By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
The fifth week in the Senate pushed us closer to the halfway point of the 2018 Legislative Session, as we are just two legislative days away from the 20 day mark. Before this week, we just thought we were busy. Now we know this session is in full swing. Monday was a huge day for many of our state’s most vulnerable. HB 159, the Adoption Bill, was in the Senate for movement. We have held no short of five committee hearings and six working group meetings on this bill alone. The bill is substantially different from the bill as it originated and as it finally passed the House. And that’s the way this process works. In the end, however, we all agree this bill was meant to help Georgia families solve Georgia’s problem of finding permanent, loving homes for 14,000 children in foster care across our state and it does just that.
One of the compromises we were able to come to with the House concerned the age at which a person in Georgia could adopt. Currently, one must be at least 25 years old, however the House suggested lowering the age to 21. We were able to agree that the adoption age for single adults should remain at 25, but should be lowered to the age of 21 in cases of family member adoptions. Another compromise was reached concerning the revocation period for the surrender of parental rights. Under current law, a birth mother has 10 days to “undo” the surrender of her child. The House wanted to allow a revocation of this 10 day period at any time after 24-hours after the birth (confusing, I know, but think about it as a “double-negative” or “waiver of a waiver”). The Senate suggested the waiver period could not begin until 72-hours after surrender, giving a birth mother at least 3 days to rethink her decision to give up her child. We were able to reach a consensus by scraping the waiver altogether (doing away with the “double negative”), and creating an unwaivable 96 hour period for a birth mother to rethink the surrender of her child.
A fantastic bill I was happy to see pass the Senate this week was Senate Bill 338. Checks and balances are important in every branch of government, but the House and Senate are only in session from January until around March. This makes it difficult to keep tabs on what rules and regulations agencies are implementing in Atlanta the rest of the year. Often times these rules and regulations exceed the scope and desires of legislation they purport to assist. SB 338 checks the power of agencies by strengthening a mechanism for setting aside agency rules or regulations that go too far. I proposed a floor amendment to further strengthen legislative oversight of runaway agency rules and regulations which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
As more legislation is now moving, the number of you reaching out to me is growing daily as well. I appreciate that, and I try my best to respond personally to each of you. Many of you have called me about House legislation, particularly HB 778 concerning CTAE programs. In my brief tenure at the state legislature, I’ve learned one thing – legislation changes on a regular basis up here. A floor amendment, committee substitute or even the insertion of a comma or period can alter a bill in its entirety. For example, last year a constituent called to ask me to vote for a certain house bill. The same constituent called me back 10 days later and asked me to vote against this very same measure! What she was in favor of before was now completely different!
Your calls and emails are valued and we keep a tally of those here. Please just remember what you saw on a particular bill number a week ago may not be on the bill being considered now. Suffice it to say with reasonable certainty what you see in one chamber will likely be very different when it reaches the other. At my last check, 853 bills had been filed in the House and 390 had been filed in the Senate just this session. Few of these will ever reach the Senate floor. Even fewer will pass both chambers. Fewest, if any, will look exactly the same as introduced if and when they reach the Governor’s desk.
Our community also experienced a great loss this week. Telfair County Commissioner Arthur “Skip” Moore passed away unexpectedly Wednesday morning. He was 54 years old. I got to know Commission Moore when I was a county commissioner. I will miss his friendship and our hearts go out to his wife, Virginia and his family.
As always, please let me know if you are headed to the Capitol. I’d love to see you. All of our page positions are now full, but sometimes cancellations happen, so feel free to still call. My office will do our best to help your child experience their government in action.