News from Rep. Pam Dickerson | Georgia House District 113
May 2, 2015
Rep. Pam Dickerson

This newsletter includes a comprehensive wrap-up of the major legislation approved by both the House of Representative and the Senate during the recently completed 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly.  


On Monday, May 18, from 6 to 8 p.m., the Rockdale County Legislative Delegation will hold a Town Hall meeting at the Nancy Guinn Library, 864 Green Street, Conyers, GA 30012. This meeting will feature a review of the 2015 legislative session. 


Please plan to join us at Turner Lake Park, 6185 Turner Lake Road, Covington, GA 30014 for our Family Fun Day on June 6, which I will co-host with Congressman Hank Johnson, Sen. Ronald Ramsey, Sheriff Ezell Brown and Commissioner Lanier Sims. Enjoy hamburgers, hot dogs, drinks and DJ entertainment from noon to 4 p.m.


Also, I will sponsor a Women's Health fair in September. Be on the lookout for details in a future newsletter. 


Please feel free to contact me with your views on the issues facing our state, or whenever I can be of service. Thank you for allowing me to continue to serve you in the Georgia General Assembly.

Rep. Pam Dickerson 

Georgia State Capitol
Key legislation approved by House and Senate during 2015 session: 

Medical Cannabis
HB 1, authorizing the use of cannabis oil to treat certain medical conditions in Georgia.
The legislation legalizes the use of cannabis oil consisting of no more than 5 percent THC would be authorized for the treatment of cancer, ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), seizure disorders related to epilepsy or head trauma, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson's disease and sickle cell disease. Signed into law April 16, HB 1 is now in effect.

Solar Energy 
HB 57, allowing homeowners and small businesses to finance the purchase of solar panels to generate electricityIt is designed to enable residential and business customers to use leases or output-based financing agreements to install solar technology on their property and connect it to the grid. HB 57 awaits the Governor's signature.

FY 2016 Budget 
HB 76, the $21.8 billion annual state budget for fiscal year 2016. As approved, the budget reflects an estimated revenue increase of $900 million over the current year. The majority of new funds will go toward K-12 education, with additional appropriations going to local school systems for eliminating furlough days, raising teacher pay and continuing health insurance coverage for bus drivers and cafeteria workers. Education accounts for 55 percent of the overall budget. HB 76 awaits the signature of the Governor, who is also authorized to veto line-item expenditures. 

Removing Diploma Barrier
HB 91, retroactively providing former students who did not pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test with the opportunity to earn a high school diploma.
The graduation test was phased out three years ago, but it remained a barrier for some students who attended high school when graduation was partly contingent on passing the exam. HB 91 will allow students who had failed the test but met all other graduation requirements to petition their local school board to obtain a diploma from their high school. Signed into law March 30, HB 91 is now in effect.

Legalizing Fireworks
HB 110, legalizing the sale of fireworks in Georgia. Sales would be regulated by the Commissioner of Insurance, who also serves as the State Fire Marshal. Fireworks dealers would be required to pay an initial license fee of $5,000, followed by annual renewal payments of $1,000. HB 110 awaits the Governor's signature. 

End to Cyberbullying
HB 131, the End to Cyberbullying Act to expand public school anti-bullying policies to include online bullying (sponsored by Rep. Dickerson). This legislation would expand public school anti-bullying policies to include any bullying that occurs online and through cell phones and other wireless communications devices. HB 131 awaits the Governor's signature. 

Transportation Funding
HB 170, generating an estimated $900 million in additional annual funding for maintenance and improvements to Georgia's roads, bridges and transit systems.

The package would consolidate the state's current excise and sales taxes on motor fuel into a single excise tax of 26 cents per gallon for gasoline and 29 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. Those rates would be adjusted annually to reflect changes in fuel efficiency standards . To make up for potential losses in sales tax revenue, county governments would be able to seek voter approval for a local sales tax of up to 1 percent, in .05 percent increments, on motor fuel. The legislation would also implement a $5 per night state hotel/motel tax and eliminate Georgia's current tax exemption on jet fuel for airline carriers. Additional revenue would come from the elimination of a $5,000 state income tax credit on the purchase of an electric vehicle and the establishment of a new annual fee on electric vehicles of $200 for cars and $300 for commercial vehicles, whose owners use the highway system but pay no motor fuel taxes. An annual fee of $50 to $100 would also be charged on heavy trucks. HB 170 awaits the Governor's signature. 

MARTA Expenses
HB 213, which would enable MARTA to expend sales tax revenues on operational expenses, above the current limitation that requires 50 percent of sales tax funding to go toward bonded indebtedness for construction projects. HB 213 awaits the Governor's signature. 

Autism Coverage
HB 429, requiring Georgia insurance carriers to cover the costs of treatments for young autism patients. health insurers will provide autism spectrum disorder treatment coverage for children ages 6 and under, with benefits limited to $35,000 per year. The measure also incorporates insurance guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of autism in young patients. HB 429 was signed into law April 29. 

Safe Harbor for Children
SR 7 and SB 8, establishing the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund and increasing criminal penalties against convicted sex offenders
. The proposed constitutional amendment, which would increase penalties and fees for convictions of severe sex crimes, human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children as a funding mechanism for the Safe Harbor Fund, must receive final approval by a majority of voters in the 2016 general election.

Marsh Protection
SB 101, re-establishing a 25-foot buffer zone to protect coastal Georgia's saltwater marshes
. House members strengthened SB 101 by giving the state authority to review any land-disturbing projects that are awarded buffer zone exemptions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has also pledged to prohibit the building of makeshift bulkheads along the marsh by property owners. SB 101 awaits the Governor's signature.

Dual Enrollment
SB 132, the "Move on When Ready Act," to expand the dual enrollment program for  high school students to take post-secondary classes for dual credit. The bill transfers oversight and responsibility for developing dual enrollment guidelines to the Georgia Student Finance Commission. SB 132 awaits the Governor's signature. 

Opportunity School District
SR 287 and SB 133, calling for a constitutional amendment for the creation of an Opportunity School District, through which the state would intervene in the operation of Georgia schools that consistently fail to meet certain performance standards.

Under the legislation, initiated by Gov. Nathan Deal, failing schools are defined as those scoring below 60 for three years in a row on the College and Career Performance Index, which is Georgia's current rating system for school performance.

The Governor would have the authority to appoint a Superintendent of the Opportunity School District, subject to the Senate's confirmation. Four intervention models are outlined in the legislation, allowing the district to directly manage the schools, close them, partner with local school districts to run them or convert them into charter schools. I voted against this amendment because it consolidates too much power in the Governor's Office and essentially eliminates local control in the operation of our schools. As a constitutional amendment, SR 287 still must be approved by the voters in 2016.   


For details on all legislation, visit the General Assembly website.
Contact Rep. Dickerson
At the Capitol:
611-E Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone 404-656-0314
In the District:
P.O. Box 1016, Conyers, GA 30013
Phone 678-207-6043