Georgia State Parks and Georgia Public Library Service Celebrate 10 Years of Partnership with Special Programming Through December

 Georgia’s State Park System and Georgia Public Library Service are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their collaborative Library Loan Program. The partnership allows library patrons to check out free ParkPasses and historic sites passes, similar to checking out a book. To celebrate, special events will take place at libraries, state parks and state historic sites from June through December.

Don Carter State Park Beach at Lake Lanier

Since its inception in 2008, the partnership has saved Georgians more than $1 million in parking and admission fees, and has enabled more than 120,000 people to explore beautiful attractions such as Cloudland Canyon and Magnolia Springs, and historic sites like Etowah Indian Mounds and Fort King George.

“We are so proud of our wonderful partnership with Georgia’s Public Libraries,” said Georgia State Parks Director Becky Kelley. “The Library Loan Program not only ensures every citizen can visit our sites for free, but it also encourages people to explore new getaways. This helps us showcase our beautiful natural resources and rich history to citizens who might not otherwise learn about. And of course, we hope they’ll tell their friends and come back again.”

Special events will include library visits from Scout, the State Parks’ mascot; programming at the parks for libraries and programming at libraries with parks; park rangers reading to kids at library events; Scout stickers; and a chance to win a co-branded Discovery Backpack containing wildlife guides and binoculars.

“Our partnership with the State Parks and Sites is one of our most popular and enduring statewide collaborations. It has a very special place within the hearts of libraries and patrons,” said Georgia State Librarian Julie Walker. We hope families throughout the state will enjoy two of Georgia’s greatest resources, their state parks and public libraries, this summer​.”

With a valid library card from a participating library system, patrons can check-out the Georgia State Park ParkPass which is good for free parking at 46 state parks, plus admission for up to four people at 17 state historic sites. Along with the ParkPass, patrons are also welcome to check out a Discovery Backpack to use while camping, hiking, fishing, or a day of picnicking on a mountain or lakeside. State Park parking is normally $5 per vehicle, and historic site admission typically ranges from $2 to $12.

Because of the program’s popularity, families interested in borrowing a ParkPass from their local public libraries are advised to plan early, as supplies of the passes are limited to four per library facility.

Participating Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites can be found on To learn more about the Library Loan Program, visit For more information on Georgia’s 407 public libraries and the Discovery Backpack, visit or your local library.

Post Session Update: Focus on Rural Georgia’s Development

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

As the senator who represents eight counties outside of urban Metro-Atlanta, I am proud to say that this year’s session focused heavily on rural parts of our state. Although addressing concerns for our state’s capital and surrounding counties is important, addressing broadband access, job creation, health and economic development in rural parts of our state is critical. Along with a major focus on broadband access and deployment with the “Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act”, or SB 402, being signed into law, this past session we worked hard to address other issues affecting citizens across this great state.

During the 2018 session, we focused on appropriating funding focused on rural Georgia’s development. In the 2018 Fiscal Year (FY18) Amended Budget, around $26 million was appropriated to extend runways for 13 airports around the state with 11 of those being in rural parts of the state. Around $375,000 was appropriated in the 2019 Fiscal Year (FY19) Budget for the creation of a new program for rural development under the Department of Economic Development. Additionally, $600,000 was added for grants to rural hospitals for electronic intensive care units under the Department of Community Health. These are just a few of the highlights of the funding appropriated in the FY19 budget.

In addition to the appropriation funding above, we passed legislation and included funds to support the creation of new centers, positions or initiatives resulting from these bills becoming law:

  • House Bill 696: Creates a sales and use tax exemption for electricity and computer infrastructure used by high-technology data centers. In an effort to attract these centers to rural Georgia for job creation and economic growth, I amended HB 696 in committee by creating separate ‘minimum investment thresholds’ based on population. This tiered system will give data centers tax exemptions based on invest amounts and the community’s population. For example, a high-technology data center located in a county with a population greater than 50,000 would need to invest at least $250 million. A center would need to invest at least $150 million in counties with populations of fewer than 50,001 but greater than 30,000 and for counties with a population less than 30,001, the threshold is $100 million. Additionally, a center must create at least 20 high-quality jobs and meet a series of other requirements that fall into the tiered system. The bill also contains an exemption certificate process and has annual reporting requirements. This legislation was signed by the Governor on May 7, 2018, and will become effective on July 1, 2019.
  • House Bill 769: $300,000 was appropriated in the FY19 budget for the start-up of the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center created through HB 769. This legislation includes the establishment of “micro-hospitals” which will have two to seven beds and provide services 24/7 to stabilize patients. The bill also addresses grant programs which will offset the costs of insurance for physicians who practice in underserved areas of Georgia. Lastly, the bill would increase the value of the tax credit to 100 percent related to contributions to rural hospital organizations. This legislation was signed by the Governor on May 2, 2018, and will become effective on July 1, 2018.
  • House Bill 951: $1.7 million was appropriated in the FY19 budget under the Board of Regents for the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations created by the final passage of HB 951. Along with creating the center, this legislation establishes and outlines guidelines for the membership and operation of the corresponding Georgia Rural Development Council. The center and council will focus on collecting and reviewing data on issues effecting citizens living in rural Georgia by providing a central research hub. Additionally, rural leadership training will be provided along with best practices for industry specific assistance, cooperative efforts with other agencies and community planning models. This legislation was signed by the Governor on May 2, 2018, and will become effective on July 1, 2018.

If you have any questions about anything related to appropriations or legislation focusing on rural Georgia’s development or other legislation passed this session, please do not hesitate to reach out. I will continue to update you over the course of the next few weeks on other legislation that passed during the 2018 session. Remember, I am always here to help if I can be of service in any way.

Kemp Recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Calls for Vigilance to Prevent Exploitation

In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, the Securities Division of the Secretary of State’s Office reminds financial professionals and the public in Georgia to be on the lookout for the red flags of suspected financial abuse, including potential abuse by guardians assigned to oversee the financial matters of seniors unable to do so for themselves.

“Con artists are increasingly targeting senior citizens to perpetrate terrible financial crimes, so we must all be vigilant for elder abuse and focus more resources on prevention,” stated Secretary of State Brian Kemp. “It is critical for all of us to learn how to spot warning signs of financial fraud and raise awareness about the rising incidence of elder abuse by people who should be protecting – not exploiting – our loved ones.”

Studies show that elder abuse is not uncommon, with roughly one out of every ten Americans aged 60 or older having experienced this type of abuse. It not only costs abuse victims billions of dollars each year; it is also associated with increased rates of hospitalization among senior citizens, and the problem tends to go underreported.

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which the Georgia Secretary of State’s Securities Division is a member, recently developed a resource to call attention to the red flags of suspected guardian financial abuse. The “Guarding the Guardians” publication available on NASAA’s Serve Our Seniors website provides examples of exploitation and information on how to report suspected abuse.

Suspected signs of guardian financial abuse include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Using guardianship authority to transfer property for the guardian’s benefit.
  • Receiving personal payments from a protected individual without court permission.
  • Authorizing frequent cash withdrawals from the protected individual’s accounts without explanation.
  • Using or borrowing property for personal benefit without court authorization.
  • Making unexplained decisions that are not in the protected individual’s best interest.

Anyone who suspects possible exploitation by an elder’s caretaker or guardian should contact the Georgia Secretary of State’s Securities Division at (404) 654-6021 or click on this link to submit a complaint.

Brian Kemp has been Secretary of State since January 2010. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting secure, accessible, and fair elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities, charities, and professional license holders. For more information about the office, go to