Legislative update: Crossover day has passed

Published 11:03 am Tuesday, March 7, 2017

This was a pivotal week at the State Capitol, having reached our 28th legislative day that is commonly referred to as “Crossover Day.” As I have mentioned in past reports on “Crossover Day,” the bills that passed the House now “cross over” to the Senate for their consideration and reciprocally, Senate bills that have passed “cross over” to the House for our deliberation. Once a bill passes both chambers it goes to Governor Deal for his signature to become law. I will outline several bills that passed the House that you may find of interest.

This session, my colleagues and I have focused a great deal of our attention to supporting our state’s rural hospitals and health care needs, and this week we demonstrated our support for these areas by overwhelmingly passing legislation that would expand the current service cancelable loan program for physicians and practitioners in underserved areas. House Bill 427 would expand the program by making loans available to dentists, physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses who have completed their medical or health care education and would allow those loans to be repaid by those health care practitioners agreeing to provide health care services in rural areas. This legislation would address the shortage of physicians and other health care practitioners in underserved rural Georgia and reflects a statewide push to solve this issue, as the bill’s intent is to attract quality providers to areas in dire need of medical assistance.

The General Assembly has proven its commitment to improving educational opportunities for Georgia’s students year after year through wide-ranging public policy. House Bill 338 passed the House this week and seeks to improve Georgia’s struggling and lowest performing public schools. HB 338 would create an alternative support and assistance system that falls under the State Board of Education’s (SBOE) intervention power and is charged with turning around our lowest performing schools. The turnaround system would be led by a Chief Turnaround Officer (CTO) who would be appointed by the SBOE and would be a Department of Education employee with a minimum of 10 years of experience in K-12 education and experience in a principal position or higher in a public school system for at least three years. The CTO would manage and oversee the turnaround schools and recommend turnaround coaches, or individuals experienced in improving failing schools. These individuals will assist in creating initiatives to address and work towards solutions to community conditions, including poverty, wellness, transportation and adult educational opportunities, which contribute to poor performance. Upon identification, the CTO would extend an offer to the affected school systems to enter into an intervention contract. Should the school choose to enter the contract, it removes them from the SBOE’s current intervention process, and if the school refuses the contract, the school would remain in the current intervention process. Additionally, this bill would expand the SBOE’s ability to remove local boards of education and would create a Joint Study Committee on the Establishment of a State Accreditation Process and a Joint Study Committee on the Establishment of a Leadership Academy. This legislation will greatly benefit our students attending underperforming public schools across our state and also allow us to understand the root of the issues plaguing so many of our young learners.  I look forward to seeing the long-term positive effects of this legislation.

The final 12 days of the session will be challenging as we consider Senate bills and they consider House bills.  If either body changes even one word in a bill, it must go back to the originating chamber to be approved.  For a bill to go to the Governor’s desk, it must pass both chambers in the exact form.  In many instances, conference committees must be appointed to work out differences.

I am so grateful that you place your trust in me and allow me to represent you in the State House. As the session continues, please know that I am interested in your thoughts and concerns. I can be reached at 404-656-5146 or by email at randy.nix@house.ga.gov.