Criminal Justice Reform, Campus Carry, Kinship Care Bills Pass by Sine DiePrint This Post
The 2016 session of the Georgia General Assembly ended last week, with both chambers working past midnight on Sine Die—the final day. Gov. Nathan Deal now has 40 days, or until May 3, to sign or veto bills and line items in the FY17 budget.
Legislation on some major issues passed prior to March 24, including the FY17 budget, which passed on March 22, and HB 859 (Rep. Rick Jasperse, 11th), the Campus Carry Bill, which passed on March 11. However, the fate of several other bills was not decided until the final moments of the 40th day, and many passed with amendments made in the final days of the session.
Since this was the second year of the 2015-2016 session, legislation that failed to pass is not eligible to be acted upon in future sessions. Legislators may reintroduce bills in the 2017 session, but they must go through the entire legislative process as new bills.
Criminal Justice Reform
The Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform released its 2016 report in February that included recommendations regarding the adult correctional and juvenile justice systems and the Georgia Prisoner Reentry Initiative. (Sen. John Kennedy, 18th) was introduced to implement changes proposed in the report.
The council recommended using schools as primary referral sources to the juvenile justice system and addressing an unintended consequence of the 2013 Juvenile Justice Reform Act: the expanded use of secure detention for younger children. To help with adult prisoner reentry, the council recommended updating the First Offender Act to strengthen protections against employment discrimination and lifting the food stamps ban for felony drug offenders.
SB 367 passed the Senate for the second time on March 24, after the House made changes to the version originally passed by the Senate. The final version of the bill includes:
- restrictions on secure detention for youth under age 14,
- requirements for schools to use progressive discipline before filing a complaint,
- measures to improve fairness in school tribunals, and
- requirements for local boards of education and school resource officers to enter into memorandums of understanding to clarify roles and identify differences between delinquent and disciplinary conduct.
In 2015, HR 424 (Rep. Stacey Abrams, 89th) created the House Study Committee on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and Kinship Care. The committee held five public meetings during the interim between the 2015 and 2016 sessions, studying issues faced by grandparents and other family members who serve as primary caregivers and guardians such as access to services, financial support, and making medical and academic decisions for children in their care. More than 10 bills and resolutions related to kinship care were introduced during the 2016 session, several of which resulted from the House study committee’s findings. Bills that passed by Sine Die include: HB 229 (Rep. Brian Strickland, 111th) allows grandparents, great-grandparents, or siblings of a minor child to file an action for visitation rights. HB 887 (Rep. Chuck Efstration, 104th) prioritizes placing children with relatives upon the child being taken into protective custody, following or at
More than 10 bills and resolutions related to kinship care were introduced during the 2016 session, several of which resulted from the House study committee’s findings. Bills that passed by Sine Die include: HB 229 (Rep. Brian Strickland, 111th) allows grandparents, great-grandparents, or siblings of a minor child to file an action for visitation rights. HB 887 (Rep. Chuck Efstration, 104th) prioritizes placing children with relatives upon the child being taken into protective custody, following or at
HB 229 (Rep. Brian Strickland, 111th) allows grandparents, great-grandparents, or siblings of a minor child to file an action for visitation rights.
HB 887 (Rep. Chuck Efstration, 104th) prioritizes placing children with relatives upon the child being taken into protective custody, following or at disposition of a protective hearing and following termination of parental rights. The bill also requires efforts to place siblings together and clarifies that the priority of placing a child with relatives is dependent on meeting the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) requirement for relative placement and must be in the best interest of the child. Prior to final passage, language from SB 3 (Sen. Renee Unterman, 45th) was added to the bill. As originally introduced in 2015, SB 3 authorizes a parent or legal custodian to delegate caregiving authority to any adult living in Georgia without court approval. Amended SB 3 language added to HB 887 limits power of attorney to one year and clarifies that appointees can be relatives or fictive kin (individuals regarded as part of the family, but not related by blood or marriage).
HB 962 (Rep. Stacey Abrams, 89th) creates the position of kinship care enforcement administrator within the Department of Human Services (DHS). This administrator will ensure compliance with all federal and state laws, rules, and regulations related to pilot programs, subsidies, or benefits available to kinship caregivers or children within their care. Language from HB 934 (Rep. Tom Kirby, 114th) was added to the bill prior to its final passage. That language authorizes the DHS to provide a separate link or website portal to provide kinship caregivers with information and access necessary to apply for public assistance benefits on behalf of children in their care. Also added to HB 962 was language from SB 337 (Sen. Larry Walker, 20th), which addresses military service members’ eligibility for medical assistance benefits.
HR 1334 (Rep. Stacey Abrams, 89th) honors kinship caregivers in the State of Georgia.
HB 859 (Rep. Rick Jasperse, 11th), the Campus Carry Bill, allows licensed gun owners who are 21 years and older to carry weapons on postsecondary campuses. Under the bill, guns must be concealed and are still not allowed in some specific on-campus locations, including student housing, fraternity and sorority houses, and athletic stadiums.
The legislation is now before Deal, who can sign the bill or do nothing, which will make it law, or veto it. On March 14, Deal released a statement expressing concerns about how the bill will affect dually enrolled high-school students and daycare centers on postsecondary campuses. In his statement, he encouraged legislators to address these concerns in related legislation, but the General Assembly ultimately did not pass additional legislation related to Campus Carry.
As originally introduced, HB 722 (Rep. Allen Peake, 141st) legalized additional forms of medical marijuana in addition to cannabis oil, broadened the list of qualifying conditions that can be treated by cannabis, and allowed for up to six in-state manufacturers of medical cannabis. The bill was amended in the House to remove language allowing in-state manufacturing and to shorten the list of medical conditions eligible for treatment with medical cannabis, and the House passed that version of the bill. The Senate took no action on HB 722, and attempts to add language from the bill onto other legislation were unsuccessful. The bill did not pass.
The House and Senate reached an agreement on the FY17 budget, and passed it on March 22. The Governor now has 40 days to veto line items within the budget.
Highlights from the General Assembly’s final version of the budget include:
Georgia Family Connection
The General Assembly included $1,000 per county ($159,000 total) of restored funds for Family Connection.
The Governor, House, and Senate agreed to an increase of $75,000 for the Cold Case Project to identify children most likely to age out of foster care without a family.
Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD)
In the Child and Adolescent Forensic Services program, the Governor, House, and Senate agreed to provide $1.2 million to implement juvenile code reforms.
Department of Community Health (DCH)
- In Health Care Access and Improvement, the House added language directing the use of existing funds to continue Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee grants to current pilot sites in Emanuel, Crisp, Appling, and Union counties. The Senate agreed with that directive, but added language directing the use of the funds for pilot sites selected by the Speaker of the House and Lieutenant Governor. The conference committee determined that the sites will be selected by the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee.
- In Aged, Blind, and Disabled Medicaid, the House added $1.36 million in state funds ($4.24 million total) to increase reimbursement rates for occupational and physical therapy providers within the Medicaid Children’s Intervention Services program. The Senate raised the added appropriation to $2 million ($6.21 million total) to further increase reimbursement rates. The conference committee agreed on the Senate amounts.
- In Low-Income Medicaid, the Senate added $387,407 ($1.2 million total) for a $250 add-on payment for newborn delivery and newborn admission after delivery in counties with populations less than 35,000. The conference committee agreed with the Senate position.
Department of Education (DOE)
- In the Agriculture Education program, the Senate increased funds by $170,000 for the Young Farmers program in Atkinson and Toombs counties. The conference committee agreed with the Senate position.
- In Audio-Video Technology and Film Grants, the Senate cut $2.5 million that was proposed in the Governor’s budget and agreed to by the House for film and audio-video equipment grants to middle and high schools. The Senate included language directing the funding of the equipment through Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) grants in the Technology/Career Education program. The conference committee agreed to the funding proposed by the Governor and the House.
- In the Technology/Career Education program, the Senate added $3.5 million in funding for CTAE equipment grants to local school systems, broadening the purpose of the equipment grants from just audio-video equipment to include other programs. The conference committee agreed to increase funds for CTAE equipment grants to local school systems through bonds. Thus, in the bond section of the FY17 budget, Bond No. 9 provides $8 million in five-year bonds “to purchase vocational equipment statewide.”
- In Regional Education Service Agencies, the House added $250,000 for Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports trainers. The Senate increased the funding to $300,000. The conference committee agreed to the Senate’s version.
- In School Improvement, the Governor and House included $406,330 for training, professional development, and support for Teach for America corps members. The Senate reduced the funding to $125,000. The conference committee agreed to the funding proposed by the Governor and the House.
Office of the Governor
In the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, the Senate added $250,000 to increase grants for rural school systems to increase participation and achievement in Advanced Placement Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses. The conference committee reduced the increase from $250,000 to $100,000.
Department of Human Services (DHS)
- In Child Support Services, the House added $247,267 for 10 parent accountability court coordinator positions. The Senate agreed with the House, but the conference committee reduced the funding to $185,450 for 10 positions to reflect staggered start dates.
- In Child Welfare Services, the House added $500,000 for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to enhance statewide capacity. The Senate increased this amount to $750,000, and the conference committee agreed.
- In Child Welfare Services, the Senate added $1.5 million to provide a $5- per-hour increase for DFCS Special Assistant Attorneys General (SAAGs). The conference committee decreased that amount to $1.2 million for a $4- per-hour increase.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI)
- In the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) budget, the Governor, House, and Senate agreed to add $250,000 to expand the Juvenile Incentive Funding Grant program to provide fiscal incentives to communities to create and utilize community-based options for juvenile offenders. The conference committee agreed to this funding.
- In the CJCC budget, the Senate added $360,973 under Family Violence to provide funds for a 3-percent increase in grants for domestic violence shelters and sexual assault centers. The conference committee agreed to this funding.
Public Defender Council
The Governor added $1.64 million for 20 additional juvenile public defenders, and the House agreed. The Senate reduced the funding to $410,062 for five juvenile public defenders. The conference committee agreed to an addition of $922,639 for 15 additional juvenile public defenders with staggered start dates.
Department of Public Health (DPH)
- In Epidemiology, the House added $100,000 to support additional staffing needs for the Georgia Poison Center and $100,000 for telephone-based stroke support for pre-hospital providers. The Senate cut those funds in its version of the budget. The conference committee agreed to $150,000 for additional staffing needs for the Georgia Poison Center but not for the funding of telephone-based stroke support.
- In Infant and Child Essential Health Treatment Services, the House added $117,178 ($364,000 total) for the Medical College of Georgia Sickle Cell Center at Augusta University. The Senate cut those funds in its version of the budget. The conference committee agreed to add the funding as recommended by the House.
- In Public Health Formula Grants for Counties, the Governor and House recommended $1,799,852 for salary increases for registered nurses. The Senate upped the funding for salary increases to $4,326,243. The conference committee agreed to $3,687,332 to fund salary increases for registered nurses in Public Health Formula Grants.
- In Public Health Formula Grants, the Senate added $618,167 to fund salary increases specifically for licensed practical nurses. The conference committee agreed to $526,875.