Public Policy for the People: 4 April 2017


public policy for the people enews

Volume 3, Issue 8   •   2017 Wrapup Edition   •   4 April 2017

Catch our final Public Policy Call of the year, this Thursday at noon!
1-888-355-1249, Code: 232357

Ponders by Phillip:

Phillip Modesitt

Since the legislative session ended yesterday, there are a few laws that I would like to talk about. First, there is HB343, which gets rid of the phrase "mental retardation" and replaces it with "intellectual disability." This is important to me because mental retardation can have a very negative meaning surrounding it. Intellectual disability is a more modern label.

Next I would like to talk about SB 201, the Family Care Act. This allows employees to use up to five days of earned sick leave in order to care for immediate family members. For example, if someone's spouse got sick, they would be able to get paid time off to take care of them.

Lastly I would absolutely like to talk about the Inclusive Post-Secondary Education funding. This will allow more schools in Georgia to have Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Programs like the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth here at Kennesaw State University. It will also allow existing programs to be improved.

– Phillip James Modesitt


The Georgia Advocates Group (GAG) Monthly Call

  • A cross disability coalition of advocates from across the state, joining together to exchange information and collaborate on various projects.
  • Next Call: April 19 at 1pm 641-715-3680 access code: 761894#
  • Contact: Charlie Miller at

The Georgia Accessible Transportation Coalition

  • Join with advocates from the across the state to discuss the need for more accessible transportation.
  • April 13, 10am to noon, at the Georgia Advocacy Office located at 1 West Court Square #625, Decatur, GA 30030.
  • Register online at
  • Contact: Drew Walker at

GNETS Public Input

The Georgia Department of Education is in the preliminary stages of drafting a new state rule governing the GNETS program and services, and they want to hear from Georgia families.

The DOE is hosting four regional feedback meetings to get your input on the proposed draft rule regarding how Georgia provides supports for behavioral-related disabilities and the current GNETS programs.

GNETS feedback meeting locations:


Meeting time

Buford City

April 12

3pm - 6pm


April 13

3pm - 6pm


April 19

3pm - 6pm


June 15


At these meetings, speakers will have 3 minutes to share their thoughts on the draft of the new proposed rule. If you cannot attend any of these meetings and want to provide public feedback, you can email your comments to and

The Georgia Advocacy Office & Parent 2 Parent of GA would like to support families and students with disabilities as you develop your speaking points, and invite you to join us in one of our several informational conference calls, where we will discuss the draft proposed rule and upcoming feedback meetings.

If you are interested in joining us for one of these conference calls, please follow the link below  to the session you would like to participate in. We will send the call-in information prior to the event.

Contact Leslie Lipson of the Georgia Advocacy Office with any questions about the prep sessions. or (404) 885-1234.

Looking Back

40 days has come and gone. The Georgia General Assembly closed up shop a little before 1am last Thursday, making Sine Die officially occurring on March 31st. Legislators will be returning home now to their various communities across Georgia, taking off their government hats and becoming our neighbors once again.

Overall it was a good session, due in large part to your hard work. We thank each and every one of you who made a phone call, wrote a letter, or showed up in person at an Advocacy Day. Your constant advocacy helped us achieve a lot. Still, we have a lot of work to do. We had some wins and some losses. GCDD is already starting to strategize for how we can be more successful next year. We will need your help, so please do stay tuned for advocacy opportunities throughout the off-season. This is a great time to connect with your legislators out in the community as well.

The Budget

The GA General Assembly did its one required job this year when they passed the FY 2018 Budget. Each chamber passed their own version and then came together in Conference Committee to compromise and produce the one version that now sits on Governor Nathan Deal's desk. If you would like to read more about each chambers version, click here.

The important thing to remember is that the Governor has 40 days to act on the budget. He has 3 options:

  • Sign the Budget - it becomes law
  • Don't sign the budget - it still becomes law
  • Line Item Veto -Governor can veto a specific line of the budget without vetoing the whole budget. This makes him extra powerful because anything in the budget is open to the Governor's veto, which would make that line null and void.

We had two budget asks this year.

1. DD Waivers

There was no increase in DD waiver funding this year, beyond that which is required by the DOJ Extension Agreement with DBHDD. This is a problem because the 250 spots added in the FY 18 Budget per the DOJ Extension Agreement will go mostly to transitioning people out of Gracewood State Hospital. While this is important, it will do little to reduce the 8,698 Georgians waiting for a DD waiver in GA.

We were able to get some budget language added, instructing DBHDD to:

57.15 The department shall develop and report to the Georgia General Assembly on a multi-year plan to reduce and eliminate the waiting list for NOW and COMP waivers with yearly outcome measures by December 31, 2017.

We hope to work with DBHDD as they make their multi-year plan to reduce and eliminate the waiting list.


We advocated for $300,000 in new IPSE funding, to allow for scholarships to students and sustainability. We are very excited to say that we got an increase of $325,000 this year.

Of note, traditionally IPSE funding has been funneled through GCDD. This year, it was moved to GVRA (the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency), which is hoping to utilize their Federal 4 to 1 match. So in total GVRA will have $500,000 in state funds to use for IPSE programs, which could potentially draw down up to an additional $2 million.

We are excited to see all the good this additional funding will do for students across the state.

Non-Budget Asks. AKA Bills.

Unlike with the Budget where the Governor has a line item veto power, with Bills the Governor must either:

  • Veto the whole bill - does not become law
  • Sign the bill - becomes law
  • Don't sign the bill - becomes law

SB 201: The Family Care Act

With a few modifications, the Family Care Act has passed! It is now waiting for the governor's signature. We owe Senator Butch Miller a great deal of thanks for all his hard work. Should you see him, or simply want to reach out, please let him know how grateful Georgians with disabilities are for his hard work. Assuming Governor Deal signs the bill, Georgians who work 30 hours a week or more, at a company that employees over 25 people and does not offer its employees a stock ownership plan, will be able to use up to five days of earned sick leave to care for a family member.

Important note, there is a sunset provision. That means that unless the Family Care Act is extended, it will be repealed July 1, 2020.

Contact Cindia Cameron of the GA Job Family Collaborative at with any questions.

HB 343: The offensive MR word removed

We are excited to say that HB 343, which updates GA code to replace the offensive MR word with Intellectual Disability, passed this session. We thank Representatives Scott Hilton and David Dreyer, as well as Stacey Ramirez of The Arc GA for all their hard work.

Contact Stacey Ramirez of The Arc GA with any questions at

Looking Ahead

Employment First 

We at GCDD remain firm in the belief that everyone, regardless of their ability, can work with the right supports, should they so choose. GCDD looks forward to engaging with partners such as DBHDD and GVRA to ensure a time comes, soon, when GA commits to making employment, in an integrated setting, with pay at or above minimum wage for everyone a top priority.

Children's Freedom Initiative 

Many may not know, but there are still children with developmental disabilities under the age of 22 living in institutional settings here in GA. The Children's Freedom Initiative remains committed to the belief that all children should have a permanent loving home.

To learn more or find out how you can get involved, please contact Joe Sarra of the Georgia Advocacy Office at

SB 185: Changing the Standard to Prove Intellectual Disabilities

SB 185 did not make Crossover Day. While the bill is dead until next year, we are incredibly optimistic about SB 185's prospects moving forward. We thank Senator Elena Parent for all her hard work on this legislation. Despite not making Crossover Day, SB 185 did have a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, Sub Committee B. While no vote was taken, this was an excellent opportunity for advocates to provide testimony on the issue and for the Senators present to ask questions and get more information on the issue. We have made incredible progress on this issue this year intend to spend the off-season preparing for the 2018 session!

To learn more, contact Caitlin Childs of the P.A.P.E Coalition at


We continue to support the work of Drew Walker, of the American Wheelchair Society, to create the Georgia Accessible Transportation Coalition to advocate for accessible transportation across the state.

To learn more, or how you can get involved, contact Drew Walker at See above in the events section for how you can attend a GA Accessible Transportation Coalition Meeting.

Elder and Disabled Abuser Registry

We continue to support the work of our partner, the Georgia Council on Aging (CO-AGE), in working with Chairman Cooper, the Department of Community Health, and Georgia Bureau of Investigation, to create a registry where employers and families can perform checks on all personal care aides. This would expand the current registry, which only includes Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs).

To learn more, contact Kathy Floyd of the Georgia Council on Aging at

Other Bills of Interest awaiting Governor's signature:

SB 16: Expanding those who can use low THC Oil to include Alzheimer's disease, AIDS, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy, Tourette's syndrome, and those in hospice care. It also allows people from out of state, with a registration card issued by another state that allows the same possession of low THC oil as Georgia, to use the card when in GA for less than 45 days. (Ben Watson)

SB 70: Reauthorizes the collection of the Hospital Provider Fee until 2020. It is a fee based on a percentage of patient revenue and is used to fund GA's Medicaid program. (Butch Miller)

SB 149: Deals with School Resource Officer training and requirements, notably requiring school resource officers to be trained in interacting with students with mental health labels. (Emanuel Jones)

SB 206: Requires health plans to provide coverage of hearing aids for children, $3,000 per ear, every 48 months. Certain exceptions apply. (P.K. Martin)

HB 221: Updates GA's power of attorney statute to allow for protections for individuals who grant the power of attorney while also giving clarification for responsible caregivers and financial institutions. (Chuck Efstration)

HB 241: Cove's Law, this adds Krabbe disease to the list of metabolic and genetic conditions for which newborn screenings may be conducted. (Lee Hawkins)

HB 425: Clarifies that parents can, without penalty, opt their child out of standardized testing in schools, as well as choose for their child to use paper and pencil, rather than a computer, when testing. (Joyce Chandler)

HB 486: Allows for the DBHDD and DCH to select and approve a training curriculum for instructing Proxy Caregivers in medicine administration. Previously only medical professionals could provide the training, but now providers may train with the curriculum and not have to find a medical professional. (Tommy Benton)

HB 154: Allows dental hygienists working for a dentist to provide teeth cleanings within safety net settings such as schools, hospitals, clinics, federally qualified health centers, volunteer community health settings, senior centers, and family violence shelters. (Sharon Cooper

Tags: GCDD, Advocacy, public policy