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Under the Gold Dome…Rep. Noel Williams

Thursday, February 4, officially brought to a close legislative day twelve of our 40-day session. The pace has picked up tremendously as more and more bills made their way through the committee process. Multiple packages have been presented to address areas of concern such as economic development, education, healthcare, adoption and foster care. Below is a quick highlight of what we tackled under the Gold Dome.

Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act

As we continue to search for ways to ensure our economy remains healthy and makes a

full recovery following COVID-19, the ongoing discussion on the expansion of Georgia law in regard to the allowance of betting and lawful wagering continues.  House Bill 86, also known as the “Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act,” successfully passed out of House Economic Development and Tourism Committee last week.  If passed, HB 86 would allow the Georgia Lottery Corporation to regulate sports wagering. Provisions of the bill include the following:

Allows those of age (21 years) to place bets on specific professional and Olympic sporting events through an interactive sports wagering platform.

  • Prohibits the use of credit cards, as well as prohibiting league and team insider betting.
  • Provides resources for individuals with gambling problems or addictions, enhance fan engagement and strengthen partnerships with Georgia sports teams.
  • Estimates show that sports betting could generate up to $433 million in gross revenue. Further, taxable revenue could add $43 million into the HOPE Scholarship fund. As stadiums currently remain empty, legalized sports betting may be an option to keep our professional sports industries and their employees afloat.

Teacher Pipeline Education Package

Last week, Gov. Kemp unveiled his “teacher pipeline” legislative package to recruit, prepare, mentor and retain the best teachers for our classrooms.  Sadly, our state has experienced teacher shortages. In order to address this ongoing issue, the “teacher pipeline” proposal would provide for the following:

  • Eases certification requirements for veterans to become teachers.
  • Allows veterans first priority when enrolling for teacher preparation programs.
  • Increases minority teachers in classrooms by partnering with historically black colleges and universities to recruit minority educators.
  • Increases University level preparation with more reading-based instruction.
  • Prioritizes mentorship in the classroom as opposed to the current system which focuses on reviews.

More bills associated with this legislative package are expected to be filed in the near future. Be on the lookout for further updates regarding this initiative.

Adoption & Foster Care Update

Efforts to continue our work towards reforming the adoption and foster care systems in Georgia came in the form of multiple bills recently introduced within the Georgia General Assembly.

House Bill 114 would increase the state’s tax credit for families that adopt from foster care from $2,000 to $6,000 per year for five years.

House Bill 154 will make it easier for close relatives to adopt children out of foster care by lowering the age an individual may adopt from 25 to 21.

Senate Bill 28 would increase training and resources for case workers thus allowing our juvenile court system to better determine the safety needs of children, including those in foster care. Further, SB 28 would ensure that all reliable information is made available to the court in order to make decisions that are in a child’s best interest.

Medical Manufacturing Act

Over the last year, the pandemic, for better or worse has brought to our attention specific areas where our state needs policy improvement. Production of medical supplies is one of these areas. In response to this, leadership has brought forward, the “Georgia Made Medical Manufacturing Act.” This initiative seeks to incentivize the production of medicine and medical devices within our state to limit dependency on other states or foreign countries for critical supplies. To ensure our state is well prepared, House Bill 304 also works to incentivize job creation in this area through availed tax credits.

COVID-19 Update

Our attempts to combat COVID-19 remain at the forefront as we closely monitor the state’s high demand for vaccines. As of last week, Georgia has shipped all its Moderna allocations and administered nearly 70 percent of the state’s current vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna). To date, one million Georgians have received the vaccination and more than 500,000, 65 and older, have received their first dose.

In order to ensure Georgians, receive timely and needed vaccinations, Gov. Kemp recently signed an executive order to allow more medically trained professionals to safely administer the COVID-19 vaccine. For information regarding the 1A+ phase of Georgia’s vaccine distribution and other important COVID-19 facts, please visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.

As always, I encourage you to follow our work within the General Assembly. I also encourage you to reach out with questions or concerns regarding legislation. Your input is especially important, as we work to ensure our district values are accurately represented.  Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving as your voice under the Gold Dome as it is a pleasure to do so.