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As usual, Crossover Day was a busy one for Georgia lawmakers Monday as state senators and representatives worked up until almost midnight to get bills across the line. One of those bills that was being heavily watched was Senate Bill 211 which creates the Georgia Council on Literacy. 

Sponsored by Sen. Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro) – Chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education – SB 211 passed with strong bipartisan support as lawmakers have placed a priority on literacy this year. Under this legislation, the Georgia Council on Literacy would be tasked with conducting comprehensive reviews of educational programs for all ages, state support for the programs, and other issues related to improving the literacy outcomes of Georgians from birth to adulthood. The Council would be composed of 24 members appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

“This has been a priority for the Majority Caucus this year, and I’m proud that it passed with support from both sides of the aisle,” said Hickman. “As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, the betterment of education for all Georgians is a policy area that I am passionate about. Our Senate body needs to do what is necessary in order to solve the issue of literacy in our state. It is reported that over 57 percent of our third graders enrolled in Georgia public schools are unable to read at the national reading standard set for third graders.  We will not be able to maintain an educated workforce if the incoming generation is unable to read.  

“The Georgia Council on Literacy will ensure a better future for Georgia’s students by creating a common metric system to measure literacy in Georgia. We need to start considering education in Georgia as an investment, not an expense. If we continue to pass legislation to support Georgia’s education systems, we will be able to positively impact generations of Georgia students to come,” Hickman added. 

Another education bill that made it across the line on Crossover Day was SB 204 by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming). This bill would establish specific criteria for agencies that accredit public schools. The criteria outlines evaluation components agencies must use in accrediting school districts, including measurements of student learning and financial efficiency. 

Senate Bill 76, sponsored by Sen. Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson), passed in the Senate Monday and would require that a portion of the cost of insulin is covered for Georgia state employees under their state health insurance plan. Merritt said that with the passage of SB 76, insulin would cost $35 for a 30-day supply and $105 per 90-day supply. 

“I am pleased to see Senate Bill 76 pass with bipartisan support,” said Merritt. “I have been personally afflicted by the rising costs of insulin, as I watched my grandmother and great-grandmother struggle to afford medicine that was necessary for their survival. By capping the price of insulin, our hard-working state employees will be given security that their insulin will remain affordable and accessible.” 

In another bill impacting state employees, the Senate passed SB 199 unanimously. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jason Esteves (R-Atlanta) would expand access to health savings accounts for state employees. 

“As a Senator, a key piece of my legislative agenda is increasing access to healthcare and improving health outcomes across the State of Georgia,” said Esteves. “I am proud to advance these priorities with the unanimous passage of my first bill, which will expand access to health savings accounts for thousands of Georgia’s public servants. As a former educator, I am especially proud that this legislation will give state employees, including teachers, the opportunity to build wealth and plan for the future.” 

According to Esteves, SB 199 would give authority for the Department of Administrative Services to offer health savings accounts as a pre-tax deduction for state employees, including teachers. Funds in these HSAs would roll over from year to year and be eligible for investment, allowing state employees to grow wealth over time. 

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