On Feb. 14, President Barack Obama visited Atlanta to praise Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program and promote further investment in early education opportunities across the nation. Also last week, the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students released data on early education to help shape policies made during the current session of the Georgia General Assembly.
In our House District 132, the Alliance found that there are 4,487 children under the age of 5. Greater early education opportunities will help ensure these children graduate from high school instead of becoming one of the 26.2 percent in our district who do not earn a diploma or GED. High-quality early education is proven to reduce costs to society, decrease teen pregnancy rates and increase future earning potential, thus ensuring these children do not join the 24.7 percent in our district who are living below poverty level.
For more information, you can visit the Alliance’s website at www.geears.org.
Today is the 19th legislative day of the 2013 session of the General Assembly, meaning we are near the halfway point of the session. Last week, the House of Representatives approved and send to the Senate several proposals of interest:
House Resolution 4 urges the state of Tennessee to accept a settlement of its boundary dispute with Georgia that has been ongoing for nearly 200 years. The settlement would reflect the current boundary line established by the flawed 1818 survey, except with a one-and-a-half mile “inlet” that would allow Georgia access to the Tennessee River at Nickajack in the northwest corner of our state, which would provide Georgia with an abundant amount of water. The compromise would not affect citizens residing in Tennessee, but would allow Georgia its rightful access to the Tennessee River. HR 4 also authorizes the Governor to enter into any necessary negotiations with the state of Tennessee to resolve this longstanding border dispute.
House Bill 59 would benefit public safety by reducing the number of false alarms reported to law enforcement, thus allowing our first responders to focus their resources on those truly in need. This legislation requires an alarm monitoring company to use a second contact for alarm verification if its first attempt is unsuccessful. If the second contact is reached and the alarm went off in error, then any dispatched law enforcement can disregard the report and continue with their regular duty. No second verification call would be required, however, if the alarm monitoring company has video or audio verification of a fire alarm, panic, robbery-in-progress, or crime-in-progress. It is important that we utilize law enforcement wisely. Reducing the number of responses to false alarms will help communities throughout the state do just that.
House Bill 198 would help ensure that Georgians receive accurate information about their health insurance options. Under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” health insurance exchanges will be required to award grants to “navigators.” These navigators will then help people enroll in qualified health plans – a service currently provided by insurance brokers. Despite the fact that navigators will perform services similar to those provided by insurance brokers, the ACA explicitly prevents states from requiring navigators to hold an insurance producers license. This in effect would allow people who have not undergone the same level of training as an insurance broker to essentially carry out a similar role. This could cause consumers to receive inconsistent or inaccurate advice about their health care coverage options. Therefore, HB 198 would allow the state Insurance Commissioner to license navigators and ensure that they have the necessary qualifications to provide proper health insurance guidance.
House Bill 101 would make it easier for our state’s non-profit organizations to raise money by selling food at local events. Georgia law requires food service establishments to obtain a food service permit from the state before selling food to the public. While Georgia already exempts food sold at a fairs or festivals from this permit requirement, it does not exempt food sold by nonprofit organizations at other short-term events. HB 101 would change this so that nonprofit organizations could sell food at events lasting five days or less, like a weekend bake sale or Relay for Life event, without having to get a food service permit from the state. Nonprofit organizations would, however, still have to comply with all local government permitting requirements.
Also, I would like to acknowledge the many messages I have received from constituents regarding proposed state laws on gun ownership. I want you to know that I, too, support the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, as well as strengthening mental health care and improving background checks to ensure that fewer guns fall into the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable.
Last week, the House approved HB 60, which would expand the exemption for active and retired state and federal judges from state restrictions on the possession and carrying of firearms to include retired judges from local jurisdictions as well. In addition, the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee favorably reported HB 35, which would allow local school boards to authorize administrators and staff to carry weapons on campus.
Please continue to contact me if you have any questions or comments about legislation being considered in the General Assembly.