Session 2017: Week 7
Session 2017: Week 7
The House began its 7th week of the 2017 legislative session on Feb. 21st for another week of passing bills that will further improve our state. Crossover Day is fast approaching which means my colleagues and I put in extra hours last week to ensure that key bills were passed on the House floor. Keep reading to learn about a few bills from week 7.
House Bill 250 – Foster Care Updates
In order to support Georgia’s foster parents and foster children, the House passed HB 250 which will allow foster parent applicants and caregivers to foster children to submit evidence from their employee background and fingerprint check to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to satisfy the department’s records check requirements. Eligible applicants are Early Care and Education Program employees and have received satisfactory background and fingerprint records checks within the previous 24 months. Current law states that any person who cares for a foster child must successfully complete a background check through DFCS, and the department does not accept background checks completed by other agencies. This slows down the process of promptly placing children in foster homes. HB 250 will make the process more flexible, so our state’s foster children can be well cared for and as soon as possible.
House Bill 159 – Adoption Law Updates
This bill would lower the minimum age of a single petitioner from 25 to 21 thereby allowing judges to decide on a case-by-case basis if an adoption is best for the child in question. HB 159 would:
- allow a limited exception to the requirement that the petitioner must be 10 years older than the adoptive child in relative and stepparent adoptions.
- make international adoptions easier by streamlining the process for domestication of a foreign decree of adoption and providing a path for the adoption of a internationally-born child for whom Georgia parents were only previously able to obtain a guardianship.
- allow for an individual over the age of 18 who signs a surrender of parental rights to waive the 10-day right to revoke his or her surrender. This will allow them to choose to permanently surrender their rights upon signature.
- remove the six month residency requirement for adoptive parents to petition to adopt, allow non-residents to adopt children born in Georgia, and allow Georgia residents to adopt from out-of-state agencies.
- would make it possible for birthmothers in non-agency adoptions to receive a finite amount for living expenses to cover food, rent, and utilities. Independent attorneys would distribute expenses for a certain amount of time in conjunction with private independent adoptions.
This bill will update outdated adoption code that does not align with other state’s adoption process. We need to make the necessary updates to simplify the process and make sure that children find adoptive families faster.
House Bill 222 & House Bill 237 – Supporting our Military Personnel
Throughout this legislative session, we have passed several bills concerning the welfare of our veterans and military families. We continued these efforts last week by passing HB 224 which would allow military students to attend any school in their school system beginning in the 2017-2018 school year. School-aged children of a military service member living in military housing, on or off-base, would have the option to attend the public school of their choice within their local school system if space is available. Local boards of education will create a system to make the transition smooth for these students and will annually notify parents of the education options available. Parents will be responsible for transportation to and from school. This bill will also permit the Department of Education to create identifiers for students whose parent or guardian is an active-duty military service member or reserve member of the National Guard in order to monitor their progress and educational needs. Our state has the fifth largest military population in the United States. Last year, the House Military Affairs Study Committee found that receiving a quality education was one of the top priorities for military families. Children of military families face unique challenges, especially those who have moved around throughout their upbringing. We want to do what we can to offer extra support to these students and their family.
Another bill that will help accomplish this is House Bill 222. This bill will allow a member of the Georgia National Guard or of a reserve component of the armed forces to be classified as a legal Georgia resident under eligibility requirements for HOPE. Current requirements for the HOPE scholarship state that eligible recipients must be residents for 12 consecutive months immediately prior to the first day of classes when the scholarship is needed. Since military personnel are often required to relocate, they are often disqualified from receiving this financial aid. Currently, Military personnel, military spouses, and dependent children stationed in Georgia, on active duty, or who list Georgia as their home of record meet HOPE eligibility requirements. HB 222 will add members of the Georgia National Guard or of a reserve component of the armed forces to this list. This bill will help the men and women who protect our state get the opportunity to receive an affordable, quality education.
House Bill 237 – Supporting Schools and Education
In order to improve education and help all of our schools thrive, the House passed House Bill 237. This bill will create a way for individuals, corporations, and communities to financially help Georgia’s low-performing schools by establishing the Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation under the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. This foundation could receive private donations from taxpayers in order to award grants to public schools with priority to low-performing schools. Taxpayers must electronically notify the Department of Revenue of the donation amount and be approved to submit a donation by the state revenue commissioner. After making the donation, taxpayers will be allowed a credit of up to:
- $1,000 per year for single individuals,
- up to $2,500 per year for married couples who file joint returns,
- and up to $10,000 per year for individual members of limited liability companies, shareholders of Subchapter ‘S’ corporations or partners in a partnership.
Corporations will only be allowed a credit no more than the amount donated or 75% of the corporation’s’ income tax liability (lesser of the two). The total amount of credits will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis. Credits will be limited to $7 million per year through 2025 and $10 million per year for 2026 and would end in 2033. Lasty, the foundation must submit an annual report to the Department of Revenue including:
- the total number and value of donations and tax credits approved,
- total number and value of public school and value of public school grants awarded,
- and a list of donors and the value of their donations and tax credits approved.
This bill provides an easy way for taxpayers to help Georgia’s schools and students, and also promotes partnerships between businesses, nonprofit organizations, and school systems.
Crossover day is on March 3 which is the deadline for legislation to be passed out of its chamber of origin and remain eligible for consideration in this legislative session. This means more hard work and extra hours for the House as we continue to pass bills that will improve the lives of citizens. Check back here next week to learn about the 8th week of session.
You are welcome to visit me at my capitol office located at 228-A State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334. I can also be reached by phone at 404.656.5099 or by email at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you on how I can help serve Georgia.
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