2019 Legislative Session – Week 4

In week 4 of the 2019 legislative session, the House passed the Amended Fiscal Year 2019 Budget. Passing a balanced Amended Fiscal Year budget has been one of the top priorities for the General Assembly as it guides our state’s spending for the remainder of 2019. A big focus for this amended budget is student well-being with funds allocated for school security grants and mental health services. Below are just a few highlights from the budget.

House Bill 30: Passing the AFY Budget – Highlights 

-$8.4 million in additional funding is allocated for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to expand the Georgia Apex Program. This program provides support counselors for high school students struggling with mental health issues.

-$10 million is allocated for emergency disaster relief assistance to Georgia farmers who were affected by Hurricane Michael in October. This is in addition to the $55 million appropriated to the Georgia Development Authority to assist farmers as decided during the 2018 special session.

-$1 million is allocated for the Department of Community Health to craft state flexibility options for our state’s Medicaid Program under the federal waiver program.

-$69.4 million is allocated towards providing school security grants of $30,000 each for 2,314 schools including charter schools, college and career academies, GNETS facilities, and the three state schools.

For more information on our state’s budget allocations, visit the Georgia House of Representatives Budget & Research Office webpage. There you can find the final version of the AFY 2019 Budget.

House Resolution 1: Honoring Former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal

House Resolution 1, carried by Speaker David Ralston and Majority Leader Jon Burns, names the forthcoming new state appellate judicial complex the “Nathan Deal Judicial Center.” Considering Gov. Deal’s accomplishments in reforming Georgia’s criminal justice law, it makes perfect sense that the center would bear his name. Deal has saved Georgia taxpayers millions in additional prison spending, reduced the minority prison population, and has created solutions to treat nonviolent offenders who suffer from substance abuse or mental illness. 

Under his leadership, Georgia has consecutively earned the title of “No. 1 State in which to do business.” During his time as Governor, Georgia has seen significant improvements in transportation, education, and success for small business owners. I believe he has set a precedent that our state will frequently refer to, and I look forward to seeing how much more Georgia will grow as a result of his service the betterment of our state.

The 5th week of session is underway. As the General Assembly works to pass more legislation, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions and concerns. Thank you for reading and please return to my blog next week for more updates on this year’s 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

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.


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


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 – Special Session Update

On Tuesday, November 13th, Governor Nathan Deal called for a special legislative session to allow for the House and Senate to amend the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget. Our state’s agriculture communities in Southwest Georgia took a serious hit during Hurricane Michael. By the end of this 5-day special session, the General Assembly was able to amend the budget which will provide approx. $270 million in emergency funding for our southwest neighbors.

Continue reading this blog post for more updates from this special session. You can learn more about what goes on at the capitol on the Georgia General Assembly website.

Hurricane Michael – Damages & losses

The following is a snapshot of how much Hurricane Michael affected Southwest Georgia:

-$550 million loss in cotton crop

-$13 million loss in the landscape and green industry

-$480 million loss in high-yielding vegetables: tomatoes, peas, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and sweet corn.

-$560 million loss in the pecan industry

-129 commercial poultry houses loss and over 2 million chickens – a $25 million loss

-$25 million in peanut losses

-$763 million loss in timber


The House passed the amended budget which will provide $270 million in areas most impacted by the storm. $69 million of this budget is allocated towards the Governor’s Emergency Fund to cover damages and operating costs. The Department of Human Services will also benefit from this fund so they will be able to provide grants to families in need of housing assistance.

Amended Budget Allocations:

-$55 million to the Georgia Development Authority for farmers to access for agricultural loss relief

-$20 million to the Georgia Development Authority for timberland cleanup efforts

-$25 million for the OneGeorgia Authority to provide for local communities and statewide economic development efforts.

-$15 million towards Regional Economic Business Assistance grants to allow Georgia to pursue economic development opportunities in affected areas

-$69 million to the Georgia Department of Transportation for transportation projects and to offset expenses incurred during the storm


HB 4EX – Timber Tax Bill 

In addition to the amended budget, the house passed the Timber Tax Bill which will aid in the nearly 2.4 million acres of timberland lost – a value of $762 million.  Sadly, the effects from the hurricane continue to grow. This bill would allow timberland owners to apply for an income tax credit worth 100% of the timberland lost between Oct. 8 and Dec. 31. This income tax credit has a cap of $200 million overall and $400 per acre damaged.

The 2019 session convenes on January 14, 2019.  I encourage you to reach out to me with your questions, concerns, and thoughts on how we can improve 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.  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 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 dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

2018 Legislative Session – Week 7 Update

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

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

House Bill 918 – Updating Georgia’s Tax Code

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

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

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

House Bill 769 – Health Care & Rural Georgia

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

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

House Bill 735 and 876 – Infrastructure & Rural Georgia 

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

House Bill 853 – Quality Basic Education Act

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

House Bill 732 – Prosecuting Sex Trafficking Offenders 

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

House Bill 840 – Military Members Combat Zone Exemption

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

State of the Judiciary Address

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

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

You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for legislative term here. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

2018 Legislative Session – Week 6 Update

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

House Bill 487 – Emergency Response Volunteers

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

House Bill 678 – Transparency in our Healthcare System

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

House Bill 79 – Law Enforcement & Information Protection

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

House Bill 749 – Protecting Georgia’s Veterans

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

House Bill 740 – Preventing School Suspensions

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

House Bill 635 – Protecting our state’s Elderly Citizens

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

House Bill 930 – Georgia Transportation Improvements

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

My colleagues and I are currently in week 7 working diligently as we approach the last few weeks of session.  You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for legislative term here. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov.  Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

2018 Legislative Session – Week 5 Update

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

Passing HB 683- The AFY 2018 Budget

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

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


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

Health and Human Services:

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

Additional GA Needs:

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

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

House Bill 700- National Guard Loan Repayment bill

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

House Bill 699- Veteran Support 

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

HB 701- Aiding the Opioid Crisis

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

House Bill 655 -Protecting our Young Citizens. 

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

House Bill 159 – Adoption Law Updates. 

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

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

You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for legislative term here. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

2018 Legislative Session – Week 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.


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.



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



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.



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.


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!