[March 18, 2024] | It is week ten of the 2024 legislative session. I have to tell you things are getting pretty tense. This is the last session of the biennium or our two-year term. These are the last two weeks to get what you want or have been working on passed in both the House and Senate and before the Governor to sign.

So, tensions ride pretty high trying to get hearings in the right committee and keeping amendments off of your legislation that may change it or possibly kill it. The most important committee is the Rules Committee these days; they are the gate keepers who allow bills on their respective floors. The Senate Rules Committee meets in the afternoon and House at 9 am. There is always a line at both of them with Rules members asking questions about bills and deciding their fate... I am an officer on the House Rules Committee. Great committee to be on, as I get to hear about everything trying to come to the House Chamber for a vote.

This past week the most debated bill was Senate Bill 233. This has been named on social media and by others as the School Choice Bill. This would create the Georgia Education Savings Authority and the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act. The bill would change program weights in the Quality Basic Education formula and would allow capital outlays funds to be used for pre-kindergarten programs.

This bill codified and put into the salary schedule as raises, that have been given over the last few years. SB 233 would also cap tuition fees for out-of-district student transfers, revise grants to low-performing schools, and amend the tax credit for qualified education donations. The bill would create the Georgia Education Savings Authority, which would establish and administer student assistance programs. The bill would also create the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, which would provide $6,500 per student to families for qualified education-related expenses outside of the public school system. The bill passed by one vote and now is over to the Senate for their approval.

We passed Senate Bill 421, which would increase penalties for repeated unlawful emergency service requests, also known as "swatting." Many elected officials in Georgia and across the country have been victims of swatting, and these swatting calls not only impact the victims but also take resources away from first responders and local law enforcement officers when responding to unnecessary and unlawful requests for emergency service assistance. SB 421 would also outline criminal offenses for when someone discharges a firearm toward another vehicle or an occupied building, without legal justification. Crazy we have to pass bills to stop this.

The House continued our commitment to protecting Georgia's children with the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 335, or the Safeguarding Adopted Children from Sexual Violence Act. This legislation would expand the crime of incest to include those whose familial relationships are created by adoption.

On a similar note, my colleagues and I took up a bipartisan measure aimed at providing free state identification cards for eligible children between the ages of 14 and 17 who lack an address or are under the custody of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). Senate Bill 387 would enable these children to apply for an identification card independently. Providing Georgia's youth in the DFCS program with the opportunity to obtain essential documentation, like identification cards, is crucial for these children to obtain jobs and integrate into our workforce.

Yes, we are busy, but never too busy to talk with you. Call me if you have any questions or concerns regarding the bills, the legislative process, or any other measures considered under the Gold Dome.

My Capitol office number is 404-656-7153. My email is rick.jasperse@house.ga.gov. As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative.