Legislature Adjourns Sine Die
The Georgia General Assembly adjourned sine die just before midnight on March 20 after a fast paced session that saw many twist and turns on key legislation. In these 40 days, lawmakers approved budgets for the remainder of the FY 2014 and FY 2015 budgets as well as legislation that addressed firearms, Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act.
Governor Deal now has 40 days to sign or veto legislation or to allow such measures to become law without his signature. Among those proposals on his desk includes HB 788, which preserves the tax-exempt status of public property on the University System of Georgia campuses in order to allow private operation of housing facilities and parking lots. The measure will now require a ballot referendum in November.
Several study committees were established this session including HR 1722, to create the House Study Committee on Medical Education. This committee will meet during the interim and report its findings and recommendations for proposed legislation no later than December 15, 2014. HR 550, creates a House Study Committee to look at the federal governments role in education. This committee will also meet during the interim and report its findings and recommendations for proposed legislation no later than November 30, 2014.
Equipment funds for College of Law Included in Budget
Georgia State’s #1 priority this session has been to secure equipment funds for the new Academic Classroom (Humanities-Law) Building. This equipment includes furnishings and A/V for classrooms, conference rooms and auditoriums. The budget conference committee agreed to the recommended $7 million in 5-year general obligation bonds as well as other bond projects for USG institutions throughout the state.
Also included is $47.3 million for new USG formula funds, which are critical in meeting enrollment demands and $40 million in bonds for major repairs and renovation. $11.4 million is included to fund merit-pay and employee recruitment and retention salary adjustments. The increase will provide the basis for a salary increase pool with awards based on merit.
The budget includes $314 million in QBE formula funds for K-12 public schools. This will go towards eliminating teacher furlough days, restoring the full 180-day calendar throughout the state and giving teacher’s pay raises.
$35 million will go to the deepening of the Port of Savannah. If approved, Georgia will have appropriated a total of $266 million for the project. The FY 2015 must be signed by the Governor within 40 days.
Intern Spotlight: Austin Romeo
“I have a very high regard for the Georgia Legislative Internship Program. The respect and responsibility that we, as interns, are given is unheard of elsewhere,” says political science and German major, Austin Romeo. “Through the design of the program, we have been given integral roles in the legislative process and that importance has translated into appreciation from legislators and staff alike.”
As the Ways and Means intern, Romeo’s many responsibilities include staffing full committee and subcommittee hearings, preparing bills, fiscal notes, substitutes, and bill amendments. In addition, he lends his support to the Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee, Special Rules Committee, and the MARTOC Committee.
Austin is involved in several campus activities including the Georgia State Rowing Team and the GSU German Club. He participated in the EU Studies Semester Abroad Program in Strasbourg, France where he studied at the University of Strasbourg and visited several study-related European Institutions. After graduating from Georgia State University, Romeo plans to attend law school to study international law.
Firearms Legislation Heads to the Governor
The carrying of firearms as it relates to the campuses of the University System of Georgia will stay the same as current law.
HB 60, will allow churches to opt-in, meaning church leaders don’t have to act unless they want to allow firearms in their churches. Licensed gun owners will be allowed to carry firearms inside bars with the permission of the owners and government buildings that do not have active screening by security guards. It will allow school board to determine whether and which employees could carry firearms at public schools. It also reduces the penalty to a misdemeanor for unknowingly bringing a firearm to an airport and allows retired judges to carry firearms. Georgia hunters will also be allowed to use lawfully-possessed suppressors on firearms while hunting.
Other Legislation Passed – Awaiting Governor’s Action
HB 810, revises requirements for home study students regarding scores on a standardized college admission test relating to HOPE scholarships and grants. In lieu of graduating from an eligible high school, earning a score in the eightieth percentile or higher nationally on a standardized college admission test, such as SAT or ACT shall be eligible.
HB 697, creates a Zell Miller Grant Scholar designation to pay full tuition for technical college students earning at least a 3.5 grade-point average. The bill does not affect the HOPE Scholarship, which serves students in the University System of Georgia. It also gives the Georgia Student Finance Authority the ability to create a nonprofit to aid the authority in carrying out its powers duties and functions and changes the distribution of funds contributed by taxpayers to student loan funds.
HB 251, prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.
SB 98, prohibits the state employees insurance plan and health insurances exchanges that are part of the Affordable Care Act from providing coverage for abortions.
HB 990, shifts the authority for approving any expansion of Medicaid from the governor to the General Assembly.
HB 943, would prohibit all state agencies from implementing any provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
HB 772, would require recipients of food stamps and welfare to undergo drug test and pay for them if a Department of Human Services worker determines there is a reasonable suspicion.
Board of Regents visits GSU Campus
Dr. Mark Becker presented Georgia State University’s Master Plan to members of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia on Tuesday, March 18th.
May 20, 2014 – Primary Election
November 4, 2014 – General Election
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
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Atlanta, Georgia 30302