Legislative Updates

Provided throughout the legislative session for the Atlanta Jewish Community
By Rusty Paul, Legislative Counsel, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta

 

See the updated list of bills the governor has signed here.

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending March 29, 2018

When the 2018 legislative session ended, a backward look showed considerable progress on JFGA’s key legislative priorities. Among them were some major objectives:

  • Increasing the cap on the Student Scholarship Organization tax credit from $58 million to $100 million. These tax incentives help drive donations to the ALEF fund that provides financial assistance for families with students attending Jewish Day Schools;
  • A five-year sales and use tax exemption for nonprofit heath clinics. This provision allows nonprofit medical facilities serving low-income families to purchase medical and other supplies without paying sales taxes, a significant savings for the Ben Massell dental clinic. This bill extends an existing sales tax exemption that was set to expire in July;
  • Increased nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rates that provides additional assistance for facilities such as the William Bremen Home. The state budget also increases the allowance for nursing home residents to purchase personal items;
  • A study committee to determine what can be done to provide a longer summer break for school students. This was a priority for MJCC’s summer camps as well as employers and others, who have difficulty serving families with camp experiences or providing summer jobs due to the increasingly shorter seasonal vacation;
  • A bill changing the State Holocaust Commission’s composition to ensure bipartisan participation and empowering the Commission to raise private funds for a prominent Holocaust memorial in Georgia.

Failing to pass, however, was a hate crimes bill sponsored by Rep. Meagan Hanson and resuscitated by House Judiciary Chair Wendell Willard after Rep Hanson’s original bill failed to get a pre-Crossover Day House floor vote. Rep. Willard attached her bill to a Senate bill pending in his committee, but it also failed to reach the floor for approval.

Nevertheless, the cumulative achievement of these priorities as well as other legislation made 2018 among the most successful legislative sessions for JFGA and its affiliated organizations in several years. These initiatives are now on Gov. Deal’s desk awaiting his signature.

Key Bills:

  • HB 195 allows for-profit corporations to participate in indirect ownership of homes for the mentally disabled in return for financing the facility. Awaiting the governor’s signature.
  • SB 357 establishes the Health Coordination and Innovation Council to develop greater healthcare access and encourage greater innovation in healthcare delivery. Awaiting the governor’s signature.
  • HB 605 – Hidden Predator Act – the two chambers failed to agree on this bill that permits civil penalties against individuals abused children and reopens the statute of limitations for two years beginning July 1, 2018 for any individual who was previously denied court access due to a statute of limitations expiration.
  • SB 118 extends the age which insurers must cover autism assessments from age six to age twelve. Awaiting the governor’s signature.
  • SB 321 allows the state to recover the maximum penalty for providers found to submit false or fraudulent Medicaid claims. Awaiting the governor’s signature.
  • SB 352 produces a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with developing strategies to deal with the opioid crisis. Failed to pass.
  • SR 188 creates the Senate Study Committee to investigate barriers to adequate healthcare in Georgia. Adopted by Senate, committee will be formed.
  • HB 654 implements child support reforms advocated by the Georgia Child Support Commission – failed to pass the Senate.
  • HB 635 creates disabled and elderly abuse investigating teams within the Department of Human Services. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • HB 844 expands the membership of the state Commission on the Hearing Impaired and creates a task force to recommend improvements in the statewide developmental or educational programs offered to the deaf and hard of hearing. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • HB 972 allows DFACS to provide extended youth care services. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • HB 982 requires DFACS to look for relatives in which to place children in state foster care for at least six months and if at that time a court determines a suitable relative is unavailable, the child may be left in foster care. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • SB 335 expands the penalties for trafficking an individual for sexual servitude. Failed to pass.
  • SB 406 requires fingerprint background checks for anyone working in a nursing home, personal care home, home care and other providers serving the elderly. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • SB 444 requires development of a state Alzheimer’s and related dementias plan and creates an Alzheimer’s Advisory Council. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • SB 236 requires courts to notify local DFACS office if anyone is convicted of driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle. Failed to pass.
  • SB 318 allows involuntary commitment for mental illness based on an assessment by paramedics in consultation with a physician. Failed to pass.
  • SB 337 expands the statute of limitations and allows hearsay evidence of a child’s description of sexual contact in court proceedings. Failed to pass.

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending March 23, 2018

ALEF Fund Tax Credits – After two years of yeoman’s effort by Rep. John Carson and rivate school advocates, the legislation raising the current cap on tax credits for Student Scholarship Organizations (SSOs) like ALEF is still hung up in the Senate. Most details have been agreed to between the chambers, except the Senate’s insistence that the program have a sunset provision.

Sunset provisions ensure the legislature evaluates the efficacy of an incentive program at regular intervals, ending those that don’t have the desired effect. In most cases, this is wise public policy. However, many scholarship students need relative assurance that their assistance will be available for the full 12+ years of their K-12 education. The traditional five-year sunset provision in most tax incentive programs means families depending on those funds can’t completely depend on those resources, even though most tax incentive programs are reinstated – but not always.

The Senate has resisted what it considers an inordinate number of tax incentives coming over from the lower chamber in the past few sessions. The SSO tax credits increases have been caught up in that maelstrom for the past two sessions.

As currently drafted, HB 217 increases the current limits on tax credits available from $58 million to $100 million. The two chambers must reach agreement by roughly 11 p.m. Thursday for the expanded program to go into effect. The current $58 million program is not threatened by the stalemate, though the oversubscription of those credits means their value to donors is diminished.

Key Bills:

  • HB 195 allows for-profit corporations to participate in indirect ownership of homes for the mentally disabled in return for financing the facility – Passed House and Senate Committee, awaiting Senate floor vote.
  • SB 357 establishes the Health Coordination and Innovation Council to develop greater healthcare access and encourage greater innovation in healthcare delivery – passed Senate, and the House. Due to House amendments, it must return to the Senate.
  • HB 605 – Hidden Predator Act – permits civil penalties against individuals abused children and reopens the statute of limitations for two years beginning July 1, 2018 for any individual who was previously denied court access due to a statute of limitations expiration – passed House, and heavily amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some groups are opposing the bill due to concerns it would subject some organizations to additional liability where adult leaders have abused youth in the past.
  • SB 118 extends the age which insurers must cover autism assessments from age six to age twelve. Passed the State Senate and House.
  • SB 321 allows the state to recover the maximum penalty for providers found to submit false or fraudulent Medicaid claims. Passed Senate and the House.
  • SB 352 produces a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with developing strategies to deal with the opioid crisis. Passed Senate, pending in the House.
  • SR 188 creates the Senate Study Committee to investigate barriers to adequate healthcare in Georgia. Adopted by Senate, committee will be formed.
  • HB 654 implements child support reforms advocated by the Georgia Child Support Commission – passed House and Senate Committee. Awaiting Senate floor vote.
  • HB 635 creates disabled and elderly abuse investigating teams within the Department of Human Services. Passed House and Senate Committee, awaiting Senate floor vote.
  • HB 844 expands the membership of the state Commission on the Hearing Impaired and creates a task force to recommend improvements in the statewide developmental or educational programs offered to the deaf and hard of hearing. Passed House and Senate.
  • HB 972 allows DFACS to provide extended youth care services. Passed House and Senate Health Committee; awaiting Senate Floor vote
  • HB 982 requires DFACS to look for relatives in which to place children in state foster care for at least six months and if at that time a court determines a suitable relative is unavailable, the child may be left in foster care. Passed House and Senate Health & Human Services Committee last week; awaiting Senate Floor vote.
  • SB 335 expands the penalties for trafficking an individual for sexual servitude. Passed Senate and approved by a House Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 406 requires fingerprint background checks for anyone working in a nursing home, personal care home, home care and other providers serving the elderly. Passed Senate and House, with amendments, conference committee required.
  • SB 444 requires development of a state Alzheimer’s and related dementias plan and creates an Alzheimer’s Advisory Council. Passed Senate and House Committee. Awaiting House Floor vote.
  • SB 236 requires courts to notify local DFACS office if anyone is convicted of driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle. Passed Senate and House, awaiting Governor’s signature.
  • SB 318 allows involuntary commitment for mental illness based on an assessment by paramedics in consultation with a physician. Passed Senate and pending in House Health & Human Services Committee.
  • SB 337 expands the statute of limitations and allows hearsay evidence of a child’s description of sexual contact in court proceedings. Passed the Senate and was approved by a House Judiciary Subcommittee. Still awaiting full committee vote and a House Floor vote.
  • SB 356 by Sen. Kay Kilpatrick was overwhelmingly approved by the House this week. The bill changes the composition of the State Holocaust Commission to ensure bipartisan participation and empowers the Commission to raise private funds for an appropriate Holocaust memorial in a prominent place in Georgia. Passed both chambers, awaiting Governor’s signature.
  • HB 697– An extension of a sales tax exemption for nonprofit health clinics such as the Ben Massell Clinic operated by JF&CS was passed by the House and Senate Finance Committee – awaiting a Senate floor vote

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending March 16, 2018

ALEF Fund Tax Credits – After two years of effort by Rep. John Carson and a bevy of private school advocates, the legislation raising the current cap on tax credits for Student Scholarship Organizations (SSOs) like ALEF is nearly complete. HB 217 increases the current limits on tax credits available from $58 million to $100 million. Currently, the oversubscription of this program means donations to ALEF often are apportioned based on amounts that exceed the current $58 million cap. The bill also requires SSOs to report the amount of fees they charge for administration and overhead while also lowering the amount of fees an SSO can retain for overhead. All members of House/Senate Conference Committee have signed off on these provisions except one. Once the conference committee recommendations are completed, the report must be approved by both chambers by March 29.

Holocaust Memorial Bill – SB 356 by Sen. Kay Kilpatrick was overwhelmingly approved by the House this week. The bill changes the composition of the State Holocaust Commission to ensure bipartisan participation and empowers the Commission to raise private funds for an appropriate Holocaust memorial in a prominent place in Georgia.

Nonprofit Health Clinics – An extension of a sales tax exemption for nonprofit health clinics such as the Ben Massell Clinic operated by JF&CS was passed by the House and approved by the Senate Finance Committee this. It is now in Senate Rules Committee where it waiting to be sent to the floor.

Key Bills:

  • HB 195 allows for-profit corporations to participate in indirect ownership of homes for the mentally disabled in return for financing the facility – still pending in the Senate.
  • SB 357 establishes the Health Coordination and Innovation Council to develop greater healthcare access and encourage greater innovation in healthcare delivery – passed Senate, and the House. Due to House amendments, it must return to the Senate.
  • HB 605 permits civil penalties against individuals abused children and reopens the statute of limitations for two years beginning July 1, 2018 for any individual who was previously denied court access due to a statute of limitations expiration – passed House, pending in the Senate. Some groups are opposing the bill due to concerns it would subject some organizations to additional liability where adult leaders have abused youth in the past.  It will be on the Senate floor this week.
  • SB 118 extends the age which insurers must cover autism assessments from age six to age twelve. Passed the State Senate and this week, the House. But House amendments will send it back to the Senate.
  • SB 321 allows the state to recover the maximum penalty for providers found to submit false or fraudulent Medicaid claims. Passed Senate and the House, but with House amendments; so, it must return to the Senate.
  • SB 352 produces a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with developing strategies to deal with the opioid crisis. Passed Senate, pending in the House.
  • SR 188 creates the Senate Study Committee to investigate barriers to adequate healthcare in Georgia. Adopted by Senate, committee will be formed.
  • SB 356 – Changes the composition of the Georgia Holocaust Commission to ensure bipartisan membership and instructs the Commission to raise private funds for an appropriate Holocaust memorial in a prominent location in Georgia. Passed Senate and House (see above).
  • HB 654 implements child support reforms advocated by the Georgia Child Support Commission – passed House and Senate Committee. Awaiting Senate floor vote.
  • HB 635 creates disabled and elderly abuse investigating teams within the Department of Human Services. Passed House, pending in Senate.
  • HB 844 expands the membership of the state Commission on the Hearing Impaired and creates a task force to recommend improvements in the statewide developmental or educational programs offered to the deaf and hard of hearing. Passed House and Senate.
  • HB 972 allows DFACS to provide extended youth care services. Passed House and Senate Health Committee last week; awaiting Senate Floor vote.
  • HB 982 requires DFACS to look for relatives in which to place children in state foster care for at least six months and if at that time a court determines a suitable relative is unavailable, the child may be left in foster care. Passed House and Senate Health & Human Services Committee last week; awaiting Senate Floor vote.
  • SB 335 expands the penalties for trafficking an individual for sexual servitude. Passed Senate and approved by a House Judiciary subcommittee, but awaiting a full Committee vote.
  • SB 406 requires fingerprint background checks for anyone working in a nursing home, personal care home, home care and other providers serving the elderly. Passed Senate and House, with amendments.  Must return to the Senate.
  • SB 444 requires development of a state Alzheimer’s and related dementias plan and creates an Alzheimer’s Advisory Council. Passed Senate and House Committee.  Awaiting House Floor vote.
  • SB 236 requires courts to notify local DFACS office if anyone is convicted of driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle. Passed Senate, pending in House.
  • SB 318 allows involuntary commitment for mental illness based on an assessment by paramedics in consultation with a physician. Passed Senate and pending in House Health & Human Services Committee.
  • SB 337 expands the statute of limitations and allows hearsay evidence of a child’s description of sexual contact in court proceedings. Passed the Senate and was approved by a House Judiciary Subcommittee.  Still awaiting full committee vote and a House Floor vote.

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending March 9, 2018

Hate Crimes Bill Revived:  Rep. Megan Hanson’s hate crimes bill failed to gain passage by the Crossover deadline, thus appearing dead for 2018.  However, in a surprise move Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Wendell Willard, a co-sponsor of Hanson’s original bill, handed the gavel to a colleague and personally attached the hate crimes bill to SB 373, then proceeded to obtain full committee approval for the move. SB 373 originally simply created a new judgeship in Cobb County, but under the arcane post-Crossover Day rules, “zombie bills” (legislation once thought dead, but now revivified) are a common occurrence.  If passed by the House, it would return to the Senate, where it can agree with the change or call for a conference committee to resolve the differences.

Budget Passed:  The House approved its version of the FY 2019 budget effective beginning July 1, 2018. A few key House budget highlights include:

  • $3 million for a new behavioral health crisis center and $9.2 million more for community mental health services;
  • $3.3 million more to fight opioid addiction;
  • $10.6 million for children’s mental health crisis services, $4 million more for 13 new children’s behavioral health grants, and the House shifted funds from the Governor’s recommendations to bolster statewide crisis mental health and suicide prevention services;
  • More funds for additional inspections of narcotic treatment facilities;
  • $5 million to assist nursing homes with additional Medicaid liability insurance and higher reimbursement rates for Adult Day Health Centers, hospitals and other facilities;
  • A 4.5 per cent Medicaid rate increase for nursing homes such as the JF&CS’ Bremen Home and a $20 per month increase in the personal needs allowance for nursing home patients.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its review and approval.

Holocaust Memorial Bill – SB 356 by Sen. Kay Kilpatrick is set for final passage on Monday, March 12 when the House votes on the matter. The bill changes the composition of the State Holocaust Commission to ensure bipartisan participation and requires the Commission to raise private funds for an appropriate Holocaust memorial in a prominent place in Georgia.

School Calendar – Moving summer vacations back toward a more traditional length to encourage seasonal employment, more opportunities for youth day camp participation and other enriching activities was the objective of Rep. Ron Stephens’ HR 608. Failure to move in the House led some key Senators to introduce SR 953, a resolution creating a joint House/Senate study committee on Evaluating the School Year Calendar for Public Schools.  This resolution is scheduled for a committee hearing Tuesday March 13 at 1 pm before the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee. If approved, members of the House and Senate would appoint a panel to study whether the state should intervene in local school board calendars to ensure a longer summer break.

Nonprofit Health Clinics – An extension of a sales tax exemption for nonprofit health clinics such as the Ben Massell Clinic operated by JF&CS was passed by the House and is being heard by the Senate Finance Sales Tax Subcommittee Monday, March 12.If approved by the subcommittee, it will move to the full committee for a vote before being set for a floor vote.

Protecting the Elderly – the House Human Relations and Aging Committee passed a sweeping bill designed to protect the elderly and conduct more thorough background checks on individuals working in nursing homes, personal care homes and those providing in-home services. The bill requires fingerprints rather than name and social security background checks which the Department of Community Health and the GBI say are less accurate and subject to fraudulent identity use. By requiring fingerprint checks of anyone working in these settings, the system can weed out individuals convicted of serious crimes such as theft, elder abuse and a list of other felony offenses.   Georgia is among the few remaining states not requiring fingerprint checks. It passed the committee unanimously. It now goes to the House Rules Committee to be scheduled for a floor vote.

Key Bills:

  • HB 195 allows for-profit corporations to participate in indirect ownership of homes for the mentally disabled in return for financing the facility – still pending in the Senate.
  • SB 357 establishes the Health Coordination and Innovation Council to develop greater healthcare access and encourage greater innovation in healthcare delivery – passed Senate, pending in the House
  • HB 605 permits civil penalties against individuals pressed into sex trafficking and reopens the statute of limitations for two years beginning July 1, 2018 for any individual who was previously denied court access due to a statute of limitations expiration – passed House, pending in the Senate.
  • SB 118 extends the age which insurers must cover autism assessments from age six to age twelve. This bill was approved by the State Senate and set for House Insurance Committee hearing at 8 am Monday, March 12.
  • SB 321 allows the state to recover the maximum penalty for providers found to submit false or fraudulent Medicaid claims. Passed Senate, pending in the House.
  • HB 755 generates a pilot program to provide pre-exposure assistance to individuals at risk of HIV infection. Failed to pass the House prior to Crossover Day.
  • SB 352 produces a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with developing strategies to deal with the opioid crisis. Passed Senate, pending in the House.
  • SR 188 creates the Senate Study Committee to investigate barriers to adequate healthcare in Georgia. Adopted by Senate, committee will be formed.
  • SB 356 – Changes the composition of the Georgia Holocaust Commission to ensure bipartisan membership and instructs the Commission to raise private funds for an appropriate Holocaust memorial in a prominent location in Georgia. Passed Senate, approved by House Committee and pending House floor action. (See above)
  • HB 654 implements child support reforms advocated by the Georgia Child Support Commission – passed House, pending in the Senate.
  • HB 635 creates disabled and elderly abuse investigating teams within the Department of Human Services. Passed House, pending in Senate.
  • HB 844 expands the membership of the state Commission on the Hearing Impaired and creates a task force to recommend improvements in the statewide developmental or educational programs offered to the deaf and hard of hearing. Passed House, pending in Senate.
  • HB 972 allows DFACS to provide extended youth care services. Passed House, pending in Senate.
  • HB 982 requires DFACS to look for relatives in which to place children in state foster care for at least six months and if at that time a court determines a suitable relative is unavailable, the child may be left in foster care. Passed House, pending in Senate.
  • SB 335 expands the penalties for trafficking an individual for sexual servitude. Passed Senate and approved by a House Judiciary subcommittee on Thursday.
  • HB 802 creates a crime of trafficking a disabled adult or elder person. Passed House, Pending in Senate.
  • SB 444 requires development of a state Alzheimer’s and related dementias plan and creates an Alzheimer’s Advisory Council. Passed Senate, pending in House.
  • SB 236 requires courts to notify local DFACS office if anyone is convicted of driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle. Passed Senate, pending in House.
  • SB 318 allows involuntary commitment for mental illness based on an assessment by paramedics in consultation with a physician. Passed Senate and set for hearing in House Health & Human Service Committee at 1 pm, Monday March 12.

SB 337 expands the statute of limitations and allows hearsay evidence of a child’s description of sexual contact in court proceedings.  Passed the Senate and was approved by a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Tuesday.

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending March 2, 2018

“Crossover Day” – the point at which a bill must pass through its chamber of origin to be enacted this session – passed with a flurry of legislation over the course of a very long day in both chambers. While the Senate called it quits around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, the House labored on until a few minutes after midnight-thirty, before closing its day. Before quitting for the day, more than 100 bills were acted upon in both chambers.

School Calendar – As noted in an earlier report, the Federation added a legislative priority to move summer vacations back toward a more traditional length to allow day camps to accommodate more youth over the seasonal break. We have been working with Rep. Ron Stephens on HR 608 to mandate a late August school start, but it has failed to move in this session. Immediately, the Senate stepped forward last week with SR 953, a resolution creating a joint House/Senate study committee on Evaluating the School Year Calendar for Public Schools. If approved, it will establish a committee of House and Senate members who will make recommendations for the 2019 session.

Hate Crimes Legislation – HB 660, which adds penalties to anyone commit certain crimes targeting a victim or his or her property due to the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, mental disability, or physical disability, failed to pass the House by Crossover Day.  The bi-partisan bill whose primary sponsor is Rep. Megan Hanson (R-Brookhaven) died in the Non-Civil Judiciary Committee, but it was the highest profile hate crimes yet introduced and likely will be reintroduced in the 2019 session.

SSO Legislation– the House/Senate Conference Committee has not made much progress on reconciling their differences, largely due to the last minute legislative crush leading to Crossover Day, which kept legislative leaders busy managing bills. Now that Crossover Day is past, the conferees are expected to renew conversations that could lead to lifting the current tax credit cap from $58 million to around $100 million beginning in 2019.

Key Bills:

  • HB 195 allows for-profit corporations to participate in indirect ownership of homes for the mentally disabled in return for financing the facility – still pending in the Senate.
  • HB 733 forgives education loans for certain health professionals who locate in areas lacking in mental health services – failed to pass before Crossover Day.
  • HB 228, a carry-over bill from 2017, this legislation provides for hearing aid insurance coverage for hearing impaired children – failed to pass before Crossover Day.
  • SB 357 establishes the Health Coordination and Innovation Council to develop greater healthcare access and encourage greater innovation in healthcare delivery – passed Senate, pending in the House.
  • HB 605 permits civil penalties against individuals pressed into sex trafficking and reopens the statute of limitations for two years beginning July 1, 2018 for any individual who was previously denied court access due to a statute of limitations expiration – passed House, pending in the Senate.
  • SB 118 extends the age which insurers must cover autism assessments from age six to age twelve. This bill was approved by the State Senate, pending in the House.
  • SB 321 allows the state to recover the maximum penalty for providers found to submit false or fraudulent Medicaid claims. Passed Senate, pending in the Senate.
  • HB 747 gives Medicaid recipients unrestricted access to hemophilia medications. Failed to pass the House prior to Crossover Day.
  • HB 755 generates a pilot program to provide pre-exposure assistance to individuals at risk of HIV infection. Failed to pass the House prior to Crossover Day.
  • SB 352 produces a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with developing strategies to deal with the opioid crisis. Passed Senate, pending in the House.
  • HB 357 creates the Health Coordination and Innovation Council within the state to promote improved healthcare access and modernization. Passed Senate, pending in the House.
  • SB 300 provides a program of premium assistance to eligible individuals to help them obtain medical insurance. Failed to pass Senate before Crossover Day.
  • SR 188 creates the Senate Study Committee to investigate barriers to adequate healthcare in Georgia. Adopted by Senate, committee will be formed.
  • HR 608 creates joint House/Senate study committee to make recommendations on adjustments to summer school calendar to provide more opportunities for summer jobs, camp participation and other traditional student summer activities. Did not pass before Crossover Day.
  • SB 356 Changes the composition of the Georgia Holocaust Commission to ensure bipartisan membership and instructs the Commission to raise private funds for an appropriate Holocaust memorial in a prominent location in Georgia. Passed Senate, approved by House Committee and pending House floor action.
  • SB 429 allows the Department of Family & Children Services to bypass state bid requirements to provide services or products for a child in state custody. This ensures prompter attention to a child’s needs in emergency situations.  Failed to pass Senate before Crossover Day.
  • HB 654 implements child support reforms advocated by the Georgia Child Support Commission – passed House, pending in the Senate.
  • HB 635 creates disabled and elderly abuse investigating teams within the Department of Human Services. Passed House, pending in Senate.
  • HB 844 expands the membership of the state Commission on the Hearing Impaired and creates a task force to recommend improvements in the statewide developmental or educational programs offered to the deaf and hard of hearing. Passed House, pending in Senate.
  • SR 732 commends the State of Israel for its cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with the State of Georgia – failed to pass Senate before Crossover Day.
  • HB 972 allows DFACS to provide extended youth care services. Passed House, pending in Senate.
  • HB 982 requires DFACS to look for relatives in which to place children in state foster care for at least six months and if at that time a court determines a suitable relative is unavailable, the child may be left in foster care. Passed House, pending in Senate.
  • SB 335 expands the penalties for trafficking an individual for sexual servitude. Passed Senate, pending in House.
  • HB 802 creates a crime of trafficking a disabled adult or elder person. Passed House, Pending in Senate.
  • SB 444 requires development of a state Alzheimer’s and related dementias plan and creates an Alzheimer’s Advisory Council. Passed Senate, pending in House.
  • SB 236 requires courts to notify local DFACS office if anyone is convicted of driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle. Passed Senate, pending in House.
  • HB 318 allows involuntary commitment for mental illness based on an assessment by paramedics in consultation with a physician. Passed House, pending in Senate.

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending February 23, 2018

A key legislative milestone is rapidly approaching this week as the crucial 28th legislative day – so-called “Crossover Day – the point at which a bill must pass through its chamber of origin to be enacted this session. Any bill that doesn’t pass is theoretically dead since bills that aren’t passed this year are not carried over to the 2019 session.

Of course, this being the Georgia General Assembly it maintains a whole bag of parliamentary tricks to keep a seemingly dead legislative idea on life support until an opportunity to resuscitate it comes along. That fact is what makes the last 12 days the most interesting – and treacherous – of the entire legislative session

Hate Crimes Legislation – HB 660 adds penalties to anyone who commits certain crimes which target a victim or his or her property due to the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, mental disability, or physical disability. A bi-partisan bill whose primary sponsor is Rep. Megan Hanson (R-Brookhaven) is currently in the Non-Civil Judiciary Committee where it is awaiting action.

SSO Legislation– After the appointment of a House/Senate Conference Committee two weeks ago, the conferees have been quietly behind the scenes negotiating an agreement that expands the tax credits available to Student Scholarship Organizations (SSO) like ALEF. The Governor wanted to cap the increase at $79 million from the current $58 million, however, the conversations among the House, Senate and executive branch led to trade-offs that may boost the cap to approximately $100 million. The conference still has work to do, so the vote on the compromise may not occur until near the end of the session. However, cap increase advocates are encouraged that a basic framework has been agreed to and that a significant increase in assistance for students needing financial aid to attend day schools is within sight.

Volunteer Health Clinic Tax Exemption – We have worked with a coalition of non-profit health clinics to extend the current three-year sales tax exemption enjoyed by facilities like the JF&CS Ben Massell Clinic in midtown Atlanta. The exemption was ended in the austerity cuts of the Perdue Administration, but was restored three years ago. The existing exemption expires June 30, 2018, but the House passed an extension and sent it to the Senate last week. It is among our top priorities in the last 12 days of the 2018 session.

Key Bills:

  • HB 195 allows for-profit corporations to participate in indirect ownership of homes for the mentally disabled in return for financing the facility.
  • SR 412 creates the Senate Stroke Trauma Center Study Committee to analyze the state’s ability to care for and treat stroke victims.
  • HB 733 forgives education loans for certain health professionals who locate in areas lacking in mental health services.
  • HB 228, a carry-over bill from 2017, this legislation provides for hearing aid insurance coverage for hearing impaired children.
  • SB 357 establishes the Health Coordination and Innovation Council to develop greater healthcare access and encourage greater innovation in healthcare delivery.
  • HB 605 permits civil penalties against individuals pressed into sex trafficking and reopens the statute of limitations for two years beginning July 1, 2018 for any individual who was previously denied court access due to a statute of limitations expiration.
  • SB 118 extends the age which insurers must cover autism assessments from age six to age twelve. This bill was approved by the State Senate and moves to the House.
  • SB 321 allows the state to recover the maximum penalty for providers found to submit false or fraudulent Medicaid claims.
  • HB 747 gives Medicaid recipients unrestricted access to hemophilia medications.
  • HB 755 generates a pilot program to provide pre-exposure assistance to individuals at risk of HIV infection.
  • SB 352 produces a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with developing strategies to deal with the opioid crisis.
  • HB 357 creates the Health Coordination and Innovation Council within the state to promote improved healthcare access and modernization.
  • SB 300 provides a program of premium assistance to eligible individuals to help them obtain medical insurance.
  • SR 188 creates the Senate Study Committee to investigate barriers to adequate healthcare in Georgia.
  • HR 608 creates joint House/Senate study committee to make recommendations on adjustments to summer school calendar to provide more opportunities for summer jobs, camp participation and other traditional student summer activities.
  • HB 936 – See above
  • SB 356 – See above
  • SB 429 allows the Department of Family & Children Services to bypass state bid requirements to provide services or products for a child in state custody. This ensures prompter attention to a child’s needs in emergency situations.
  • HB 654 implements child support reforms advocated by the Georgia Child Support Commission
  • HB 635 creates disabled and elderly abuse investigating teams within the Department of Human Services. This bill was approved last week by the House.
  • HB 844 expands the membership of the state Commission on the Hearing Impaired and creates a task force to recommend improvements in the statewide developmental or educational programs offered to the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • SR 732 commends the State of Israel for its cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with the State of Georgia.
  • SB 356 which also requires the state Holocaust Commission to be bipartisan in makeup. Currently, the Governor, Speaker of the House and Lt. Governor each appoint members to the Commission regardless of party affiliation, but Sen. Kirkpatrick’s bill requires the Speaker and the Lt. Governor to appoint one member each from the legislative majority party and one from the minority party. It also authorizes the Commission to raise funds and place a suitable Holocaust Memorial in a “prominent place” within the State.

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending February 16, 2018

Summer Vacation – As noted in a previous report, one of the Federation’s new goals this year is seeking a policy that extends the school summer vacation a bit to allow a full summer youth camp schedule. With some systems now beginning in July, summer camps typically cannot accommodate all the families who want their children to be enriched by the summer camp experience. Cooperation among several groups with similar aims led State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) to initiate HB 936 which sets the earliest date for school opening in any school system as the third week in August. The bill was referred to the House Education Committee for review.

Holocaust Commission – A bill altering the makeup of the Georgia Holocaust Commission and requiring the Commission to create an appropriate Holocaust memorial has been introduced. State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick initiated SB 356 which also requires the commission to be bipartisan in makeup.   Currently, the Governor, Speaker of the House and Lt. Governor each appoint members to the Commission regardless of party affiliation, but Sen. Kirkpatrick’s bill requires the Speaker and the Lt. Governor to appoint one member each from the legislative majority party and one from the minority party. It also authorizes the Commission to raise funds and place a suitable Holocaust Memorial in a “prominent place” within the State. Finally, the bill removes the Commission from under the Secretary of State and places it within the Department of Community Affairs. The bill is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate this Tuesday.

Halfway Home – The legislative session passed the halfway point this week.  Tuesday was Legislative Day 20 of the 40-day session and when it left for the week, the General Assembly has only 8 legislative days remaining to the crucial Crossover Day – the point at which a bill must receive approval from at least one chamber to be enacted in 2018. The legislative pace has picked up and each Chamber is already hearing bills from its colleagues across the Capitol, but the coming week will be a period of intensive legislative activity. However, many bills are on hold until the FY 2019 budget is passed. When they reconvene post-President’s day on Tuesday, they will be at Day 23.

Key Bills:

  • HB 195 allows for-profit corporations to participate in indirect ownership of homes for the mentally disabled in return for financing the facility.
  • SR 412 creates the Senate Stroke Trauma Center Study Committee to analyze the state’s ability to care for and treat stroke victims.
  • HB 733 forgives education loans for certain health professionals who locate in areas lacking in mental health services.
  • HB 228, a carry-over bill from 2017, this legislation provides for hearing aid insurance coverage for hearing impaired children.
  • SB 357 establishes the Health Coordination and Innovation Council to develop greater healthcare access and encourage greater innovation in healthcare delivery.
  • HB 605 permits civil penalties against individuals pressed into sex trafficking and reopens the statute of limitations for two years beginning July 1, 2018 for any individual who was previously denied court access due to a statute of limitations expiration.
  • SB 118 extends the age which insurers must cover autism assessments from age six to age twelve. This bill was approved by the State Senate and moves to the House.
  • SB 321 allows the state to recover the maximum penalty for providers found to submit false or fraudulent Medicaid claims.
  • HB 747 gives Medicaid recipients unrestricted access to hemophilia medications.
  • HB 755 generates a pilot program to provide pre-exposure assistance to individuals at risk of HIV infection.
  • SB 352 produces a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with developing strategies to deal with the opioid crisis.
  • HB 357 creates the Health Coordination and Innovation Council within the state to promote improved healthcare access and modernization.
  • SB 300 provides a program of premium assistance to eligible individuals to help them obtain medical insurance.
  • SR 188 creates the Senate Study Committee to investigate barriers to adequate healthcare in Georgia.
  • HR 608 creates joint House/Senate study committee to make recommendations on adjustments to summer school calendar to provide more opportunities for summer jobs, camp participation and other traditional student summer activities.
  • HB 936 – See above, Summer Vacation
  • SB 356 – See above, Holocaust Commission
  • SB 429 allows the Department of Family & Children Services to bypass state bid requirements to provide services or products for a child in state custody. This ensures more prompt attention to a child’s needs in emergency situations.
  • HB 654 implements child support reforms advocated by the Georgia Child Support Commission.
  • HB 635 creates disabled and elderly abuse investigating teams within the Department of Human Services. This bill was approved last week by the House.
  • HB 844 expands the membership of the state Commission on the Hearing Impaired and creates a task force to recommend improvements in the statewide developmental or educational programs offered to the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • SR 732 commends the State of Israel for its cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with the State of Georgia.

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending February 9, 2018

Summer Vacation – As noted in a previous report, one of the Federation’s new goals this year is seeking a policy that extends the school summer vacation a bit to allow a full summer youth camp schedule. With some systems now beginning in July, summer camps typically cannot accommodate all the families who want their children to be enriched by the summer camp experience. Cooperation among several groups with similar aims led State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) to initiate HB 936 which sets the earliest date for school opening in any school system as the third week in August. The bill was referred to the House Education Committee for review.

Holocaust Commission – A bill altering the makeup of the Georgia Holocaust Commission and requiring the Commission to create an appropriate Holocaust memorial has been introduced. State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick initiated SB 356 which also requires the commission to be bipartisan in makeup.   Currently, the Governor, Speaker of the House and Lt. Governor each appoint members to the Commission regardless of party affiliation, but Sen. Kirkpatrick’s bill requires the Speaker and the Lt. Governor to appoint one member each from the legislative majority party and one from the minority party. It also authorizes the Commission to raise funds and place a suitable Holocaust Memorial in a “prominent place” within the State. Finally, the bill removes the Commission from under the Secretary of State and places it within the Department of Community Affairs. The bill is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate this Tuesday.

Halfway Home – The legislative session passed the halfway point this week. Tuesday was Legislative Day 20 of the 40-day session and when it left for the week, the General Assembly has only 8 legislative days remaining to the crucial Crossover Day – the point at which a bill must receive approval from at least one chamber to be enacted in 2018. The legislative pace has picked up and each Chamber is already hearing bills from its colleagues across the Capitol, but the coming week will be a period of intensive legislative activity. However, many bills are on hold until the FY 2019 budget is passed. When they reconvene post-President’s day on Tuesday, they will be at Day 23.

Key Bills:

  • HB 195 allows for-profit corporations to participate in indirect ownership of homes for the mentally disabled in return for financing the facility.
  • SR 412 creates the Senate Stroke Trauma Center Study Committee to analyze the state’s ability to care for and treat stroke victims.
  • HB 733 forgives education loans for certain health professionals who locate in areas lacking in mental health services.
  • HB 228, a carry-over bill from 2017, this legislation provides for hearing aid insurance coverage for hearing impaired children.
  • SB 357 establishes the Health Coordination and Innovation Council to develop greater healthcare access and encourage greater innovation in healthcare delivery.
  • HB 605 permits civil penalties against individuals pressed into sex trafficking and reopens the statute of limitations for two years beginning July 1, 2018 for any individual who was previously denied court access due to a statute of limitations expiration.
  • SB 118 extends the age which insurers must cover autism assessments from age six to age twelve. This bill was approved by the State Senate and moves to the House.
  • SB 321 allows the state to recover the maximum penalty for providers found to submit false or fraudulent Medicaid claims.
  • HB 747 gives Medicaid recipients unrestricted access to hemophilia medications.
  • HB 755 generates a pilot program to provide pre-exposure assistance to individuals at risk of HIV infection.
  • SB 352 produces a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with developing strategies to deal with the opioid crisis.
  • HB 357 creates the Health Coordination and Innovation Council within the state to promote improved healthcare access and modernization.
  • SB 300 provides a program of premium assistance to eligible individuals to help them obtain medical insurance.
  • SR 188 creates the Senate Study Committee to investigate barriers to adequate healthcare in Georgia.
  • HR 608 creates joint House/Senate study committee to make recommendations on adjustments to summer school calendar to provide more opportunities for summer jobs, camp participation and other traditional student summer activities.
  • HB 936 – See above, Summer Vacation
  • SB 356 – See above, Holocaust Commission
  • SB 429 allows the Department of Family & Children Services to bypass state bid requirements to provide services or products for a child in state custody. This ensures more prompt attention to a child’s needs in emergency situations.
  • HB 654 implements child support reforms advocated by the Georgia Child Support Commission.
  • HB 635 creates disabled and elderly abuse investigating teams within the Department of Human Services. This bill was approved last week by the House.
  • HB 844 expands the membership of the state Commission on the Hearing Impaired and creates a task force to recommend improvements in the statewide developmental or educational programs offered to the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • SR 732 commends the State of Israel for its cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with the State of Georgia.

 

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending February 9, 2018

SSO Tax Credits (ALEF Fund) – Negotiations are about to begin between the Georgia House and Senate on whether to raise the statewide cap on Student Scholarship Organization tax credits above the current $58 million. The House has tried to move the cap to above $100 million for the past couple of years but were stymied by opposition in the Senate.

The House appointed its conferees early in the week and they include Rep. John Carson (author of HB 217), Rep. Jay Powell, chair, House Ways & Means Committee and Rep. Earl Erhardt, a staunch supporter of SSOs and for raising the cap.

The Senate appointed Senate Finance Chair William Hufstetler, Sen. Brandon Beach and Sen. Ben Watson.

Tax Relief for Clinics Moves – The House Ways & Means committee approved HB 697 last Thursday, setting up the option of extending the current sales tax exemption for non-profit health clinics like the Ben Massell Dental Clinic in mid-town Atlanta. JFGA worked with the state’s nonprofit health clinics in extending the sales tax exemption for materials and supplies purchased by not-for-profit health facilities.

The exemption sunsets on June 30 of this year and without this extension, facilities like the Ben Massell Dental Clinic must again pay sales tax on its purchases. We are working with key legislators of move this bill early in the session.

Key Bills:

  • HB 195 allows for-profit corporations to participate in indirect ownership of homes for the mentally disabled in return for financing the facility.
  • SR 412 creates the Senate Stroke Trauma Center Study Committee to analyze the state’s ability to care for and treat stroke victims.
  • HB 733 forgives education loans for certain health professionals who locate in areas lacking in mental health services.
  • HB 228, a carry-over bill from 2017, this legislation provides for hearing aid insurance coverage for hearing impaired children.
  • SB 357 establishes the Health Coordination and Innovation Council to develop greater healthcare access and encourage greater innovation in healthcare delivery
  • HB 605 permits civil penalties against individuals pressed into sex trafficking and reopens the statute of limitations for two years beginning July 1, 2018 for any individual who was previously denied court access due to a statute of limitations expiration.
  • SB 118 extends the age which insurers must cover autism assessments from age six to age twelve.
  • SB 321 allows the state to recover the maximum penalty for providers found to submit false or fraudulent Medicaid claims.
  • HB 747 gives Medicaid recipients unrestricted access to hemophilia medications.
  • HB 755 generates a pilot program to provide pre-exposure assistance to individuals at risk of HIV infection.
  • SB 352 produces a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with developing strategies to deal with the opioid crisis.
  • HB 357 creates the Health Coordination and Innovation Council within the state to promote improved healthcare access and modernization.
  • SB 300 provides a program of premium assistance to eligible individuals to help them obtain medical insurance.
  • SR 188 creates the Senate Study Committee to investigate barriers to adequate healthcare in Georgia.
  • HR 608 creates joint House/Senate study committee to make recommendations on adjustments to summer school calendar to provide more opportunities for summer jobs, camp participation and other traditional student summer activities.

 

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending February 2, 2018

Legislation increasing the tax credits for student scholarship organizations (SSOs) such as ALEF remain on hold this week as chief sponsor Rep. John Carson (R-Cobb County) is waiting until the Senate starts moving House bills on its calendar – likely around Legislative Day 20.  Monday is Legislative Day 15, which means the 40-Day session is more than 1/3 complete at this point.  Rep. Carson is optimistic a deal can be worked out with the Senate this session on HB 217, the bill he introduced last year to raise the cap on SSO tax credits.

Summer Vacation – a new priority this session for JFGA is to extend the school summer vacation period so more youth may participate in its summer camping programs.  Over the past several years, school systems have truncated the summer break by starting classes much earlier than the traditional “around-Labor Day” period of the past.

JFGA joined a diverse coalition of organizations, including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, to push legislation that requires school systems to provide longer summer breaks. The business community supports the initiative so young people may access summer jobs, which are important to businesses, but more important for young men and women to gain work experience.

Whatever the reason, the goal is to provide a slightly longer summer break and to that end, State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) has introduced HR 608 – the Joint Study Committee on the Georgia Public Schools Calendar. The committee would look at the impact of earlier school start dates on youth summer camps, summer jobs programs, collegiate and technical school dual enrollment programs, utility and other costs of summer start dates and other factors.

The committee will report its findings next year and recommend ways to reconcile these needs with the demands on public schools to improve their academic performance.

Tax Relief for Clinics – in 2015, JFGA worked with the state’s nonprofit health clinics in restoring a sales tax exemption for materials and supplies purchased by not-for-profit health facilities. The exemption was dropped by Gov. Perdue during the fiscal crisis in 2008 and was finally restored, but with a short, three-year duration. Now, HB 697 by Rep. Darlene Taylor extends that exemption another five years.

The exemption sunsets on June 30 of this year and without this extension, facilities like the Ben Massell Dental Clinic must again pay sales tax on its purchases. We are working with key legislators of move this bill early in the session.

Healthcare Center Stage – Several healthcare and social service programs have proposed legislative updates or amendments early in this year’s legislative session. Here are some early legislative initiatives that bear watching:

  • HB 195 allows for-profit corporations to participate in indirect ownership of homes for the mentally disabled in return for financing the facility.
  • SR 412 creates the Senate Stroke Trauma Center Study Committee to analyze the state’s ability to care for and treat stroke victims.
  • HB 733 forgives education loans for certain health professionals who locate in areas lacking in mental health services.
  • HB 228, a carry-over bill from 2017, this legislation provides for hearing aid insurance coverage for hearing impaired children.
  • SB 357 establishes the Health Coordination and Innovation Council to develop greater healthcare access and encourage greater innovation in healthcare delivery.
  • HB 605 permits civil penalties against individuals pressed into sex trafficking and reopens the statute of limitations for two years beginning July 1, 2018 for any individual who was previously denied court access due to a statute of limitations expiration.
  • SB 118 raises the age which insurers must cover autism assessments from age six to age twelve.
  • SB 321 allows the state to recover the maximum penalty for providers found to submit false or fraudulent Medicaid claims.
  • HB 747 gives Medicaid recipients unrestricted access to hemophilia medications.
  • HB 755 generates a pilot program to provide pre-exposure assistance to individuals at risk of HIV infection.
  • SB 352 produces a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery charged with developing strategies to deal with the opioid crisis.

Budget Progress – The House appropriations committee should bring a supplemental budget to the floor this coming week. Expected to be part of that package is another $5 million to boost the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission, but has fewer other health related mid-year adjustments. Many parts of Georgia face a growing trauma care crisis, with the nearest trauma center often more than 50 miles away.

 

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending January 26, 2018

The General Assembly set out its schedule for the rest of the 2018 session. Two key dates are Day 28 Wednesday, February 28th, which will be Crossover Day – the point in the session in which a bill must pass one chamber to be enacted into law and Day 40 Thursday, March 29th, when this year’s session will end.

Light Legislative Output – As the General Assembly completed its third week of work, the number of bills being introduced is lower than normal. First, many bills were held over from the 2017 session, so a lot of focus is on clearing out old business. Also, legislative leaders have made clear that legislators should concentrate on the qualitative side rather the quantitative side when it comes to bills in recent session.

Further, while its still very early, few highly controversial issues have arisen so far. Most of the new bills introduced deal with clean up or modernization of older laws.

Federal Tax Cut/State Tax Hike? Each year the House Ways & Means Committee takes up legislation to align the state’s tax code with any federal changes passed by Congress. The massive federal tax cut passed in late 2017, however, means that process will be more complex than most years.  In fact, an internal analysis by the Governor’s office shows Georgia tax payers could end up paying about $3.6 billion more to state government. Why? Many of the deductions used by state taxpayers who itemize were eliminated in the national tax law. Thus, more people may use the standard deduction rather than itemize, which would result in a higher tax outlay. Legislators and the Governor’s office are figuring what steps are available to offset that change. The feds did it by doubling the standard deduction and that may be an option open for the state as well. We’ll see what happens over the next two months.

Mental Health Provider Shortage – a new report cites a “severe shortage” of child and adolescent psychiatrists statewide. The report says 76 of the state’s 159 counties do not have a registered psychologist and 52 counties lack a licensed social worker. The shortage of qualified mental health providers is a statewide phenomenon but is worst outside the metro Atlanta area.

Key Bills:

SB 352 – Sen. Unterman – Creates a director of Substance Abuse, Addiction and Related order and establishes a Commission of Substance Abuse and recovery.

SB 356 – Sen. Kirkpatrick – changes the make up of the Holocaust Commission to require the Speaker and Lt. Governor each to appoint one member of the Republican and Democratic Party to the commission. It also calls on the Commission to design and place a Holocaust Memorial “in a prominent location” in Georgia.

HB 732 – Rep. Silcox – strengthens sex trafficking laws by lowering the age for adult sexual exploitation from 17 to 16 years old.

SB 335 – Sen. Unterman – identical to HB 732 in strengthening sex trafficking laws.

SB 337 – Sen. Unterman – allows an under 16-year-old child’s description of sexual contact to another individual to be admissible in criminal proceedings.  Currently, such hearsay evidence is not allowed in criminal proceedings.

HB 716 – Rep. Rakestraw – allows pre-arrest diversion for drug and mental health treatment, so that law enforcement officials can deal with these issues using processes other than jail for certain individuals. A companion resolution creates a House Study Committee to further delve into these issues.

 

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending January 19, 2018

Weather disrupted most activities this week, including a truncated legislative session during the period. The General Assembly usually sits in recess during the entire MLK King week, but the House/Senate Appropriations Committees jointly hear from the Governor, State Economist and department heads about the Governor’s proposed budget. The Tuesday session, with the Governor and economist each outlining the primary factors that went into the fiscal plan outlined last week in Gov. Deal’s final budget address.

Hate Crimes Bill – Rep. Megan Hanson (R- Brookhaven) will introduce legislation to create Georgia’s first hate crimes law. In a press conference with Allison Padilla-Goodman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League and several law enforcement officials, Hanson says her bill will “provide our law enforcement officials with tools to combat” crimes targeting individuals based on race, ethnicity, religion or similar characteristics. It also provides for law enforcement training for investigating hate crimes.

Key Bills:

HB 654 – Rep. Beskin – Implements the child support reforms recommended by the Georgia Child Support Commission.

SB 300 – Sen. Rhett – Creates a pilot medical premium assistance program to help individuals making 138 percent or less of the federal poverty level and who are ineligible for other healthcare programs to obtain health insurance coverage.

SB 318 – Sen. Rett – Allows for involuntary mental health evaluations and treatments based on consultation between paramedics and a physician.

SB 321 – Sen. Tillery – allows the state to recover the maximum penalties under federal law for false or fraudulent Medicaid claims.

SB 328 – Sen. Albers – Implements the recommendations of the Tax Credit Study Committee to eliminate diesel and qualified transportation tax credits that the committee deemed not meeting the state’s objectives. The Student Scholarship Organization tax credits used by ALEF are not under evaluation, though it may be a program the Tax Credit Study Committee takes up in future years.

 

 

Legislative Update
Week Ending January 12, 2018

While the 2018 Georgia General Assembly convened this week, it was almost noticed since all eyes were focused a mile to the north where Alabama and Georgia tangled for the National College Football championship.

Here are several issues that the legislature is expected to tackle in 2018

  • Speaker Ralston says the House will again take up a streamlining of Georgia’s adoption laws. The House passed a bill last year that died in the last-minute wrangling between the House and Senate. The Speaker says it will again be a House priority. However, that priority was achieved the first week when the Senate essentially capitulated and passed a cleaner version (see below).
  • Enticing more Georgians to move to rural areas will also be a discussion item. Currently 11 rural counties have fewer people than during the Civil War and 34 counties have higher death rates than birth rates. With rural communities experiencing a long-term depopulation trend, the legislature is contemplating paying people up to $50,000 over ten years to move to a rural area and if the individual is a high-earning doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect or similar profession or a recent college grad, the payments could reach $100,000 if the General Assembly adopts the Rural Development Council’s recommendations.
  • Social organizations are focusing on bills to boost personal care home safety. Some highly publicized care home deaths have spurred social welfare advocates to seek stronger accountability within the personal care home industry.

Budget & State of the State – Gov. Nathan Deal gave his final State of the State address Thursday. His benedictory address and budget was more about wrapping up and completing unfinished business than launching new initiatives. Here are highlights from the fiscal plan the Governor released after his State of the State speech:

  • $102.1 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth.
  • $10.7 million for growth in the high school/technical school Dual Enrollment program.
  • $43.6 million for the Indigent Care Trust Fund and Medicaid.
  • $15.1 million for child welfare services to care for children in state custody.
  • $2.4 million for autism services for children under 21.

FY 2019 budget highlights include:

  • $127.6 million for K-12 enrollment growth, training and experience.
  • $30 million to assist low-wealth school systems.
  • $34.4 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program.
  • $255.9 million for Medicaid to fund growth and offset the loss of federal and other funds.
  • $28.8 million for child welfare services to fund out-of-home care growth and foster care per diem increases.
  • $5.9 million for autism crisis services for children under 21.
  • $22.9 million to implement recommendations from the Commission on Children’s Mental Health.

What isn’t in the budget? Raises for teachers and state employees. While the state’s revenues have grown in recent years, they haven’t grown in relation to the demand for such high-cost services as healthcare. Revenue growth is largely on a break-even pace with the still rising cost of medical services for state employees and Medicaid recipients. Education and healthcare now consume more than 85 percent of all state revenues.

To see the Governor’s entire proposed budget, go to https://opb.georgia.gov/ .

ALEF Plans – Legislation to raise the tax credits for Student Scholarship Organizations (SSOs) like ALEF is still pending in the Senate. Conversations over the summer between the Lt. Governor and House primary sponsor Rep. John Carson indicated some flexibility in the Senate toward allowing the bill to move in 2018. The talks are currently on hold waiting for the legislative calendar to move closer to the point in the session when the Senate will actually begin working on House legislation this year.

 

 

Legislative Update
Jewish Community Legislative Priorities FY18

Priority Issues

  • Tax Credit Legislation and protect ALEF Fund (ongoing, but accomplished in 2015).
  • Medicaid Reimbursement rates for the William Bremen Home based on current year cost reports (ongoing, but reimbursement rates were updated in 2014).
  • Medicaid preservation and expansion.
  • Create uniform start and stop dates for Public Schools across counties since truncated summer schedules are negatively affecting camp enrollment and ability to hire staff. This will help camps have certainty about the summer vacation window available to them.
  • Focus on adding resources for Federation affiliate agencies to fulfill their mission.

Coalition Issues 

Aging and Disabilities

  • Support Unlock the Waiting List agenda including increases in “slots” (people) to be served under Medicaid Waivers (Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, Independent Care for people with Physical Disabilities), expansion of Grant in Aid Family Support services and update the multiple year funding plan for waiver slots as well as Non-Medicaid Home and Community-based Services, and Community Care Services Program.
  • Unfreeze “Exceptional Rate” Waivers for those with needs beyond what waivers typically pay, and/or monitor changes to waiver rates (such and tiered rates, per capita rates and block grants) and advocate for maximum benefits to clients and providers.
  • Increase of 7% in developmental disability service provider.
  • Reimbursement for FY2010 implementation. Maintain 3% increase that was approved for FY09 but lost in budget cuts.
  • New funding for Family Support for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
  • Licensure of Adult Day services.
  • Increase in nursing home provider reimbursement.
  • Restore subcontracting of Public Guardianship and develop a State Office of Guardianship.
  • Amendment of SB 10 to include children who have an IEP in Pre-K, allowing them to move to private school for kindergarten.
  • Increase Medicaid dollars for DD programs, including independent living, day program, and employment/work teams.
  • Preserve grant funding and key contracts for our state-funded programs.
  • Tap in to stimulus investment dollars going to support JFCS vocation services programs.

Issues to be Monitored

Aging and Disabilities

  • Assisted living level of long-term care.
  • Money follows the person with disabilities allowing for options to institutions.
  • Changes in adult day care policy.

Children and Families

  • Changes in early childhood service delivery such as teacher.
  • Qualifications, staff to child ratio and health regulations and changes in camping regulations.
  • Year around schooling/later start of school year.
  • Changes in early childhood service delivery such as teacher qualifications, staff to child ratio and health regulations.
  • Assuring continuity of Violence Against Women Act.

Physical and Mental Health

  • Managed care for mental health and Bright from the Start program for birth – 3 year olds with developmental delays.
  • We expect there to be agreement on a bill to enable dental hygienists to provide treatment without direct supervision. Not sure who is going to sponsor it but GDA will be involved and we will advocate through GCCN.

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