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Join Voices for Georgia’s Children, JUST Georgia and others at a forum with the candidates for Attorney General.

Monday, April 5th, 2010, 6:30 – 9:00 pm.
Park Tavern, Piedmont Room(upstairs) 500 10th St NE | Atlanta, GA 30309

Spaces are limited and attendance is expected to be high. Come be a part of this great event by submitting your RSVP to cabrego@wznd.net to reserve your seat today (you may also submit questions for the candidates in your RSVP).

View full event flier: Attorney General Candidate Forum – APRIL 5TH

See statement from Gov. Perdue at http://gov.georgia.gov/00/press/detail/0,2668,78006749_78013037_158048234,00.html

AJC coverage at http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-loses-in-round-415073.html

US Dept. of Education statement at http://www2.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2010/03/03292010.html

Friday is Crossover Day, the day by which all bills must have been passed by the chamber in which they originated to remain in consideration for the remainder for the legislative session.  It will be a late night as legislators are scheduled to vote on dozens of bills .  Some of particular interest to child advocates include:

  • HB 1184 which allows health insurance companies from other states to sell to Georgians across state lines policies that might not provide the same level of protections and mandates as those sold in Georgia. Passage of HB 1184 would:
    • Allow other states’ policies, not Georgia’s policies, to determine what type of coverage Georgians if they purchase insurance plans across state lines;
    • Weaken consumer protections and minimum coverage requirements that Georgians receive when they purchase a policy from within our state; and
    • Allow insurance companies from other states to sell plans that don’t include important benefits such as cancer screenings, well-baby checkups and other preventive measures.

 

HB 307, the Hospital tax, which has been the subject of tense negotiations this week.

HB 1104 which would extend for two additional years the decision that the legislature made last year to change DJJ’s short term program from 60 days to 30 days.

SB 161 which would mandate the coverage of certain therapies for autism.

SB 451 which would close a family day-care center after the death of a child in care in order to allow the state to conduct an investigation.

SB 496 which would create a needs-based HOPE scholarship program.

SB 332 which would mandate an annual school board report detailing disciplinary actions taken regarding students with weapons in school.

SB 399 which would prevent state agencies to implement any of the provisions of federal Health Care Reform unless they have the prior authorization of the General Assembly.

We’ll try to blog throughout the day to keep you updated on the latest developments.

Mindy Binderman, Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

www.georgiavoices.org

We’ve reached the point in the legislative session when sessions run late, passions flare, and smart advocates remain on the look-out for amendments to bills.

Friday is “crossover day,” the 30th day of the session.  In order to remain viable for the session, bills must pass their chamber of origin by the end of the evening on Friday or they will be dead. 

 SB 375, the corrections bill which is needed to bring Georgia into compliance with some of the provisions of the Fostering Connections Law and preserve our state funding, passed today.

The budget is exempt from the crossover deadline, and Voices continues to be concerned about the effect of proposed budget cuts.  We are also continuing to work to secure additional lottery funds so that we can fund both the pre-k resource coordinator program and additional pre-K slots  and to secure state matching funds for the implementation of the Planning for Healthy Babies Medicaid waiver.

We’ll try to update the blog throughout the day on Friday to give you a taste of  crossover activities under the Gold Dome.

Mindy Binderman, Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

www.georgiavoices.org

As the debate on healthcare reform approached a vote on Sunday evening, Speaker Pelosi called out the names of organizations that had worked collaboratively in support of reform.  One of those was Voices for America’s Children, our national association.  Our national membership organization worked tirelessly to ensure that the needs of children were given priority in health reform.  Our objective in the health reform debate was not to structure reform but to make sure that the gains for child health that we have made over the years with the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and its reauthorization in 2009 were sustained and hopefully improved.  We are delighted that one of the immediate impacts of the legislation, if enacted, will guarantee that children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied health insurance.

There are no do-overs for childhood.  Healthy children become healthy adults.  Our national, state and local health policies must recognize this as both an obligation to the most vulnerable and an opportunity for cost savings and increased productivity in the future.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Raise your voice for Georgia’s children and families!

Join us at a RALLY FOR REVENUES on Tuesday, March 23rd at 2 pm at the Georgia State Capitol (Washington Street Side).

State budget cuts are already threatening access to health providers, education, child welfare, and quality pre-K in Georgia and around the country. 

This column from New York Time’s columnist Bob Herbert quotes Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician who is president of the Children’s Health Fund in New York and a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Dr. Redlener says:

“We’re looking at all these cuts in human services — in health care, in education, in after-school programs, in juvenile justice. This all points to a very grim future for these children who seem to be taking the brunt of this financial crisis.”

In Georgia, advocates, including Voices for Georgia’s Children, have joined together to call for a more balanced approach to the budget crisis so that Georgia can address the current crisis while also ensuring that our children and our state are well positioned in the future. This crisis cannot be addressed by cuts alone.  The governor and state legislators have already cut essential programs deeply, threatening our state’s progress.  Now, leaders must consider revenue measures.

Raise your voice with us on Tuesday to ensure that revenue options should not be off the table.

Mindy Binderman

Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

www.georgiavoices.org

DFCS may be endangering the safety and well-being of thousands of vulnerable children by diverting them from the custody of the state child welfare system and failing to provide the services and protections necessary to keep them safe

See press release at Georgia Child Welfare Practices May Risk Kids’ Lives, Children’s Rights Advocates Charge in Federal Court.

Children’s Rights, Inc. a national advocacy group working to reform child welfare systems, largely through major class action lawsuits, filed a motion in federal court earlier this week in an effort to force the State to turn over documents related to diversion, safety resources and temporary guardianships of children in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Based largely on reports by the Office of the Child Advocate, Children’s Rights states a concern that DFCS is misusing both diversions and safety resources to artificially suppress the number of investigations and the number of kids in foster care and that the result is leaving abused and neglected children in danger and denying  them basic legal protections.

The motion was filed as a part of the class action lawsuit known as Kenny A. v. Perdue that was first filed against the state in 2002. It will now be up to the federal court judge to decide if DFCS must turn over the requested documents.

Beth
Policy Director
Voices for Georgia’s Children
www.georgiavoices.org

The State Senate’s Higher Education Committee passed Senate Bill 496 establishing a needs based HOPE grant today.  Currently, the HOPE scholarship is based on merit, not need.  And, although there are currently over 8000 children on a waiting list for Georgia Pre-K, the program is supposed to be available to any family to wishes to enroll their 4 year-old.

SB 496 would establish a new program which would award small grants for college to families based on need as long as state lottery funds are available.

Providing needs-based grants for college has merit.  Yet, it concerns me that legislators are moving closer towards approving a new use of lottery funds at a time when costs of HOPE and pre-K already exceed lottery revenues, the demand for pre-K slots exceeds availability,  and the Governor has proposed cutting the Resource Coordinator Program which provides essential services that ensure school success to at-risk pre-K families.

Pre-K families in Georgia should not get whatever pennies are left in the lottery after HOPE and the new needs-based grant are funded.  Instead it is time for a re-examination of the goals, funding formulas and priorities of all programs funded by the Georgia Lottery.

Mindy Binderman, Director of Goverment Affairs and Advocacy

www.georgiavoices.org

I received this in my in-box earlier this week and want to share it with those of you interested in or working on the issues of racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice.  The Burns Institute out of San Francisco, just released the first-ever “Juvenile Justice Racial and Ethnic Disparities Data Map” which can be accessed at their website.  With a few clicks on the map, anyone can view the following information, where available, in any of the 50 states:

·   One-Day Count Incarceration Data: Publicly available counts and rates of youth in juvenile residential placement facilities on any given day by State, collected every two years from 1997-2006. The Burns Institute has displayed the information by the race/ethnicity of the juveniles.

·   Annual Juvenile Justice System Data by Decision-Making Point: The rate of involvement of youth in the juvenile justice system by decision-making point (arrest, court referral, secure detention, transfer, etc), where available, at the State and County levels.

·   Other Information Including: 1) Each State’s Three Year Plan for reducing disproportionate minority contact (DMC); 2) Contact information for each State’s Juvenile Justice Specialist and State DMC Coordinator; 3) States’ statutory guidelines for detention and age of juvenile jurisdiction; 4) Information about each State Advisory Group (SAG).

I hope you find this information as interesting as I did and valuable in your work.

Julia Neighbors, Project Manager

JUSTGeorgia

www.justgeorgia.org

This past Monday, Healthcare Georgia Foundation released their Election Guide 2010, in which eight gubernatorial candidates responded to a questionnaire addressing the status of Georgians’ health and our state’s health care system.  Those of us in the health policy field appreciate the work of the Foundation in bringing this issue to the forefront as we look to the Governor’s race this November.

In their answers, most candidates specifically referenced the health needs of children and our role as a state to work toward optimal child health and wellbeing for our youngest citizens.  These comments are encouraging in that they identify the level of priority to children respective to the candidates, but it is important for us to hold them accountable to promoting and enacting policies once in office that will help improve the health of Georgia’s children.  I encourage all of you to click on the link above and read through the Election Guide.  See what the candidates themselves have to say about topics including child health, trauma care funding, and investing in health services for Georgians. 

The election this November will be pivotal for all Georgians, and it’s our job as constituents to educate ourselves and make a wise decision in electing the individual who will govern our state for the next four years.

Joann Yoon

Associate Policy Director for Child Health, Voices for Georgia’s Children

www.georgiavoices.org

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