Firearm Legislation Moves Forward
The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday (March 19) approved an amendment to SB 101 with much of the same language that is in HB 512 regarding firearms. In the new version of SB 101, the committee voted to remove bars from the bill, allow churches to decide whether or not they want to allow firearms and specifically banned guns in courthouses. Most importantly, the bill would allow for the concealed carry by licensed gun owners on university campuses. The only exclusions would be in dorms, fraternity and sorority houses and at athletic events. The bill will also prohibit the creation of data bases regarding persons issued weapons carry licenses. It will also allow military veterans under 21 who are honorable discharged to receive a weapons permit. The bill passed the House today by a vote of 116-55 and now goes back to the Senate for consideration.
It’s expected that a conference committee will be appointed to work through the differences in the House and Senate version of the bill. The University System of Georgia will work to keep current law which they believe is working and is the best and most effective way to protect and ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff.
Atlanta City Council Honors GSU
The Atlanta City Council this week (March 18) honored Georgia State University with a Proclamation to celebrate GSU’s 100 year anniversary. President Mark Becker along with students Eric McGhee, Kyle Walcott, Nick Squeglia and Sheila Kazemian were invited to the Atlanta City Council chamber for this great honor. The group was joined by several distinguished GSU alumni, State Representative Able Mable Thomas, Atlanta City Council Member Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mayor Kasim Reed’s Chief of Staff, Candace Byrd.
Intern Alum Spotlight: Yosra Khalifa and Dominica Lim
Through the Georgia Legislative Intern Program, hundreds of students have worked with legislative members and committees, gaining invaluable insight into how government and policy-making work in the state. Moreover, the experience acquired in the program can become a career stepping stone for some students such as former interns Yosra Khalifa and Dominica Lim.
“My goal for students participating in the intern program is to prepare them for the next step in their careers by helping them develop good leadership skills,” says Dr. Bill Thomas, longtime Director of the Georgia Legislative Intern Program and Emeritus Faculty from the Department of Political Science at Georgia State University. Dr. Thomas goes on to say, “Yosra and Dominica have exceeded my expectations by capitalizing on the knowledge, experience and advice they obtained through the program.”
Yosra Khalifa had no interest in politics, much less state politics, but the program came highly recommended by countless professors and alumni, so she decided to apply. She interned for GeorgiaLink Public Affairs Group in 2010 and was subsequently hired as an intern by Georgia State alum Senator Ronnie Chance in 2011. Currently, Khalifa serves as Chief of Staff for recently elected Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance. She feels this career advancement would not have happened had she not participated in the internship program.
Khalifa feels the program influenced her to make valuable connections that she would have otherwise not made. “Upon talking to lawmakers and lobbyists, it became apparent how valuable a law degree is. I decided to go to law school, in large part, due to various mentors at the Capitol encouraging and guiding me to do so,” says Khalifa.
The many intern responsibilities belonging to Yosra included tracking legislation, attending committee meetings, briefing lobbyists on bills, planning events, assisting legislators and constituents, writing a weekly newsletter, scheduling, drafting press releases, research, official correspondence and facilitating interactions between Senator Chance and other elected officials.
Khalifa’s extracurricular activities during her internships included serving as an Associate Chief Justice of the Student Judicial Board, and being a member of the GSU Honors Program, the Golden Key Honor Society, the Freshman-Sophomore Political Science Honor Society and the Student Ambassador-1913 Society.
Khalifa earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Georgia State University and is now working towards her Juris Doctorate. She is undecided as to whether she wants to continue working in state government/politics or practice law after completing her JD.
“The Legislative Intern Program helped me to see the importance of the process in each of our roles whether it be a constituent or a leadership position in the State Senate”, says Lim. Learning how things work in government and applying it to other aspects of society has increased Lim’s desire to make a difference and obtain a better understanding of the world.
Spring semester 2011, Lim interned for the Committee on Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. Among her assignments included tracking the HOPE scholarship legislation, scheduling, preparing documents and various other administrative duties.
Lim knows firsthand how the intern program can be an excellent way for many young students to find jobs after graduating, establish lasting relationships, and get real world experience. After completing her internship and graduating from Georgia State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Lim was hired as a Senate Aide for the Office of Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance.
The intern program taught Lim how to speak to delegations, handle sensitive documents, understand the committee process, delegate tasks and work with some of the most esteemed organizations and leaders in the world. Gaining an understanding of the basic workings and structure of the general assembly prepared Lim with the knowledge and skills needed to lead a campaign team to Geneva Switzerland for the 21st United Nations Human Rights Council.
Lim’s future plans are to continue working in local politics by pursuing a career in journalism and one day establish her own non-profit of raising awareness for human rights violations through the arts.
Senate Passes FY 2014 Budget
The Senate passed their recommendations for the $19.8 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1 by a vote of 51-0. The Senate went along with Governors and House recommendation to fill a $224 million dollar gap in the Medicaid program and put $147 more into the K-12 education to pay for growth in student enrollment. The Senate also added $10 million to fund the first year of a proposed state-backed venture capital fund.
The Senate 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 $62.9 million for new USG formula funds, which are critical in meeting enrollment demands along with $44.5 million in bonds for major repairs and renovation (a reduction of $5.5 million from the House version).
Both Chambers have appointed members to a budget conference committee that will negotiate a compromise agreement. Conference committee members include House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer and Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance.
Senate Revises Ethics Bill
The Senate Rules Committee voted Thursday (March 21), to approve major changes to a plan earlier adopted by the House of Representatives. The Senate version rewrites HB 142 to include a $100 gift cap, which the Senate passed early in the legislative session. The bill closes “loopholes” by eliminating group spending exceptions. Under the legislation, lobbyists would not be able to spend money on individual committees, caucuses or delegations.
Under the House version, people lobbying for free would have to register if they spent more than five days at the Statehouse seeking to influence state officials. The Senate plan would keep the current rules. Currently, people must register as lobbyists if they are paid to lobby and spend more than 10 percent of their time seeking to influence officials. They must also register if they spend more than $1,000 annually on lobbying efforts.
Travel expenditures by lobbyists are also more strictly regulated under the Senates plan. Lobbyist will no longer be able to pay for lawmakers to travel outside of the United States. Travel costs for a legislator’s family and staff cannot be covered either. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 52-0 and now goes back to the House for consideration.
Other Legislation of Interest
HB 45, 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. The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 372, lowers the minimum cumulative grade point average required for maintaining eligibility for a HOPE grant from 3.0 to 2.0 for technical colleges. The bill was amended by the Senate Higher Education Committee to add the language from SB 103, which provides powers of the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia to include the designation of community colleges. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 48-0 and now goes back to the House for consideration.
HB 287, transfers the Division of Archives and History from the Office of the Secretary of State to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 46-0 and now awaits the Governor’s signature.
HB 131, provides that dual credit courses, in core subject areas, shall be treated in the same manner as advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses for purposes of determining eligibility for the HOPE scholarship. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 44-5 and now goes back to the House for consideration.
HB 324, would remove the new requirement that HOPE scholars have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The bill passed the Senate Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 517, would allow local governments to ease restrictions on beer and wine sales within 100 yards of a college campus. The bill has been recommitted to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.
HB 232, gives the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia the authority to set the ORP employee contribution rates. The bill passed the Senate Retirement Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
SB 94, authorizes advanced practice registered nurses to order radiographic imaging tests. The bill was tabled by the House Health and Human Services Committee.
HR 763, sponsored by Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville), commending Willie Julian “Bill” Usery, Jr., and inviting him to be recognized by the House of Representatives. Usery has established a reputation as the nation’s top labor-management mediator and has worked throughout his life as a tireless advocate for the working people of America. Due to his outstanding work at Cape Canaveral, Florida, President Kennedy appointed him to the President’s Missile Sites Labor Committee. President Nixon selected him to serve as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor Management Services and, subsequently, as the National Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. President Ford appointed him as a Special Assistant to the President and, in 1976, as Secretary of Labor. Usery holds an honorary doctorate degree from Georgia State University and is one of only four Distinguished Executive Fellows at Georgia State University.
HR 826, sponsored by Rep. Jay Neal (R-LaFayette), creates the House Human Embryonic Research Study Committee. The bill has been assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Day 38: Both the House and the Senate will convene at 10:00 am Monday, March 25.
Day 39: Tuesday, March 26.
Day 40: Thursday, March 28 – Sine Die.
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