Paulding County Senior 4-H’ers visit Representative Rakestraw at the Capitol

On February 1, 2018, six Paulding County 4-H’ers joined over four-hundred 4-H youth and leaders for 4-H Day at the Capitol. While in Atlanta, they met with their state Senators and Representatives and saw the House of Representatives during that day’s session. The eventful day included visits with Representative Howard Maxwell (Dist. 17), Senator Bill Heath (Dist. 31), Representative Paulette Rakestraw (Dist. 19), Representative Micah Gravely (Dist. 67), followed by Senator Mike Dugan (Dist. 30).

The State 4-H President, Mason McClintock (Bacon County 4-H’er), addressed both houses of the Georgia General Assembly where he along with other 4-H leadership thanked them for their support of 4-H in Georgia. He also pledged Georgia 4-H’s commitment on working to improve our communities. Between visits, the 4-H’ers enjoyed a luncheon provided by the Georgia 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees. During lunch, Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal reflected on their own involvement and activities in 4-H through the years.

The day concluded with a picture of the state-wide 4-H delegation. Georgia 4-H thanks our state leaders for their warm welcome, coordination of this annual event, and continued support of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Cooperative Extension, and Georgia 4-H.

The Senior 4-H’ers participating included Hannah Bower, Madison Clemente, Colleen Gilroy, Erin Gilroy, Juliette McKinley, Nicholas McKinley, with Patty McIver: 4-H agent, and Juwan Severson,  AmeriCorps VISTA member.

2018 Georgia General Assembly Session — Week Four Update

We returned to the Gold Dome on Monday, January 29 for the fourth week of the 2018 legislative session. This week, House committees continued to hold hearings to review and discuss bill proposals, and the House convened Monday through Thursday to take up important issues and pass meaningful legislation for the good of every Georgian.

Arguably the biggest news of the week was the House’s unanimous passage of House Bill 159, legislation that would completely overhaul Georgia’s current adoption laws. This bill, which also passed the House unanimously during the 2017 legislative session, has since been a top priority to me and my House colleagues. In a previous update, I wrote to tell you that the Senate passed their version of the adoption bill and made several changes to the original House version of the legislation. This week, the House collaborated with the Senate and the governor’s office to reach a compromise on HB 159, and after much deliberation, the House approved several of the Senate’s amendments and made a few additional changes to the legislation.

Among the major changes, the newest version of the adoption bill would update Georgia’s revocation period from a 10 days to four days. In Georgia, birth mothers currently have 10 days to revoke the surrender of their child. This 10-day revocation period is one of most rigorous revocation policies in the nation, and the new version of HB 159 seeks to strike the right balance between the rights of birth mother and the adoptive parents by shortening this revocation period. Additionally, the House version of the adoption bill would allow birth mothers to receive reasonable living expenses in both private and agency adoptions. Under current law, only birth mothers in agency adoptions are allowed reasonable living expenses, but this change would create a level playing field and give all birth mothers equal access to reasonable living expenses, regardless of which type of adoption they go through. This is the law in most states in the country. Lastly, the bill includes several safeguards on temporary powers of attorney. The updated adoption bill is now back in the Senate, and I look forward to the Senate’s swift action in passing the adoption bill and sending this crucial measure to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk for final approval.

The House also took up several other pieces of important legislation this week. One such measure was House Bill 661, which passed unanimously in our chamber and would change the process for filing and removing tax liens against real estate. HB 661 would update legislation that Gov. Deal signed into Georgia law last year, which created a more efficient and transparent method for filing tax liens with the Department of Revenue. HB 661 would keep the efficiencies of the original legislation, but would simply remove the current provision regarding statewide liens and revert back to county specific liens. This bill would also require every tax lien against realty to be filed with the superior court clerk in the county where the real estate is located. HB 661 would not only simplify the process for filing and removing tax liens, but it would also increase transparency for taxpayers by moving the Department of Revenue’s process to electronic-based transactions and away from paper-based transactions.

The House passed another measure this week aimed at modifying portions of Georgia’s tax laws. House Bill 694 passed unanimously and would update the way motor fuel distributors and wholesalers submit their monthly motor fuel tax reports to the Department of Revenue. Current law requires motor fuel distributers to file these reports electronically if they owe the department $500 or more, but the new measure would require all monthly reports to be submitted electronically, regardless of the distributor’s tax liability. This measure would modernize and streamline the filing process for our state’s oil distributors.

Also this week, the House passed a measure to provide more law enforcement officers with important state retirement benefits. House Bill 135 would expand the term “law enforcement officer” to include Department of Driver Services (DDS) investigators. Under HB 135, these investigators would qualify to receive up to an additional five years of creditable service in the state’s Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) for prior law enforcement service. DDS investigators would only be eligible for this benefit if they are not receiving retirement benefits from a local government for that same service and if they have been a member of the retirement system for at least ten years. The governor signed a measure into law in 2016 that allowed all other law enforcement officers to obtain creditable service through the ERS, but the measure inadvertently omitted 16 investigators employed by DDS. HB 135 would correct this oversight by ensuring that those officers who are investigating fraudulent licenses are eligible to receive creditable retirement benefits.

Lastly, my House colleagues and I passed a measure this week in support of Georgia’s official state insect, the honey bee. House Bill 671, which passed unanimously, would create a specialty license plate to promote the conservation and protection of the honey bee, and the license plate would display an image of a honey bee and include the phrase “Save the Honey Bee.” These license plates would be available for purchase, and all proceeds collected from the license plate sales would be distributed to the Georgia Beekeepers Association. These funds would be used to raise awareness about honey bee conservation and would fund and support several associated programs, including beekeeper education and training, prison beekeeping, grants to beekeeping nonprofit organizations and beekeeping research facilities in our state. Georgia is the third largest producer of bees and the tenth largest producer of honey in the nation. The honey bee is absolutely essential in sustaining our state’s ecosystems, and this measure would help to ensure that our state insect and the beekeeping industry are preserved for future Georgians.

We are well into the 2018 session, and on Monday, February 5, the General Assembly will reconvene for legislative Day 15 and legislative week five. My colleagues and I will be busier day by day as we get closer to legislative Day 28, or “Cross Over Day,” so we will be hard at work next week reviewing bill proposals in our respective committees and taking up legislation in the House chamber. As we continue to progress through the session, I encourage you to contact me to discuss your thoughts and opinions. I greatly value any feedback I receive from my constituents, and your input truly helps guide the decisions I make under the Gold Dome. My Capitol office number is 404-656-0178, and my email address is Please contact me or my assistant, Kayla Bancroft, anytime.

2018 Georgia General Assembly Session — Week Three Update

 On Monday, January 22, the House convened for the third week of the 2018 legislative session. By the end of this week, we completed Legislative Day 10, which means the General Assembly is now one-fourth of the way through our 40-day session with just 30 legislative days remaining. This week was busy and productive, and the pace has noticeably picked up as House committees met more frequently to consider and vet proposed legislation. The House also saw measures introduced this week that were recommended by our interim House councils and commissions, and we worked with the Senate and passed an adjournment resolution that set our legislative schedule for the remainder of the session. While it may seem like we have a great deal of time left in the 2018 session, we have several important issues to address before adjourning Sine Die.

Although Georgia’s economy has grown exponentially over the past several years, not all parts of our state have experienced the same levels of prosperity. For this reason, the House is heavily focused on improving economic opportunities for our state’s rural communities. Last session, we adopted House Resolution 389, which established the House Rural Development Council (RDC). During the interim, the members of the RDC traveled to many different rural communities across the state and met with local leaders, studied issues specific to Georgia’s rural areas and explored ways to encourage economic growth. The RDC closely examined the components of economic development and related policy areas, such as education, infrastructure, access to health care and economic growth incentives. Then, in December, the RDC released the first of two reports outlining several legislative recommendations that would boost rural Georgia’s economic opportunities. This week, we saw the first rural development-related bill, House Bill 735, be introduced for the House’s consideration. HB 735 would create a tax credit for short line railroad track maintenance expenditures to incentivize investment in rail infrastructure in rural Georgia. This measure is likely the first of many pieces of legislation that we will consider this session to help Georgia’s rural communities grow, and the RDC’s proposals are a result of the council’s findings and hard work during the interim. Since this bill was just introduced this week, it will now make its way through the legislative process, and I will update you as it moves through the House.

Our state’s continued economic success largely depends on a connected and efficient transportation network, which is why transit is also a top priority in the House this session. During the 2017 session, we adopted House Resolution 848, which established the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding. This commission is charged with studying our state’s transportation needs and exploring ways our state can sufficiently plan and provide for those needs. Like the RDC, the transit commission held hearings across the state during the summer and fall of 2017, and this session, we can expect to see legislation come up aimed at meeting Georgia’s wide-ranging transit needs as a result of the commission’s report. Both the transit commission and the RDC have worked diligently since the end of the 2017 session to study pressing issues facing to our state, and it is exciting to see initial proposals come to fruition in the form of legislation.

We also worked with our counterparts in the Senate and adopted another adjournment resolution this week, which determined our calendar for the remainder of the 2018 legislative session. Legislative Day 40, or Sine Die, is the final day of the legislative session and will be Thursday, March 29. Until then, my House colleagues and our Senate counterparts have a busy and aggressive schedule and will be working diligently to pass meaningful bills for Governor Nathan Deal to consider signing into law.

Also this week, the House Rules Committee held its first meeting of the session on Thursday, January 25. After bills have passed out of their respective committees, they must also pass out of the Rules Committee, which determines which bills should be debated and voted on the House floor. Bills that pass out of the Rules Committee are generally heard on the House floor the following legislative day, so we will likely vote on the session’s first pieces of legislation next week as several committees are beginning to pass bills out of their committees.

While we largely focused on reviewing Gov. Deal’s state budget recommendations last week during joint appropriations committee hearings with the Senate, this week, the House Appropriations subcommittees held several hearings at the Capitol to further review the governor’s budget proposals. The General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced state budget every year, so after we review Gov. Deal’s budget proposals in our various Appropriations subcommittees, my House colleagues and I will draft a bill for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget and another bill for the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) budget. The AFY 2018 budget, nicknamed the “small budget,” is an adjusted budget for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. The small budget uses a more precise estimate of state revenue to account for any differences between anticipated and actual state revenue. The FY 2019 budget, nicknamed the “big budget,” is the state budget for fiscal year 2019 beginning on July 1. This budget is based on projected state revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. Once passed by the respective Appropriations subcommittees, those portions of each budget will then go before the full House Appropriations Committee, which will then review and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.

After the House Appropriations Committee passes complete budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019, the measures will then go to the Rules Committee, where they will be placed on the House calendar. Each budget then goes to the House floor, where every member of the House will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on each budget and ask questions before voting.

Once the AFY 2018 and FY 2019 budgets pass out of the House, they will go to the Senate and repeat this same committee process before being voted on by all of the members of the Senate. By this point, each budget will likely differ from its original versions as passed by the House. When this happens, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor will both appoint a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budgets.

Once the conference committee reaches an agreement, their versions of the budgets will go back to the House and Senate for a final vote. Both legislative chambers must vote on the conference committee’s versions of the budgets to guarantee that all contents of the bills are fully agreed upon by both chambers. Finally, if approved by both the House and Senate, the budgets are sent to the governor’s desk where Gov. Deal can either sign or veto the legislation. Once signed by Gov. Deal, these budgets become law. All legislation must go through this process before becoming state law.

While we had a busy week on the House floor and in House committees, my House colleagues and I also took time to honor a distinguished Georgian and former state representative in the House Chamber. On Thursday, January 25, Congressman Doug Collins visited the Georgia State Capitol and brought greetings and updates from our state’s congressional delegation in Washington D.C. Congressman Collins praised our legislative body for the work we are doing on behalf of all Georgians, and he noted that the Georgia General Assembly is an excellent and productive legislative example for Congress to follow. It was an honor to welcome Congressman Collins to the House from our nation’s capital, and his continued commitment to bettering our state is an inspiration.

Finally, the House celebrated National Guard Day at the Capitol on Thursday by recognizing some our state’s most honorable citizens. Several men and women of the Georgia National Guard visited the House Chamber and were presented with House Resolution 902. The Georgia Department of Defense, which provides military-ready forces to the president and disaster response forces to the governor, employs over 10,891 Army National Guard Soldiers, 2,746 Air National Guard Airmen, 583 State Defense Force members and over 600 state employees. Since 9/11, over 18,000 Georgia National Guard members have been deployed overseas, and more than 200 are currently being deployed. These courageous men and women have selflessly served our state’s citizens in so many ways, and it was an honor to recognize their great contributions and sacrifices for all Americans, and especially all Georgians, and welcome them to the House Chamber.

As we continue to make our way through the 2018 legislative session, House committees will continue to meet more frequently to review proposed legislation. I serve as a member of the Appropriations, Economic Development and Tourism, Juvenile Justice, Regulated Industries, Science and Technology, Small Business Development, and Special Rules committees, and I encourage you to contact me to discuss any measures that will be discussed by these committees or any other legislation that may interest you. Please visit my Capitol office, which is located at 501 Coverdell Legislative Office Building Atlanta, GA 30334 anytime. You can also reach me by phone at my Capitol office at 404-656-0178 or by email at Your input and comments are invaluable to me, and I hope that you will reach out to me or to my assistant, Kayla Bancroft, with any questions or concerns you may have about our district or our state as a whole.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

2018 Georgia General Assembly Session — Week Two Update

My House colleagues and I returned to the Gold Dome on Tuesday, January 16, for the second week of the 2018 legislative session. This week, we began the state budget process, which is one of the most important responsibilities we have during the entire legislative session. The General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced state budget every year, and as we began the budget process, the joint House and Senate Appropriations committees met for a series of hearings to review Governor Nathan Deal’s budget recommendations. In addition to the joint budget hearings this week, the House also convened on Thursday and Friday for legislative Day Five and legislative Day Six of the session.

To kick off the budget process on Tuesday, Gov. Deal presented his comprehensive budget proposal to the members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees. Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) budget is the largest budget to be presented to the General Assembly in our state’s history. Georgia has experienced a tremendous economic boom in recent years, and because of our state’s success, we have maintained our AAA credit rating, been named the No. 1 state in which to do business for five consecutive years, invested billions of dollars in education and grown our Rainy Day Fund. Our state’s financial success and robust economy have made Georgia a national leader economically, and Gov. Deal’s budget proposals build upon these successes, as well as create new prospects for growth. During this week’s budget hearings, we also heard testimonies from several state agency heads, each of whom expressed their respective agency’s fiscal needs and answered questions from my House colleagues and Senate counterparts. The final budget will outline state funding for each of these agencies, which is why it is critical that we hear their budgetary needs as we begin this arduous process.

While our state has experienced significant growth over the past several years, Georgia’s future economic success heavily relies on a connected and efficient transportation network. Gov. Deal’s FY 2019 budget recommendations include more than $1.9 billion in annual funding to maintain and enhance our state’s transportation infrastructure, as well as an additional $100 million to repair and replace bridges throughout the state. The governor’s Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget proposal also allocates more than $25 million to expand runways at 11 airports in Georgia to ensure that larger aircrafts can access all areas of our state, including our rural communities. Our state’s citizens, and especially our businesses, depend on a viable transportation system, which is why it is important to invest in all areas of our state’s transportation network.

Education has consistently been one of Gov. Deal’s top funding priorities, and in his final budget proposal, the governor continued his commitment to Georgia’s students by investing in many education programs and initiatives. Gov. Deal’s AFY 2018 budget includes $102.1 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth and $10.7 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program. The governor’s FY 2019 budget proposal also includes $30 million to assist low‐wealth school districts and adds $127.6 million to fund K-12 enrollment growth and training and experience for Georgia teachers. Additionally, Gov. Deal’s FY 2019 budget allots $1.8 million for the REACH Georgia Scholarship program, which would provide 226 additional scholarships statewide and expand the program into 44 new school districts. The governor also added $361.7 million for our state’s Teachers Retirement System to fully fund the state’s determined employer contribution. An investment in our state’s young minds is an investment in Georgia’s future, and our state will reap the benefits of these education appropriations for generations to come.

Healthcare has also continued to be a top priority in our state’s budget. Since 2011, our state has invested almost $240 million in behavioral health, and as a result of this investment, we have seen a significant decline in individuals civilly committed to Georgia’s behavioral health hospitals. The governor’s FY 2019 budget proposal allots $15 million to continue to fund Georgia’s intellectual and developmental disabilities waiver services and to provide supportive housing for Georgians in need. Gov. Deal’s recommendations also include $3.5 million in the AFY 2018 budget and almost $7 million in FY 2019 budget towards the Children’s Autism Initiative. Additionally, the governor’s FY 2019 budget allocates $22.9 million to fund crisis services, therapeutic foster care, Apex grants, telehealth services, suicide prevention, wraparound services, supported employment and education and opioid prevention and treatment, which were all recommendations made by the Commission on Children’s Mental Health. Georgia’s behavioral health services have helped countless Georgians to thrive in our state, and investing in such services is critically important so we can continue to assist these citizens.

Gov. Deal’s successful criminal justice reform initiatives also received additional funding in his budget proposal. One such initiative is Georgia’s accountability court system, which provides low-level, non-violent offenders with sentencing alternatives, such as rehabilitative services. Since FY 2012, our state has allotted a total of $113.9 million to establish and operate these courts statewide, and the FY 2019 budget includes an additional $5 million to continue those efforts. Gov. Deal’s sentencing reform initiatives have a proven track record and have helped low-level offenders receive the help they truly need, rather than keeping those individuals in Georgia’s prison system.

Finally, the governor’s proposed budgets provide state dollars for several essential programs and initiatives that meet the wide-ranging needs of all of our state’s citizens. The governor’s FY 2019 budget proposal provides funding for Georgia’s child welfare services, including $15.1 million for growth in out‐of‐home care utilization, $10.1 million to continue to increase Georgia’s foster parent per diem rates and $3.6 million to increase out‐of‐home care provider rates. Gov. Deal’s FY 2019 budget also allocates almost $256 million for Medicaid expense growth and to offset federal revenue and settlement loss.

These are just some of the highlights of the governor’s budget proposals. The House Appropriations subcommittees will hold hearings next week to continue to review these proposals and delve even further into the governor’s recommendations. These subcommittees will eventually pass portions of the state budget in their respective subcommittees, and those portions of the budget will then go before the full House Appropriations Committee, which will review and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.

Other important news this week comes from our colleagues in the Senate. On Thursday, our Senate counterparts passed their version of House Bill 159. The original bill passed the House unanimously last session and would modernize our state’s adoption laws for the first time in nearly 30 years. The Senate amended some key provisions in the legislation and added HB 359, a bill dealing with temporary powers of attorney, which Gov. Deal vetoed last year. We began reviewing the Senate’s changes this week, and we hope to work with them and Gov. Deal to get this measure finalized and signed into law.

Also this week, Gov. Deal made a few major announcements that I would like to share with you. On Wednesday, Gov. Deal issued a state of emergency for 83 of Georgia’s central and northern counties impacted by winter weather. As a result of the snow and icy roads, our budget hearings that were originally scheduled for Wednesday were rescheduled, and the House and Senate convened Thursday afternoon rather than Thursday morning. Despite the winter weather, my House colleagues and I continued our legislative work on behalf of all Georgians.

Gov. Deal made another major announcement on Thursday morning. After much anticipation, the governor announced that Atlanta is included on Amazon’s short list of Top 20 finalists for the company’s second headquarters. Georgia has consistently been ranked the best state in the country for business, and our state has many attractive resources and benefits that give us a competitive advantage over other states. I look forward to seeing how Georgia continues to fare in Amazon’s site selection process.

The House will be back in session on Monday, January 22, and we have another busy week ahead of us as the pace of the session continues to pick up. As we move forward, I encourage you to visit me at my capitol office, or call me if you have any questions or concerns regarding the state budget bills, the legislative process or any other measures being considered under the Gold Dome. As your representative at the Georgia State Capitol, I want to know what issues are most important to you, your family and our neighbors, and I welcome any opportunity hear feedback from my constituents..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 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.

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,, 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 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


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