House District 82 Newsletter

3.9.2011
Staff

In This Issue:

My First Town Hall Meeting

Legislative Update

-My First Bill
-HOPE Update
-Illegal Immigration
-HOPE Pre-K
-Human Trafficking

Community Announcements

My First Town Hall Meeting

I held my first town hall meeting last week with State Senator Steve Henson. Despite the bad weather, we had a terrific turnout and a great event. The Tucker Patch covered the meeting - read the story HERE.

Legislative Update

My First Bill—Helping Babies

House Bill 431

I introduced a bill to outlaw the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in products to which infants are exposed. I decided to author this legislation after hearing from a number of concerned constituents on this issue and researching it further.

BPA is an industrial chemical used in many consumer products, including clear plastic containers, metal can linings, and dental sealants, and reusable water bottles. The accumulating scientific evidence regarding BPA suggests that it can mimic or block hormones and disrupt the body's normal functions. It is of particular concern for babies, children, and pregnant women. The Food and Drug Administration is concerned about BPA and supports actions to stop the production of BPA in baby bottles and infant feeding cups.

Currently there are BPA bans in place in eight states, a growing number of US localities, as well as Canada, the European Union, and even China. Bills similar to mine are now being considered by a number of state legislatures.

My bill would ban the manufacture, sale or distribution in Georgia of infant formula or baby food stored in plastic containers that contain BPA. The bill has been assigned to the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee and I'll keep you updated on its progress.

HOPE Update

On Tuesday, March 1st, the House voted on HB 326, the HOPE reform bill. HOPE has a severe budget shortfall and reforms are needed to ensure that the eighteen year-old scholarship program remains viable. HB 326 was written by the Governor and made the following changes:

* Full tuition scholarships (to be known as Zell Miller Scholarships) will be available for
those students graduating high school with a 3.3 GPA or higher and at least a 1200
score on the SAT or a composite on the ACT of 26.

* Students who graduate with a 3.0 and above will receive 90% of full tuition. This rate is
subject to change as lottery revenues and tuition rates fluctuate.

* Zell Miller scholars would be required to maintain a 3.3 GPA throughout college. HOPE
scholars would be required to maintain a 3.0 GPA in order to continue receiving the
scholarship.
o If students fall below the requisite GPA, they will have only one chance to regain it.

* HOPE will no longer pay for books, fees, or remedial courses (this does not apply to
technical schools; see below).

HB 326 was pushed through the House very quickly, but it included some bipartisan discussion and input. These included:

* HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarships will cover the costs of remedial classes at technical
colleges (only).

* Proprietary schools will still receive access to the Tuition Equalization Grant.

* The bill directs $20 million to the Georgia One Percent Student Loan Program to provide
students with low interest loans to bridge the financial gap left by the HOPE reforms. A
year of these loans will be forgiven for every year a certified graduate spends teaching in
a public K-12 school in the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

I voted in support of HB 326 because I appreciated the bipartisan efforts involved in creating the legislation even though I recognized the legislation was not perfect. I hoped to see greater progress made in the Senate this past week, but with Tuesday's vote in that chamber we are still not where we need to be to ensure educational success for Georgia students.

As the legislation moves back to the House for a final vote, I would like to see a number of changes. These include:

* Grandfather in existing HOPE scholars.

* Expand coverage to military spouses who may need additional time to finish their studies
because of travel related to military assignments (service members are covered, and I
believe spouses should be too).

I welcome feedback from constituents concerning HOPE.


Illegal Immigration

House Bill 87

Last Thursday, March 3rd, the Georgia House of Representatives passed HB 87. The bill attempts to address illegal immigration by, among other things:

* Assigning federal immigration duties to state and local law enforcement (an unfunded mandate)

* Allowing citizens to file civil actions against any official, agency, or political subdivision of the state of Georgia for failure to enforce provisions of the law AND allow those citizens to have the taxpayers pay for their attorneys' fees if they win.

* Authorizing law enforcement officers to check a person's immigration status when there is probable cause to believe that a person committed a criminal offense. This includes traffic offenses so "probable cause" could be an improper lane change.

I spoke against and voted against HB 87. You can view my remarks from the House floor HERE.

HOPE Pre-K

The initial HOPE Pre-K proposal from the Governor included a reduction of the school day from 6 ½ to 4 hours, increased class size and a reduction of the number of slots.

I was one of a number of legislators who voiced concern about the cuts. Yesterday Gov. Deal agreed to amend his proposal to restore a 6 ½ hour pre-K day for four year olds. The measure will reduce the number of school days from 180 to 160 and change class size from 20 to 22, with a maximum of 11 to 1 ratio. The proposal would increase by 2,000 the number of pre-K slots.

Similar to the HOPE scholarship, the pre-K grant is awarded through lottery-funded slots, applied for by parents.

Human Trafficking

House Bill 200

Human trafficking is actually a very serious problem throughout Georgia, with Atlanta serving as a hub for the atrocious practice. It is estimated that approximately 375 young girls are trafficked each month in Georgia. Preventing this vicious crime must be a top priority for our state and its policymakers.

Last Wednesday, HB 200 overwhelmingly passed through the House with my full support. The bill increases penalties for perpetrators and augments victims' rights and protections by updating existing Georgia laws. You can read the full bill HERE.

Community Announcements


NCA Electronic Recycling Event

Along with the Northlake Community Alliance, Simon Northlake Mall, and Electronic Recycling Services, I will be sponsoring the Free Electronic Recycling Event on March 19th at Northlake Mall. Bring all of your old TV's, VCR's, cell phones, telephones, PC's, printers, microwave ovens, and any other electronic devices and dry rechargeable batteries to be recycled at the event. Help us to be "Green" and keep these toxic items out of our landfills!

The event is free (except for a $10 lead disposal fee for TV's) and will take place at the Northlake Mall parking lot, behind Macy's on Saturday, March 19, 2011 from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm

Tax deductible donations will be gratefully accepted to benefit the community work of NCA and Simon Youth Foundation.



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