Thursday, February 4th marked the 16th legislative day of 40. As we make our way through the end of this week, the first half of the 2016 legislative session will come to a close. We will continue to review and discuss various issues under consideration in the remaining weeks. Week four on Capitol Hill was productive as we passed initiatives to improve education, workforce development and public safety.
As education remains a top priority, this week we unanimously passed House Bill 801. HB 801 was introduced to encourage students to take college courses in certain areas such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The legislation would also change the GPA weighting system for HOPE Scholarship recipients taking certain STEM courses. The bill directs the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to select bachelor-level STEM courses to receive an additional weight of .5 to a participating student's grade when calculating the HOPE scholarship GPA. The additional grade weight will only be considered for courses identified as academically rigorous and that lead to jobs in high demand STEM fields. In an effort to continue strengthening Georgia’s workforce, Governor Deal mentioned 11 target areas, all in STEM related fields, under the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grants. Providing additional GPA weight to courses where our state is in need is not only a step in the right direction, but it also ensures we are making necessary strides to bridge the skills gap in Georgia.
This week, the well being of our Public Safety officers was a priority as we passed two measures ensuring individuals that serve the citizens of Georgia in this capacity are taken care of.
The first was House Bill 421 which will provide enhanced disability benefits to community supervision officers who become permanently disabled from external violence or injury incurred while in the line duty. Under HB 421, deputy conservation rangers with the Department of Natural Resources, parole officers with the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, probation officers with the Department of Corrections, and any community supervision officer with the Department of Community Supervision would be eligible for a monthly disability compensation of $5.00 per month for each year of creditable service. The bill also calls for a minimum monthly disability retirement benefit equal to two percent of their monthly earnings beginning the month their permanent disability occurred until mandatory retirement age.
The second measure passed was House Bill 690. HB 690 ensures public safety officers recoup their years of service by allowing members of certain organizations to claim creditable service towards retirement if he or she previously worked for a local law enforcement agency for up to five years. Eligible officers for this benefit include:
Uniform Division of the Department of Public Safety
Conservation rangers with the Department of Natural Resources
Officers or agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation,
District attorney Investigators paid from state funds
Alcohol and tobacco officers or agents of the Department of Revenue
In order to be eligible to claim those retirement years, officers must be vested in the state’s Employee Retirement System (ERS) for at least 10 years and ineligible for a defined contribution retirement or pension plan while employed at the local law enforcement agency.
It is no secret that a vital workforce is essential to a thriving economy. With the passage of House Bill 402, we continue to enact legislation aimed at strengthening Georgia’s workforce. HB 402 is an effort to increase business partnerships and participation with local public school systems for K-12 work based learning programs. Work based learning programs allows students age 16 and older to participate in a structured learning environment at an employer’s job site for a portion of the school day, while receiving academic credit. Modeled after Georgia’s drug-free workplace program, HB 402 would offer businesses that participate in the program a discount of up to five percent on their worker’s compensation insurance premiums. This work based learning program is an excellent way to teach students the true value and responsibility of employment, while rewarding local businesses willing to participating.
This past Friday Representative Jan Tankersley, Representative Jon Burns and Representative Butch Parrish announced a long awaited four-lane project for Highway 67. The funding for the project, an estimated 22.8 million, is a result of HB 170. The Transportation Funding Act, passed last year in the Georgia General Assembly and will make it possible to move some critical projects forward.
The project involves some 11 miles of reconstruction of the existing two lane roadway into four lanes beginning near the intersection of Burkhalter Road and extending out to I-16. Typical sections will include 6.5' paved shoulders in the rural sections and 4' bike lanes in the curb and gutter sections of the project. Environmental studies and right of way acquisitions will begin soon with an estimated completion date of 2021.
I am looking forward to announcing other projects scheduled for my district -- Bulloch County and North Bryan County.
Capitol Happenings Week in Review
Many visitors from across our great state make their way to Capitol Hill during the legislative session. Capitol Day events are a great way for the public to gain a first hand look at what goes on Under the Gold Dome. Last week was no exception as we welcomed various organizations to the Capitol and House chamber. Organizational visits also give us the opportunity to learn more about certain industries. Did you know that Georgia’s wood and fiber product manufacturing delivers $28.9 billion in economic benefit to our state? I was also pleased to see many familiar faces from our district!
Monday, February 1st
Georgia Tech Day
Firefighters Recognition Day
Wednesday, February 3rd
4-H Club Day
Leadership Bulloch made a visit to the Capitol on Friday, February 5th! Pictured with the class are Representatives Jan Tankersley, Butch Parrish, Majority Leader Jon Burns and Senator Jack Hill
Representatives Jan Tankersley and Jason Shaw catch up with Augusta Nursing Student, Anne Tanner Murray. Anne Tanner happens to be Rep. Shaw's niece and a member of Rep. Tankersley's church.
Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson and Student Body President Jen Abrams made their way to the Capitol for Georgia Tech Day! Jen was a Capitol intern last year and worked in Representative Tankersley's office.
Georgia 4-H Club members from across the state, pictured with many members of the General Assembly, made their way to Capitol Hill for the Annual 4-H Club Capitol Day on Wednesday, February 3rd.
As a Representative, I have the privilege of appointing up to ten young people to serve as pages to the Georgia House of Representatives. The Page Program provides an opportunity for students to gain knowledge about state government. Last week I had two young ladies from House District 160 that did a wonderful job paging in the House chamber. Thank you to Jaclyn Lee and Holly Smith for a job well done.
Representative Jan Tankersley, Jaclyn Lee and Speaker David Ralston
Representative Jan Tankersley, Holly Smith and Speaker David Ralston
As we make our way through the legislative session, I will continue to update you on all that is happening with your General Assembly. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your Representative. As always, if you need assistance, please feel free to contact me anytime!
Representative of the 160th
Georgia House of Representatives