Now that we're almost three quarters through session, the House is considering more legislation than at any other time this session. We spend longer days at the Capitol, and vote on more legislation.
This past week the House voted on several major pieces of legislation that will have a positive impact on our state.
One of these bills was House Bill 242, or the Juvenile Justice Reform bill. This legislation would substantially revise and modernize provisions relating to Georgia's juvenile proceedings and enact comprehensive juvenile justice reforms. These changes have been discussed by advocacy organizations for years and many were recommended by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which Gov. Nathan Deal asked to study the state's juvenile justice system and formulate ways to improve public safety while decreasing costs.
Among the changes enacted by HB 242 are general definitions of key terms used in juvenile courts and guiding principles that would apply in all juvenile court proceedings.
Additionally, the bill would create a new approach for children who have committed acts that would not be against the law if they were adults, such as skipping school, running away from home or violating curfew.
This bill also revises current law regarding how Georgia courts determine a child's competency in juvenile proceedings.
In addition to the many changes made to Georgia law governing juvenile proceedings in state courts, HB 242 makes some changes to the Department of Juvenile Justice. This legislation should not only save the state money, but it should create an improved system with fewer juveniles re-offending and returning to the justice system.
As a member of the Education Committee, I personally have been involved in committee hearings on the major education bills that have been considered by the House this year.
One of these bills, House Bill 244, passed the House this week and will create uniformity in the way Georgia teachers are evaluated by establishing a single statewide educator evaluation system.
This evaluation system has been piloted in 50 districts across the state and teachers, superintendents, principals and advocates who participated in the pilot program all came together to publicly support the bill.
The evaluation system implemented by HB 244 would become effective no later than the 2014-15 school year, and would apply to teachers, assistant principals and principals.
Creating the evaluation system would ensure all public school teachers and school leaders in Georgia receive the feedback they need to grow and improve in their profession.
The evaluation would recognize the outstanding teachers in the state and identify specific areas that teachers can improve to become outstanding teachers.
Because the evaluations will be used to help educators receive the feedback they need to do the best job possible, the evaluation system would include measures to protect educators' privacy.
House Bill 327 also passed the House this week.
This legislation gives a great deal of flexibility to local systems that receive a score of 80 or greater. These schools will have flexibility on how they spend their money, class sizes and in all other areas not prohibited by federal law.
The schools will receive the flexibility automatically and will not have to request it.
This will allow the State Department of Education to focus on the schools in the state below 80.
These schools can still receive flexibility in a particular area, if they show the flexibility is important for them to improve their performance. However, in these cases the State Department of Education will consider each request on a case-by-case basis.
A working group worked with teachers and administrators all across the state to develop House Bill 327.
Now that this legislation has been approved by the House, it has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
You can learn more about these bills and track their progression through the legislative process by visiting our Web site at www.house.ga.gov.
After session concludes, I will be working with the school administrators in Lumpkin and Dawson to form focus groups made up of educators.
I will meet with these classroom teachers every two months to discuss their concerns and ideas to continue to improve Georgia's educational system.
We will then use what we learn to work with the House Education Committee to study additional changes during the next legislative session.
As a father of three daughters, I know how important our public education system is to the future of our children and our state.
I am proud to represent and to live in an area with outstanding school systems. I am hopeful we can continue to work to bring this high standard of excellence to every child in our state.
I am honored to serve as your representative at the State Capitol.
This Saturday I will not be holding my weekly informational breakfast, because the Republican Convention will take place in each county at the same time.
I will continue the weekly breakfast at 9 a.m. March 16 at the Wagon Wheel in Dahlonega.
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 e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.