Gold Dome Update 
Highlights from the House 
Week Five
The House kicked off the fifth week of the 2018 legislative session on Monday, February 5th. It was a productive week as we managed to pass several noteworthy bills, including House Bill 683, the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget. Last week’s legislative votes focused on assisting members of our military community, addressing Georgia’s current opioid crisis and child abuse prevention.
2018 Amended Fiscal Year Budget

Last week we successfully passed the AFY 2018 budget, House Bill 683, which totals $25.3 billion. The amended version of the 2018 budget focuses primarily on required growth in education, healthcare and human services, while providing targeted funding for key initiatives recommended by the House Rural Development Council (RDC) to assist in development and meet needs in rural communities across our state.

K-12 Education Allocations
  • $102.1 million for enrollment growth for 7,515 additional students, as well as for charter system grants and State Commission Charter School supplements.
  • $15.5 million to purchase 200 new school buses for school systems statewide.
  • $400,000 to establish a leadership academy for principals across the state.

Higher Education Allocations
  • $10.7 million to meet the needs of 4,720 new Dual Enrollment students.
  • $10 million for the Board of Regents to cover the growing cost of graduate-level medical education at Augusta University.
  • $8.1 million in lottery funds for HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships.
  • $75,000 to plan for the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations, as recommend by the RDC.

Health and Human Service Allocations
  • $1 million to fund an electronic visit verification system for home and community-based services.
  • $1.25 million for child autism crisis services.
  • $15.1 million for out-of-home care growth for the rising number of children in Georgia’s foster care system.
  • $100,000 for a statewide medical fair to recruit employees in rural areas.
  • $75,000 for the Office of Rural Health to identify a postsecondary institution to house the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability.
  • $1 million for more behavioral health crisis stabilization beds.

Critical Need Allocation
  • $10 million to the OneGeorgia Authority to fund beach nourishment projects in communities that were impacted by Hurricane Irma
  • $10 million to replenish Gov. Deal’s emergency fund.
  • $3 million to purchase equipment to prevent and combat wildfires.
  • $25.2 million to lengthen rural runways to accommodate larger aircrafts to increase economic development and investment in the rural communities.
  • $5 million for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to implement the statewide criminal justice e-filing initiative.
  • $500,000 for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to purchase supplies needed to process DNA sexual assault kits.

HB 683 is now under review in the Senate. If approved, the measure will then go to Governor Deal’s desk for his signature.
Military Measures

Our efforts to support and protect Georgia’s military communities continues as we passed two bills last week aimed at supporting our service members. The first came in the form of House Bill 700, followed by the passage of House Bill 699.

If passed into law, HB 700 would expand the National Guard Service Cancelable Loan program. Currently, loans are limited to undergraduate degree programs and public postsecondary technical schools. The expansion would cover the cost of graduate degree programs for National Guard members. To be eligible for the loan, HB 700 stipulates the following:

  • Loans used to repay the cost of tuition in exchange for National Guard service, cannot exceed the cost of tuition.
  • Loan recipients must remain in good standing with the National Guard and serve two consecutive years upon graduation.
  • Interested members must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), utilizing all available funds before seeking the loan.

This program has been instrumental in helping our state recruit and keep National Guard members. Currently, 228 National Guard members participate in the program. Allowing graduate level coursework would add about 50 individuals to the program annually, allowing us to remain competitive with neighboring states that have similar legislation.
To assist veterans, who would like to continue their public service, we also passed House Bill 699. Current law requires all firefighters successfully complete a basic training course within one year of their hire date. However, this bill would allow those who have served the United States armed forces, Coast Guard, Georgia National Guard or Georgia Air National Guard to be exempt from the required firefighter basic training.
Opioid Crisis Legislation

Did you know that Georgia is ranked 11th in the nation in opioid overdoses? House Bill 701 works to address the opioid crisis by modifying current state law to mirror federal law, which requires candidates for federal government employment be tested for opioids. Therefore, all candidates for state employment will also be screened for the drug. Potential employees with valid and legal opioid prescriptions will not be affected. We have worked diligently to pass measures aimed at fighting our state’s opioid crisis and we are confident that bills such as HB 701 will help us defeat this epidemic!
Child Abuse Measure

Last week we also passed House Bill 655, which would require that k-12 state schools post child abuse hotline signs in public areas. Operated by the Division of Family and Children Services and the Department of Human Services, the hotline will be available to students 24/7 as an outlet to report incidents of child abuse or neglect within their homes. Twenty-seven other states have passed similar bills, and if signed into law, we would join these states in the effort stop child abuse nationwide.
Adoption Update

I am pleased to report that House Bill 159, the adoption bill, overwhelmingly passed the Senate last week! The final version of the bill updates Georgia’s adoption laws for the first time in nearly three decades. This legislation expedites the adoption process, helping thousands of our children find forever homes in a timelier manner. This is a major victory for Georgia’s foster care children, birth mothers and adoptive parents. The legislation now heads to Governor Deal for his final approval.
Sponsored Legislation

As our delegation continues to work on behalf of our regional needs, it is always an honor to sponsor legislation benefiting our military communities. These efforts continue through the introduction of House Bill 843.

HB 843 would allow tax credits for businesses in less developed areas, including any county that contains a federal military installation and industrial park that is owned and operated by the government.

Capitol Happenings

Each week we welcome a number of visitors under the Gold Dome. Last week was no exception as we welcomed Georgia Girl Scouts and the Georgia Realtors. Among the visitors we also welcomed citizens from our district, the Robins Regional Youth Leadership group! If you have never made a visit to the Capitol during session, I encourage you to do so. It is a great experience for those interested in learning more about their government at work.

As we move forward with our efforts for simple, smart and effective government, I will continue to send updates. Please reach out to me anytime with questions or concerns. Thank you for allowing me to serve our district interests as we work to better our state and local communities. 

Shaw Blackmon
Representative of Georgia's 146th House District

Representative Shaw Blackmon
District 146
Phone: 404-656-0177
Address: 501-E Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Rep. Shaw Blackmon represents District 146. He currently serves as a Deputy Whip and as a member of Ways & Means, Economic Development and Tourism, Special Rules, Insurance and
Governmental Affairs Committees. Shaw is also a member of the Military Affairs Working Group.