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Bills relate to child welfare

POSTED: March 5, 2014 4:00 a.m.

Last week consisted of an important few days, as it was the last week for bills to pass out of committees, since "Crossover Day" was on Monday.

Crossover Day is the deadline in which a piece of legislation must pass at least one of the General Assembly's two chambers.

With the date looming, we spent long hours at the State Capitol to ensure important pieces of legislation were either passed on the House floor or ready for a vote on Crossover Day.

Many of the bills passed during this crucial week were related to education and the welfare of our children.

One such bill was House Bill 826, which provides local school systems with more flexibility in handling violations of school safety zones. Under the bill, schools would no longer be forced to expel students who are caught with items like a fishing knife or a baseball bat in their cars on school campuses.

Currently, if a student is found on a school campus with these items in their vehicle, they are automatically suspended and charged with a felony. In these cases under this bill, local school systems will now be able to issue lesser penalties if they have no reason to believe that the student intended to use the object as a weapon.

Granting local school systems the authority to deal with these situations on a case-by-case basis will help prevent a student's record and reputation from being tarnished with an offense that was actually an innocent mistake.

In addition to HB 826, which protects our children from unjust punishment, we also passed House Bill 804 to protect children from the psychological trauma that can result from testifying in court about cases of abuse.

Testifying before a court is an intimidating task, especially for a young child, and having to face an abuser can be even scarier. HB 804 provides young victims with another option. The bill allows them to testify remotely via live broadcast if the court agrees that testifying before the accused would cause serious physical or emotional distress for the victim. Not only will this measure ease discomfort for victims, but it might also eliminate one of the barriers that prevent them from coming forward about their abuse.

We also passed a child welfare measure last week that would help prevent child abuse, but also track cases in the event of abuse.

Last week, we passed House Bill 923 to help ensure that cases of child abuse are treated with the seriousness that they warrant. HB 923 increases public access to government records that relate to deceased children who had at some point come into contact with the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

The bill also updates the Child Fatality Review Board, which is responsible for examining DFCS cases that involve death. It is our hope that this increased transparency and review, combined with an increase in DFCS employees, will ensure Georgia is doing everything possible to protect children from abuse.

This bill was especially important to me, because of the many years I spent in law enforcement working child abuse cases. I also was appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue and served for two years on the Child Fatality Review Board as the law enforcement representative.

In addition to passing legislation last week, we also took some time to recognize a great Georgian and Olympian, Elana Meyers.

Meyers, who hails from Douglasville, recently returned from Sochi, Russia, where she won a silver medal in the women's bobsledding competition at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

This was Meyer's second time at the Winter Olympic Games, after she won bronze in Vancouver in 2010. I am proud that Georgia had such talented representation at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, and it was an honor to meet such a distinguished Georgian.

With less than a month left in the 2014 legislative session, I hope that you will take a few moments to call or visit my office, so that I can know what issues are of most importance to you and your family. I will also be holding my weekly informational breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Wagon Wheel in Dahlonega.

I am honored to serve as your Representative at the State Capitol. I am always available to assist you and encourage you to contact me with questions or your opinions.

Rep. Kevin Tanner can be reached on his cell phone at (678) 776-5059, at the Capitol at (404) 656-0152 or by email at kevin.tanner@house.ga.gov.

 

 

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