Governor Deal Delivers Annual State of the State Address
Governor Nathan Deal delivered his “State of the State” address on Thursday to a joint session of the Georgia General Assembly. The governor outlined his 2013 legislative agenda focusing on public safety, education, health care and economic development, all pursued within tight financial constraints.
He presented a budget proposal that would trim most state agencies’ budgets but cover higher costs from increased enrollment in K-12 schools. The latter detail is called for under the state’s school financing formula. Deal also emphasized new money to return pre-kindergarten programs to a full 180-day calendar.
The governor told lawmakers he would back an aggressive juvenile justice overhaul that is intended to grow community-based programs and divert minor offenders from prison. The Governor urged lawmakers to pass legislation to allow the Department of Community Health to levy a provider fee to hospitals to help fill an estimated $700 million shortfall in Medicaid funding. The current fee is set to expire in June. He also asked lawmakers to tighten drunken boating laws.
Governor Deal commended Chancellor Hank Huckaby of our University System and Commissioner Ron Jackson of our Technical College System for evaluating and refocusing their programs of study to give priority to those educational paths that have a proven record of employability.
The Governor’s budget recommendations of interest to the University System of Georgia (USG) and Georgia State University included $58.8 million in bonds for construction of the new Law/Humanities Building at Georgia State University. Also included is $91.3 million for new USG formula funds, which are critical in meeting enrollment demands, providing for maintenance of new facilities and funding strategic initiatives along with $40 million in bonds for major repairs and renovation. He is also proposing an additional three percent for the HOPE bringing the total funds for the program for 2014 to nearly $600 million.
Annual Chamber Events Kick Off Legislative Session
President Mark Becker and university officials hosted several state and legislative leaders at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner and Eggs and Issues breakfast. In attendance were House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England and GSU graduate, current Law student and Senate Majority Leader’s Chief of Staff Yosra Khalifa.
Senate Passes Medicaid Fee Extension
The Senate voted 46-9 Thursday to pass SB 24, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton), to enact the “Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act”. The legislation would shift the responsibility of levying the provider fee from legislators to the Department of Community Health. The Governor currently appoints the nine-member DCH Board. The fee, which is a percentage of a hospital’s net revenue, allows the state to draw matching federal dollars which are then distributed out to hospitals based on the amount of Medicaid care they provide. The bill, which will preserve more than $400 million a year in federal funding for Medicaid, now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
GSU Legislative Interns Serve Vital Needs
Georgia State is fortunate to have a record 16 students serving as Legislative Interns during the 2013 session. These individuals are assigned to various House and Senate committees and offices as well as lobbyist groups. This opportunity gives them a chance to learn the legislative and policy process from inside the Gold Dome. These students, under the supervision of Dr. Bill Thomas, gain valuable experience and receive 9 hours of course credit upon satisfactory completion of internship requirements. Over the years, many have begun their careers in government as legislative interns
Special Election Results
Since the November general election, there have been several special elections to fill vacant seats: State Senate District 21: Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), replaces Chip Rogers who resigned to take a job at Georgia Public Broadcasting.
State Senate District 30: Senator Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton), replaces GSU alumni Bill Hamrick who resigned to take a judgeship appointed by Governor Nathan Deal.
The following special elections will occur on February 5:
State Senate District 11: runoff election between Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) and Mike Keown (R-Coolidge), to replace John Bulloch who resigned to make time for his family business.
State Senate District 21: runoff election between Brian Laurens (R-Holly Springs) and Scott Turner (R- Holly Springs), to replace Sean Jerguson who resigned to run for other elective office.
State House District 71: runoff election to replace GSU alumni Rep. Elect Robert Stokely (R-Sharpsburg) who resigned prior to beginning his term to take a judgeship.
Budget Review Begins
The legislative review of the Governor’s budget recommendations begins next week with Joint Appropriations Committee hearings on the FY 2013 Amended and FY 2014 budgets. All revenue bills originate in the House; therefore, the first level of review and action will take place over the next few weeks in the various House Appropriations Subcommittees. Budget hearings will be broadcast (live and archived) via the legislative website, www.legis.state.ga.us.
December Revenues Increase
December revenue collections were up 9.8% as compared to this time last year. As of midyear, net revenue collections are up $400 million, or 4.9%, compared to last fiscal year.
Ethics Debate Expected
Numerous ethics bills have been introduced ranging from $100 cap on gifts and entertainment to a total ban on any expenditures. The Senate has already passed SR 1, sponsored by Sen. Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone), relating to the rules of the Senate, puts a cap of $100 on a gift that a registered lobbyist or group of lobbyists can give to a Senator. This was passed by a vote of 42-14 and takes effect immediately in the Senate.
In other Ethics legislation, SB 36, sponsored by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen), would limit the value of gratuitous transfers given to any public official by a lobbyist to $100.00. Assigned to the Senate Ethics Committee. SB 48, sponsored by Sen. Steve Henson (D-Tucker), provides that no lobbyist shall make gifts to a public officer where the aggregate value of such gifts exceeds $100.00 in any calendar year and it shall be a misdemeanor offense to violate the provisions. Assigned to the Senate Ethics Committee. SB 49, sponsored by Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur), revises the Ethics in Government Act. This bill changes the name of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission back to the Georgia Ethics Commission, reconstitutes the commission, and defines its membership, giving the duty of appointing members to the Judicial branch instead of the Executive branch. The bill also provides the commission with authority to investigate alleged violations of this chapter. Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville), proposed his own version of ethics reform, HB 61, would require legislators and other elected state officials to disclose what lobbyists spend on their behalf and that such expenditures not be subject to lobbyists’ reporting. Assigned to the House Rules Committee. SR 7, sponsored by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), and SR 13 sponsored by Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), proposes an amendment to the Constitution to authorize the General Assembly to provide a fixed sum for funding the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. Both bills have been assigned to the Senate Ethics Committee.
Firearms Measures Introduced
In response to the national debate regarding gun control, several legislators have introduced legislation dealing with firearms. HB 35, sponsored by Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville), provides that the board of education of each school system in this state shall be authorized to designate one or more administrators in each school in the school system to possess and carry firearms within a school safety zone or school building, at a school function, or on school property or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the school. Assigned to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. Also introduced is HB 60, sponsored by Rep. Doug Holt (R-Social Circle), provides an exemption from certain laws regarding the carrying and possession of firearms by retired judges. Assigned to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
SB 33 & SB 34, sponsored by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), the first relating to the possession of dangerous weapons, prohibits the possession and sale of assault weapons and oversized magazines. An oversized magazine is defined as one that is capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. The possession of two or more assault weapons or oversized magazines shall create a rebuttable presumption that possession is with intent to sell. SB 34 adds a code section to make it unlawful for a mentally incompetent person or addicted person to possess a handgun and makes it unlawful to provide a handgun to a mentally incompetent or addicted person, or any person known by the provider of the weapon to be a substantial risk for using it illegally.
Carry Forward Important to USG
HB 45, sponsored by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R- Powder Springs), allows the USG to write off small amounts due to the State and carry forward certain fees and revenue through July 1, 2016. This mechanism allows the USG to better manage their operational budget to meet critical needs on campus. Assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.
HB 54, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna), lowers the minimum cumulative grade point average required for maintaining eligibility for a HOPE grant from 3.0 to 2.0. Assigned to the House Higher Education Committee. In other HOPE legislation, SB 17, sponsored by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), revises certain definitions relating to tuition equalization grants and HOPE scholarships and grants.
HB 50, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), requires nurses and hospitals to report certain violations to the Board of Nursing. Assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee. A series of bills dealing with nurses have been introduced by Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler). SB 10 relates to the continuing competency requirements for licensure renewal for registered professional nurses. These changes are proposed for the beginning of the 2016 licensure cycle
SB 13, establishes mandatory reporting for nurses. Both bills have been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
HB 3, sponsored by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), has two components. The first deals with the practice of professional forestry and evidence. The second part of the bill reassigns the functions of the former Division of Public Health of the Department of Community Health to the newly created Department of Public Health relating to the disclosure of AIDS’ confidential information. Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
SR 20, sponsored by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) proposed this Resolution requesting that all physicians “include autism spectrum disorder screening in all well-child visits no later than 18 months of age.” The Resolution cites that one out of every 84 children in Georgia, a total of 601 children, have been identified with autism spectrum disorders. Assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Information on legislative activities including all bills and resolutions as well as webcast of daily sessions in both Chambers and committee meetings are available via the General Assembly website at www.legis.state.ga.us.
Government Affairs Team
Tom Lewis, Senior Advisor to the President
Julie Kerlin, Director of Government & Community Affairs
Jason Thomas, Assistant Director of Government & Community Affairs
Debbie Jones, Associate to the Director
Georgia State University
P.O. Box 3999
Atlanta, Georgia 30302