______________________________________________ - Week 5: Feb 5, 2018
Georgia State Representative - Democrat  -  State Representative District 53
What’s Happening….UNDER THE GOLD DOME
Week 5 started Monday, February 5, 2018
~for Legislative Days 15 through 18~
The fifth week of the 2018 legislative session under the Gold Dome 
started Monday, February 5th.  
The House of Representatives met Monday through Thursday 
to tackle a very busy legislative agenda.  Some of the Bills to pass this week:
House Bill 700 - the National Guard Service Cancelable Loan Program
A military-friendly measure that would update and expand the National Guard Service Cancelable Loan program to cover the cost of graduate degree programs for National Guard members.
HB 700 would ensure that these loans, which are used to repay the cost of tuition in exchange for National Guard service, do not exceed the cost of tuition and would also require loan recipients to remain in good standing with the National Guard and serve two consecutive years upon graduation.
National Guard members interested in the Service Cancelable Loan program would be required to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and utilize all available funding before seeking the loan. Currently, these loans are limited to undergraduate degree programs and public postsecondary technical or vocational schools.  This program is a proven tool that helps our state recruit and retain National Guard members.  
About 228 National Guard members currently participate in this program, and extending the program to the graduate level would add about 50 individuals to the program annually and allow Georgia to remain competitive with our neighboring states that have similar legislation.
House Bill 699 – Firefighters who served in the military
Another military-friendly measure would allow firefighters who have served as members of the armed forces to be exempt from firefighter basic training.
Current law requires all firefighters to successfully complete a basic training course within one year of their hire date, and the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council determines the content and duration of this course.
However, HB 699 would allow individuals who have trained as a member of the United States armed forces, United States Coast Guard, Georgia National Guard or Georgia Air National Guard to present documentation of such training to the council and receive a firefighter basic training certificate of completion.
This bill would make it easier for Georgia’s veterans to begin a career as a firefighter as a result of their service and the sacrifices they have made for our country and state.
House Bill 701 - Opioid Crisis
Allows our state to test candidates for all forms of opioids during state employment drug testing but would not affect those with valid and legal opioid prescriptions.  The federal government recently added opioids to federal drug testing laws, and HB 701 would modify state law to reflect this national change.
According to the Substance Abuse Research Alliance, Georgia is ranked 11th in the nation in opioid overdoses, and 68 percent of Georgia’s 1,307 drug overdoses in 2015 were caused by opioids and heroin.
HB 701 is another piece of legislation aimed at fighting our state’s opioid epidemic.   The General Assembly has worked diligently in recent years to pass measures to tackle Georgia’s devastating opioid crisis.
House Bill 655 - Child Abuse Hotline for Schools
House Bill 655 would require public schools, as well as local and state charter schools, to post signs with the toll-free phone number of the child abuse hotline in clearly visible, public areas. This 24/7 hotline is operated by the Division of Family and Children Services and the Department of Human Services and allows students to report incidents of child abuse or neglect to trusted individuals.  In an effort to stop child abuse, Georgia would join twenty-seven other states that have passed similar legislation.
House Bill 159 - Status of The Adoption Bill
After passing in the House unanimously, the Senate overwhelmingly passed HB 159.  HB 159 would update Georgia’s adoption laws for the first time in almost three decades and streamline and expedite all types of adoptions in Georgia, allowing thousands of children to more quickly and efficiently find their forever families.  This legislation is one of the first bills of the 2018 legislative session to go to the governor’s desk for final approval
House Bill 683, the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 Budget (AFY 2018)
We must pass an amended budget each year to account for any differences between estimated and actual state revenue.  The measure passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 167-8.  The AFY 2018 budget recognizes $306.7 million in additional state revenue, and brings the total AFY 2018 budget to $25.3 billion.
Focus was on education, healthcare and human services, and also targeted funding for key initiatives recommended by the House Rural Development Council (RDC) designed to spur development and meet needs in rural communities throughout the state.  Education and Health & Human Services related appropriations make up some of the largest items in the amended 2018 budget.
The amended budget provides:
►Funding for K-12 education and related initiatives makes up some of the largest investments in the AFY 2018 budget
►$102.1 million for enrollment growth for 7,515 additional students, as well as for charter system grants and State Commission Charter School supplements
►$15.5 million to purchase 200 new school buses for school systems statewide
►$400,000 to establish a leadership academy for principals across the state
► higher education: $10.7 million to meet the needs of 4,720 new Dual Enrollment students
►$10 million for the Board of Regents to cover the growing cost of graduate-level medical education at Augusta University.
►$8.1 million in lottery funds to keep up with the growing demand for HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships
►$75,000 to plan for the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations, as recommend by the RDC.
The AFY 2018 budget includes appropriations for many information technology and Medicaid infrastructure initiatives.
►$1 million to fund an electronic visit verification system for home and community-based services
►$1.25 million for crisis services
►$1.1 million to develop capacity for behavioral health services
►$128,292 in existing funds for telehealth services
►funding for a program coordinator position in the Department of Community Health
►funding 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 for out-of-home care growth for the rising number of children in Georgia’s foster care system, which has doubled since 2009.
►$100,000 for a statewide medical fair to recruit employees in rural areas
►$75,000 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 for more behavioral health crisis stabilization beds.
►$10 million to the OneGeorgia Authority to fund beach nourishment projects in communities that were impacted by Hurricane Irma, which caused tremendous destruction and devastation across Georgia’s coastal region last year.
►$10 million to replenish Gov. Deal’s emergency fund
►$3 million to purchase equipment to prevent and combat wildfires
►$25.2 million to lengthen rural runways to accommodate larger aircrafts in an effort to increase economic development and investment in the Georgia’s rural communities
►$5 million for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to implement the statewide criminal justice e-filing initiative
►$500,000 for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to purchase supplies needed to process DNA sexual assault kits
HB 683 is now being reviewed by our counterparts in the Senate.
I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office during session.  My office is located across from the State Capitol, in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building1. Feel free to call or email me with any concerns:  Sheila.Jones@house.ga.gov  -  404.656.0126.
Visit the House website, www.house.ga.gov, for several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session:
• live stream of House proceedings
• live and archived committee meeting videos
• detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.