Vote Dale Rutledge in the November Election!


I am seeking re-election to continue representing District 109 in the Georgia House. Are you registered to vote? The registration deadline is on October 9th. I encourage you to take a few minutes and register to ensure that you have a say in this upcoming election.

I am grateful for the support that I received last May in the Primary Election . . . I’ll need you continued support if I am to advance the state of Georgia and its citizens!

If you are not familiar with my views, learn about them here. Feel free to interact with me on social media and use the hashtag #daleforstatehouse to show your support.

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2018 Legislative Session – Week 12 Update

This is my final blog update on the 2018 Legislative session! On Tuesday, March 27th, the House met for the 12 and final week of the 40 day session. We completed the last day of session, or “Sine Die,” on March 29th. Last week consisted of busy, late nights as my colleagues and I strived to complete our work. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the bills we were able to pass.

Protecting Victims’ Rights

Last week, the House unanimously passed two adjoining bipartisan measures—Senate Bill 127 and Senate Resolution 146. SB 127 would provide a way for victims to be heard by the court when their constitutional rights to participation and information have been denied. The victim in question would need to make a written request to the prosecuting attorney to be notified of all proceedings, provide appropriate contact information, and proclaim that they have not been notified in order to file a motion to the court to be heard on the issue within 20 days after the violation. SR, or Marsy’s Law, would place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to provide victims explicit rights in Georgia’s Constitution. If Georgia voters approve this amendment, Georgia’s Constitution would grant victims several rights including:

-reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of court proceedings or schedule changes pertaining to the alleged crime,

-reasonable and timely notice of the arrest, release or escape of the accused

-inclusion in any court proceedings

-the opportunity to be heard in any proceedings involving the release, plea, or sentencing of the accused,

-and to be informed of their rights.

These measures would put our laws in line with other states who have adopted similar legislation in order to protect the rights of crime victims.

Protecting Sexual Assault Victims

The House also passed Senate Bill 154 which outlines consequences in sexual assault cases involving those in authority positions such as police officers. SB 154 would dictate that anyone who engages in sexual conduct with a victim under their care or supervision would be guilty of sexual assault in the second degree and would be required to serve a prison sentence of 1-5 years and fined a maximum of $25,000. However, they would not need to register as a sex offender unless they are convicted of a second or subsequent offense. Those who engage in sexually explicit conduct with a victim in their care or supervision would be guilty of sexual assault in the first degree, would be required to serve a prison sentence of one to 25 years, fined a maximum of $100,000, and would be required to register as a sex offender. SB 154 provides exceptions to these sentencing requirements for offenders who commit sexual assault in either degree if the offender did not have supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim, or if the victim is younger than 16, if the victim is between 14 and 16 and the offender is 18 or younger, if the victim is at least 16, and the offender is younger than 21. Senate Bill 154  would apply to employees/agents of:

– schools,

– community supervision offices

– probation offices

– law enforcement agencies

– hospitals

– correctional facilities

– juvenile detention facilities

– disability services facilities or child welfare and youth services facilities

– psychotherapy counseling fields, 

–  licensed facilities that provide drug and alcohol treatment,

– and senior living care or hospice services.

The point of this measure is to hold authority persons accountable who have our most vulnerable citizens under their care.

Update In Criminal Justice Reform

Another unanimously passed bill from last week was Senate Bill 407. SB 407 consists of updates to criminal justice reform based on recommendations from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. These updates include:

-authorizing courts of inquiry to set bail for city ordinance violations

-requiring courts to only impose conditions that are reasonably necessary to ensure court attendance and protect public safety

-requiring courts to consider the accused’s financial resources, earnings, and other economic factors when determining bail.

-In local ordinance violations cases, the court would be authorized to allow the defendant to satisfy any fines or fees through community service, and courts would be able to waive, modify, or convert fines and fees if the defendant has undergoing financial hardship.

Under SB 407, the Judicial Council of Georgia would create a uniform misdemeanor citation and complaint form for use by law enforcement officials and the bill would allow misdemeanors to be prosecuted by accusation, citation or citation and arrest. Additionally, SB 407 would expand the list of misdemeanor crimes an officer can arrest by citation. Prior to the offender’s release, an officer would need to review the accused’s criminal record and ensure that the accused’s fingerprints are obtained. This bill would authorize accountability court judges to order the Department of Driver Services to reinstate or revoke driver’s licenses or limited permits as a reward of sanction for actions in the accountability court, and the court would be able to grant petitions for early termination of probation that the state does not oppose within 90 days of receiving the petition. SB 407 would cap supervision fees collected on pay-only probation at the rate in the private probation company’s contract, and the court would provide probationers who fail to report a 10-day grace period from the time the officer mails a letter to the probationer, as long as the probationer reports. This bill also includes provisions pertaining to firearm theft and those prohibited from firearm possession. SB 407 would authorize the Department of Community Health to share info on the prescription drug monitoring program database with federal agents and would allow for disclosure to out-of-state prescription drug monitoring programs operated by governmental entities. Lastly, SB 407 would allow Technical College System police officers to arrest for offenses committed on or within 500 feet of a Technical College System property. Under Governor Deal, our state has made significant strides in criminal justice reform. Senate Bill 407 will serve to further define and improve Georgia’s criminal justice system.

Updates in Child Support Laws

The House passed Senate Bill 427 which would require the courts to consider an obligor’s, or an individual that owes child support, earnings, income, ability to pay child support, and the basic needs of the recipients of such child support when making decision about child support costs. If a parent cannot produce reliable evidence of earnings, his or her income for the current year may be assigned by the court based on the parent’s ability to earn and other economic factors. If the parent is incarcerated, his or her income may be assigned based on their actual income and available assets, not based on their pre-incarceration wages. SB 427 would also prohibit courts from treating incarceration as willful or voluntary unemployment or underemployment when setting child support costs. Additionally, SB 427 provides that a child’s enrollment in a public health care program, such as Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids, may satisfy the health care requirement for providing for the child’s health care needs in a child support order. Such enrollment however would not prevent a court from ordering parents to insure their child. 

Promoting Post-Graduation Success

Under Senate Bill 401, would require postsecondary institutions that provide dual credit courses to provide enrollment and student record data to the Office of Student Achievement and to the statewide longitudinal data system. Also, the Office of Student Achievement would collect and monitor enrollment and student record data for dual credit courses and would annually measure and evaluate the dual enrollment program. Senate Bill 401 would require middle school students to be provided with counseling and information to assist them in evaluating their career oriented aptitudes. Students would develop a graduation plan with their parents or guardians based on academic skills, career aptitudes and interests before the end of the eighth grade. Under this legislation, the Department of Education would be required to review each school counselor’s role, workload, and program service delivery in grades 6-12th. The department would report findings to the State Board of Education and the Georgia General Assembly including recommendations for improvements for counselors to ensure student success in academic skills, career oriented aptitude, and career interests. Finally, SB 401 includes provisions that would help prepare students in Kindergarten-9th grade to address sexual abuse, and will allow funding for students taking dual credit courses at eligible eligible postsecondary institutions that use nonstandard term systems.

Rural Georgia & Metro Atlanta Improvements

On March 29th, the House finally passed two significant measures—Senate Bill 402 and House Bill 930. SB 402 contains technical changes to facilitate broadband expansion to rural areas including implementing grant programs for rural broadband. House Bill 930 would create a new regional governance and funding structure for transit in Metro Atlanta. This bill means to improve the coordination, integration, and efficiency of transit in the 13-county Metro Atlanta region.

Passing A Balanced Budget

Before we officially adjourned Sine Die for 2018, the House gave final passage to House Bill 684— The Fiscal Year 2019 ( FY 2019) budget. The FY 2019 budget includes $166.7 million for local school systems, $16 million for school security, $100 million in bonds for transit, and additional funds the meet several, various needs of the state.

With Sine Die competed, the General Assembly has adjourned for this year’s 40 day session. Over the next 40 days, Governor Deal will review and sign or veto measures that were passed during session. Any piece of legislation not signed or vetoed within those 40 days will become law.  I encourage you to reach out to me with questions and concerns about the bills the General Assembly have been working on. 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 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 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 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 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 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.


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 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 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  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.


– $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 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 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 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!