Youth Leadership Henry – State Government Day at the Capitol

Youth Leadership Henry
Photo credit: Youth Leadership Henry

Youth Leadership Henry is a program sponsored by the Henry County Chamber of Commerce that identifies and develops emerging leaders and gives them an environment in which they learn and grow. These students meet regularly throughout the year to learn about the needs of Henry County from local leaders, professionals, and teachers in their community.

On Tuesday, February 5th, these young leaders visited my colleagues and me at the Capitol building. We had the pleasure of showing students around the Capitol and speaking to them about what we do as lawmakers to meet the needs of our communities. Talking with these students was very encouraging, and they seemed to enjoy getting an up-close look of local government. I enjoyed seeing young people who are interested in being aware of the issues of their community and wanting to do something about it. They are setting a terrific example to their peers and showing them that they don’t have to wait until after school to begin taking the initiative to solve problems.

If you are interested in your student applying for this program in the fall, Visit the Youth Leadership Henry website. Take a look at their Facebook page as well to see some photos of their excursions.

Youth Leadership Henry
Photo Credit: Youth Leadership Henry

The General Assembly is currently working through the 4th week of the 2019 legislative session. As we begin to pass even more pieces of legislation, I encourage you to reach out to me with any opinions or questions you may have.

How to Reach Me:

Help me serve you better by informing me of the needs you see in your community. I encourage you to reach out to me with questions, comments, and concerns about legislation we are working on throughout this session. You are also welcome to visit me at the Capitol.

Capitol Address
601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.
18 Capitol Square SW
Atlanta, GA 30334
404.656.0254 – Office
District Address
P.O. Box 1162
McDonough, GA 30253

Emaildale.rutledge@house.ga.gov

2019 Legislative Session – Week 2

Last week, the House and the Senate met for joint Appropriations Committee hearings on the Amended Fiscal Year 2019 (AFY 2019) and the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY 2020) budget. Here are just a few key appropriations.

AFY 2019 Budget Highlights:

-$1 million will be allocated to the Department of Community Health to craft state flexibility options for Georgia’s Medicaid Program.
-$8.4 million is allocated to expand the APEX program in public schools
-$69 million is allocated for school safety measures. Every Georgia public school will receive $30,000 for security improvements.

FY 2020 Budget Highlights:

-The budget includes a 2% merit increase for all state employees.
-$500,00 will go towards initial funds to create a gang task force within the GBI.
-A $3,000 permanent salary increase is allocated for teachers—the largest teacher pay raise in Georgia’s history.

We are still early in the Budget Process. You can follow along here, and I will continue to update you weekly on how the state’s budget will be spent.

My Committee Assignments

Below you can find the committees I am assigned to this session and learn more about each.

Appropriations – Vice-Chairman of Subcommittee
Judiciary – Member
Motor Vehicles – Member
Regulated Industries – Member
Small Business Development – Member
Transportation – Member
Ways & Means – Secretary

Follow the Legislative Process

There are several ways to stay up to date with what is happening at the Capitol.

Check the status of legislation here: http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/Search.aspx
Watch live broadcasts of session: http://www.house.ga.gov/mediaServices/en-US/VideoBroadcasts.aspx

Follow the Georgia House of Rep. on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Reach me:

Help me serve you better by informing me on the needs you see in your community. I encourage you to reach out to me with questions, comments, and concerns about legislation we are working on throughout this session:

Capitol Address
601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.
18 Capitol Square SW
Atlanta, GA 30334
404.656.0254 – Office
District Address
P.O. Box 1162
McDonough, GA 30253

Email: dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov


Your representatives are currently working through the third week of session. Each week, you can return to my blog to read updates on what the General Assembly is working on for the state of Georgia. 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!

 

2019 Legislative Session – Week 1

Brian Kemp Address

On Monday, January 14th, the General Assembly began this year’s 2019 Legislative Session. Every year, my colleagues and I meet for 40 days to pass bills for the betterment of Georgia. I will update you weekly on what is happening at the Capitol building and what you can expect from your representatives.

Governor Kemp’s State of the State Address & Budget Updates

The House got the opportunity to hear from Governor Brian Kemp on Thursday, January 17th. Gov. Kemp went over some of his budget initiatives including:

-$3,000 pay increase for teachers
-$69 million in school security grants
-$1 million towards the state health department’s budget to expand access to Federal Medicaid waivers

In all, Gov. Kemp estimated $27.5 billion for the 2020 State revenue estimate—$2.3 billion higher than Gov. Deal’s 2019 budget. The governor did recommend to eliminate state support for the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District. At $200,000, it accounts for 18% of the District’s budget. The House does not advise this cut at this point in light of the ongoing Tri-State water litigation. Gov. Kemp rejected a $250,000 request by the Georgia Regional Transporation Authority for additional Xpress operations support and a $10 million request by the State Roads & Tollway Authority for year three of the 10-year operations of the Northwest Corridor and I-75 South.

However, the ATL Authority did receive an additional $2.5 million for operations related to the Authority’s startup. Improvements in transit and transportation will be a focus during this session. House Transporation Chairman Kevin Tanner and Council Board Member Sen. Brandon Beach are leading the charge on advocating for legislation to fund multi-year transportation and infrastructure needs for the expansion and efficiency of metro Atlanta’s transit systems.

I will have much more to relay to you regarding budget allocations as session continues. And, if you weren’t aware, video broadcasts of session are available to you. Visit the Georgia House of Representatives website for more information about pending legislation, session photos, committee appointments, and several more resources.

2019 Senate and House Leadership

Below, I’ve listed out leaders from both chambers. You can click through each of their names to find more information about them.

House:

Speaker of the House – David Ralston
Speaker Pro Tempore – Jan Jones
Majority Leader – Jon Burns
Majority Whip – Trey Kelley
Majority Caucus Chair – Matt Hatchett
Majority Caucus Vice Chair – Micah Gravley

Minority Leader – Robert Trammell
Minority Whip – William Boddie
Minority Caucus Chair – James Beverly
Minority Caucus Vice Chair – Erica Thomas

Governor’s Floor Leaders – Jodi Lott, Terry Rogers, Bert Reeves, & Dominic LaRiccia

Senate:

President Pro Tempore – Butch Miller
Majority Leader – Mike Dugan
Majority Whip – Steve Gooch
Majority Caucus Chair – John Kennedy
Majority Caucus Vice Chair – Larry Walker

Minority Leader – Steve Henson
Minority Whip – Harold Jones
Minority Caucus Chair – Gloria Butler
Minority Caucus Vice Chair – Emanuel Jones

Governor’s Floor Leaders – Blake Tillery & Brian Strickland


Your representatives are currently working through the second week of session. Each week, you can return to my blog to read updates on what the General Assembly is working on for the state of Georgia.

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 the 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 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 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 11 Update

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

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

A Response to School Violence

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

Improvements in Education & Future Employment

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

Veteran Mental Health

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

Protecting Lottery Winners

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

Fighting Dementia-Related Diseases

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

Connectivity For all Citizens

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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 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 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!