“We have a lot of good assisted living
facilities in our state. But as always, it seems that the bad guys come along
and they put a spoiler for the good people,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep.
Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta.
The bill passed unanimously out of the
House Health and Human Services Committee, which Cooper chairs, amid concerns
over new rules for training and the costs of extra staffing.
Specifically, Cooper’s bill would require
at least one direct-care staff member for every 15 senior residents during
waking hours, and one for every 20 residents at night.
It would also require a licensed or
registered professional nurse to be on-site at assisted living facilities for a
certain amount of time each week and require all staff to undergo training in
elderly and disabled-adult care.
The bill also includes a slate of rules
to tighten staffing standards and training for memory care centers, which provide
services for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive conditions.
Some lawmakers on the House committee
questioned Tuesday why these types of rules were not already in state law and
whether the Department of Community Health, which oversees senior-care
facilities, needs more funding to better enforce safety and health standards.
“This seems like it should have been
happening a long time ago,” said Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, D-Snellville.
Cooper traced issues with the facilities
in part to the state’s shortage of licensed nurses and the unpredictable impact
on facilities as Georgia’s senior population continues growing.
She also said Gov. Brian Kemp has
committed to adding certification courses for assistant nurse practitioners to
the state-funded HOPE grant program, which covers tuition costs.
“This is a big plus,” Cooper said about
the grant addition.
Still, some lawmakers wondered if the new
staffing requirements would create financial issues for care facilities.
Rep. John LaHood, R-Valdosta, who owns
and operates several senior-living facilities and is a co-sponsor of the bill,
said residents would likely have to foot a bit more of the bill if expenses go
“This will absolutely have to be passed
on to the consumer,” LaHood said. “We were mindful of that and tried to tread
Beyond staffing changes, Cooper’s bill
would require a 60-day advance written notice of impending bankruptcy
proceedings or property evictions, and a 14-day notice prior to ownership
changes that could disrupt living arrangements.
Also, facility administrators would need
to be newly licensed by a state board under the bill. Fines against facilities
would be set at a minimum of $5,000 if a resident dies or is seriously injured.
ATLANTA – Georgians
are divided over whether the Peach State should observe standard time all year
or daylight saving time.
agree Georgia should stop the “spring forward” and “fall back” switching between
the two that takes place twice a year.
Jimmy Pruett, chairman of the State Planning & Community Affairs Committee
in the state House of Representatives, said Tuesday that’s what he hears from
Ciccarelli, director of Legislative Affairs for the Professional Association of
Georgia Educators, said most of the 85 e-mails she has received from teachers
on the issue expressed similar sentiments.
agree the toggling back and forth is bad for students and disruptive for
families,” Ciccarelli told Pruett’s committee.
held a hearing Tuesday on legislation calling for a nonbinding statewide
advisory referendum asking Georgians whether the state should stick with the
current system of switching between standard and daylight time twice a year,
observe standard time all year or go to daylight time all year.
divided opinions exist among the states. Arizona and Hawaii have switched to
standard time permanently, while states including California, Oregon,
Washington, Utah and Maine have opted to observe daylight time all year, said Scott
Yates, a citizen activist from Denver who founded an organization called
most states that have taken up the issue have opted for daylight time, Yates
said the short-term sleep deprivation that occurs when Georgia and other states
switch from standard to daylight time in the spring is unhealthy.
rhythm advocates for permanent standard time,” he said.
Tosini, a neuroscience professor at Morehouse School of Medicine, cited studies
showing an increase in heart attacks, strokes and auto accidents during the
week after the yearly switch from standard to daylight time.
committee did not vote on the bill Tuesday. Pruett suggested it might be a
better idea for the General Assembly to decide the issue rather than hold an
advisory referendum, based on research into the potential impacts of the options.
is pending in the Georgia Senate sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah.
Cantrell, R-Woodstock, the sponsor of the House bill calling for a nonbinding
referendum, also is pushing legislation urging the federal government to allow
states to observe daylight saving time all year.
ATLANTA – A Lithonia lawmaker wants to explore financing options to help minority businesses have a fair shot at participating in the Georgia’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry.
Rep. Dar’Shun Kendrick, D-Lithonia, is sponsoring
a resolution that would create a study committee of state lawmakers that would
meet later this year to look at financing low-interest loans for medical
cannabis dispensaries owned by minorities, women and military veterans.
If created, the study committee would
also consider “emerging technologies” including blockchain systems – like
electronic bitcoins – that aim to “reduce or eliminate the handling of cash” in
transactions involving medical cannabis.
The House Special Rules Committee did not
vote on the resolution at its hearing Tuesday.
Low amounts of oil containing the active chemical in marijuana, called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, have been legal since 2015 in Georgia for use in patients diagnosed with certain conditions like terminal cancer, severe Alzheimer’s disease, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But qualifying Georgians had no legal way
to acquire THC oil until last year, when state lawmakers created a commission
to oversee research institutes now allowed to produce cannabis and licenses for
businesses to supply it to state-registered patients.
Last year’s House Bill 324, which created
the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, also requires 20% of all
licenses for cannabis-based businesses to go to minority, women and
Kendrick told members of the committee on
Tuesday that her resolution calls for finding “viable options” to meet that 20%
threshold and make sure “those three groups are able to participate in the
market” for medical marijuana.
Some lawmakers on the committee
questioned what financing options could be available besides funding from the
state, which would eat into an already tight budget as spending cuts are taking
Kendrick pointed to Illinois’s recently
enacted cannabis law that established a social equity program for disadvantaged
business entities to qualify for low-interest loans.
She noted the study committee would
explore options beyond traditional bank lending since the federal government
still outlaws marijuana.
“If there are no viable ways, then
obviously they would not come up with anything,” Kendrick said.
The study committee would have until
December 2020 to produce recommendations if state lawmakers approve Kendrick’s
ATLANTA – The Georgia Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would allow the state teacher retirement fund to invest in “alternative investments” that critics view as potentially too risky.
The Teachers Retirement System is among the most major
retirement plans that the state manages, along with the Employees’ Retirement
System covering all other government workers besides teachers.
With thousands of beneficiaries, the teacher pension fund
had a net position of nearly $79 billion through the 2019 fiscal year with
roughly 20% in unfunded liability.
Senate Bill 294 would let the teacher pension fund diversify
by up to 5% in alternative investments, which is same percentage available to
other government-backed retirement in Georgia. Those investments could include
venture capital funds, private equity and distressed debt.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ellis Black, said contracted
investors who manage the teacher pension fund have achieved returns above the
national average in recent years but say they could grow the fund more by
having access to other investments.
He dismissed concerns those investments might imperil the
pension fund, noting the track record of the fund’s investors.
“You’ve got a whole spectrum of risk involved,” said Black,
R-Valdosta. “A wise investor is going to have a balanced portfolio.”
Ellis said two-thirds of the teacher pension fund is
currently invested in equities, with the remainder invested in stocks.
Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, also urged
lawmakers to trust in the investing acumen of the retirement fund’s caretakers.
“They have done better than the national average with what
they’ve done,” Hufstetler said. “They also tell us they can do a better job
with more flexibility.”
But concerns arose from several Democratic senators worried
about the risk teachers could face with more volatile investments in their
Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, said
lawmakers would be unwise to tamper with the pension fund with signs of a
possible economic recession on the horizon. He argued teachers would rather
lawmakers take a conservative approach to managing their retirement money.
“I think the conservative path is to stay the course we
have,” Henson said. “I don’t think now is the time to jump into a riskier
The bill now heads to the Georgia House for consideration.
ATLANTA – The Georgia Senate passed legislation Tuesday aimed at loosening training requirements for volunteer fire departments in the state.
Senate Bill 342 would create a council tasked
with establishing training and certification rules for volunteer fire
departments in Georgia that are separate from those required for full-time
professional fire departments.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously
and heads to the Georgia House for consideration.
Its sponsor, Sen. Burt Jones, said the
measure’s intent is to loosen training requirements for volunteer firefighters.
Currently, volunteers receive the same kind of stringent training that
professional firefighters are required to take.
Jones, R-Jackson, said tougher training may
scare off qualified people interested in volunteering particularly in rural
areas where volunteer firehouses are often critical to a community’s public
“This will alleviate those requirements
and hopefully improve our volunteer network again,” Jones said.
The bill would hand oversight functions
to a new seven-member Georgia Volunteer Fire Service Council tasked with
establishing training programs for volunteer firefighters and certifying anyone
who has received training as a federal firefighter.
It would also prohibit persons with
felony convictions from joining a volunteer firehouse, unless more than five
years have passed since the conviction and the person has both completed a
training program and been recommended by the trainers.
Last week, Senate Public Safety Committee
Chairman John Albers, R-Roswell, said changing the rules for volunteer
firefighters would greatly help rural parts of the state that are stretched
thin in terms of fire-safety resources.
“We all need to remember that the grand
majority of the land mass of this state is covered by rural volunteer
firefighters,” Albers said. “We want to make sure we set them up for success
and we’re doing the right things in order to maintain safety in each one of
ATLANTA – Legislation to reduce the number of standardized tests public school students must take in Georgia advanced in the state Senate on Monday.
Senate Bill 367, which would nix five tests and give the state Department of Education more leeway on how and when to administer two dozen other tests, passed unanimously out of the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
Under the bill, four tests would be
yanked from the roster of exams Georgia high schoolers would have to take.
Another test in social studies would be nixed for fifth graders.
Tests to be eliminated would include
American literature, geometry, physical science and economics.
The bill’s sponsor, Education Committee
Chairman P.K. Martin, said end-of-year testing in Georgia has grown too
“The testing has been too much,” said
Representatives from several teachers’
groups voiced support for the bill at Monday’s committee hearing, including the
Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Georgia Association of
They highlighted how easing test
requirements would help relieve stress on both students and teachers.
“We test our kids to death,” GAE President Charlotte Booker said. “There comes a time when we have to say enough is enough.”
Besides fewer tests, the legislation would require the remaining tests to be given within 25 days of the school year’s end instead of at any time, so that teachers could focus more on teaching class subjects rather than preparing for exams.
Additionally, the changes would allow school districts discontinue a practice comparing Georgia’s testing standards with other states, and let them abstain from “formative assessments” meant to see how much students learned in a school year.
Amid an outpouring of support from local
educators, the bill prompted Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J.
Alvin Wilbanks to call for a deeper probe of how to tighten Georgia’s
standardized testing regimen.
“I don’t know that it will be the best
for education,” Wilbanks said. “But I think it will make a lot of people who
are in education happy.”
The bill has backing from both Gov. Brian
Kemp and Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods.
Kemp has made rolling back some
standardized tests in Georgia a key component of changes he wants to see for
the state’s public schools.