2/2/2018 - We are in the fourth week of the 2018 legislative session. It is a beehive of activity at the Capitol and across the Georgia. House committees continued to hold hearings to review and discuss bill proposals, and constituents and interested parties from across the state are letting us know what they think about the bills we are hearing or might hear. Lots of groups are coming to see us and Pages from across the state are coming to spend a day in the House and Senate Chambers learning about the legislative process. Let remind you that if your 12 year old and up would like to be Page, please contact me. We would love to have them at your Capitol.
Our Higher Education Committee, of which I am the chairman, heard a bill that would change the forgivable loan criteria that a National Guard member can receive. We also heard from Georgia Student Finance Commission folks to learn about all the loans that are out there for students that Georgia students can take advantage of, including HOPE. They have a great website (gsfc.georgia.gov/) for our students and parents to use! Please take advantage of it, students.
Enjoyed seeing a number of folks from North Georgia in the Capitol this week: doctors, veterinarians, certain nurses, 4-H members, communications folks, teachers, and magistrate judges. Everyone is washing hands, taking vitamin C, and doing their best not to catch the flu, which is raging across the state. The six committees that I am on meet every week, which takes a lot of preparation to attend. A lot of reading and research on my part to be an effective member is necessary.
Arguably the biggest news of the week was the House’s unanimous passage of House Bill 159, legislation that would completely overhaul Georgia’s current adoption laws. This bill, which also passed the House unanimously during the 2017 legislative session, has since been a top priority to me and to my House colleagues. The Senate passed their version of the adoption bill and made several changes to the original House version of the legislation last week. This week, the House collaborated with the Senate and the Governor’s office to reach a compromise on HB 159, and after much deliberation, the House approved several of the Senate’s amendments and made a few additional changes to the legislation.
Among the major changes, the newest version of the adoption bill would update Georgia’s revocation period from ten days to four days. 10-day revocation period is one of most rigorous revocation policies in the nation, and the new version of HB 159 seeks to strike the right balance between the rights of birth mother and the adoptive parents by shortening this revocation period. Additionally, the House version of the adoption bill would allow birth mothers to receive reasonable living expenses under judge oversight in both private and agency adoptions. Under current law, only birth mothers in agency adoptions are allowed reasonable living expenses, but this change would create a level playing field and give all birth mothers equal access to reasonable living expenses, regardless of which type of adoption they go through. This is the law in most states in the country. Lastly, the bill includes several safeguards on temporary powers of attorney. The updated adoption bill is now back in the Senate.
The House also took up several other pieces of important legislation this week. One such measure was House Bill 661 that would update legislation that Gov. Deal signed into Georgia law last year. That Bill created a more efficient and transparent method for filing tax liens with the Department of Revenue. HB 661 would keep the efficiencies of the original legislation, but would simply remove the current provision regarding statewide liens and revert back to county specific liens. This bill would also require every tax lien against realty to be filed with the superior court clerk in the county where the real estate is located. HB 661 would not only simplify the process for filing and removing tax liens, but it would also increase transparency for taxpayers by moving the Department of Revenue’s process to electronic-based transactions and away from paper-based transactions.
We also passed a measure this week in support of Georgia’s official state insect, the honeybee. House Bill 671, which passed unanimously, would create a specialty license plate to promote the conservation and protection of the honeybee, and the license plate would display an image of a honeybee and include the phrase “Save the Honey Bee.” These license plates would be available for purchase, and all proceeds collected from the license plate sales would be distributed to the Georgia Beekeepers Association. I will have to say the Bee looks like a yellow jacket to me. These funds would be used to raise awareness about honeybee conservation and would fund and support several associated programs, including beekeeper education and training, prison beekeeping, grants to beekeeping nonprofit organizations and beekeeping research facilities in our state. Georgia is the third largest producer of bees and the tenth largest producer of honey in the nation.
We are well into the 2018 session. We will be busier day by day as we get closer to legislative Day 28, or “Cross Over Day,” so we will be hard at work next week reviewing bill proposals in our respective committees and taking up legislation in the House chamber. As we continue to progress through the session, I encourage you to contact me to discuss your thoughts and opinions. I greatly value any feedback I receive from my constituents, and your input truly helps guide the decisions I make under the Gold Dome. My Capitol office number is 404-656-7857, and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact me anytime. As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative.