You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Voices for Georgia’s Children’ category.

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  Withdrawn in the House and recommitted.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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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.

This morning the AJC ran a news article related to Senate Bill 63, which is proposed legislation with the stated aim to cut down on Medicaid fraud occuring here in Georgia. If you’ve been following Voices’ weekly updates, you’ve heard about this bill before as it’s one that we’ve been watching carefully. The bill calls for a mandatory pilot project that will utilize “smart cards” and may also include the use of other biometric identification measures (like electronic fingerprinting) to verify the identity of patients enrolled in Medicaid at every point of service, including doctors visits, when picking up medication at the pharmacy, etc. 

Voices has been concerned with how passage and implementation of this bill could have a negative impact. From the standpoint of the child enrolled in Medicaid, questions remain about how to verify the identity of a child or newborn through a photograph and/or through fingerprinting, if utilized. There’s also a conern as to how implementing these measures may further restrict Medicaid enrollees’ access to providers. Medicaid providers already are feeling strapped, since other legislative efforts this session include budget proposals to cut Medicaid provider reimbursement rates and to implement co-pays to be collected at the point of service by providers from children enrolled in PeachCare. If providers additionally are required to manage and maintain equipment and practices for more more stringent verification purposes of patients walking through their door, how many may decide that it’s not worth the hassle and forgo seeing Medicaid patients altogether?

Another concern is how this will impact the state’s bottom line. A fiscal note prepared in response to the original version of the bill gave an initial price tag of about $600,000 for a pilot program and over $23 million for a statewide rollout.

No system operates without fault and this is not to say that Medicaid fraud does not happen. There is a concern, however, that the measures proposed in Senate Bill 63 are not the best way to target fraudulent activity. And now with issues raised in the AJC article, questions are posed regarding how and why this proposed legislation came to be, providing even greater cause for concern.

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

Pre-K Day at the Capitol draws a crowd! Left to right: Robin Ferst, president and founder of the Ferst Foundation; Bobby Cagle, DECAL commissioner; Pat Willis, Voices executive director; and teachers, parents and children from local Pre-K centers. A big thank you to all of our supporters. More pictures available on Flickr (feed below on blog) !

Earlier today, DHS Commissioner Clyde Reese presented the proposed 2012 DHS Budget to the House Appropriations Human Services Subcommittee. After the budget conversation concluded, Representative Penny Houston, who chairs the Subcommittee, asked Commissioner Reese to comment on the recent deaths of children in Georgia which had occurred within the last few weeks. Rep. Houston stated that as she understood the facts, a DFCS referral had been made in some of those cases.

As part of his response, Commissioner Reese said that he wanted to “take a very hard look” at the practice of diversion. In cases of diversion, a decision is made to implement a short-term community-based DFCS response to an allegation of child maltreatment that’s not found to present evidence sufficient to cause concern. In such situations, the Department does not conduct any further assessment or intervention.  According to the Commissioner, one concern is that once a case is diverted, there’s no further follow up on the part of the Department. He said that while the Department is to be commended for decreasing the number of Georgia’s children who are committed to the care of the state and also for making an effort to keep families together, he questioned whether “the pendulum has swung too far the other way”. More specifically, he posed the question about the proper role of diversion in situations were child maltreatment is alleged.

It was a very honest conversation between two state leaders on an issue critical to the wellbeing and safety of children in our state. As the Commissioner and the Department look into this issue further, we’ll be watching to see what, if any, changes in practice and/or policy result.

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

Earlier this week, State House Representative Mickey Channell introduced House Bill 214, legislation that would create a new and separate Department of Public Health. Currently, Public Health resides as a Division within the Department of Community Health. Two years ago, it was a Division within the Department of Human Services (then called the Department of Human Resources).

In response to the dropping of this bill, in an interview with Georgia Public Broadcast, Governor Deal stated that he’s fine with the recommended change and referenced that services provided by the Division of Public Health are different from those of the Department of Community Health, whose main function involves running the Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids Programs.

Within the past year, the Georgia Public Health Commission was created and charged with addressing the question of how and where Public Health should be structured. The work of the Commission culminated in December of last year with a recommendation that Public Health should operate as a separate state agency.

Any thoughts in response to the recommended change?  After years of transition, will Public Health finally have a home of its own?

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health
Voices for Georgia’s Children

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Let’s Move Campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to Atlanta to visit elementary schools and to address a large and enthusiastic crowd (which included Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed) gathered at North Point Community Church. The mission of the Let’s Move Campaign is simple: raise a healthier generation of kids. The campaign focuses on increasing physical activity and on improving the nutritional quality of food that kids eat.

The First Lady mentioned how national, state, and local policies can encourage healthier living among kids. She specifically referred to the provision in the Affordable Care Act that now allows kids to access free preventive care screenings under their insurance plans. She likewise talked about initiatives to bring salad bars into school cafeterias.

But what really seemed to resonate with those in the crowd was when she acknowledged how hard it is as a mother to make sure that her kids eat healthy and lead active lives. She commented on how sometimes it’s easier to allow kids to sit in front of the tv for a couple of hours to keep them preoccupied, or how tiresome it gets to negotiate with her kids day after day to try to get them to eat healthy come-cooked food instead of the fast food that they really want to eat. She recognized that it’s easy to say that we want our kids to be healthy, but it takes a high level of commitment to see that they are.

One charge that she made to all adults in attendance was that we need to set the example for the kids in our lives.  We need to eat healthier.  We need to be active.   For tips on how, visit the Let’s Move website.  After all, kids aren’t the only ones who should get to run around and play!

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

So now, we keep moving forward to fully implement all provisions of the health law, the Affordable Care Act, here in Georgia. We continue working toward establishing an insurance exchange for the state and streamlining enrollment processes for health coverage within Medicaid, PeachCare for Kids, and within the Exchange.

For those who want to keep score, with this most recent decision, our “court count” stands at: 

  • 2 courts who ruled to uphold the law;
  • 12 courts who outright dismissed the constitutional challenges;
  • 1 court who ruled the individual mandate provision unconstitutional; and
  • 1 court who ruled the entire law unconstitutional.

Many believe that this case eventually will be heard by the Supreme Court, but there’s no clear idea of when that will happen. What we do know is that the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land, and Georgia must fully comply with all requirements under the law. 

Looking forward it’s difficult to predict how long the legal fight will continue.   But looking back, we can witness how our state already has benefitted since the law was passed. Insurance companies can no longer drop coverage when children get sick. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children based on a pre-existing condition.  And Georgia already has received $34.9 million of federal dollars newly available to states under the Affordable Care Act. 

With these and other benefits children in Georgia already have received under the health law, we must consider whether we can afford to have them all stripped away?

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

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