Policy Potpourri

Originally posted at Gwinnettian Adventures.

The 2024 session of the Georgia Legislature ends this coming Thursday. For those of you who work with or in part-time Legislatures, you know the panic that is taking hold of the Gold Dome in Atlanta right now. Folks who have been working on legislation for two years (or more) are faced with the prospect of their work going down the drain and starting over from scratch next January.

There are several things I’m worried about too and I’m holding out hope that miracles can happen before the clock strikes midnight on Thursday.

One such miracle I’m praying for is that HB 738, introduced by Rep. Scott Hilton can find a new home. The bill passed out of the House Industry and Labor Committee with unanimous bi-partisan support but didn’t get a vote on the House floor before crossover day. We have a bill to add HB 738 to, but we need a committee hearing to get it back to the Rules Committee in time for the final legislative day.

Why is this bill important? My boss Randy Hicks explains how bills like HB 738 support reform efforts going on in Washington:

Toward that end, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), made a significant stride Feb. 28 by introducing a bill in the Senate that would give states the freedom to explore safety-net reform strategies similar to the successful “One Door” model in Utah. Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) has already introduced a “One Door to Work” bill in the House. That measure passed out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in December.

The One Door to Work Act would give states the flexibility to implement Utah’s consolidation of federal workforce development and social safety-net programs into a single state entity. The end goal is to help work-capable recipients reintegrate more quickly into the workforce, empowering them to achieve the independence, stability and purpose that are crucial to human well-being.

The sad truth is that our current social safety net is a complicated maze. Recipients must navigate multiple disconnected programs, requirements and caseworkers. No matter how much welfare exists to help, this design makes poverty more difficult to overcome. Every hour someone spends navigating the system is an hour not pursuing a way out.

Without a doubt, we need a well-functioning social safety net. But it needs to be just that—a net to catch people—and not a way of life, not a system that creates generational poverty. As Mauricio Miller, a poverty fighter in the Bay Area, has said, we’ve made poverty tolerable when we should make it escapable.

On a happy note, I’m pleased to report that SB 233, the Promise Scholarship Account Act, received final passage in the House and Senate and awaits Governor Kemp’s signature. This is a solid step forward in providing options for parents. After nine years of supporting this type of legislation, first as a lawmaker and now as an advocate, I’m grateful to see it approved by the Legislature. Governor Kemp had expressed support for SB 233, so we expect him to sign it into law soon.

Please watch Senator Greg Dolezal’s closing comments for the final word on this bill.

Finally, one of our new state-commissioned charter schools was profiled by NBC.

(Kolt) Bloxson, 39, was an Atlanta Public Schools educator for 18 years, but founding a school was not part of her career goals. Her zeal for children in general, and educating them in particular, however, were the paramount reasons she embarked on a new journey. 

In 2019, it appeared to Bloxson that opportunities for quality education for Black students in underserved communities near her home were dwindling. Two elementary schools had merged and, at the time, the specter of other closures loomed. Bloxson decided to take on full bore the laborious challenge of creating Miles Ahead.

“There was a growing gap that I wanted to fill,” she said.

And so, with that mission as her inspiration, Bloxson found a location for the school, carefully assembled a board, hand-picked teachers, and learned state regulations for opening and operating a school and countless other undertakings.

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