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Education is a top priority
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The House reconvened on Feb. 1 to start our fourth week of the 2016 legislative session. With a month of session behind us, we are hard at work in the General Assembly passing meaningful legislation that will have a positive impact on all Georgians.

Numerous bills have been approved and passed out of their respective committees and many made their way to the House floor this week for a vote before the entire House of Representatives.

It is no secret that education is one of the General Assembly's top legislative priorities: Therefore, we unanimously passed House Bill 801 to encourage students to take college courses in certain areas.

HB 801 would change the GPA weighting system for HOPE Scholarship recipients who take certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses.

HB 801 would direct the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to select bachelor-level STEM courses to receive extra weight when calculating the HOPE scholarship GPA while a student attends college.

Under HB 801, a student completing a class selected for extra weight would receive .5 added to his or her grade when calculating the HOPE scholarship GPA.

To qualify for additional grade weighting, identified core and major courses must be determined to be academically rigorous and lead to jobs in high demand STEM fields. During his State of the State address, Gov. Nathan Deal targeted 11 areas, all in STEM related fields, under the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grants as part of his continued plan to strengthen Georgia's workforce and address the job skills gap.

By providing additional GPA weight to courses where our state sees the most need, we are making strides to bridge the skills gap in Georgia without risking the scholastic fulfillment of our students.

A vital workforce is essential to a thriving economy; therefore, enacting legislation that will reinforce our state's business climate and arm our citizens with the tools they need to succeed in Georgia's job market is crucial.

Much like HB 801, we also passed House Bill 402 this week, which is another measure that seeks to close the skills gap in Georgia.

HB 402 passed our body unanimously and is an effort to increase business partnerships and participation with local public school systems for K-12 work based learning programs.

Work based learning programs allows students age 16 and older to participate in a structured learning environment at an employer's job site for a portion of the school day, while also receiving academic credit.

Modeled after Georgia's drug-free workplace program, HB 402 would offer businesses that participate in the program a discount of up to five percent on their worker's compensation insurance premiums as an incentive to encourage participation. It is important to instill a strong work ethic in our teens, and Georgia's work based learning program is an excellent way to teach students the true value and responsibility of employment.

By encouraging these partnerships through the passage of HB 402, we are not only proving businesses with greater program incentive, but we are also providing students with the invaluable, hands-on experience in the workplace at a young age.

This week I also successfully presented my first bill of the session on the House floor. House Bill 691 is legislation I have been working on for over nine months with the Municipal Court Judges Council and the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).

A Municipal Court Judge is the only judge in our state that works for a branch of government other than the judicial branch.

Up until now they had little protection and could be terminated without cause. The introduced legislation sets up a process for a term to be established by the judge and the city that will be for a minimum of one year.

During this term the judge can only be removed from office for cause. This allows the judge to truly serve in a fair and impartial way.

After many months of work, both the GMA and the Municipal Court Judges Council endorsed House Bill 691. As a result, it received overwhelming support from my colleagues and is now in the Senate.

This Saturday we will be meeting at Ryan's in Dawsonville at 9 a.m. for our weekly informational breakfast. We had a great turnout at our breakfast this past Saturday, and I encourage you to come join us to learn what is occurring at session and to discuss your thoughts and concerns.

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.