The Georgia House of Representatives reconvened for Legislative Day 28, otherwise known as Crossover Day, on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Crossover Day is always one of the longest days of the entire session as it is the last day for legislation to pass out of its chamber of origin and still be eligible to become law this year. In preparation, we dedicated the day before as a committee work day to ensure that legislation had ample opportunity to be considered ahead of this deadline. During Crossover Day, we spent the entire day in the House Chamber debating and voting on legislation, and we passed almost 60 bills and resolutions by the time we adjourned around 11 p.m.
Wrongful Conviction Compensation Act
My colleagues and I passed House Bill 1354, the Wrongful Conviction Compensation Act, this week to help streamline and standardize the compensation process for wrongful convictions in our state. This bipartisan legislation would create the Wrongful Conviction Compensation Review Panel under the authority of the state’s Claims Advisory Board, and this panel would review claims and provide recommendations to the Claims Advisory Board for those who have been wrongfully convicted.
Expanding Opportunities for College Students
The House also passed legislation on Crossover Day to help low-income Georgia students access financial aid to complete their undergraduate degrees. House Bill 1435 would allow part-time and full-time college students to apply for a needs-based financial aid program to fill an outstanding financial aid gap, which is the amount of money remaining after qualified institutions account for the cost of attendance and other funds. After their other funding has been applied to their schooling, these students could apply for up to $2,500 in grant funding to cover this gap. Eligible undergraduate students would be required to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), complete 80 percent of credit requirements towards a specific degree and meet other standard state scholarship and grant requirements.
This grant program would be offered for students at all University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia schools, as well as non-proprietary institutions that are eligible for Tuition Equalization Grants. The Georgia Student Finance Commission would oversee these grants and monitor student enrollment and data for the needs-based financial aid program, and the commission would annually measure and evaluate the program with data provided by the Office of Planning and Budget, the Department of Education and our college systems. Students who are close to earning their college degrees should not miss out on this opportunity to cross the finish line due to a lack of financial assistance, and I believe that this legislation could help thousands of Georgia college students reach their graduation day.
Expanding Opportunities for Primary Education
Late in the evening on Crossover Day, we also passed legislation to expand grant funding opportunities to low-wealth K-12 school systems that need help building and maintaining their schools. House Bill 1482 would revise the eligibility criteria for project-specific capital outlay grants for low-wealth school systems, which is a grant program that allows K-12 school systems access to funding for school construction. To apply for these grants, the local school system would have to be currently or recently have been ranked in the bottom 25 percent in sales tax revenue per full-time equivalent (FTE) student count and value of property per FTE student count; this FTE data is collected for our state’s Quality Basic Education funding and is based on student enrollment and the education services provided by local school systems to students.
We passed two more bills that would support students as they make their way through their K-12 education. For high school students, House Bill 1184 would allow local school systems, charter schools, special chartered schools and the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice to administer nationally recognized college entrance exams, to 11th grade students who choose to participate. Schools could administer these exams, such as the ACT or SAT, up to three times each year during normal school hours.
For some Georgia high schoolers, finding a way to take college entrance exams can be difficult and costly, but this legislation would provide them with a more convenient and cost-effective opportunity to do so while they’re already at school.
Rep. Douglas Fighting for Recess for Elementary Students
Additionally, the House passed House Bill 1283 to ensure that our elementary schools students have a chance to enjoy recess every day, which we believe is a crucial part of a child’s learning experience.
HB 1283 helps our children. The goal is to have recess in all elementary schools so that our kids will be healthier academically, physically and mentally.
Many studies have shown that if children are allowed to take a recess break they perform better academically and I know we all want the best for our children. Also, a disturbing amount of children are suffering with chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even ADHD.
Research has also shown:
- Moving around will help the children mentally and physically.
- 30 minutes of exercise stimulates the brain
- It increases math & science scores
- Decreases behavioral issues
- Increases social skills
After working with various education associations and the Dept. of Education a compromise has been reached. Starting in the fall, HB 1283 will allow our elementary age children (K-5) to get an average of 30 mins of recess daily. (150 mins weekly) This is unstructured and or structured recess time. This compromise will give the schools the flexibility they need to incorporate their goal. This legislation also prohibits recess time to be withheld from students as punishment.
My colleagues and I recognize that an excellent education is well-rounded, and these bills would ensure their success in the classroom, as well as assist them as they prepare for college.
Medical Cannabis Reform
In 2019, the Georgia House passed legislation to allow limited in-state licensing, production and distribution of low-THC oil for Georgians suffering from certain chronic or terminal illnesses. This program has launched, but, production has not started, and thousands of eligible Georgians have been left without access to this alternative medicine. As such, we passed legislation this week to ensure that we get this medicine into the hands of those who desperately need it.
House Bill 1425 would cancel the original 2020 competitive application request for medical cannabis licensing proposals and would direct the Medical Cannabis Commission to take all necessary steps to purchase or obtain necessary quantities of low-THC oil or other similar products from an available legal source. The commission would also take all necessary steps to provide for low-THC oil dispensation, including the development and issuance of dispensing licenses for independent pharmacies and designated universities. The commission would be required to issue a new competitive application request by the end of this year to award two initial Class 1 medical cannabis production licenses and four initial Class 2 production licenses, and any applicants who submitted prior licensing applications would be allowed to submit a proposal without paying an additional application fee.
This bill would also add reporting requirements to the Medical Cannabis Commission Oversight Committee and would add ulcerative colitis to the list of eligible conditions for the Georgia Low-THC Oil Registry. The new application requests would be managed by the Georgia Department of Administrative Services, evaluated by an independent third party and subject to state purchasing and open records laws. As the number of Georgians registered for low-THC oil grows, this bill would also allow the state to increase the number of licenses to produce this product in the future. We have previously experienced production delays, but this measure would jump-start low-THC licensing and production to finally provide treatment and relief for suffering Georgians.
After Crossover Day
After Crossover Day, the House convened for three more legislative days this week, and our committees began considering legislation that passed in the State Senate before the Crossover deadline, and the Senate began reviewing House bills before the week ended. We will spend the remainder of the session meeting in our respective committees and on the House floor to consider these Senate bills, as well as give final approval to House legislation that could undergo changes by the Senate. I encourage you to contact me regarding bills that may be up for consideration during these final weeks of the session.
I encourage you to contact me regarding bills that may be up for consideration during these final weeks of the session. My Capitol office number is 404-656-7859, and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.
GA House District 78
- First day to apply for an absentee ballot: March 7, 2022
- Last Day to Register to Vote: April 25, 2022
- Early Voting Begins: May 2, 2022
- Absentee Ballot Application Deadline: May 13, 2022
- Last day of Early Voting / Last Day to Access Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes: May 20, 2022
- Primary Election Day: May 24, 2022
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- Last week the state government suspended the state gas tax until May 31st, so that gas prices will either fall OR not rise as quickly as we have seen over the last several weeks. If you suspect a vendor of price gouging, you can file a complaint here.
How We Can Beat the Gas Crunch
While gas prices go up, here are ways to save money on gas:
- walk or travel by sidewalk where and whenever possible
- ride a bicycle or e-bike
- ride public transportation
- use more carpools and rideshares
- stop warming up your car
- take out as much excess weight from your car as possible
- drive at a steady speed under the speed limit
- plan out your car trip on time
- minimize AC use
- use a gas app on your phone to check gas prices ahead of your trip