You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2011.

Use our Legislation Tracker to read bills in their entirety. For briefs, see below:

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.

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 (overwhelmingly) and now rests in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

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:  Passed the House on Crossover Day and has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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.  Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee.

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.  Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

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 Juvenle Code.   Status:  Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB 162:  Registered sexual offenders prohibited from photographing minor without parent’s consent.  Status:  Passed House.  Currently in senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 112:  Amending provisions related to rights of military parents during deployment.  Status:  Passed Senate on Monday (3/14).  Assigned to House Judiciary Committee.

SB 172:  Home study recommending adoption to be completed before child adopted by third party.  Status:  Passed the Senate on Crossover Day.  Has yet to be assigned to a House committee.

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.

To read these bills in full, search our Legislation Tracker online.

Use our Legislation Tracker to read bills in their entirety. For briefs, see below:

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

HB 132:  Insurers to provide coverage for physician prescribed medical foods. Status:  Remains in the House Insurance Committee.

HB 65: Allowing siblings or children of adopted people to access adoption files for medical treatment.  Status:  Remains in House Judiciary Committee.

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, but has not made it to the House Debate Calendar.

HB 214:  Creates a Department of Public Health.  Status: Passed the House.  Currently in Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

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

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:  Passed the House.  Currently in the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.

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 and possibly wait for the outcome of the federal lawsuits opposing the Affordable Healthcare Act.

SB 17:  Establishing the Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits.  Status:  Passed the Senate.  Currently rests in the House Insurance Committee.

SB 185:  Child care programs to be closed by Order after death of child in program.  Status:  Passed the Senate (unanimously) on Crossover Day.  Currently awaits assignment ot a House Committee.

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.  Has been assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee.

To read these bills in full, search our Legislation Tracker online.

Note:  Wednesday was the 30th legislative day, also known as “Crossover Day,” which is generally the last day on which a bill can pass from one chamber to another during this session.  Language from one bill can, however, be amended to others in hopes of passing legislation which did not pass by the end of crossover.  This practice is increasingly common as the session nears an end.  In honor of Crossover Day, and because there are now only ten legislative days left this session, this Update will give a quick status report on a number of child-affecting bills that Voices has been watching or working in the last few weeks.

Use our Legislation Tracker to read bills in their entirety. For briefs, see below:

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.

HB 81:  Fiscal notes required for bills with significant impact on school system revenues.  Status:  Given a Do Pass recommendation by the House Education Committee.  Currently in on the House General Calendar.

HB 181:  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:  Creating the Joint Higher Education Finance Study Committee to Evaluate Higher Education Funding Formula.  Status:  Given a Do Pass recommendation by the House Education Committee.  Currently in on the House General Calendar.

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 on Wednesday (3/16).

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 Tuesday (3/15).

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 (with a unanimous vote) Wednesday (3/16).

To read these bills in full, search our Legislation Tracker online.

Children’s Law Re-Write: The major revision to the Juvenile Code has made it out of sub-committee and now rests in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The vast number of other bills assigned to that committee have consumed much time this week, and it remains to be seen when exactly this bill will be heard this session.  The JUSTGeorgia coalition and Voices will continue to track the bills progress.  For more information on the development of the bill’s language and other aspects of this issue, click here.

Runaway Shelter Bill: HB 185 (Rep. Tom Weldon, 3rd Dist.) was given a Do Pass recommendation out of the Setzler Subcommittee and out of the Non-Civil Judiciary Committee. it is now on the House General Calendar and supporters are hoping that it will be debated and voted on in the House Monday or Wednesday.  The Runaway Youth Safety Act would require that service providers who deal with runaway or homeless youth to contact the parents or legal custodians of a runaway child or file a report in compliance with Code Section 19-7-5 no later than 72 hours after initial contact with a child to prevent being charged with the crime of interfering with custody. This bill would also define a service provider to mean any community-based program with staff trained to provide services to children who have run away or children who are homeless or their families.

Department of Community Health: The House Appropriations Committee passed the proposed DCH budget for 2012.  The Health Appropriations Subcommittee made the changes to the Governor’s proposed bill, a few of which are highlighted below:

  • Changes Medicaid certification period to 12 months, rather than the current 6-month period
  • Restores $1.5 million in state funds for the Children 1st Program
  • Transfers $1.3 million in funds to DCH from DHS to streamline enrollment in Medicaid and in WIC
  • Kept in place the optional benefit coverage for adult vision, dental, and podiatry services, to the Medicaid Aged, Blind, Disabled enrollees
  • Decreased the provider reimbursement cut by ½, resulting in a total proposed cut of 0.5%
  • Despite concerns raised by Voices and other provider groups, the Health Appropriations Subcommittee did not make any changes to the proposed implementation of co-pays for enrollees in PeachCare for Kids

Department of Human Services Budget: The House Appropriations Committee also passed the proposed DHS budget for 2012.  Among the changes by subcommittee were:

  • Inclusion of $680,000 to provide 15 waivers for youth who are scheduled to age out of the state foster care system
  • Increased funding for 400 new slots for child care services
  • Transfer of $1.3 mil to DCH for fast-tracking enrollment among Medicaid and WIC enrollees
  • Restoration of proposed cuts to Marcus Institute
  • Rejection of the proposed transfer of Georgia Family Connection Partnership to move under the purview of the Georgia Office of Children and Families

Medicaid Fingerprinting: A substitute to SB 63 (Sen. Albers, 56th) was submitted by Senator Johnny Grant (Dist. 25) and the sub passed favorably out of the full Senate Insurance Committee with one dissenting vote from Sen. Nan Orrock (Dist.26).  The substitute is similar to the original in that its intent is to decrease incidence of Medicaid fraud, but the bill was stripped of the requirement that a biometric identity verification process must be used.  Instead, the bill calls for the use of a “smart card” to verify identification and provides that the department may also use biometric technology to verify the identity of Medicaid enrollees.  The vote came after a rather lengthy hearing, at which about 11 different individuals testified, the majority of whom stated concerns about the original bill.

Department of Public Health: HB 214 (Rep. Mickey Channell, dist. 116), which would establish a separate Department of Public Health, passed out of the House this past week.  The bill is being carried in the Senate by Sen. Greg Goggans (7th).

Health Exchange: HB 476 (Rep. Richard Smith, Dist. 131) would establish the Georgia Health Exchange Authority, a governance body to oversee planning for a health insurance exchange for Georgia.  The bill passed favorably out of subcommittee and the full House Insurance Committee by substitute this past week.  The only change included in the substitute was to move up by a few weeks the date by which this advisory committee must issue its report.

Note: The 30th legislative day takes place this coming Wednesday.  This is generally the last day which a bill can pass from one chamber to another during this session.  That said, the days leading up to and including Wednesday will be busy both in committee and on the floors of the Chambers. 

Georgia’s Pre-K: Monday, Governor Deal announced his revised plan for the Lottery funded Pre-K Program.  The program will maintain it’s current full day (6.5 hour) program, shorten the annual number of days from 180 to 160, eliminate funding for Pre-K Transition Coaches, and will add 2000 slots (as opposed to the 5000 slots proposed in the initial plan), bringing the total number of Pre-K lots to 86,000.  For more details, click here.

HOPE: Having passed the House on Tuesday, the Governor’s HOPE bill (HB 326, Rep. Doug Collins, 27th Dist.), which lays out parameters for post-secondary education funding, passed the Senate on Wednesday, adding four amendments.  Thursday, the bill went back to the House, which approved the amendments.  It now goes to the Governor for his signature, which is expected early next week.  There is no GA Pre-K language in that bill.

Faith based Child Care Centers and Pre-K’s: Wednesday, SB 152 (Sen. Don Balfour, Dist. 9) was heard in the Academic Support Subcommittee of the Senate Education & Youth Committee.  The bill would require day-care centers and child care learning centers operated as part of a local church ministry, a nonprofit religious school or a nonprofit religious charitable organization operate in accordance with the same fire safety, health, and safety rules and regulations established by the board for the operation of licensed day-care centers, but would exempt these day-care centers from licensure all other rules established by the board.  The Chairman decided to hold the bill until the 2012 Legislative Session so that the bill’s sponsor can work on the language during the interim with the Department of Early Care and Learning and other interested parties.

Death of Child in Child Care Program: This week the Senate Education and Youth Committee gave a Do Pass recommendation to SB 185 (Rep. Freddie Powell Sims, 4th Dist.).  This bill would require 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.  This bill would also require that the commissioner close an early care program when a child’s safety or welfare is in imminent danger.

The Pre-K program for FY12 will open its doors in the fall with the best possible plan given the reduced budget, but another door has opened that bodes well for the future of young children in Georgia.

Governor Nathan Deal announced changes today to his Pre-K proposal that will maintain a high level of quality and will reduce disruptions to children, families, and providers.  The choices were tough for the Governor and his Commissioner of Early Care and Learning but they promise to maximize the budget dollars reserved for PreK.

There is other good news that comes from this crisis and from the very energetic voices that were heard by our elected and appointed leaders.  The experience we have had in the state with Pre-K for the last 18 years has made believers out of Georgians:  Pre-K is not a luxury; it is an early and fundamental step in a child’s learning and preparation for school and for life. 

The voices that were heard at the state capitol were not just from current parents and teachers at risk of losing hours or jobs. Other voices were loud and clear about the importance of Pre-K to later learning; the need for high quality in the program; the impact on working parents; and the value of  well trained professionals.  Why else would  Pre-K teachers suggest increasing their class sizes?  would school superintendents begin searching for local funding? would advocates agree to a smaller increase in slots?  would center directors accept smaller profits or, for nonprofits, the need for more fundraising?  All are advocates for preserving and extending early learning opportunities because they know that both children and the state’s economy are significantly affected by these investments.

The governor likewise understands the value of early learning for Georgia.  We congratulate him for upholding his commitment to reducing the waiting list and maintaining qualified professionals to teach our children.  And we look forward to working together to continue to improve Georgia Pre-K and all early childhood programs as times improve.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children

Federal Budget: This week, the U.S. Senate vote to pass a two-week Continuing Resolution for the federal budget that will keep the federal government going for the time being.  The CR includes $4 billion in cuts, which impact vital programs for children and families.  If signed by the President, the CR will continue through March 18, 2011.

Supreme Court: The Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a case involving child-abuse investigations at school, questioning whether a search warrant or a parent’s consent is required before a child can be questioned at school by a child care worker or a police officer.  For a basic overview, check out this article:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/27/AR2011022703904.html

Human Trafficking Bill: HB 200 (Rep. Edward Lindsey, 54th Dist.) passed the House on Wednesday with a vote of 168 to 1, and now goes on to the Senate.

Runaway Shelter Bill: Thursday, HB 185 (Rep. Tom Weldon, 3rd Dist.) will undergo it’s third hearing in the Setzler Subcommittee of the Non-Civil Judiciary Committee.  The Runaway Youth Safety Act would require that service providers who deal with runaway or homeless youth to contact the parents or legal custodians of a runaway child or file a report in compliance with Code Section 19-7-5 no later than 72 hours after initial contact with a child to prevent being charged with the crime of interfering with custody.   This bill would also define a service provider to mean any community-based program with staff trained to provide services to children who have run away or children who are homeless or their families.

Medical Loss Ratio Waiver: On Monday, the Senate Health Care Delivery Subcommittee of the Insurance Committee voted DO PASS out of subcommittee by a vote of 2-1 on SB 22 (Judson Hill, Dist. 32), which authorizes the state Insurance Commissioner to apply for a waiver from the federal government to meet Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) requirements set into law by the Affordable Care Act. MLR sets standards for what percentage of a consumer’s premium must go toward medical care, as opposed to administrative costs or amounts retained for profit by the insurance company.  This legislation does not afford the Insurance Commissioner any new authority, as the Insurance Commissioner already has the authority to apply for this waiver.

Medicaid/PeachCare Fingerprinting: SB 63 (Albers, Dist. 56) would require all individuals enrolled in Medicaid and PeachCare, including children and infants, to be fingerprinted when first enrolled within the program and at the point of receiving medical care as a means to decrease fraud.  The Senate Health Care Delivery Subcommittee of the Insurance Committee by majority chose not to bring this bill to a vote but decided to wait for a fiscal note to be completed first.  Some issues raised were about access to data to inform at which points Medicaid fraud occurs, what the costs to implement would be, whether requiring fingerprints would violate federal maintenance of effort (MOE) provisions and put federal Medicaid dollars to Georgia at risk, what if any additional administrative functions would be needed, and whether implementation would negatively impact access to care.

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