The fifth week in the Senate pushed us closer to the halfway point of the 2018 Legislative Session, as we are just two legislative days away from day 20. The saying “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” is something effective legislators must bear in mind, and it was never more true than this week. On Monday, after months of study, hard work, debate and compromise we advanced legislation to update and streamline Georgia’s dated adoption law and to allow parents to assign a proxy caregiver for their children in the event of their temporary absence.
This bill was carried over from the 2017 session, where it was tabled on Day 40 in the Senate. The Senate established a study committee to work on it over the balance of 2017, and the study committe suggested numerous improvements to the legislation to make the process easier for families wanting to adopt, thereby reducing the number of Georgia children in foster care, while at the same time ensuring the appropriateness, safety and proper oversight of adoptions. One of the compromises we were able to come to with the House was the age at which a person in Georgia can adopt. The age currently stands at 25, however the House suggested lowering the age to 21. We were able to agree that the adoption age for single adults should remain at 25, but should be lowered to the age of 21 in the case of relative adoptions. Another compromise was made in regard to the revocation time period for the surrender of parental rights. Under current law, a mother has 10 days to revoke or “undo” the adoption of her child. The House wanted to allow a birth mother to waive this 10 day waiting period and make the adoption final 24 hours after the birth. The Senate felt that the birth mother should take more time before being allowed to waive her 10 day revocation period. The two bodies compromised to allow for the mother to waive the 10 day waiting period 48 hours after giving birth. The Senate compromised with the Governor’s office too, in agreeing to require parents to notify the local probate court when giving a power of attorney for the care of their children to a proxy caregiver.
This historic pro-life legislation is a huge win for Georgia’s foster care children, children of unwanted pregnancies, adoptive parents, parents in crisis and parents called up for military service. I’m very proud of the Senate’s thoughtful and passionate leadership, especially Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, on this important issue as we worked with the House and the Governor’s office in an honest and productive manner to address the concerns of all parties involved. Although the final version of HB 159 may not be perfect, the overwhelming majority of us believe it is very good, and I am so pleased that we have sent it to the Governor for his signature.
This week, one of our main focuses was health care in Georgia. The first bill, SB 118, would require insurers to cover therapeutic service for children under the age of 12 who have Autism Spectrum Disorders. This bill will help the many children in Georgia who have autism get the early intervention services they need to live happy, healthy lives. In addition, we passed Senate Bill 352, which helps address the current opioid epidemic by creating a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery and an Executive Director of Substance Abuse, Addiction and Related Disorders position. The bill would also create a partnership with substance abuse prevention providers across the state to prohibit patient brokering. Opioid addiction is something we are seeing become more widespread in middle Georgia and I know that this bill and the other legislation we passed this week will help us start to combat this epidemic.
Of special significance to our district, House Bill 38 was passed in the Senate on Tuesday, which would allow veterans who have been honorably discharged to receive a veterans designation on his or her driver’s license and receive a license free-of-charge. Current law only provides this benefit to combat veterans, and we wanted to expand it to all the men and women in Georgia who have served in our military admirably as a small gesture of our deep and abiding gratitude.
With just two days before the halfway point of the 2018 Legislative Session, you can be sure that the pace of legislature will continue to pick up. I look forward to updating you on the progress of bills, especially the amended FY 2018 budget, which we expect to hear in the Senate in the coming weeks. Please let me know if there are any questions or concerns you have, my door is always open.
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