the possibility of creating a state process to review system charters and contracts, study potential consequences of losing state accreditation, and review the possibility of creating a school board review commission. The study committee chairperson will report any findings and recommendations by Dec. 1 2018 and the committee will adjourn.

Adoption law update

I’m excited to share the Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 159 into law on March 5th. HB 159 will update Georgia’s adoption laws by making the adoption process more streamlined and modern. I applaud State Rep Bert Reeves for refining this bill for nearly 2 and a half years in order to bring Georgia’s adoption process up to date and in line with the rest of the country.

We are currently on day 35 of the 40 day session. As this year’s session comes to a close, I encourage you to reach out to me with any questions about the bills my colleagues and I are working on. Thank you for reading!

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!

2018 Legislative Session – Week 7 Update

On February 22nd, day 25 of session, the House recognized NASCAR Driver David Ragan.

The House reconvened last week on February 20th for the 7th week of the 2018 legislative session. We worked long hours in order to pass bills and hear legislation before the Crossover Day deadline. In this blog post, I want to share with you some details on bills concerning Georgia’s Tax Code, updates for Georgia’s rural areas, The State of the Judiciary address, and more.

House Bill 918 – Updating Georgia’s Tax Code

Governor Deal and several other members of the House and Senate held a press conference to introduce House Bill 918. This passed overwhelmingly and would update Georgia’s tax code which has not been updated in decades. HB 918 would:

-decrease the tax burden on citizens by cutting individual and corporate state income taxes,
-double the state standard deduction for Georgia taxpayers for all filing statuses, effective Jan. 1, 2018,
-reduce the income tax rate for individuals and businesses from 6% to 5.75% beginning on Jan. 1, 2019,
-further reduce the tax rate to 5.5% Jan. 1, 2020, but would require approval of the General Assembly and signature of the governor,
-eliminate the sales tax on jet fuel to make GA more competitive and to encourage airlines to fly additional direct flights from Georgia,
-and addresses the state revenue projections resulting from the recent Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

House Bill 918 will benefit all citizens by helping them keep more of the money they work so hard for.

House Bill 769 – Health Care & Rural Georgia

House Bill 769 is the first RDC- related measure to pass in the House this session. The RDC was previously tasked with helping to bring up the rural areas of Georgia. HB 769 would allow a Georgia licensed pharmacist located in the US to remotely place pharmacy drug order for hospital patients as long as the order is reviewed by a pharmacist who is physically in the hospital within 24 hours or by the next business day. HB 769 would also:

– direct the Department of Community Health to research ways to streamline the credentialing and billing process for state medical plans.
– create a Rural Center for Healthcare Innovation and Sustainability through the existing Office of Rural Health,
-allow for the creation of micro-hospitals without requiring a new certificate of need when a hospital is closing or has recently closed and is purchased by a neighboring county,
-and it would create a grant program within the Georgia Board of Physician Workforce to provide financial assistance for some rural physicians who establish or operate a practice in an undeserved area.

House Bill 735 and 876 – Infrastructure & Rural Georgia 

House Bill 735 would create an income tax credit for the track maintenance expenditures on owned or leased short line railroads. This measure would serve to incentivize investment in rail infrastructure, create jobs in rural Georgia, and keep these areas connected to the rest of the state. HB 876 would prohibit counties and municipalities from banning the use of wood products in construction as long as the products meet the state minimum standard codes and the Georgia State Fire Code. This bill addresses the banning of wood products throughout Metro Atlanta in the construction of buildings over three stories high even though the Atlanta area is a crucial lumber market for GA tree farmers. HB 876 will boost business for Georgia’s 97 sawmills which are mostly found in our rural areas. These bills are a result of the RDC’s efforts to bring up our state’s rural areas.

House Bill 853 – Quality Basic Education Act

House Bill 853 would allow public school students who are admitted under a physician’s order into a licensed psychiatric residential treatment center to be exempt from paying tuition or fees to a local school system. Currently, students receiving treatment in medical hospitals are exempt, but students referred to psychiatric treatment are left out. Approximately 300-500 students are treated in psychiatric facilities throughout our state annually. This bill would allow for these students to get the treatment they need and still successfully continue their education.

House Bill 732 – Prosecuting Sex Trafficking Offenders 

House Bill 732 would expand the definition of sex trafficking to include anyone who patronizes sexually explicit conduct from a victim of sex trafficking. Offenders would be charged with a felony and would serve a sentence of 5-20 years. This bill is crucial to stopping this horrendous crime by ensuring that all those who knowingly engage, not just traffickers, are prosecuted.

House Bill 840 – Military Members Combat Zone Exemption

House Bill 840  would exempt active-duty military members serving in a combat Zone from penalty fees associated with unintentionally unpaid special, occupational or sales taxes and license, regulatory or administrative fees incurred while they are in a combat zone. This bill gives members 60 days from their return date to make the payment in full without penalty if they show proof of their time in a combat zone. It is not uncommon for active-duty military members to be unable to renew licenses during service, so we want to protect these men and women from unfair late fees.

State of the Judiciary Address

On Thursday, February 22nd, Chief Justice Hines delivered the annual State of the Judiciary to the House and Senate. Hines spoke on the future of the judiciary including the election of a new state Supreme Court justice and Gov. Deals fifth appointment to Georgia’s highest court. The Chief Justice also spoke on the Court Reform Council’s recommendation to create a statewide business court to handle complex financial cases. It was inspiring to hear how much Georgia has accomplished in criminal justice reform and I look forward to the future.


The House is presently working through week 8 of this year’s legislative session. Crossover Day will be the busiest day so far as my colleagues and I work to pass meaningful legislation.

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!

2018 Legislative Session – Week 6 Update

Last Monday, February 12, marked the sixth week of this year’s legislative session. We are halfway through the 2018 session! My colleagues and I have picked up the pace in order to ensure the passage of important legislation for Georgia’s success. If you missed my last blog post, you can view that here. Continue reading to learn about bills the House was able to pass in week six.

House Bill 487 – Emergency Response Volunteers

The House passed HB 487 with a vote of 161-1. This bill would allow for certified Civil Air Patrol disaster service volunteers to be granted paid leave for up to 15 work days per year to participate in Civil Air Patrol specialized emergency service operations. These volunteers would need permission from their employers and would only be allowed to use this paid leave at the request of the Civil Air Patrol. This bill would protect these volunteers’ salary, seniority, vacation time, compensatory time, sick time, or accrued overtime pay when assisting GA citizens in emergency situations.

House Bill 678 – Transparency in our Healthcare System

House Bill 678  would provide protections against patients receiving surprise bills and would allow them to request information about medical professionals and care costs before treatment. Bills can be 10-12 times higher than in-network charges when an out-of-network doctor administers treatment during an elective procedure. HB 678 would require require hospitals, healthcare providers, and insurers to make sure patients know which doctors in their treatment team are covered by their insurance network, what healthcare plans a doctor participates in, and what hospitals a doctor is affiliated with. Providers not a part of a patient’s network would be required to provide an estimated bill when requested. Lastly, this bill would require insurance providers to bill patients within 90 days. The patient would have 90 days upon receiving the bill to pay, negotiate, or to file a dispute. In the event that a patient receives a surprise bill, he or she would have the right to file a dispute with an arbitrator from the insurance department.

House Bill 79 – Law Enforcement & Information Protection

The House passed HB 79 in order to strengthen our privacy laws through preventing license plate information from being saved for an undetermined amount of time unnecessarily. This bill would require law enforcement agencies to destroy unused data obtained through automated license plate recognition after 30 months. Exceptions would include information being used in an ongoing investigations or a toll violations. HB 79 would also also law enforcement agencies to share license plate information with other agencies and impose penalties for unlawful sharing of information. In addition, collected license plate data would be exempt from open records requests.

House Bill 749 – Protecting Georgia’s Veterans

House Bill 749 would exclude military retirement income from Georgia income tax. Those who receive military retirement through a deceased veteran’s retirement income would also benefit from this measure. Signing this bill into law would bring us up to speed with other states who have implemented similar legislation.

House Bill 740 – Preventing School Suspensions

HB 740 would prohibit expulsion or suspension of public school students, preschool through third grade, for more than 5 days without first providing a multi-tiered system of support. This support would include a team of educational professionals and Response to Intervention (RTI) which is a program aimed at meeting student’s behavioral, social-emotional, and learning needs in order to help them to succeed. This bill would not prohibit suspension for cases related to weapons, drugs, or similar life-threatening related issues. Instead of answering behavioral issues with suspension, we want to find different ways to address issues in the classroom while addressing the underlying needs of our students.

House Bill 635 – Protecting our state’s Elderly Citizens

HB 635 would allow district attorneys to establish an Adult Abuse Neglect and Exploitation Multidisciplinary Team to coordinate investigations related to elder or disabled adult abuse. These multi-agency teams would have the legal right to share investigation information with one another in order to collaborate and come up with better strategies for elderly abuse cases. Teams would consist of the district attorney or a designee and representatives from law enforcement agencies, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Adult Protective Services, and any other relevant state department, organization, or entity.

House Bill 930 – Georgia Transportation Improvements

The last bill I want to share with you concerns the continued improvement of transportation in our state. HB 930 would create the Atlanta-region Transit Link, a regional transit governance structure tasked with transit planning & funding as well as overseeing all Metro Atlanta transit activity. This bill is an extension of HR 848 which established the House Commission of Transit Governance and Funding. This commission studies and plans for our state’s transit needs.


My colleagues and I are currently in week 7 working diligently as we approach the last few weeks of session.  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!

2018 Legislative Session – Week 5 Update

On Monday, February 5th, the House began the 5th week of the 2018 legislative session. With Crossover Day fast approaching, my colleagues and I are working hard to pass bills that are essential to Georgia’s success. “Crossover Day” is the last day for a bill to pass from one chamber to another and is scheduled for legislative day 28. In this blog post, I’ll highlight bills we were able to pass including updates on the recently passed adoption bill.

Passing HB 683- The AFY 2018 Budget

I’m happy to share that the House has passed the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget with a vote of 167-8. The Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 2018) budget passed during the 2017 session at $24.9 billion. We amended FY 2018 in order to account for differences between the projected budget numbers and the revenue that our state actually accrued. Our state has an additional $306.7 million additional funds to incorporate into the budget which brings the amended version of the budget to $25.3 billion. These funds will go towards improvements in education, healthcare, human services, and to the benefit of our rural areas.

Continue reading to learn how the AFY 2018 funds will be allocated.

Education:

– $102.1 million will go towards enrollment growth for 7,515 additional students, charter system grants, and State Commission Charter School supplements.
-$15.5 million will go towards purchasing 200 new school buses.
-$400,000 is allocated to create a leadership academy for Georgia principles.
-$10.7 million will go towards accommodating 4,720 new Dual Enrollment students
-$10 million will cover the growing cost of graduate-level medical education at Augusta University.
-$8.1 million in lottery funds will go towards HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships
-$75,000 will go towards planning for the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations in order to support our rural communities.

Health and Human Services:

-$1 million to fund an electronic visit verification system for home and community-based services.
-Funds to aid children with autism- $1.25 million for crisis services, $1.1 million to develop capacity for behavioral health services, and $128,292 in existing funds for telehealth services. Additionally, the passage of HB 683 will provide funding for a program coordinator position in the Department of Community Health and for a program support coordinator in the Department of Public Health to provide behavioral health services to children under 21 who are diagnosed with autism.
-$15.1 million will go towards out-of-home care growth for the rising number of children in Georgia’s foster care system.
-$100,000 will go towards a statewide medical fair to recruit employees in rural areas
-$75,000 is allocated for the Office of Rural Health to identify a postsecondary institution within our state to house the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability.
-$1 million will go towards purchasing more behavioral health crisis stabilization beds.

Additional GA Needs:

-$10 million will go towards the OneGeorgia Authority to aid in repairing the damage to Georgia’s coastal region caused by Hurricane Irma.
-$10 million will go towards replenishing Gov. Deal’s emergency fund
-$3 million will go towards purchasing equipment to prevent and fight wildfires.
-$25.2 million is allocated to lengthen rural runways which will make room for larger aircrafts thus increasing rural Georgia’s economic potential.
-$5 million will go towards the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to create the criminal justice e-filing initiative.
-$500,000 is allocated for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to purchase supplies for DNA sexual assault kits.

With the passage of the AFY budget, the House Appropriations subcommittees can now focus on the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. I look forward to seeing how this budget will go on to serve the many needs of Georgia and support our growing economy and population.

House Bill 700- National Guard Loan Repayment bill

House Bill 700 is an update to the National Guard Service Cancelable Loan program which will cover the cost of graduate degree programs for National Guard members. Eligible service individuals to remain in good standing with the Guard and serve two consecutive years after graduation. Interested National Guard members will need to complete a application for FAFSA in order to use available funding before seeking this loan. The loan is already available to undergraduate degree programs and public post-secondary technical or vocational schools. HB 700 would extend this to graduate degree programs in order to recruit and retain National Guard members and support their education.

House Bill 699- Veteran Support 

House Bill 699 also concerns our military personnel. This bill would allow firefighters who have served in the armed forces to be exempt from firefighter basic training. Currently, firefighters must complete basic training within one year of their hire date. HB 699 would allow members who have already undergone training in the US armed forces to provide documentation of their training to the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council and receive a firefighter certificate of completion. This bill will make the transition to civilian life easier for our state’s veterans.

HB 701- Aiding the Opioid Crisis

In order to address our states growing Opioid crisis, The House passed House Bill 701 which would allow our state to test candidates for all forms of opioids during state employment drug tests. This will not affect those with legal opioid prescriptions. Georgia is ranked 11th in nation for opioid overdose, and 68% of GA’s 1,307 drug overdoses is attributed to opioids and heroin. This bill is just another piece in the puzzle for combating these statistics and helping our state fight opioid addiction.

House Bill 655 -Protecting our Young Citizens. 

House Bill 655 is a measure that will help protect our state’s young citizens. This bill would require public schools to post signs with a toll-free number of the child abuse hotline in visible, public areas. GA joins 27 other states in this effort to stop child abuse. The hotline is operated by the Division of Family and Children Services and the Department of Human Services. Students will have 24/7 access in order to report abuse or suspicions of abuse in a safe way.

House Bill 159 – Adoption Law Updates. 

I’m proud to announce that House Bill 159 has successfully passed through the senate. This bill will modernize our adoption laws making it easier for children to find homes. This legislation is one of the first bills to be sent to the governor’s desk and I am excited to see how it will positively affect the lives of adoptive parents, birth parents, and children in our state.

We are currently halfway through this year’s session! We still have plenty of work to do before we adjourn, but I am confident that we will continue to pass meaningful legislation for Georgia’s future. If you missed my last blog post, read it here.

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!

2018 Legislative Session – Week Four Update

Here I am with Gov. Deal and Ansley Frickey, the Page for the Day.

On Monday, Jan 29th my colleagues and I reconvened for the 4th week of this year’s legislative session. The week was comprised of bill proposal hearings and passing legislation that will positively affect the lives of Georgia citizens. In this blog post, I want to share with you some details on bills concerning adoption, tax reform, retirement benefits for law enforcement, and the preservation of our state’s ecosystem.

Adoption Law Updates

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that our state’s adoption laws would soon be modernized. House Bill 159  passed unanimously in the House. The House worked with the Senate & the governor’s office to make some amendments and create a bill we could all agree on. This bill includes:

A four-day revocation period– Currently, birth mothers have 10 days to revoke surrender of the child. This new version of HB 159 will cut that time down to 4 days in order to balance out the rights of the birth mother and those of the adoptive parents.

Reasonable living expense update– At present, only birth mothers in agency adoptions are allowed reasonable living expenses. Updates to HB 159 would allow birth mothers to receive reasonable living expenses in private and agency adoptions.

Updates to repeal conflicting laws– HB 159 includes safeguards on temporary powers of attorney. It also requires local boards of education to extend maternity leave and other benefits to adoptive parents. You can read additional, similar updates here.

The updated version of HB 159 is now in the Senate and will soon be on its way to Gov. Deal’s desk for approval. This is an exciting piece of legislation for future adoptive parents and for our state’s children. I will keep you updated on the bills progress in later blog posts.

House Bill 661 and 694-Tax Reform

Another bill that passed unanimously was House Bill 661 which would make the process for filing and removing tax liens against real estate more efficient and transparent. This bill would:

-remove the current provision concerning statewide liens and revert back to county specific liens,

-require every tax lien against realty to be filed with the superior clerk in the county where the real estate is located,

-and increase transparency for taxpayers by updating the Department of Revenue’s process to electronic-based transactions as opposed to paper-based.

 
The House also passed another bill concerning tax reform last week. House Bill 694 would update the way motor fuel distributors and wholesalers submit their monthly motor fuel tax reports to the Department of Revenue. Currently, distributors file reports electronically if they owe the department $500 or more. This updated bill would require distributors to submit all monthly reports electronically, regardless of the distributor’s tax liability.

House Bill 135-Retirement benefits for DDS Investigators 

House Bill 135 would expand the term “law enforcement officer” to include Department of Driver Services (DDS) investigators. Investigators would qualify to receive up to an additional 5 years of creditable service in the state’s Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) for past law enforcement service. DDS investigators that are not already receiving retirement benefits from a local government for the same service and/or if they have been a member of the retirement system for at least 10 years will not be eligible. This bill updates a measure from last year that made it possible for all other law enforcement officers to receive creditable service through ERS.

House Bill 671-Specialty License Plate

The last bill I want to share with you concerns our state’s official state insect—the honey bee. Georgia is the 3rd largest bee producer and the 10th largest honey producer in the US. House Bill 671  would create a specialty license plate to promote honey bee conservation in order to protect an essential player in our state’s ecosystem. All the proceeds from license plate sales will go to the Georgia Beekeepers Association. This effort will raise awareness about honey bee endangerment and support beekeeper education, prison beekeeping, grants for beekeeping organizations, and research facilities.


The 28th day of the 40-day legislative session is called “Crossover Day.” This is the last day for a bill to move from one chamber to another. This means that my colleagues and I will be working diligently as we approach Crossover Day to make sure certain bills get the opportunity to be signed into law this year.

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!

2018 Legislative Session – Week Three Update

The House began the 3rd week of this year’s legislative session on Monday, January 22nd. My colleagues and I had a busy week of committee meetings and further deliberation on Gov. Deal’s budget proposals. We also met with the Senate to pass an adjournment resolution that sets the schedule for the remainder of session. The last day of the 2018 legislative session, also known as Sine Die, will be on Thursday, March 29th. We are already a 4th of the way through the 2018 legislative session, but there is still much to accomplish before we adjourn!

House Bill 735

During last year’s session, the house adopted House Resolution 389. This resolution established the House Rural Development Council (RDC) which was tasked with traveling to rural communities throughout GA to study the areas issues and needs. They paid special attention to factors closely related to economic development such as education, infrastructure, healthcare, and economic growth incentives. In December of 2017, the RDC released 2 reports detailing their recommendations on what could boost economic opportunity in rural areas. The result of the RDC’s efforts was the introduction of House Bill 735. This bill would create a tax credit for short line railroad track maintenance expenditures to incentivize investment in rail infrastructure in rural Georgia. I expect to see more legislation concerning growth in our rural areas to ensure that all of Georgia is advancing.

House Resolution 848

Transportation will be a main focus this session. In fact, we have already begun prioritizing this focus. Last session, we implemented House Resolution 848 which established the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding. This commission was tasked with studying our state’s transportation needs in order to understand how we can plan and improve as our state grows. The House will soon see and deliberate legislation based on these findings. I will update you on transportation proposals introductions in later blog posts.

The House Rules Committee Meet

On Thursday, January 25th, The House Rules Committee met for the first time of this year’s session. The Rules Committee determines which bills should be debated and brought to a vote on the House floor. We will soon be voting on this session’s first pieces of legislation! I am looking forward to sharing these bills with you as session continues.

Passing A Balanced Budget

Last week, the House Appropriations subcommittees held several hearings in order to further review Gov. Deal’s budget proposals. The House is required to pass a balanced state budget every year. Here is the order of this process:

-After we review the governor’s proposals in our respective Appropriations subcommittees, the House will draft a bill for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget and the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

-These drafts will go to the full House Appropriations Committee for review and then to the Rules Committee to be placed on the House calendar.

-Once the budgets reach the House floor, every member of the House will get the opportunity to share opinions and ask questions before voting.

-After passing through the House, the Senate will repeat the same committee process.

-The Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor will appoint a conference committee to resolve any differences between the House and Senate versions of the budgets.

-Once these differences are resolved, the budget will return to the House and Senate for a final vote.

-The budgets are then sent to Gov. Deal to either be signed into law or vetoed.

This is a long process that my colleagues and I face every year in order to pass a budget that will best serve the needs of Georgia’s citizens. As the session unfolds, I will provide more details on budget decisions that affect you.

Jan 25th: National Guard Day

The House celebrated National Guard Day by presenting House Resolution 902 to several members of our state’s National Guard. Since 9/11, over 18,000 Georgia National Guard members have been deployed and over 200 are currently being deployed. We honored these brave men and women for their commitment to protecting the liberties of our country and of our state’s citizens.


The House is currently reviewing and discussing legislation proposals within their committees. I will have more bills to share with you, so return to my blog next week!

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!

2018 Legislative Session – Week Two Update

The House honored former Covington Mayor Samuel Ramsey with House Resolution 877 for his many accomplishments.

Last Tuesday, January 16th, marked the second week of this year’s legislative session. My colleagues and I spent the majority of the week with one of our most pressing responsibilities—working on the budget. The General Assembly is required to pass a balanced budget every year, and we do that by hearing from committees, state agency heads, and reviewing Governor Deal’s recommendations. The House and Senate Appropriations committee met throughout the week for joint budget hearings.

Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget (FY 2019 budget) proposal is the largest to date in Georgia’s history! Our state has seen tremendous economic growth over the past few years, and this proposal reflects that. Georgia’s economic success paves the way for even greater improvements in education, transportation, healthcare, and other areas that affect all citizens.

Each year that we are able to maintain our title of the “No. 1 State in which to do Business” means more possibilities for growth in countless areas. The Governor highlighted the fact that Atlanta is a contender to host Amazon’s second headquarters. Our state economy has been consistently improving, so this does not surprise me!

Gov Deal gave his budget recommendations for several areas that I will highlight below.

TRASPORTATION

The FY 2019 budget recommendations appropriates a great deal to our state’s infrastructure to ensure that it grows with our population and transportation needs.

  • $1.9 billion to maintain and enhance our transportation infrastructure
  • $100 million for bridge repair and replacement
  • $25 million allocated from the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget (AFY 2018 budget) to expand runways at 11 airports.

 

EDUCATION

Gov. Deal has also allocated a great deal of funds to our state’s education system. Investing in our state’s future leaders is vital to our state’s continued success. The AFY 2018 budget includes:

  • $102.1 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth
  • $10.7 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program.
  • Fund allocation recommendations for the FY 2019 budget include:
    $30 million to assist low‐wealth school districts
  • $127.6 million to fund K-12 enrollment growth and training for Georgia teachers.
  • $1.8 million for the REACH Georgia Scholarship program.
  • $361.7 million for our state’s Teachers Retirement System

 

HEALTHCARE

Georgia has invested nearly $240 million in behavioral health since 2011. Because of this, we have see a notable decline in the number of citizens committed into our behavioral health hospitals. We want to see even more improvements in healthcare in the years to come. Gov. Deal’s healthcare recommendations include:

  • $15 million to continue to fund Georgia’s intellectual and developmental disabilities waiver services and to provide supportive housing for Georgians in need.
  • $ 3.5 million from the AFY 2018 budget and $7 million from the FY 2019 budget towards the Children’s Autism Initiative.
  • $22.9 million to fund crisis services, therapeutic foster care, Apex grants, telehealth services, suicide prevention, wraparound services, supported employment and education, and opioid prevention & treatment.

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

In my last blog post, I highlighted the success of accountability courts. These court systems provide alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. The FY 2019 budget includes allocations for $5 million towards accountability courts, so we can continue establishing and operating them throughout our state. This will help low-level offenders get the assistance they need to get back on track and keep them out of the prison system.
Programs & Initiatives

Gov. Deal lastly gave his budget recommendations for certain programs and initiatives to meet the needs of Georgia citizens’ overall well-being. This included:

  • $15.1 million for growth in out‐of‐home care utilization
  • $10.1 million to continue to increase Georgia’s foster parent per diem rates
  • $3.6 million to increase out‐of‐home care provider rates
  • $256 million for Medicaid expense growth and to offset federal revenue and settlement loss.

The General Assembly heard more budget proposals from Gov. Deal that I will update you on as session continues. The House Appropriations subcommittees will hear and review even more proposals this week. Leaders of these subcommittees will eventually pass along their respective portion of the budget to their committees before the draft goes before the full House Appropriations Committee. This committee is tasked with reviewing and passing balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.

MORE SESSION UPDATES – HOUSE BILL 159

Last week, the Senate passed their version of HB 159. This bill passed unanimously in last year’s session and would modernize our state’s adoption laws for the first time in nearly 30 years. The House will review the Senate’s amendments the this bill, and we hope to get this bill signed into law very soon!


As you read this, my colleagues and I are working towards creating a balanced budget for our state and passing legislation that will support our state’s continued growth. Return next week to learn about the third week of the 2018 legislative session!

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!

Session Has Begun – Week One Update 2018

On January 8th, the House joined together for the first week of the 2018 legislative session. This is an exciting and important time for my colleagues and I. We are currently hard at work on passing legislation that will improve the lives of Georgia citizens. The first order of business was for Governor Nathan Deal to deliver his final annual State of the State address.

After four decades of service to the state of Georgia, Governor Deal will retire. We were all encouraged by his speech which covered his hopes for the future and how far Georgia has come. Since Gov. Deal has been in office, Georgia’s unemployment rate has dropped from 10.4% to 4.3%, over 675,000 private sector jobs have been created, and Georgia has been named the number 1 state to do business with for the last 5 years.

I’m sure you have noticed the increase in GA film production over the past few years. Gov. Deal touched on this as well. There are now over 200 new companies located in the state of Georgia in support of our growing film industry. An impressive 92,000 jobs are tied to this industry! In addition to this, roughly 1,900 students have taken courses at the Georgia Film Academy. These individuals will eventually go on to support and further grow the industry. I’m excited to see how far our state goes in this area.

Gov. Deal touched on our improvements in education as well. Since he took office, state spending on education has seen a $3.6 billion increase which brings us to $14 billion in state education expenditures. You may recall the allocation of funds to create the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. This center opened in June 2017 to give educators the skills they need to improve literacy in our schools. Gov. Deal highlighted the center’s namesake First lady Sandra Deal for her terrific work as an educator.

My colleagues and I were also reminded of how far the HOPE Scholarship has come. When Gov. Deal took office back in 2011, the HOPE Scholarship and other grant programs were nearing bankruptcy. In response to this, Gov. Deal created reforms that kept these programs afloat along with the HOPE Career Grant program. This program covers the cost of technical school tuition for students in one of the 17 strategic industry, high-demand fields. 99.2% of these students have found employment!

The state of Georgia has also seen great strides in criminal justice reform initiatives. For example, our state’s accountability courts have been successful to say the least. These courts provide sentencing alternatives for non-violent offenders and have significantly decreased the prison population. Today, there are 149 reform programs and all of Georgia’s judicial circuits manage at least one kind of accountability court.

Finally, Gov. Deal spoke on his budget recommendations. For the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget he proposed:

  • $102 million for K-12 enrollment growth
  • $10.7 million for growth in Georgia’s Dual Enrollment program
  • $43.6 million for the Indigent Care Trust Fund and Medicaid
  • $15.1 million for child welfare services to care for children in state custody
  • $2.4 million for autism services for children under the age of 21
  • $17.6 million for Forestland Protection Act grants
  • $10 million for beach nourishment projects
  • $25.2 million for airport runway extension projects

For the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, Gov. Deal proposed:

  • $361.7 million for the Teachers Retirement System
  • $127 million for K-12 education
  • $30 million to assist low-wealth school systems
  • $28.8 million for child welfare services to fund out-of-home care growth and foster care per diem increases
  • $22.9 million to implement recommendations from the Commission on Children’s Mental Health
  • $5 million for accountability courts to implement new courts and expand existing courts
  • $31 million for transportation
  • $100 million to repair roads and bridges

 

These recommendations will guide the General Assembly’s decisions as we do our best to create a balanced budget.You will learn more about what will be included in the budgets as session continues.

While most of this first week of session was spent getting to work on legislative decisions, we took time to celebrate College Football Playoff National Championship Day. On the first day of session, the House adopted House Resolution 867 which recognizes Dan Corso, president of Atlanta Sports Council, and commends the Atlanta Football Host Committee for organizing the championship game. While we were not victorious, hosting the National Championship was a first for Georgia and that is something to be proud of!


We are currently in our second week of session working towards creating important, impactful legislation for the state of Georgia. Each week, you can return to my blog to read updates on the 2018 legislative session.

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!

Family-Friendly New Year’s Eve Events in Henry County

New Year’s Eve Events Happening Near You
photo: property of Rockdale Newton Citizen

If you are looking for some family-friendly New Year’s Eve options, there are several events planned throughout Georgia. The McDonough Geranium Drop is a local favorite. Surrounding businesses get involved by offering specials, and parking & admission is free of charge. Go enjoy the live music and dancing on December 31 at 8 pm! For more ideas on how to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Georgia, read this article: New Year’s Eve celebrations planned throughout the state

Congratulations, Henry County Schools!
Henry Co Schools Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis, Ph.D | photo: property of South Metro Neighbor

Henry County Schools is the 2017 Henry Neighbor’s newsmaker of the year! This news source covered several positive updates about the Henry County School district throughout the year. Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis, Ph.D., stated that “A universal thread connects consumers to information about one of society’s highest priorities, . . . There isn’t one person who doesn’t care about the quality that education brings.” I am certain that we will see even more good news from Henry County Schools in 2018. To read more this story, visit this article: Henry County Schools a top topic throughout 2017

I Want To Hear Your Feedback.

With the new legislative session being right around the corner, I want to know what’s on the mind’s of District 109 citizens.

What do you want to see accomplished in District 109? What are your questions and concerns? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated and will help me serve you best. I look forward to hearing from you!