By State Rep. Bill Hitchens
March 225, 2017 - The state legislature is close to completing the 2017 legislative session and we were hard at work this past week ensuring that bills that would have a positive effect on the lives of Georgians were passed before we adjourn on March 30. There many that were passed and I will highlight several that could impact your home and family.
Our state constitution maintains that we must pass a balanced budget for the next fiscal year before the session ends. I’m pleased to report that we have accomplished this task with the passage of House Bill 44, the fiscal year 2018 budget. The revenue estimate of the bill is $24.9 billion with the most funding earmarked for education. This includes a merit pay increase for teachers, a salary increase for bus drivers and school nutrition workers, and funding for specialists who will focus on school safety and the reduction of disciplinary incidents. Of course there are many other state departments and programs that will receive funding, also.
A few highlights include a salary increase for law enforcement officers, provisions for Medicaid and behavioral health services for autism patients. I believe that this is a fiscally responsible budget that provides for many aspects of our state’s needs. It is an extensive document that is available at http://www.house.ga.gov/budget if you would like to see it in its entirety.
I was pleased that SB 108 passed unanimously which instructs the Department of Veterans Service to maintain a Women’s Veterans’ Office. This department will improve awareness for female veterans about the benefits and services that they are eligible for and conduct assessments regarding certain needs so that they can be met. This office will also recruit and train women veterans to serve as mentors for veterans participating in the veterans’ court divisions. This is good legislation that will serve the needs of our many deserving female veterans.
I believe that adoption is a wonderful way for families to be come together. Therefore, I was pleased that Senate Bill 168 passed which will expand the persons and agencies allowed to have access to child abuse records. This will include adoption agencies, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Juvenile Justice and local and state law enforcement agencies. The bill also grants this right to foster care child placing agencies solely for the purpose of conducting background checks on foster and adoptive parents. This legislation protects our children and helps to ensure that the adoption process is one that helps children to be placed in homes that are safe and loving.
A bill that will bring convenience to countless Georgians across the state is SB 200 which passed unanimously. This bill allows pharmacists to synchronize prescriptions for patients therefore minimizing trips to the pharmacy. For the many people in our community who have more than one prescription, this change will undoubtedly be a welcomed one.
The House also reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening military installations within our state with House Resolution 462. This resolution states legislators’ support of our troops and their families by taking practical actions to improve their quality of life and enable them to contribute to our nation’s defense. The men and women who serve our country valiantly deserve our utmost support and great respect. This is a good resolution that underscores our commitment to our troops.
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