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2023 Session: Week 9 Update

2023 Session: Week 9 Update 2023 Session: Week 9 Update

(District 156, Georgia Representatives)

The Georgia House of Representatives completed its ninth week and Legislative Day 28, otherwise known as Crossover Day, last week. Crossover Day is a crucial deadline for the General Assembly, because it is the last day for bills to pass out of their chamber of origin to remain eligible for passage this year. By the end of the week, we passed a budget for 2024 and heard Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Boggs deliver the annual State of the Judiciary address. Fiscal Year 2024 Budget

Each session, the General Assembly has a constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget. Last week, we passed HB 19, or the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. It will go into effect on July 1 and is set at a revenue estimate of $32.4 billion. This budget reflects many of the House’s priorities that focus on keeping Georgians safe, healthy, and prosperous. Now that we passed the FY 2024 budget, our Senate counterparts will begin making adjustments to reflect their priorities. If you’d like to see the current version of HB 19, you can find it here: https:// budget-research-office Georgia Early Literacy Act Last fall, the House Study Committee on Literacy Instruction held several hearings to examine early reading education programs across the state. Following the committee’s recommendations, the House passed HB 538 to require evidence-based literacy instruction in our public schools. It would require school systems to use highquality literacy instructional materials in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. This legislation would help our schools identify young readers who are struggling with their foundational reading skills earlier and ensure that our teachers are equipped with evidence-based instruction plans to get students reading at grade level.

Raise the Age Act

The House passed legislation to ensure that minors in our criminal justice system are prosecuted as juveniles if they are under 18-years-old. HB 462, or the Raise the Age Act, would expand the jurisdiction of the juvenile court system to include 17-yearolds. This would only apply to those who are firsttime offenders and are not charged with criminal gang activity or a violent felony offense such as murder or rape. 17-year-olds frequently do not have the same cognitive and decision- making abilities as adults. Treating them as juveniles in the justice system would provide the best opportunity for rehabilitation and reduce the likelihood of reoffending. Tax Credit for Rural Healthcare Providers We took up legislation to help bring more doctors to rural Georgia and address the shortage of providers in these parts of the state. HB 82 would create a new $5,000 annual tax credit for physicians and dentists who decide to practice in a rural county for at least five years. The House has made significant strides to expand health care access to rural Georgians, and this legislation would help attract and retain doctors to improve the quality of care for rural residents.

Other Bills that passed last week include:

House Bill 181, which would regulate the sale and distribution of the plant “kratom” by limiting the methods that plant can be ingested and sold legally in Georgia; this bill would also create a misdemeanor for those who violate this law and includes guidelines for the safe production of kratom; House Bill 188, which would implement several changes related to sexual offenses in Georgia; the bill would create harsher penalties for reoffenders; electronic monitoring, like ankle monitors, would be required as a condition of probation for those individuals; House Bill 189, which would provide a 10 percent variance to the 80,000 pound gross vehicle weight limit for trucks hauling certain commodities from point of origin to point of processing; this bill also includes requirements and increased penalties for violations; this bill lowers the maximum truck weight for these vehicles 7,000 pounds from the limit which has been in effect for the past three years via Governor Kemp’s executive orders; House Bill 340, which would protect planning periods for Georgia teachers; if they are in the classroom more than 50 percent of a regular school day, teachers would be guaranteed a duty-free planning period; House Bill 383, or the “Safer Hospitals Act,” which would increase penalties for someone who commits aggravated assault or battery against a health care worker on a hospital campus; the penalty for these crimes would be imprisonment between three to 20 years and would become effective this July; hospital guards would have arrest powers to address these situations; House Bill 528, or the Georgia Online Automatic Renewal Transparency Act, which would create a law to address deceptive and unfair trade practices regarding the automatic monthly charges for a service or product; companies would be required to have a clear and visible method to cancel a subscription online if the automatic renewal or subscription was set up online, and companies would be required to provide notice before there is a charge to customers’ accounts; State of the Judiciary Address Last Wednesday, the House and Senate convened for a joint session to hear the annual State of the Judiciary address. During his first address to the joint session, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Boggs provided insightful remarks regarding the current challenges and overall state of Georgia’s judicial system. Chief Justice Boggs highlighted the crushing backlog of cases that resulted from the COVID pandemic and the judicial system’s efforts to work through them. He noted that it could be years before the courts reach more manageable case numbers. Furthermore, Chief Justice Boggs spoke to the workforce shortage our judicial system faces, including a lack of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and court reporters, which continues to hinder efforts to address the backlog. Rural areas of our state are especially having a hard time recruiting and retaining these vital public servants who are essential to the system. Despite these challenges, our civil and criminal courts are continuing to provide innovative, alternative resources for vulnerable people who interact with the legal system, such as veterans, human trafficking victims, and low-income families. Specifically, our judicial system is attempting to identify ways to divert nonviolent offenders who are struggling with mental illness out of the judicial system and pair them with the care they need. I was inspired by the chief justice’s remarks, and I look forward to partnering with the state’s judicial branch to develop legislative solutions that address these ongoing issues. Visitors to the Capitol During Week 9 On Monday, four Pages from the 156th district served in the House. Lily and Claire van Houten are Wheeler County students, and Benton Page and Asher Johnson are Toombs County students.

Martha Shepherd and her daughter, Mary Frances van Houten, visited the House chamber while Lily and Claire served as Pages.

Dr. John Spence served as the General Assembly’s Doctor of the Day on Tuesday. He was accompanied by his wife, Ursula Spence. The DOTD donates valuable time serving the General Assembly in case any medical issues not requiring emergency services arise during the day.

A large group from HCA Healthcare visited the Capitol on Wednesday. Representing Memorial Health Meadows Hospital were CEO Matt Hasbrouk, Jeffrey Harden, and Mike Hagan.

Telfair County Commissioners Dakkia Bradshaw and Carla Sirmans visited again. These two care deeply about their community and put in tons of work for their constituents.

Toombs County Board of Commissioners Chairman David Sikes and County Manager John Jones spent time in both the House and Senate chambers, and it was a pleasure to visit with them.

Denise Graham, Constance Manley, and friends representing the Jessamine Place in Fitzgerald shared their concerns and advocated for important members of the community. This was their second visit this session, and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. Final Days of Session Ahead We only have a handful of legislative days left in this session and will spend the remainder of our time considering bills that were passed by our Senate counterparts before the Crossover deadline. I encourage you to contact me regarding bills that we are considering during these final days of the session. If you plan to visit the Capitol over the next couple of weeks, please let me know. You can reach my Capitol office at 404-6560325 and [email protected] Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative for the 156th district.

By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)

By Leesa Hagan

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