2018 Georgia General Assembly Session — Week One Update

The House convened for the second regular session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly on Monday, January 8, 2018. The first week of session is always eventful and exciting, and this year was no exception. My House colleagues and I have a great deal of legislative business to accomplish before we adjourn Sine Die, so as soon as Speaker David Ralston gaveled the House into session on Day One, we got right to work on behalf of our state’s citizens. This week, the House convened to take up legislative business, committees began meeting to review and discuss proposed legislation and Governor Nathan Deal delivered his annual State of the State address.

On Thursday, Gov. Deal delivered his eighth and final State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate in the House Chamber. Gov. Deal has served as Georgia’s governor for the last seven years, and in about a year’s time, he will retire after four decades of public service to our state.  In his touching address, the governor reflected on his administration’s challenges and successes, and he expressed his hopes and dreams for Georgia’s future generations.

Gov. Deal began his remarks by reflecting back to the year that he became Georgia’s 82nd governor in 2011. Since that time, our state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 10.4 percent to 4.3 percent, which is the lowest it has been in over 10 years; more than 675,000 private sector jobs have been created; our state has maintained a AAA bond rating and added to our Rainy Day Fund; and Georgia has been named the No. 1 state in which to do business for five consecutive years. In addition to recognizing the significant economic progress our state has made in recent years, Gov. Deal also touted Georgia’s booming film and television industry, as well as investments in education and criminal justice reform.

Georgia’s film industry has experienced extreme growth over the past decade. In the past fiscal year alone, the film industry had a $9.5 billion economic impact on our state. More than 200 new companies have located to Georgia to support film and television production, and this thriving industry accounts for 92,000 jobs across our state. These jobs have an average annual salary of almost $84,000, which is 75 percent higher than the national average salary. Over the past two years, about 1,900 students have taken courses at the Georgia Film Academy, and these students will make up Georgia’s future film and television production workforce. Programs such as the Georgia Film Academy will help to ensure that film is a sustainable, long-term industry in our state, and I am confident that film and television production will positively impact Georgia for years to come.

Gov. Deal continued his address by noting that since taking office, state spending on education has increased by $3.6 billion for a total of $14 billion in state education expenditures. Last year, Gov. Deal appropriated funds to establish the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. This state-of-the-art training and research center opened its doors in June 2017 and provides Georgia’s educators with skills and techniques to teach reading and literacy to our state’s youngest learners. The center is named for First Lady Sandra Deal, a former teacher and champion of education in Georgia. As Georgia’s first lady and a former educator, Mrs. Deal has traveled to every corner of our state to read to students and has worked diligently to improve child welfare and educational opportunities for all of our state’s citizens. During his address, Gov. Deal recognized and thanked the First Lady for her efforts and her passion for education.

Gov. Deal went on to mention that while K-12 education is critically important, Georgia’s higher and continued education institutions and programs also play a key role in ensuring our state’s long-term economic prosperity. When Gov. Deal first took office, Georgia’s merit-based HOPE Scholarship and Grant programs, which were once some of the most substantial scholarship programs in the U.S., were close to bankruptcy, and several industries faced workforce shortages throughout the state. To combat these issues, Gov. Deal created reforms that allowed the HOPE Scholarship and Grant programs continue to help Georgians pay for college, and he established the HOPE Career Grant program to fill gaps in Georgia’s workforce. The HOPE Career Grant program completely covers the cost of technical school tuition for students who enroll in one of 17 strategic industry, high-demand fields, and 99.2 percent of students who have completed the program have found employment. Additionally, Gov. Deal has created a marketing campaign to highlight Georgia’s technical colleges. In Georgia, 30 percent of high school graduates do not to complete any type of continued education or training, but this campaign encourages high school students to pursue this type of post-secondary education. Gov. Deal’s marketing campaign has been widely successful in reaching young people across the state, and the governor concluded his remarks about our technical colleges by recommending that the General Assembly allocate $1 million in the state budget to continue this effort.

In his speech, the governor also discussed his administration’s bipartisan criminal justice reform initiatives, which have been some of his proudest and most successful accomplishments during his time in office. Our state’s accountability courts have been a key component of Gov. Deal’s criminal justice reforms and were created to provide sentencing alternatives to nonviolent offenders. Gov. Deal praised the overwhelming success and effectiveness that these courts have had in reducing prison populations and giving Georgians a second chance. Gov. Deal noted that when he first began his criminal justice reform efforts, there were only 12 state-funded accountability court programs. Today, there are 149 such programs, and each of Georgia’s 49 judicial circuits operates at least one sort of accountability court. Gov. Deal’s criminal justice reform initiatives have positively impacted so many lives and continue to serve as a model for other states, and the House will likely see legislation this session that will further enhance criminal justice reform and public safety in our state.

Along with delivering his State of the State address this week, Gov. Deal also released his recommendations for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 state budget and the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget. Amongst several recommendations for the amended budget, Gov. Deal proposed an allocation of $102 million for K-12 enrollment growth, $10.7 million for growth in Georgia’s Dual Enrollment program, $43.6 million for the Indigent Care Trust Fund and Medicaid, $15.1 million for child welfare services to care for children in state custody, $2.4 million for autism services for children under the age of 21, $17.6 million for Forestland Protection Act grants and $10 million for beach nourishment projects and $25.2 million for airport runway extension projects. Highlights from Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget recommendations include $361.7 million for the Teachers Retirement System, $127 million for K-12 education, $30 million to assist low-wealth school systems, $28.8 million for child welfare services to fund out-of-home care growth and foster care per diem increases, $22.9 million to implement recommendations from the Commission on Children’s Mental Health, $5 million for accountability courts to implement new courts and expand existing courts, $31 million for transportation and $100 million to repair roads and bridges in Georgia. Gov. Deal’s FY 2019 budget recommendations will financially preserve Georgia’s pension system for educators, provide determined students with additional access to higher education opportunities, grow mental health services for our state’s youngest citizens and upgrade and expand Georgia’s transit system. My colleagues and I in the General Assembly will use these recommendations as a guide to further revise and craft the state’s budget in our Joint House and Senate Budget Hearings next week. I will provide you with more information regarding the state budget and the budget process next week once we thoroughly review Gov. Deal’s recommendations.

This week, the House and Senate also adopted an adjournment resolution, a measure that sets our legislative calendar through the first few weeks of session. As the session progresses, we will adopt one or more adjournment resolutions to set the remainder of the legislative calendar, and I will update you on our schedule as it evolves. Georgia is a citizen legislature, meaning that elected officials in the Georgia General Assembly are part-time lawmakers. Since my colleagues and I are not full-time lawmakers, the General Assembly has a limited amount of time to tackle issues facing our state, so it is critical that we prudently set the legislative calendar to make the most of the 40 day session.

While we spent much of this first week of session taking up legislative business, my House colleagues and I also celebrated College Football Playoff National Championship Day at the Capitol. On Monday, for the first time in Georgia’s history, our state hosted the College Football Playoff National Championship, where the University of Georgia Bulldogs played against University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. On Day One of the session, the House adopted House Resolution 867 recognizing Dan Corso and commending the Atlanta Football Host Committee for organizing this great event for our state. Although our state’s flagship university lost in the final minutes of the game, it was a true honor for our great state to host the National Championship game.

Now that the legislative session has officially begun, my House colleagues and I will be working diligently to pass meaningful legislation on behalf of all Georgians. I hope that my session updates will help you to stay informed on legislative matters that impact our community and state as a whole. The House website, www.house.ga.gov, has several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session: a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos and detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.

If you ever find yourself in Atlanta during session, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 501 Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334. My office phone number is 404-656-0178 and I can be reached via email at paulette.rakestraw@house.ga.gov. If you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free also to contact Kayla Bancroft, my Administrative Assistant, in our office at 404-656-0178.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Rep. Paulette Rakestraw and Paulding Legislative Delegation Brief Paulding Chamber of Commerce

The Paulding County legislative delegation recently provided a full briefing to The Paulding County Chamber of Commerce. In the briefing, all State Legislators representing any part of Paulding County came to communicate with local city, county, and government officials, local businesses, and community stakeholders. The focus was on issues facing the county and areas in which the legislative delegation could help Paulding County by having a strong, unified voice in the State Capitol.

Six members comprise the Paulding legislative delegation: State Senator Bill Heath (R-SD31), State Senator Mike Dugan (R-SD30), State Representative Howard Maxwell (R-HD17), State Representative Paulette Rakestraw Braddock (R-HD19), State Representative Micah Gravley (R-HD67) and State Representative Kim Alexander (D-HD66).

The legislators provided information on the progress of all bills that came before the General Assembly in its 2014 session, which concluded on March 20. This included the passage of House Bill 744, which establishes the state budget for fiscal year 2015. Totaling $20.8 billion, the final version of this budget includes many of Governor Deal’s original budget recommendations, including increased funding for education. One of the most noteworthy features of the budget is a $314.3 million increase to Quality Basic Education (QBE), which will provide local school systems with the flexibility to eliminate teacher furlough days, increase instructional days and increase teacher salaries. Increased funding was also designated for higher education, including $7.2 million for the creation of a new Zell Miller Grant for technical college students.

By maintaining open lines of communication, the members of the delegation seek to help local leaders address the five biggest issues facing Paulding County: environmental & water, transportation, education, economic development, and healthcare. Like the annual Legislative Listening Day, this collaborative effort between the delegation and the Chamber will help promote a strong business climate for Chamber members and will strengthen job opportunities for the citizens of the county.

Representative Paulette Rakestraw  represents the citizens of District 19, which includes portions of Paulding County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves as the Vice Chairman of Science and Technology. She also serves on the Economic Development & Tourism, Juvenile Justice, Small Business Development, and Special Rules committees.


Legislative Update — End of Session, 2014

On Thursday, March 20th, the 2014 legislative session came to an end when the House and Senate completed the 40th and final legislative day.  This last day of session is known as “Sine Die,” a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for further meeting.”  Being the final day of the legislative session, we worked late into the night to ensure the passage of important legislation related to issues like education, criminal justice and public safety.  There are several key legislative accomplishments that I want to bring to your attention.

One of the most important bills we passed this session was House Bill 744, which establishes the state budget for Fiscal Year 2015. As the only piece of legislation that we are constitutionally required to pass, the Fiscal Year 2015 budget will guide all state spending from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. Totaling $20.8 billion in state funds, the final version of this budget includes many of Governor Deal’s original budget recommendations like increased funding for education.  In fact, one of the most noteworthy features of the budget is a $314.3 million increase to Quality Basic Education (QBE), which will provide local school systems with the flexibility to eliminate teacher furlough days, increase instructional days and increase teacher salaries.  Increased funding was also designated for higher education, including $7.2 million for the creation of a new Zell Miller Grant for technical college students.

In addition to carrying through Governor Deal’s recommendations, my colleagues and I in the House also added additional priorities for the state budget, including $460,816 to increase the clothing allowance for foster care children by $100 per child.  Other additions to the budget began in conference committee between the Senate and House, including $1.5 million in funding for Meals on Wheels and senior center nutrition programs. Lastly, funding was added to launch enhanced services through our network of public health offices for training providers to recognize and correctly diagnose autism for early intervention. The nearly half a million that is appropriated in the budget shows a strategic, grassroots beginning to address what has become one of the most chronic health condition in children, affecting an estimated one out of every 88 children in the nation.

Also passed during our last week of session was Senate Bill 365, which is a continuation of a multi-year criminal justice reform effort in Georgia.  Similar to past years’ legislation, SB 365 includes several measures to help non-violent, first time offenders get back on their feet and become law abiding, working citizens.  One measure of this bill provides judges with the flexibility to issue limited driving permits to certain offenders for the purpose of attending court-ordered required programs, seeking employment, or going to work. Another measure in SB 365 calls for non-violent offenders to complete a Treatment Completion Certificate program, and would also require review hearings for juvenile offenders who are placed into foster care. The bill also provides improved liability protection to employers who hire former offenders who have successfully completed Department of Corrections pre-release programs. These programs will make offenders more marketable to employers, so that they are better prepared to make the transition to a productive life outside of prison.

Senate Bill 386 was also passed by the House last week in an effort to safeguard the citizens of Georgia.  SB 386 protects the identity and privacy of those who enter Georgia’s court system by prohibiting social security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, and financial account numbers from being disclosed in court documents.  Senate Bill 386 clarifies that where Social Security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, and/or financial account numbers are included, only the last four digits of any such number may be included in the filing.  If birthdates are included, only the year of an individual’s birth may be included, and if a minor is identified, only the initials of the minor may be included. Identity theft is an ever-growing problem so it is important that Georgians’ personal information is kept secure; SB 386 ensures that this information is kept private.

While safeguarding our citizens is important, we always strive to enact policies to protect our children as well and last week was no exception.  SB 358 received final passage by the House during the last week of session and will go to Governor Deal’s desk for his signature.  SB 358 would expand who can file a missing child report with the Missing Children Information Center to include individuals and institutions that are responsible for the care of foster children.  The Missing Children Information Center is responsible for filing all missing children reports submitted by local law enforcement agencies. However, the current code does not specify that a report can be filed by a foster parent or foster care agency.  Senate Bill 358 would allow a caretaker, governmental unit responsible for the child, or other person with legal custody of the child to file a missing child report. SB 358 ensures that the necessary steps are taken and the appropriate individuals are notified in the event that a foster child is missing.

Last week the House also gave final passage to Senate Resolution 415.   SR 415 calls for a state constitutional amendment that would cap the maximum rate for income tax that can be imposed in our state. SR 415 would prohibit any increase in the state’s 6 percent income tax. Before being adopted into the state’s constitution, a referendum will be called so that citizens can vote on the measure.  The citizens of Georgia will now have the chance to decide and weigh in at the polls in November on this issue that will affect our entire state.

Now that each of these bills has passed the Georgia General Assembly, they have gone to Governor Deal for consideration.  As stipulated in our state constitution, the governor has 40 days to sign or veto the legislation.  This means that any bill or resolution that the governor has not vetoed by Tuesday, April 29, 2014, will become state law.

With the future of these bills in the hands of the governor, the General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session has adjourned sine die. Although session is over, I hope that you will continue to contact me to express your ideas and opinions.  I am always happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding legislation. I will be spending a lot more time in the district now, so feel free to contact me by phone or via my website. Or, if you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw Braddock’s Office, 404-656-0177.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Best regards,

Rep. Paulette Rakestraw


Rep. Rakestraw’s Balanced Budget Bill Passes Georgia General Assembly

The bill, which originated in the Georgia House as HB794 under Rep. Rakestraw’s sponsorship, positions the Peach State to be the first to pass the Compact for a Balanced Budget. It now awaits Governor Nathan Deal’s signature.

State Rep. Paulette Rakestraw announced that on Wednesday, March 19, the Georgia Senate passed by a vote of 30-25 the Compact for a Balanced Budget Amendment.  “I am thrilled to see Georgia take the lead to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington,” said Rep. Rakestraw, the lead sponsor of the legislation.  Our Georgia lawmakers are saying, ‘Enough is enough’ to the burgeoning $18 trillion federal debt.  We are the first in the nation to call for an Article V constitutional convention of states to rein in out-of-control Washington spending.” The Amendment now awaits Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s signature.

Added Rep. Andy Welch, “We are excited to be passing the torch to the governor so he can fulfill his role in leading the Compact and we look forward to governors around the country banding together to balance our federal budget.”

The Compact for a Balanced Budget uses an agreement among the states called an “interstate compact” to invoke Article V of the United States Constitution in order to advance a federal balanced budget amendment. Once the Compact is passed in just two states, it will trigger the organization of a governmental body to coordinate Compact efforts throughout the country, creating a persistent institution with one objective: to pass a federal balanced budget amendment within seven years.

“This innovative reform is the sheet music that orchestrates a symphony of state motions and federal responses, folding hundreds of legislative steps into one simple, laser-focused piece of legislation,” said Nick Dranias, Goldwater Institute Constitutional Policy Director who led the drafting of the Compact for a Balanced Budget Amendment.

The Compact approach transforms the otherwise cumbersome state-initiated amendment process under Article V into a “turn-key” operation, empowering the states to agree in advance to all elements of the amendment process that states control under Article V in a single enactment that can be passed in a single session. Thirty-eight states would need to pass the Compact in order to approve the proposed balanced budget amendment, which could in turn by approved by a simple-majority congressional resolution.

Previous attempts at state-initiated balanced budget amendment conventions have encountered roadblocks amongst those who fear the possibility of a “runaway convention,” the scenario in which other key provisions of the U.S. Constitution could be repealed or additional provisions could be added. The Compact for a Balanced Budget Amendment addresses this concern by compelling all member state delegates to follow convention rules that limit the convention agenda to an up or down vote of the balanced budget amendment and to return home if those rules fail to hold.

“I am proud that Georgia has led the way in helping to restore fiscal responsibility to our nation,” said co-sponsor Sen. Hunter Hill, echoing Rep. Rakestraw’s sentiments. “I look forward to other states joining us in this effort.”

Georgia is just one state where the Compact for a Balanced Budget Amendment is moving ahead. The Arizona House passed an identical measure last week and will be considered by a state senate committee Thursday. In Alaska, house members will consider the reform this week. Additional states are expected to take up the reform this year.

To schedule an interview with Rep. Rakestraw, please contact Lauren Talley at (404) 656-0177.

Representative Paulette Rakestraw represents the citizens of District 19, which includes portions of Paulding County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves as the Vice Chairman of Science and Technology. She also serves on the Economic Development & Tourism, Juvenile Justice, Small Business Development, and Special Rules committees.

Legislative Update — March 7, 2014

Greetings from the Capitol!

Monday, March 3rd marked the 30th legislative day of the 2014 session.  Known as “Crossover Day,” this critical point in the session is the last chance for bills to pass the legislative chamber from which they originated.  After Crossover Day, all legislation passed by the House must “cross over” to the Senate, and vice versa.  Any bill that has not been passed by either the House or Senate by the end of this day will have little chance of becoming law this year.  Due to this deadline, my colleagues and I in the House worked long hours on Monday to ensure that many important pieces of legislation were considered by the Georgia House.

One of the bills passed by the House on Crossover Day was House Bill 885, which would increase treatment options for children suffering from seizure disorders.  HB 885 would tightly restrict and regulate the distribution of cannabidiol, an oil-based derivative of the cannabis plant.  The derivative would only be available through medical trial at one of five Georgia academic research centers and prescribed by medical doctors.  The treatment has been used to successfully control seizure disorders for children in Colorado, and I hope that it can now give hope to families in Georgia.

Also passed on Crossover Day were bills designed to promote economic development in Georgia.  One such bill was House Bill 960, which aims to speed up the development of the Atlanta BeltLine project by enabling the private sector to help finance and build the transit project.  The BeltLine is a proposed 22 mile bike path and light rail system that will circle Atlanta.  It has been recognized by businesses all over the world for improving transportation and promoting a healthy lifestyle for Atlantans.  It is the most comprehensive transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta and among the largest urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States. I am proud that the Georgia House was able to adopt measures that will speed up this project.  I look forward to the Atlanta BeltLine bringing jobs and increased transportation options to the City of Atlanta.

Another economic development bill that was passed was House Bill 958.  One measure in this legislation establishes August 1-2, 2014 as a tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers.  Not only does this tax break provide financial relief for parents, it also encourages shoppers to do business in the state of Georgia.  Other measures in the bill give job-creating tax incentives to video game developers and developers of big, regionally important projects.

Finally on Crossover Day, we voted on legislation that would create new monuments at the State Capitol.  House Bill 702 would place a monument of the 10 Commandments, U.S. Constitution, and Georgia Constitution at the State Capitol to celebrate the ideals and values that these documents represent.  Similarly, House Bill 1080 would place a monument of Martin Luther King Jr. at the State Capitol in honor of his significant role in the history of Georgia and America. Many Georgians come to the State Capitol to tour and learn about the history of our state, and these two monuments will be great additions to our Capitol grounds.

After Crossover Day, we began reviewing and voting on Senate Bills.  One of those bills, Senate Bill 23, aims to speed up action in reported missing person cases.  The bill prohibits Georgia law enforcement agencies from establishing a “minimum waiting period” before they act on a missing person report.  The legislation defines a “medically endangered person” and adds these individuals to the provisions of the Mattie’s Call Act. Mattie’s Call is a law enforcement initiated alert system that is used to locate missing elderly or disabled persons.

Meanwhile, our colleagues in the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2015 budget this week.  The full fiscal year budget uses a projected state revenue estimate to guide state spending from July 1 to June 30 of the following fiscal year. The Senate passed a slightly different version of House Bill 744 than we previously passed in the House, and it will now move to a House and Senate Conference Committee to work out a final spending plan to submit for a final vote of the full legislature.

In addition to passing bills last week, we also received some news related to the deepening of the Port of Savannah.  The Obama Administration’s 2015 fiscal year budget request was released, and it only appropriated $1.62 million for pre-construction, not the construction funds the state was expecting.  This news was disappointing, as we have been expecting $400 million from the federal government to be designated to the project over the next few years.  So far, Georgia alone has reserved $231 million to go towards the port, and we are planning for another $35 million this year.  Even through tough budgetary years, Georgia has remained committed to appropriating funds to the deepening of the Port of Savannah.  I’m disappointed that the federal government is not doing the same.  Not only will the port bring business and prosperity to Georgia, it will also improve import and export opportunities for the entire nation.  Understanding the importance of this project, Governor Deal announced plans to move forward with the project despite this setback.  The governor is exploring several options, including bonds and public-private partnerships. I support Governor Deal’s decision to move forward; deepening the port will allow our state to accommodate bigger ships and help boost our economy tremendously.

As we think through tough issues in the last days of session, I hope that you will contact me to express your ideas and opinions.  I am always happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding legislation.  If you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw’s Office, 404-656-0177.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Best regards,

Rep. Paulette Rakestraw


– See more at: http://paulettehouserep.com/news/#sthash.Ok5c2QSW.dpuf



Legislative Update — February 28, 2014

Greetings from the Capitol!

The seventh week of the 2014 legislative session began on Monday, February 24, 2014.  This was a busy and important few days, as it was the last week for bills to pass out of committees, since “Crossover Day” is scheduled for Monday, March 3.   Crossover Day is the deadline in which a piece of legislation must pass at least one of the General Assembly’s two chambers.  With this date looming, we spent long hours at the State Capitol to ensure important pieces of legislation were either passed on the House floor or ready for a vote on Crossover Day.

Many of the bills passed during this crucial week were related to education and the welfare of our children.  One such bill was House Bill 826, which provides local school systems with more flexibility in handling violations of school safety zones.  Under HB 823, schools would no longer be forced to expel students who are caught with items like a fishing knife or a baseball bat in their cars on school campuses.  Currently, if a student is found on a school campus with these items in their vehicle, they are automatically suspended and charged with a felony. In these cases under this bill, local school systems will now be able to issue lesser penalties if they have no reason to believe that the student intended to use the object as a weapon.  Granting local school systems the authority to deal with these situations on a case-by-case basis will help prevent a student’s record and reputation from being tarnished with an offense that was actually an innocent mistake.

In addition to HB 826, which protects our children from unjust punishment, we also passed House Bill 804 to protect children from the psychological trauma that can result from testifying in court about cases of abuse.  Testifying before a court is an intimidating task, especially for a young child, and having to face an abuser can be even scarier.  HB 804 provides young victims with another option.  The bill allows them to testify remotely via live broadcast if the court agrees that testifying before the accused would cause serious physical or emotional distress for the victim.  Not only will this measure ease discomfort for victims, but it might also eliminate one of the barriers that prevents them from coming forward about their abuse.

We also passed a child welfare measure last week that would that would help prevent child abuse, but also track cases in the event of abuse.  Last week, we passed House Bill 923 to help ensure that cases of child abuse are treated with the seriousness that they warrant.  HB 923 increases public access to government records that relate to deceased children who had at some point come into contact with the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).  The bill also updates the Child Fatality Review Board, which is responsible for examining DFCS cases that involve death.  It is our hope that this increased transparency and review, combined with an increase in DFCS employees, will ensure Georgia is doing everything possible to protect children from abuse.

In addition to passing these pieces of legislation aimed at protecting Georgia’s children, we also passed House Bill 549 to protect our state’s natural resources, such as our waterways and wildlife. This bill will help our state better prepare for a water pollution emergency, like the one recently experienced by West Virginia and the Ogeechee River Fish Kill in Georgia a few years ago.  HB 549 establishes a state water pollution emergency response plan.  The bill requires that the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) maintain an emergency response program to handle critical threats and pollution to our state’s water resources.  The bill also requires appropriate and timely responses to emergencies that threaten the state’s waterways.  Additionally, HB 549 requires that the EPD use proper public notification and coordination between the state and local communities to protect the health of Georgia’s citizens during emergencies and keep them informed.  I am proud that our state has taken these steps to protect our state’s citizens as well as the aquatic wildlife that live along our waterways.

Another important bill passed last week was House Bill 459. This bill will help decrease our motorists’ stress on Georgia’s highways.  HB 459 aims to encourage drivers to avoid driving in the passing lane for long periods of time.  Under HB 459, any driver on a divided highway who does not move to the right when a car going faster approaches them from behind could face a misdemeanor.  We hope that this legislation will remind everyone that the left lane on a highway is intended to be used for passing and cut down on cases of road rage in our state.

In addition to passing legislation last week, we also took some time to recognize a great Georgian and Olympian, Elana Meyers.  Elana, who hails from Douglasville, recently returned from Sochi, Russia, where she won a silver medal in the women’s bobsledding competition at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.  This was Elana’s second time at the Winter Olympic Games, after she won bronze in Vancouver in 2010.  I am proud that Georgia had such talented representation at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, and it was an honor to meet such a distinguished Georgian.

As we begin voting on more bills and resolutions every day, I encourage you to contact me at the Georgia State Capitol with your thoughts and opinions.  I am always happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding legislation.   If you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw’s Office, 404-656-0177.

Georgia House Passes Compact for a Balanced Budget Sponsored by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw

State Representative Paulette Rakestraw(R-HD19)) announced the passage of House Bill 794 on Friday, February 21. Sponsored by Rep. Rakestraw, HB 794 proposes to amend the United States Constitution by adding a balanced budget requirement.

“I would like to see Georgia lead efforts around the nation to add this critical amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” said Rep. Rakestraw. “Doing so would enforce a policy of fiscal responsibility and ensure our federal government uses our tax dollars wisely. Runaway spending will cause a debt-fueled calamity in our great nation if we don’t stop it. This measure is critical for the prosperity of our citizens and our republic.”
The bill proposes to enter the state of Georgia into a compact with other states as part of an effort to require the federal government to balance its budget. This compact will bind all participating states with the agreed-upon compact in an effort to prevent what many fear could be a “run-away convention.” The compact actually proposes the amendment to the Constitution, specifically establishing the U.S. government’s spending limits as well as the level of its outstanding debt. Congress cannot authorize an increase in debt without approval from the states. The compact also raises the necessary approval threshold for a general revenue tax to a two-thirds vote of each chamber. It also has provisions for withdrawal, as well as the creation of a Compact Commission which will lobby states to join the compact.

Rep. Rakestraw has worked with the Goldwater Institute to draft the bill for Georgia. Goldwater Institute constitutional policy expert Nick Dranias said, “We are proud of Georgia’s state representatives for passing this historic measure, one that supports the concept of states working together to improve the performance of the federal government. The Compact for a Balanced Budget enables citizens to attack our $17.4 trillion federal debt, something that federal legislators and bureaucrats have proven unwilling to do, despite the ominous implications it has for future generations.”

Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides states with the right to make amendments to the U.S. Constitution by means of a constitutional convention. In order for a constitutional convention to be called, at least two-thirds, or 34 states, must petition on the same subject. Twenty states have already filed petitions on the subject of a balanced budget amendment.

Representative Paulette Rakestraw represents the citizens of District 19, which includes portions of Paulding County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves as the Vice Chairman of Science and Technology. She also serves on the Economic Development & Tourism, Juvenile Justice, Small Business Development, and Special Rules committees.

Leadership Paulding Visits State Capitol

State Representatives Paulette Rakestraw (R-HD19) and Howard Maxwell (R-HD17) recently welcomed members of Leadership Paulding to the State Capitol.

“It was an honor and a privilege to visit with members from Leadership Paulding,” said Rep. Rakestraw. “These dedicated leaders have all made outstanding contributions to our great county.”

Sponsored by the Paulding Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Paulding is a nine-month program that provides a diverse group of existing and emerging leaders with a unique opportunity to experience many of the challenges facing Paulding. In addition to leadership training and development, the program provides a behind-the-scenes look into the following areas: Government, Education, Power, Growth and Development, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Regional Issues.

Representative Paulette Rakestraw represents the citizens of District 19, which includes portions of Paulding County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves as the Vice Chairman of Science and Technology. She also serves on the Economic Development & Tourism, Juvenile Justice, Small Business Development, and Special Rules committees.

Gov. Deal with Leadership PauldingFirst row: Darlene Pendley, Mayes Ward Dobbins Funeral Home; Christine Mullinax, Cobb EMC; Dave Carmichael, Commissioner Paulding County Board Post 1; Mary Carol Sheffield, Paulding County Extension Office; Brian Bozarth, Raker Construction; Danita Elrod, Elrod Garden Center; Governor Nathan Deal; Representative Rakestraw; State Representative Kimberly Alexander; Junie Walton, Paulding County Airport Authority; Samantha Glass, All Print Marketing & Media Solutions, LLC; Sara Tonsmeire, Woodland Hills Golf Course; Mary Ann Phipps, Paulding County Fire Department; and Stephanie Hubbell, Chattahoochee Technical College.

Second row: Derrick Vincent, JACOBS Engineering; Kelly Meyer, Croft & Associates; Kelley Garner, Indigo Falls Events; State Representative Howard Maxwell; Robbie Rokovitz, City of Hiram; Richard Cole,istrict; and Ashley Henson, Paulding County Sheriff Department.


Legislative Update — February 21, 2014

The snow and ice melted from Winter Storm Pax, and we returned to Capitol Hill on Monday, February 17, 2014.  This was the sixth week of the 2014 legislative session and a very important one.  In that week, we passed the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, as well as many other significant pieces of legislation.

House Bill 744, the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, is an initial guide for all state spending to occur from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.  The budget was set by a revenue estimate of $20.8 billion, a 4.6 percent increase from the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.  Nearly 72 percent of the new revenue is budgeted for K-12 and higher education expenses.  These funds, totaling $916 million, will help finance enrollment growth, increase opportunities for technical education, and distribute more dollars to local school systems in hopes of eliminating furlough days and raising salaries for teachers.  New revenue will also provide for an increase in salaries for correctional officers, additional child protective service workers and an extension of the Planning for Healthy Babies program, which helps prevent babies from being born at a low birth weight.

While we set education as our top priority in the budget, we also passed legislation to increase educational opportunities for Georgians.  House Bill 697 creates a Zell Miller grant scholar designation to cover 100 percent of tuition for those students who maintain a 3.5 GPA or above in Georgia’s technical colleges.  Since 2011, the last time HOPE provided a full scholarship to these students, technical college enrollment has declined by 20 percent.  HB 697 will help address this decline, bringing students back to school, so they can gain the skills needed to join the workforce.  This legislation also helps close a technical skill-gap, making Georgia more attractive to those businesses that are looking for skilled labor.

In addition to passing legislation to improve educational opportunities, we also passed several pieces of legislation to protect Georgians’ constitutional rights.  One such measure was House Bill 875, a comprehensive bill that expands Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens.   Under HB 875, Georgia Weapons Carry license holders would gain broader access to those government buildings that do not provide active security at entrances.  HB 875 also allows veterans under the age of 21 who have been honorably discharged from service to receive a weapons carry license.  Furthermore, it eliminates the re-fingerprinting requirement for weapons carry license renewals, prohibits the creation of a database of license holders and lessens the penalty for license holders who carry on college campuses.  In addition, HB 875 prevents the confiscation of weapons or ammunition by the state, which is currently legal in the event of a state of emergency declaration by the governor.

Private property rights are also expanded by HB 875.  Measures in the legislation enable property owners to decide on the prohibition or permit of weapons at churches and bars. Additionally, HB 875 gives school boards the opportunity and choice to arm employees under their well-thought-out guidelines and supervision.

While we want to protect the Second Amendment rights of responsible citizens, we also want to try to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.   As a result, HB 875 includes measures to improve mental health regulations for Georgia Weapons Carry license applicants.  Under HB 875, licenses would be denied to any person who has been deemed “mentally incompetent to stand trial” or any person who is been deemed “not guilty by reason of insanity” at the time of the trial.  The bill also ensures that these individuals are reported within 10 days to the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC), so that probate judges can use GCIC to check the accuracy of every application form.

In addition to the Second Amendment, another imperative part of the U.S. Constitution is Article V.  Article V allows states to call a constitutional convention so that they can make amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Under Article V, a constitutional convention may be called if at least two-thirds, or 34 states, petition on the same subject.  This week the Georgia House passed a series of bills and resolutions to call for a constitutional convention that would focus on adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.   Those pieces of legislation that were passed in the House this week were: House Bill 794, Senate Resolution 371, House Resolution 1215, and Senate Bill 206.  Since SB 371 has now passed both the House and Senate, Georgia will now become the 21st state to pass legislation calling for a convention of this purpose.  As a lawmaker that has worked to balance Georgia’s state budget year after year, I believe that Congress should be doing the same with our national budget.  Adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution would help control America’s growing debt and make the nation’s economic future more secure for our children and grandchildren.

In addition to conducting legislative business last week, we also took some time to honor Jim Chavers, the last surviving member of the 4th Marine Division that fought in Iwo Jima.  Considered one of the deadliest battles of World War II, the Invasion of Iwo Jima began on February 19, 1945 and lasted until March 26, 1945.  Chavers was one of only 60 survivors from his company of 250.  After his time in the Marines, Chavers served as a customs inspector for the U.S. Customs Service for 33 years.  It was a privilege to meet such an outstanding Georgian as Jim Chavers.  I am inspired by his dedication and commitment to this great country.

With less than a month left in the 2014 legislative session, if you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw’s Office, 404-656-0177.