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Weekly legislative update: Adjourning the 2016 session

Randy Nix

State representative

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This week the 2016 legislative session adjourned “sine die,” which is a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing.” But before we adjourned much legislation was deliberated, debated and passed regarding a broad range of topics.

Most importantly, an agreement was met by the House and Senate and the budget was approved. Since this is such an intricate document that affects so many facets of our lives, next week’s update will specifically address this legislation with a focus on components related to our district.

While we prioritized education funding in our state’s budget, we also focused on passing key education policy initiatives this week. One bill that received unanimous passage was Senate Bill 18, which would establish new policies within the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) to allow active duty military or veteran students to obtain academic credit for previous college-level learning attained in the military.

SB 18 would require any institution within TCSG to grant academic credit for college-level learning, training and experience obtained through military service that was substantially related to the coursework credit given by the TCSG.

Another education measure that saw final passage this week was Senate Bill 329, which would expand the Quality Basic Education Act to award high school diplomas to students who complete dual credit coursework. SB 329 would award a high school diploma to students who complete dual-credit coursework and earn certification to work in an “in-need” industry.

The state board would identify these in conjunction with Georgia industry associations, the Georgia Department of Labor, and other state recognized strategic work force industries and initiatives. Together these organizations would determine the technical college certificate of credit programs that meet the requirements for industry and job related skills to ensure that the programs are instructionally rigorous, operate in accordance with industry standards and provide quality training.

Another important education bill given final passage this week was Senate Bill 348. SB 348 would provide increased opportunities for Georgia’s students by simplifying the process to create a college and career academy.

A college and career academy operates as a partnership and collaboration between businesses, high schools and post-secondary institutions to advance work force development and work based learning programs. SB 384 would allow local school systems to create a college and career academy as part of a strategic waivers school system as defined by the state Department of Education, or as a charter school system.

Any established charter or strategic waiver district would have the power to create a college and career academy, as opposed to current law which only allows standalone charter schools to create college and career academies. Finally, SB 348 provides training requirements for the governing boards of college and career academies, including best practices, constitutional and statutory requirements, applicable statues, and rules and regulations.

By giving our local school systems more local control and the ability to set up college and career academies, we would prepare Georgia’s students for college and the workforce earlier in their education experience. I am proud to support the future through these proactive initiatives today.

We also passed several bills addressing important personal and family issues. SB 271 allows legal counsel for a patient who has a mental illness arriving at an emergency facility and the responsibility of the facility to provide written notice to the patient that he or she has the right of such counsel. If the person is not able to afford legal counsel, the court will appoint one.

SB 1 passed overwhelmingly and allows for healthcare insurance coverage for autism patients. The treatment for an autism patient can be very expensive and this is a great victory for families across our state that cares for a child on the autism spectrum.

With regard to families, sometimes there are circumstances that overwhelmingly impede parents’ ability to care for their children. HB 887 provides a statutory method for giving temporary authority to someone who has a significant relationship with the child or children without the expense of a court proceeding or the involvement of the Division of Family and Children Services. This relative or close family friend can then provide the support and care the child or children need and deserve until the difficulty is resolved or until a more permanent solution is reached.

Thank you for supporting me during the legislative session with your calls, emails and helpful input! It has been my honor to represent you at the state capitol, and I look forward to seeing you around our district and continuing to serve you.

Randy Nix is representative for state District 69 in the Georgia House of Representatives.