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Under the Gold Dome… A message from Rep. Micah Gravley

gravley315Ten weeks down and two to go, as we work towards completion of the 2019 legislative session. With only five remaining legislative days, it’s crunch time on Capitol Hill, as we all work hard to pass our respective bills. Last week was eventful as we passed measures dealing with rural broadband, foster care, student-athlete safety, and public safety. We also passed a resolution to honor the sacrifices of our armed forces on behalf of our nation, state and citizens.

Senate Bill 17 would revise the current ‘Rural Telephone Cooperative Act’ by giving cooperative non-profit corporations the ability to furnish, improve, and expand broadband services. Services may be furnished in conjunction or separately from telephone services; however, broadband services are not eligible for fund recovery through the Universal Access Fund.

Senate Bill 167 increases the amount of preference given to foster parents in custody cases during court proceedings. Currently, a child’s relative in foster care has six months from the date they receive notice of a dependency hearing to demonstrate an interest or willingness in providing a permanent home for the child. Under this bill, the court may excuse DFCS from considering a relative as a placement if the child's placement with current caregivers is in the best interest of the child. The courts must find that the child has been living in a stable home environment for 12 months and that removal of the child would be detrimental to the child's well-being.

House Resolution 259 works to protect our student-athletes from heat-related injuries through the formation of the Johnny Tolbert III House Study Committee. Unfortunately, our love of sports paired with the severity of the Georgia heat don’t pair well, putting student-athletes at higher risk for cardiac arrest, heat stroke and other related injuries from practicing or competing in sports. The CDC reports that more than 9,000 heat-related illnesses occur annually among high school athletes. This study committee will submit their report at the end of 2019, and their findings will determine what legislation, if any, is needed to further protect our student-athletes.

Senate Bill 1, also known as, “C.J.’s Law” would make those leaving the scene of an unintentional hit-and-run, resulting in bodily injury and/or death, guilty of a felony. This bill will allow courts to prosecute these crimes by increasing our current maximum sentence from five years to ten years.

Senate Bill 170 pays tribute to our nation’s heroes, by designating the Honor and Remember organization’s flag as the state’s official emblem to remember the service and sacrifice of those losing their lives in the name of freedom. This bill allows any local government, state-owned military memorial, and any other state-owned business or location to display this flag during military holidays as a visible reminder of the appreciation we have for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

We began our week with the passage of Senate Bill 67 to address certain funding gaps within our local school systems. This bill will allow school systems suffering damage from a fire or natural disaster to immediately qualify for certain funding to repair school facilities. Funds can also be used to repair or update portions of a building that were not damaged during a natural disaster if that building is more than 20 years old. SB 67 also creates a path for schools to qualify for grants if the system’s five-year SPLOST revenue does not generate enough funding for needed repairs. We are hopeful that our school systems in southwest Georgia will benefit from this measure as they work to rebuild after Hurricane Michael.

Beginning next week, we head into the final days of our 2019 legislative session. As always, I will continue to update you on major issues through the session and beyond. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me anytime. Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving our home under the Gold Dome!