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Adoption bill a major victory for foster children

By Randy Nix
Nix represents Troup Co. in the Georgia House of Representatives.

The Georgia General Assembly neared the halfway mark for the session, having completed 18 of the 40 legislative days that are established by law. The House and Senate reached a compromise on the Adoption Bill, HB 159, and it’s now on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature. The final legislation that passed updates an antiquated code that hasn’t been reviewed for decades and is the culmination of both legislative bodies working together for good of Georgia families.

Some of the highlights include lowering the age to 21 in the case of a relative adopting a family member and decreasing the number of days a birth mother has to revoke placement of the child in adoption from 10 days to four. The Senate and House also suggest a joint study committee to analyze a birth mother’s living expenses when paid through private attorney adoptions. State Representative Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), who authored HB 159, spent nearly two-and-a-half years refining the bill, and its final passage on Monday was a major victory for all of Georgia’s current and future foster care children, birth mothers and adoptive parents. I am proud to see such a significant and meaningful measure pass the General Assembly.

After thorough consideration by the House Appropriations Committee and subcommittees, House Appropriations Chairman Terry England (R-Auburn) presented HB 683, the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget, on the House floor on Tuesday, Feb. 6. Following much discussion on the bill, the measure passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 167-8, and I will discuss some of the highlights of the amended 2018 budget.

The AFY 2018 budget recognizes $306.7 million in additional state revenue, which is 1.2 percent more than the initial FY 2018 budget, and brings the total AFY 2018 budget to $25.3 billion. The amended version of the 2018 budget focuses this new revenue on required growth in education, healthcare and human services, and also provides targeted funding for key initiatives recommended by the House Rural Development Council (RDC) designed to spur development and meet needs in rural communities throughout the state.  The House carefully crafted this year’s amended budget to address the diverse and sometimes unpredictable needs of our state and its citizens, and HB 683 is now being reviewed by our counterparts in the Senate. With the passage of the “small budget,” our House Appropriations subcommittees have now shifted their focus to the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.  I will keep you updated as the process continues, but if you would like to visit the House Budget and Research Office website please go to http://www.house.ga.gov/budget.

In an effort to address Georgia’s current opioid crisis, the House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 701 on Monday, Feb. 5. HB 701 would update Georgia law by allowing our state to test candidates for all forms of opioids during state employment drug testing but would not affect those with valid and legal opioid prescriptions. The federal government recently added opioids to federal drug testing laws, and HB 701 would modify state law to reflect this national change. According to the Substance Abuse Research Alliance, Georgia is ranked 11th in the nation in opioid overdoses and 68 percent of Georgia’s 1,307 drug overdoses in 2015 were caused by opioids and heroin. The General Assembly has worked diligently in recent years to pass measures to tackle Georgia’s devastating opioid crisis, and HB 701 is another piece of legislation aimed at fighting our state’s opioid epidemic.

As the legislative session continues, more legislation will be considered that could impact our community, so I will keep you informed throughout the process. Please continue to keep in touch with me regarding your questions and concerns at (404) 656-5146 or by email at randy.nix@house.ga.gov.