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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  Withdrawn in the House and recommitted.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.

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Last Wednesday, the Child Protection and Public Safety Act (the Children’s Code Rewrite bill) was reintroduced as Senate Bill 127 (formerly SB 292) by Senator Bill Hamrick of Carrollton (District 30) along with 43 co-sponsors.

For those of us involved in the project or watching the bill, we were thrilled when we learned that it had been refiled.  Things moved pretty swiftly since then as the first hearing on the bill was held at the Capitol on Monday, Feb. 28th. Even with the short notice, the hearing was packed with stakeholders and advocates ready to provide their support and input.

This hearing was quite productive and provided legislators with an overview of the expected long-term cost savings of the bill, a summary of changes from its original form to what is now SB 127 as well as the substantive changes proposed to the delinquency article.  We fully expect to have additional hearings to review the remainder of the bill and welcome public participation and input.  To ensure that you’re aware of upcoming hearings and all the activities surrounding the Children’s Code Rewrite, sign up to receive email updates and become a JUSTGeorgia coalition member.

Julia Neighbors, JUSTGeorgia Project Manager

Next Tuesday, February 8th, JUSTGeorgia Coalition members will come together with Georgia’s network of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for a “Day at the Capitol.”  This will be a great time to get a quick update on the Child Protection and Public Safety Act, aka the Children’s Code Rewrite bill (which will be reintroduced any day now), meet your elected officials and share with them why this bill is important.

For those that can join us, we will be meeting in the Floyd Room of the Sloppy Floyd Building at 9:30 am for a legislative briefing, followed by a group photo with Governor Deal at 10:45 at the North Wing interior staircase.  After the photo I encourage each of you to visit with your legislators and invite them to join us for lunch back in the Floyd Room at 11:45.  It will certainly be a full day, but worth every effort as we continue the push for an improved children’s code which in turn will lead to improved outcomes for our children.  For more information, click here or email jneighbors@justga.org.  I hope to see you there!

Julia Neighbors, JUSTGeorgia Project Manager

Governor Nathan Deal’s new appointments to state agencies that focus on children bring some  young but proven leaders to kids’ issues.  We are excited by the prospects of these very able and dedicated public servants joining current agency directors in working together and setting goals for children.  

All have histories of cooperation and collaboration with child advocates and community service providers.  We welcome them and offer our support to improve child well being and raise our national rankings from the 40s to respectable levels.  Thank you, Governor Deal, and welcome to: 

  •  Amy Howell, former deputy in DJJ who got her start at the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory Law School, will be the new commissioner of DJJ. 
  • Rachelle Carnesale, former deputy of the Office of the Child Advocate, will lead the Department of Family and Chidren’s Services.
  • Bobby Cagle, former DFCS legislative director, will lead the department of Early Care and Learning.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children

On Monday, August 9th from 2 – 4 pm, SB 292, the Child Protection and Public Safety Act (more commonly known as the juvenile code rewrite bill) will be the subject of a public hearing down at the Capitol. Specifically Article 6, Children in Need of Services (aka CHINs) will be discussed.  Monday’s hearing is particularly noteworthy as it will be the first time we have had a public discussion about this new approach for intervening with kids who are currently considered “unruly” under Georgia law (more commonly known as status offenders). CHINs include children who have committed acts that would not be against the law but for the fact that they are under the age of 18, such as skipping school, running away from home, and violating curfew (status offenses).  CHINs also includes children and youth who are “habitually disobedient” to their parents and place themselves or others in unsafe circumstances through their behavior.

Under current law, court intervention with these kids is similar to intervention in delinquency cases, even though court involvement and responses like detention tend to exacerbate the problems that first led families to seek help.  Current research and best practices now suggest that youth and families in crisis require a faster response than courts can offer and that juvenile justice systems are often ill-equipped to provide the services these youth and families need.  Under Article 6, SB 292 creates a more holistic, service-oriented approach to these kinds of cases.  The CHINs framework acknowledges that these sorts of behaviors happen within the context of the family and school environment that the child is in, and that the involvement of the family and other important people in the child’s life is important to protect the child and help him or her become responsible member of society.  The key is implementing immediate, family focused alternatives to court intervention by referring young people and their families to services in their communities and use the juvenile justice system as a last resort.  Florida, New York and Connecticut have had successful reforms of their status offense systems under this new paradigm.  You can read their case studies in “Making Court the Last Resort:  A New Focus for Supporting Families in Crisis.”   I welcome the opportunity to discuss CHINs and how it can help troubled youth and their families here in Georgia.

Julia Neighbors, Project Manager-JUSTGeorgia

Last week’s US Supreme Court ruling making unconstitutional the sentence of life without the chance of parole for youth in non-homicide cases gives those of us working on juvenile justice reform here in Georgia hope.  The Supreme Court has once again found that children are different from adults and thus should be treated differently when they get into trouble with the law. Research shows that community-based interventions are more effective than detention for most youth who get into trouble.  See today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution for an opinion piece that my colleague Beth Locker and I authored applauding the Supreme Court’s ruling and remaining hopeful that Georgia’s juvenile code reform effort will come to be and ultimately provide better outcomes for our children and families.

From our national partner Voices for America’s Children:

Originally Posted by Joanna Shoffner Scott on May. 12

You can make a more dramatic impact on a person’s life the younger you reach out to them. We believe that in a lot of issues, like education and health. But crime prevention might be the best example of the idea of “get ’em young.”

Youth who have been previously tried as adults are, on average, 34 percent more likely to commit crimes than youth put in the juvenile justice system. This and a body of other research shows that making an effort to get troubled children onto a better path pays off, preventing adult crime and reducing juvenile recidivism.

Click here to support juvenile justice reform with a message to your member of Congress.

Sine Die can’t come soon enough for those of us who are weary from the longer than usual legislative session.  Yet, the General Assembly still has a full day ahead, and the 40th day can be a dangerous time as  troubling amendments can be attached to seemingly innocuous bills.

Most of my day will be spent watching out for amendments to bills that can affect kids.

The major item that the House and Senate must pass is the FY 11 conference committee report on the budget.  Based on tonight’s conference committee meeting, I expect that House and Senate leadership will congratulate each other tomorrow on the work that they did together to ensure that core state services are funded.  They will state that the budget process this year was transparent, that legislators in both chamber came together to make hard decisions in tough budget times, and they will state that the primary objective of the budget is to help strengthen Georgia’s economy.  Then, they will pass the budget.

But, tomorrow is also expected to be a day on which some of the most controversial social issues, including guns and abortion, are debated on the floor.  A conference committee is expected to meet to work to ensure that provisions on graduated sanctions are included in a juvenile justice bill.  The House could take up a bill that would base teacher salaries on student performance.  And the House and Senate must reach agreement on bills banning texting while driving.

And, throughout the day, we’ll learn who is filing to run for office and who is opting to retire as election qualifying week continues and legislators take the well to tell their colleagues that this will be their last sine die as members of the House or Senate.  Many members are retiring or leaving the legislature to run for other office.  The last number of empty seats expected was 21.

Voices will be at the Capitol all day and will share news about legislation relevent to children’s advocates.

Mindy Binderman

Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

www.georgiavoices.org

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

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

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