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Gold Dome

February 5, 2019

Gold Dome Report - February 5, 2019

With Super Bowl LIII in the rearview mirror, legislators returned to the State Capitol today ready to get to work. Activity in the halls was appreciably more brisk as the pomp and circumstance of January began its February transition to myriad committee meetings, policy discussions, and political jockeying. Several committees took action on legislation today, the House Appropriations Committee will meet to sign off on the Amended FY 2019 budget is in the morning, and the House Rules Committee is expected to set its first Rules Calendar (for Thursday) immediately thereafter. The legislative machinery is getting up to speed--keep track of the fast-moving action in the #GoldDomeReport.

In this Report:

  • House, Senate Education Committees Host Joint Informational Meeting
  • House HHS Committee Approves Dense Breast Tissue Disclosure Measure
  • Other Committee Updates
  • New Legislation

House, Senate Education Committees Host Joint Informational Meeting

The House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), and Senate Education and Youth Committee, chaired by Sen. P.K. Martin IV (R-Lawrenceville), met jointly today to hear from several of Georgia’s education leaders. Chairman Jasperse noted that each of the speakers had been asked to answer specific questions in their presentations.

The Committees first heard from State School Superintendent Richard Woods, who highlighted the changing tides in education, from preparing all students for four-year degrees to offering multiple pathways for students to move on to higher education, technical training, and the workforce. Addressing the needs of education in rural Georgia, Superintendent Woods recommended focusing on improving and expanding pupil transportation; increasing the teacher workforce and leadership pipeline; and dedicating funding for opportunities such as CTAE, dual enrollment, fine arts, and AP/IB programs. He also called on legislators to increase support for teachers, who are serving more roles than just teaching (counseling, identifying mental health concerns, parenting, etc.), by addressing high-stakes testing, valuing teacher opinions and insights, and “letting teachers teach.” On the topic of school improvement, Superintendent Woods recommended proactively promoting continuous improvement rather than punishing failure in schools and offering “tiered and tailored support around locally identified needs.” Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) inquired about DOE’s relationship with the GHSA, to which Superintendent Woods noted that contact is limited but conversations are had “as needed.”

Dr. Allison Timberlake, Deputy Superintendent for Assessment and Accountability, spoke in more detail regarding the assessments being used in Georgia schools. She noted that Georgia tests beyond the federal minimum at several grade levels, but schools are piloting formative assessments that provide active teacher feedback like Keenville (which will be fully launched in the fall). Dr. Timberlake also provided an update on the implementation of Georgia Milestones and highlighted the state’s application for Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (“IADA”) with the federal government (and noted that additional funding will be required if authority is granted). Finally, she discussed the components and use of CCRPI for accountability. Chairman Jasperse inquired as to how much additional funding would be required for IADA implementation, to which Dr. Timberlake responded that she has the numbers but will have to retrieve them for the Committees. Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven) asked about who has access to CCRPI reporting, to which Dr. Timberlake noted that school-level CCRPI reports are available on the Department of Education website. Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead) inquired as to why it takes so long to get back CCRPI scores, to which Dr. Timberlake explained that the index includes summer re-tests and graduations, which delays calculation until the fall.

Dr. Garry McGiboney, Deputy Superintendent for External Affairs, spoke on the topic of school safety and school climate. Dr. McGiboney spoke on the efficacy and implementation of PBIS as a tool for improving school climate. Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-Atlanta) asked whether PBIS considers alternatives to student suspension, to which Dr. McGiboney noted that each school defines its own problems and solutions under PBIS, and diversion from suspension is an option.

Chief Turnaround Officer (“CTO”) Eric Thomas addressed the role of the First Priority Act in providing for interventions for the 150,000 Georgia students in schools with CCRPI scores below 60. He detailed the CTO’s focus on health and wellness initiatives, including student health, mental health, nutrition, and staff wellness, in school districts with which they partner. Rep. Belton asked about how much funding the CTO has received from the innovation tax credit, to which Dr. Thomas responded about $70,000. Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) asked Dr. Thomas to “put some meat on the bones” to his office’s efforts to solve real problems in districts, and Dr. Thomas pointed to efforts in four districts in southwest Georgia to improve teacher recruitment and retention by pooling resources to share a human resources director. 

Drs. Steve Dollinger and Dana Rickman presented to the Committees on behalf of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education. The duo discussed their Top Ten Issues to Watch in 2019, which include New Capitol Leadership, School Safety, Funding and the QBE Formula, ESAs/Vouchers, School Start Dates, and Dual Enrollment.

House HHS Committee Approves Dense Breast Tissue Disclosure Measure

The House Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), met today and took up one bill. HB 61, authored by Chairman Cooper, is known as "Margie's Law” and amends Title 31 to require that a health care facility conducting mammograms notify women with dense breast tissue that such tissue may make it difficult to detect cancer through a mammogram and that such women should discuss with their physician whether supplemental tests are warranted. The bill was received with substantial support by the Committee, which recommended the bill DO PASS.

The Committee also heard a presentation by the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards (“CSBs”). Their presentation centered around their work to provide mental health and substance abuse and addiction services in the communities across Georgia. The CSBs were formed by the passage of HB 100 in 1994 and there are 26 such entities. The CSBs explained that they are funded in part by state funds as well as Medicaid funds in addition to private donations and insurance payments. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities oversees the CSBs, and they utilize performance monitoring. Each CSB has its own community governing board, as well. CSBs implement the APEX program, which provides mental health counselors in schools, and the CSBs urged the General Assembly to not set up parallel programs for mental health counselors. Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs) asked about Fulton County, pointing out its need for mental health services. There is no CSB in Fulton County.

Other Committee Updates

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee

The House Judiciary Non Civil Committee, chaired by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), held its first meeting of the 2019 session this morning. Before entertaining a motion to adopt the committee rules, Chairman Efstration briefly addressed the committee’s openness towards working with representatives and advocates on legislation. He also explained that the subcommittee chairmen, Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) and Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), will be assigned bills based on workload, not the substance of the bills. After a brief introduction of committee members, the rules were passed unanimously and the committee was adjourned.

House Judiciary Committee -- Kelley Subcommittee

The Kelley Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), met for the first time today to consider one bill. HB 91, authored by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough) amends Title 31 to allow the Department of Community Health to retain fingerprints collected as part of the Georgia Long-Term Care Background Check Program. Rep. Welch explained that the bill will increase efficiency by only requiring an individual to give information for a background check one time and allow checks to be monitored and updated, not just as a single check, as is currently written in Georgia code. Rep. Welch noted that this bill will aid in preventing elder abuse by ensuring the owners and employees of long term care facilities must submit their fingerprints for background checks. With no questions from members of the committee, Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) moved that the bill DO PASS, and the motion was seconded by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta). The motion was approved unanimously.

House Juvenile Justice Committee

The House Juvenile Justice Committee, under the leadership of Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), met for a brief meeting in the early afternoon. Their only action was to adopt their committee rules for operating during this session.

New Legislation

The following legislation of interest was introduced in the House today:

  • HB 12, authored by Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville), amends Title 20 to require all public schools to post a sign containing the toll-free number operated by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Services to receive reports of child abuse and/or neglect. This bill was referred to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
     
  • HB 99, authored by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), amends Title 33 to modernize and update language in the insurance code. This bill was referred to the House Insurance Committee.
     
  • HB 100, authored by Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta), amends Title 46 to authorize electric membership corporations to deliver broadband internet. This bill was referred to the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
     
  • HB 102, authored by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), amends Title 48 to allow exemption from property taxation for property owned by nonprofit organizations and operated for the primary or incidental purpose of securing income so long as the income is used exclusively for the operation of the charitable institution. This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
     
  • HB 103, authored by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), eliminates a workaround related to compensation of special assistant district attorneys and attorneys general who are retained to prosecute civil asset forfeiture proceedings. The legislation bars de facto contingency fee arrangements and requires that contracts with attorneys retained to handle forfeiture proceedings be in writing and filed with the Clerk of Court. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
     
  • HB 105, authored by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), amends Title 48 to provide an income tax exemption for income received as payments from a disaster relief program administered by the US Department of Agriculture relating to Hurricane Michael. This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
     
  • HB 106, authored by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), amends Title 40 to require the Department of Driver Services to provide best practices for safety of all parties during a traffic stop in all future manuals issued by the department. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
     
  • HB 109, authored by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), amends Title 47 to amend the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia. This bill modifies conditions for individuals who become members on or after July 1, 2019. Included in the bill are provisions regarding calculations for average earnable compensation, adjustments to the contribution deductions, new definitions for normal retirement age, and new guidelines for retirement allowances for those that became members on or after July 1, 2019. This bill was referred to the House Retirement Committee.
     
  • HB 110, authored by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), amends Title 34 to provide that wages may be paid by check at the discretion of the person, firm, or corporation. This bill was referred to the House Industry and Labor Committee.
     
  • HB 112, authored by Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta), amends Title 16 to prohibit the sale of any drug containing dextromethorphan to a minor. This bill was referred to the House Juvenile Justice Committee.
     
  • HB 113, authored by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), amends Title 40 to widen the class of drivers that are prohibited from using telecommunications devices while operating a vehicle. The bill also revises rules related to acquiring driver's license. This bill was referred to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
     
  • HB 116, authored by Rep. Dewey McClain (D-Lawrenceville), amends Title 34 to provide for an increase in the state minimum wage to $15 an hour. This bill was referred to the House Industry and Labor Committee.
     
  • HB 117, authored by Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta), amends Title 21 to allow a county to permit an elector to vote in any precinct in the county in which that elector is registered. This bill was referred to the House Governmental Affairs Committee. 

The following legislation of interest was introduced in the Senate today:

  • SB 41, authored by Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), amends Title 48 to create an earned income tax credit for individuals that qualify for a federal earned income tax credit under Section 32 of the Internal Revenue Code. This bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
     
  • SB 42, authored by Sen. Steve Henson (D-Stone Mountain), amends Title 21 to enact an agreement between states to elect the President of the United States by national popular vote. This bill was referred to the Senate Ethics Committee.
     
  • SB 44, authored by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), amends Title 20 to require pre-participation physical examinations for youth athletes participating in youth sports leagues. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
  • SB 46, authored by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), amends Title 34 to provide for an increase in the state minimum wage to $15 an hour. This bill was referred to the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.
     
  • SB 48, authored by Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville), amends Title 20 to require that all pre-kindergarten students are screened for dyslexia. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
     
  • SB 49, authored by Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), amends Title 34 to prohibit employers from using salary history of an applicant to determine wages, benefits, or other compensation during the initial hiring process. This bill was referred to the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee. 
     
  • SR 66, authored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), ratifies an Amendment to the US Constitution that states “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.” This resolution was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.