Hi Blog Readers,

We are closing this blog because we have launched a new, more user-friendly website where you can follow the latest news from Voices and the child advocacy community – and more!

Visually, the site complements our new brand and logo. You can view our official brand/logo style guide on our Press Kit webpage.Functionally, the site offers more sophisticated tools that will make it easier for you to find what you need and share it with others (via email and social media). Among its many functions, the site includes:

  • A Publications & Research webpage that allows you to sort items by policy issue
  • An events calendar that lists Voices’ upcoming events and other events significant to the child advocacy community
  • A rotating feature box on our homepage that displays our most important news
  • Up-to-date webpage content throughout the site so users know who we are and what we do, among other things

We ask that you take a few minutes to explore Voices’ new site – www.georgiavoices.org – and share it with others. This is an opportune time for you to share with family, friends and colleagues your involvement with/interest in Voices, who we are and how they too can join our cause, if interested.

Thank you and Happy Holidays,

Voices Staff

For detailed information on these bills, use the Legislation Tracker tool on our website.

HB 185:  Service providers sheltering with runaway youth to report contact with children within 72 Hours.  Status:  Passed House and Senate.

HB 200:  Seeks to to discourage trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude and provide greater protections to persons subject to such crime.  Status:  Passed the House and Senate.

HB 265:  Creates two special bodies (the 2011 Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Criminal Justice Reform) to study and reform Georgia’s criminal justice system.  Status:  Signed into law by the Governor.

HB 373:  A child adjudicated as a designated felon can not be discharged from DJJ or released from restrictive custody prior to the time provided in the court’s order.  Also provides that only the child or the child’s attorney can file a motion for early release or modification of a court order.  Status:  Passed House and Senate.

HB 471:  Changes to provisions related to the secure detention of children prior to a ruling in their case.  Status:  Remains in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

SB 31:  Allowing Parents of Minors Accused of Crimes to be Clients of Attorney Representing the Minor.  Status:  Passed the Senate.  Recommended Do Pass by House Judiciary Committee.  Withdrawn in the House and recommitted.

SB 105:  Children who commit designated felony acts to be granted parole.  Status:  Rests in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 127:  Significantly revised and updates Georgia’s 40 year old Juvenile Code.   Status:  Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB 641:  House Version of SB 127 (above).  This bill was introduced a few days before the end of the Session and will be refined over the interim.  Status:  Has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

HB 162:  Registered sexual offenders prohibited from photographing minor without parent’s consent.  Status:  Passed House and Senate.

SB 112:  Amending provisions related to rights of military parents during deployment.  Status:  Passed Senate and House.

SB 172:  Home study recommending adoption to be completed before child adopted by third party.  Amended to include HB 65 which allows siblings or children of adopted people to access adoption files for medical treatment.  Status:  Passed the Senate and House.

SB 247:  Amends the laws on who can petition to adopt a child in Georgia by providing that a court should determine if the person petitioning for adoption is living with another adult  when deciding on the petition for adoption. This bill would require that the court may consider whether the person living with the petitioner would be a consistent presence in the child’s life, the nature of the relationship, and whether the presence of the other adult or relationship will be harmful or beneficial to the child as a factor in considering an application for adoption. Status:  Rests in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For detailed information on these bills, use the Legislation Tracker tool on our website.

HB 47: Allowing out-of-state insurance policies to be sold in Georgia.  Status:  Passed the House and Senate.

SB 17:  Establishing the Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits.  Status:  Passed the Senate and House.

HB 132:  Insurers to provide coverage for physician prescribed medical foods. Status:  Remains in the House Insurance Committee.  This issue will most likely be dealt with by the Commission on Insurance Mandates established by SB 17 (above), should that bill become law.

HB 65: Allowing siblings or children of adopted people to access adoption files for medical treatment.  Status:  Remains in House Judiciary Committee, but the same language was added to SB 172 (below), which passed both chambers and awaits the Governor’s signature.

HB 187:  Department of Community Health to select single administrator for Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids dental.  Status:  Remains in the House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 229:  Provides that in certain matters related to administrative hearings and appeals under Medicaid, the decision of the administrative law judge shall be the final administrative decision of the commissioner.   Status:  Given a Do Pass recommendation by the House Judiciary Committee, and then withdrawn in the House and recommitted.

HB 214:  Creates a Department of Public Health.  Status: Signed into law by the Governor.

SB 88:  Increasing age requirement from six to eight for use of car child restraint systems.  Status:  SB 88 has passed the Senate and House.

HB 227:  Would allow local board of education policies authorizing school personnel to administer auto-injectable epinephrine to students who are having an anaphylactic adverse reaction.  Status:  Passed the House and Senate.

HB 345:  Children and pregnant women who are legal aliens to be eligible for Medicaid and PeachCare programs.  Status: Currently rests in the House Judiciary Committee.

HB 432:  Employers to allow employees to use sick leave to care for immediate family members.  Status:  Rests in House Industrial Relations.

HB 461:  Creating multi-state health care compact to move authority to regulate health care to the States.  Status:  Signed into law by the Governor.  An interstate compact, however, will require Congressional approval and signature of the President of the United States to become viable.

HB 476:  Creating exchanges to facilitate sale of health plans for individuals and small group employers.  Status:  This bill was actually on the House Debate Calendar on Crossover Day, but was pulled off the calendar at the last minute by the House leadership and at the request of the Governor’s office, who would like to further review the legislation.

SR 55:  Amending Constitution to ensure that people are not forced to join a health care system.  Status:  Failed.  Has not been reconsidered.

SB 63:  Calls for the use of a “smart card” to verify identification of Medicaid recipients and provides that the department may also use biometric technology to verify the identity of Medicaid enrollees.  Status:  Passed the Senate on Crossover Day after much debate on the floor.  Currently rests in the House Health and Human Services Committee.

SB 288 would allow pharmacists and nurses to administer vaccines under the terms of vaccine protocol agreements with physicians.  The previous law provided that pharmacists and nurses were restricted to only administering influenza vaccines under the protocol agreements with physicians. Status:  Has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 633:  Dropped towards the end of the 2011 session, this bill would require Department of Human Services to establish a state-wide system for reporting child abuse and suspected child abuse through the use of a toll-free telephone number and an Internet website, provide that any information reported to the system would remain confidential other than for law enforcement or government statistical purposes and require that any person reporting information on child abuse to the system be given civil immunity from prosecution.  Status: Has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

For detailed information on these bills, use the Legislation Tracker tool on our website.

SB 152:  Daycare centers run by church ministries, non-profit religious schools or religious charities to be exempt from licensing.  Status:  In Senate Education and Youth Committee. Bill held at the request of Committee Chairman for further refinement before the 2012 Session.

SB 68:  Permitting parents to petition to turn around low-achieving schools.  Status:  Currently in the Senate Education and Youth Committee.

SB 87:  Students from military families and foster care to be eligible for Special Needs Scholarships (Vouchers).  Status:  tabled in the Senate.  Could be removed from the table if the proponents could raise enough support for the measure.

HB 326: Lays out parameters for post-secondary education funding from Georgia Lottery revenues and state sponsored loans.  There is no GA Pre-K language in that bill.  Status:  Signed into law by Governor Deal on 3/15.

SB 185: The bill now authorizes the Department to issue an order providing notice of intended emergency closure of an early care and education program under two circumstances – 1.  death of a child (where death was not medically anticipated or no serious rule violations related to the death occurred by program) and 2. where a child’s safety or welfare is in imminent danger.  Upon request for hearing by the program, the Office of State Administrative Hearings (OSAH) would hold a hearing within 48 hours to determine if the closure is warranted.  If OSAH agrees, the program would be closed for a period of 21 days.  Status:  Passed the Senate and House.  The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

HB 325:  The bill alters the previously established private school vouchers law where the vouchers given by School Scholarship Organizations (where the donors are eligible for an significant income tax credit) will now adjust the $50 million tax credit cap to the inflation rate of the Consumer Price Index.  Previously, there was simply a $50 M cap. The new legislation also limits the amount an organization can give to the average of the state and local funding per pupil as determined by the Department of Education and allows funding to go to private Pre-Ks, which, to date, have been excluded.

SB 291:  The bill, put in the Hopper on the last day of the Session would move Pre-K funding to the General Fund, would be appropriated by the General Assembly and prioritized by the Department of Education.   It would lock in 2013 levels (which have not yet been decided) and allow change only as determined by the state Board of Education.  The bill has been assigned to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.

HB 81:  Would require fiscal notes for bills with significant impact on school system revenues.  Status:  Given a Do Pass recommendation by the House Education Committee.  Withdrawn in the House and recommitted.

HB 181:  Would allow the State Board of Education to waive prior year in Georgia school as requirement for special needs scholarship.  Status: Passed the House on Monday (3/14).  Currently in the Senate Education and Youth Committee.

HR 495:  Would create the Joint Higher Education Finance Study Committee to Evaluate Higher Education Funding Formula.  Status:  Given a Do Pass recommendation by the House Education Committee.  Withdrawn in the House and recommitted.

HB 314:  This bill guarantees that foster care students are granted excused absences from school to attend court proceedings relating to the students’ foster care.  Status:  Passed House and Senate.

12 Month Enrollment for Medicaid: There is much discrepancy about what a change from 6 to 12 month enrollment would actually cost/save.  While it is definitely good for kids, the barrier seems to be a reluctance to implement because of the projected cost within the context of a difficult budget climate.  Status:  Unfunded.

PeachCare Co-Pays: PeachCare has always required families to pay insurance premiums but not co-pays.  This proposal to add co-pays made it through the budget process and supposedly will be implemented. Before such changes can be implemented, however, DCH must first provide Public Notice of the change with opportunity for public comment, after which DCH must then submit a State Plan Amendment to CMS and must await approval before families can assess co-pays.   Status:  Implementation of PeachCare Co-Pays were relied upon in the balancing of the 2012 Budget.

Children 1st Funding: As a result of the transition of administrations, funding for the Children 1st 0-5 screenings was initially eliminated.  Active advocacy on the part of a number of organizations resulted in restoration of $2.8 of the $2.9 Million dollars needed for the program.  Status:  Restored.

Medicaid Provider Reimbursements: The budget lowered provider reimbursements by ½ of a percent this year.  Continuing to decrease provider reimbursements year after year causes concern as to how this will further limit access to providers for those enrolled in Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids.  Status:  Dollars saved by the state in reducing provider Medicaid reimbursements were relied upon in the balancing of the 2012 Budget.

School Nurses: Perhaps one of the most reliable access points for child health, funding for school nurses should be watched closely every year, especially in such a tight budget climate.  School nurse funding took another hit this year, though not as great as originally feared.  Status:  The School Nurse budget line ended up with a 4 percent cut as opposed to the 10 percent cut originally proposed in the Governor’s budget.

The 2011 Legislative Session came to a close at midnight on Thursday, April 14. As is often the case, there was a flurry of activity the last few legislative days, and then a lot of smoke to clear for a good week after. The governor has stated that he will call for lawmakers to return for a “Special Session” on August 15, where state redistricting lines will be voted on.

Note: Governor Deal has already commenced to signing legislation which passed both Chambers. Any such bill not signed or vetoed within 40 days of the end of the 2011 session will be considered passed into law. That 40th day this year occurs on May 24.

In addition, because 2011 is the first year of two in the General Assembly’s biennial schedule, bills which did not pass or fail this session will resume where they left off at the start of the 2012 Legislative Session.

SB 127: Significantly revised and updates Georgia’s 40 year old Juvenile Code.  Status: Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, has garnered general support from the Governor’s office as well as the office of the Speaker. Next steps are being developed. To keep up with the progress of this bill, visit http://www.justga.org. Way to go JUSTGeorgia!

HB 200: Seeks to discourage trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude and provide greater protections to persons subject to such crime. Status: PASSED the House and Senate (overwhelmingly in both) and now goes to the Governor for a signature.

HB 185: Service providers sheltering with runaway youth to report contact with children within 72 Hours. Status: Recommended Do Pass by the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, but did not come out of the Rules Committee by the end of crossover day. This being the case, a maneuver has occurred whereby the language of this bill, with some modification, has been put into SB 94, virtually replacing the initial language of SB 94. The bill is now on the House general Calendar, and so, may be debated in the Chamber at any time.

SB 63: Calls for the use of a “smart card” to verify identification of Medicaid recipients and provides that the department may also use biometric technology to verify the identity of Medicaid enrollees. Status: Passed the Senate on Crossover Day after much debate on the floor. Has been assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee, where it will be heard this Thursday.

SB 17: Establishing the Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits. Status: Passed the Senate. Passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 96-67. Two amendments were added: one adding a pediatrician, an OB/GYN and two business people; the other stated that there would be no per diem related to meetings.

HB 214: Creates a Department of Public Health. Status: Passed the House. Given a Do Pass Recommendation by the full Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and is scheduled for debate and vote on the Floor of the Senate Chamber Thursday.

SB 185: Requires that after the death of any child at any early care program, the commissioner issue an immediate order closing the program for a period of not more than 30 days from the date of the order and also that the commissioner close an early care program when a child’s safety or welfare is in imminent danger. Status: Passed the Senate on 3/16 and has since been given a Do Pass recommendation from the House Education Committee.

The Joint Committee on Tax Reform’s plan for legislation this session has emerged as HB 387, and was given a Do Pass Recommendation this Tuesday by the Committee. The bill has been anticipated on the House floor, but apparently, since emerging from committee, the Senate does not appear to have the votes for passage, which has held up the introduction of the bill in the other Chamber. Subsequently, compromise is still being hammered out, with the Speaker of the House threatening to bring lawmakers back on Saturday if the work is not completed. As the bill originally passed committee, it contained, among other things, the following provisions:

  • The personal income tax rate will be cut from 6% to approximately 4.5%.
  • Most itemized deductions would be eliminated, such as for charitable giving or interest on home mortgages.
  • The tax on energy for manufacture, agriculture, and mining will be eliminated.
  • The tax on telecommunication franchise fees will be eliminated and replaced with a 7% flat tax across all telecommunication services.
  • There will be a tax on personal vehicle sales, excluding family member to family member.
  • There will be a tax levied on automobile service and parts.
  • There will be no taxes on the following (among others): groceries, veterinary services, legal fees, cigarettes, childcare, prescription drugs, haircuts, dry cleaning, cost club memberships.

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