GSU’s Capitol Centennial Celebration
Georgia State University students, faculty and administrators filled the Capitol this week for the annual GSU Day at the Capitol. Gov. Nathan Deal kicked off the celebration by presenting President Mark Becker with a proclamation naming February 6, 2013 Georgia State University Day. President Becker then presented Deal with a bronze Panther in appreciation of his support of GSU.
Representatives from all of GSU’s colleges, along with students from the School of Hospitality, School of Music, 1913 Society, Rialto Center ambassadors, cheerleaders and Pounce were on hand to show our elected officials all of the great things Georgia State has to offer. Both the House and Senate honored GSU by inviting President Becker and outstanding students’ Marcus Kernizan, Eric McGhee, Shelby Lohr and Kelsey Spinks to be recognized in their respective chambers.
Deal Proposes HOPE Changes
Gov. Nathan Deal backed a plan Thursday (Feb. 7) that would make it easier for technical college students to receive the HOPE Grant. “After crunching the numbers with our budget office, I’m glad to report we’ll be able to lower the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant back to 2.0 after having raised it to 3.0 two years ago,” he says. The change was made in 2011 in an effort to preserve the scholarship. Deal estimates it will cost the state between $5 million and $8 million to bring back those students who lost the grant and for any additional ones who will be able to take advantage of it.
Intern Spotlight: Gwenaela Roumain
When asked about her impression of the Legislative Internship Program thus far, Gwenaela Roumain stated, “I absolutely love it!” Having the opportunity to learn about the legislative process outside of the classroom and networking with influential people is exciting to Roumain. She learned about the Legislative Internship Program through the GSU Political Science Department and feels very fortunate to have been selected to participate.
Assigned to the Health & Human Services Committee, her main role is to assist with administrative tasks such as retrieving bills and resolutions, and following up on constituent inquiries. Interning for Sen. Renee Unterman, the only female committee chairperson, Roumain is excited to learn how to navigate successfully in a predominantly male career field.
Upon receiving a bachelor’s degree in political science in May, Roumain plans to attend law school, travel the world and learn a fourth language. Her career goal is to become a lawyer and activist in international human rights pertaining specifically to womens’ rights. Roumain is co-chair of the Political Action Committee of the NAACP Chapter at GSU.
Intern Spotlight: Carolina Hernandez
Before deciding to apply to the legislative internship program, Carolina Hernandez did some research on the legislative process and the members of the legislature. She read news and academic articles, as well as interviewed professors, which gave her a positive assessment of the program.
Hernandez is assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee and the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee. Among her various duties include researching and writing summaries for bills, preparing committee folders and managing the senators’ calendars. Hernandez feels that this program offers an excellent opportunity to expand the knowledge a student acquires in the classroom. Even in a relatively simple task such as responding to a constituent, interns can gain awareness about social issues, legislative procedures, and about the complexity and challenges that legislators face when debating a particular bill.
Hernandez is a senior political science major originally from Bogota, Colombia. Earlier in her years as a student at GSU, she was employed as a Behavior Data Analyst with the Marcus Autism Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where she conducted behavior modification treatment sessions with autistic children. After graduation, Hernandez hopes to pursue a legal career while also working with either a law firm or the Georgia Legislature.
Next Week’s Spotlight: Sofia Siraj and Deyvid Madzharov
Special Election Results
Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) won Tuesday’s Special Election for House District 21. House District 21 includes part of Cherokee county.
Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) won Tuesday’s Special Election for Senate District 11. Senate District 11 includes Early , Seminole and Miller counties.
David Stover (R-Newnan) and Thomas Crymes (R-Newnan) are headed for House District 71 on March 5. House District 71 represents parts of Coweta and Fayette counties.
House Passes Amended Budget
The House passed HB 105, the FY2013 Amended budget by a vote of 145-18. The amended budget totals $19.3 billion which includes a $245 million bump to Medicaid and the required $172.7 million midyear adjustment to K-12 schools to pay for increased growth in student enrollment. The measure now goes to the Senate for similar view and passage.
Ethics Debate Continues
House Speaker David Ralston proposed a substitute to HB 142 to make clear that people who volunteer as lobbyists for no more than five days a year will not have to pay a registration fee or report their spending. His substitute bill explicitly states that people expressing personal views to public officials are not lobbyists, eliminating earlier language that raised questions.
The bill would still prohibit lobbyists from spending money on individual public officials in state government but allow for payment of meals and registration at events where entire agencies, political caucuses or legislative committees are invited.
Ralston’s plan would also lower the lobbyist registration fee from $300 to $25, a response to critics from the nonprofit organizations. The bill passed unanimously in subcommittee. The full Rules Committee will consider the bill next week.
HB 228, sponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming), provides that public employees shall not use government owned or leased computers or telecommunications devices to promote or oppose the passage of any legislation by the General Assembly or to promote or oppose the approval or veto of any legislation by the Governor. Assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
Firearms Bill Heard in Committee
The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a hearing this week on HB 35. This bill would allow local boards of education the authority to designate one or more school administrators in each school system to possess and carry firearms. Several questions were raised on training, liability, voluntary vs. mandatory, etc. A subcommittee was named to address these concerns with a vote expected next week.
There also were two additional firearms bills introduced this week. HB 26, sponsored by Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw), proposed the “Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2013”. The bill removes restrictions on firearm possession in state parks, historic and recreational areas and creates the “lawful weapons carrier” for anyone not prohibited by law from carrying weapons. Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
SB 88, sponsored by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen),
proposed a bill similar to Rep. Stephen Allison’s HB 90, provides that “no officer or employee of the state or any political subdivision of the state, no persons performing governmental functions, and no firearms dealer shall enforce or attempt to enforce any federal law or regulation relating to a personal firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition that is owned or manufactured commercially or privately in this state and that remains exclusively within the borders of this state.” Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
Other Legislation of Interest
A series of bills dealing with the HOPE Scholarship have been introduced in the Senate. SB 107, sponsored by Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Tucker) provides that the amount of a HOPE scholarship and grants shall be accepted as full payment of tuition by institutions of the University System of Georgia Technical College System of Georgia. Assigned to the Senate higher Education Committee.
SB 109, sponsored by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), revise definitions relating to tuition equalization grants and HOPE scholarships and grants. It changes specifically requirements for schools previously accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools from seven years to 11 years. Assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
SB 111, sponsored by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), would revise the definition of a Zell Miller Scholar so any student having graduated from a private high school with a grade point average of at least 3.7 is eligible, and that any student who graduated from a public eligible high school in the top three percent of such student’s graduating class is eligible. Assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
SB 112, sponsored by Sen. Freddie Powell Sims (D-Dawson), would revise the definition of a Zell Miller Scholar so that any student who graduates from an eligible school with a grade point average in the top three percent of his or her graduating class is eligible. Assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
SR 184, sponsored by Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Tucker) proposed an amendment to the Constitution to authorize the General Assembly to provide limitations on the amount of tuition that may be charged to students receiving lottery funded scholarships and grants. Assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
SR 185, sponsored by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), urges the Georgia Student Finance Commission to provide the General Assembly with the necessary data and information to assess whether the HOPE scholarship program is meeting its desired results. Assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
HB 184, sponsored by Rep. David Casas (R-Lilburn), authorizes operation for a nonprofit, nonpublic postsecondary institutions that meet certain requirements. Assigned to the House Higher Education Committee.
SB 103, sponsored by Sen. Tim Golden (R-Valdosta), provides powers of the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia to include the designation of community colleges. Assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
Day 15: The Senate will convene at 10:00 am and the House will convene at 1:00 pm on Monday, February 11.
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