In the 10th week of the 2021 legislative session, those of us in the Georgia House of Representatives took action on bills that originated in the Senate. We also were privileged to hear retiring Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton deliver his final State of the Judiciary address.
As a result of the pandemic, criminal and civil jury trials were suspended for most of the last year. This created a backlog within the judicial system, and although the trial suspension was lifted in recent weeks, it could take the courts up to three years to catch up. Georgia's statutory speedy trial deadline was temporarily suspended under the Statewide Judicial Emergency, but Chief Justice Melton urged us to address this issue for the long term.
To that end, the House passed Senate Bill 163, which would allow chief judges of Georgia’s superior court judicial circuits or state courts to continue to suspend statutory speedy trial deadlines until the deadlines can reasonably be met. The bill includes a sunset date of June 20, 2023, but the Chief Justice would have discretion to reinstate speedy trial requirements before that date.
The House last week also passed Senate Bill 88, which offers several innovative solutions meant to strengthen the teacher pipeline for Georgia schools. The bill would:
•allow the Georgia teacher of the year to serve as an advisor and non-voting member of the State Board of Education.
•require local school systems to support a nontraditional teacher certification pathway for veterans to become certified teachers.
•revise the state’s tiered evaluation system for teachers to allow schools to focus their observational resources toward teachers who need more support in the classroom.
•require the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to create innovative programs to promote teacher education programs at Georgia’s historically black colleges and universities.
•direct the commission to provide aspiring teachers with increased coursework in differentiated instruction and reading fundamentals to better prepare them for the classroom.
To further our legislative efforts to help survivors of human trafficking rebuild their lives, the House passed Senate Bill 34. The legislation would allow a survivor to petition for a name change “under seal,” which means the petitions would be processed confidentially and not become a part of public record. This bill would work in conjunction with the House’s recent legislative efforts to restore justice and wellbeing to survivors of human trafficking. SB 34 now is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Among the other Senate bills approved by the House were:
•SB66 to authorize the Georgia Foundation for Public Education to create a nonprofit corporation to accept private donations for grants to public schools and to establish an income tax credit for those donations, replacing the Public Education Innovation Foundation as of Dec. 31.
•SB 140 to authorize the state to dedicate a privately funded monument in honor of former Gov. Zell Miller at the State Capitol.
•And SB 210 to allow and to regulate the use of digital license plates for motor vehicles.
We are now in the final days of the legislative session. The Senate is expected to pass its version of the FY2022 budget this week. The conference committee then will hammer out the final bill for passage by each chamber before the session ends March 31.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent District 116. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me at 404-463-2245 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. May God bless you and your family, this wonderful county, our great state, and our nation.