House Passes Amended Budget
The House passed HB 75, the FY 2015 Amended budget by a vote of 171-0. The amended budget totals $20.9 billion which includes $128 million allocated to the midyear adjustment to K-12 public school to pay for increased growth in student enrollment, and $40 million for economic development grants.
The budget increases funds by $4.8 million to provide clinical trials at Georgia Regents University on cannabidol oil for children with medication resistant epilepsy and $515,600 to establish the Georgia Film Academy through a cooperative partnership between the University System and Technical College System.
The bill also instructs the Department of Community Health to submit a study back to the Governor and General Assembly on the issues surrounding the elimination of health insurance coverage for an estimated 11,500 school bus drivers and cafeteria workers. The measure now goes to the Senate for similar review and passage.
Transportation Plan Unveiled
House leaders this week unveiled their plan to raise an estimated $1 billion dollars a year to build roads, repair bridges and finance other transit projects. The bill would convert Georgia’s combination of sales and excise taxes on fuel to a 29.2 cent-per-gallon excise tax.
By converting to a straight excise tax, the state would collect more than half a billion dollars of revenue that currently goes to local governments. Those funds, by law, would be dedicated to fixing roads and bridges. Local governments would be allowed to raise their own tax on motor fuel to make up for lost revenue, but that would be up to counties and cities to decide.
In addition to switching to a straight excise tax, the plan would make available $100 million in bonds for local transit systems. The bill also would levy an annual fee on electric, propane and natural gas powered vehicles of $300 for commercial vehicles and $200 for non-commercial vehicles. Hybrids would be exempt. The bill is expected to be assigned to the House Transportation Committee next week.
Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced
HB 1, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), will offer immunity from prosecution to Georgia families who possess cannabis oil that may be used to treat a variety of disorders. The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
Autism Bill Passes the Senate
SB1, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton), would require healthcare insurers to cover autism treatments for children aged six and younger, with a yearly cap of $35,000 on the payment for treatments. Businesses with ten or fewer employees would be exempt. The bill passed the Senate unanimously by a vote of 54-0 and now crosses over to the House for consideration.
A series of bills relating to the HOPE Grant and Scholarship Program were introduced by Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna). HB 22, proposes that HOPE grants cover the full cost of tuition. HB 23, would eliminate the seven-year limit from the date of high school graduation to qualify for the HOPE Scholarship. HB 24, would allow students who did not qualify as freshmen to become eligible for the Zell Miller Scholarship Scholar program later in their collegiate career. HB 25, would allow spouses and dependent children of military service members and veterans who are stationed or reside in Georgia be eligible as Zell Miller Grant Scholars. Assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.
HB 107, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), provides for in-state tuition at units of the University System of Georgia and branches of the Technical College System of Georgia for youth who are from foster care or homeless situations. Assigned to the House Higher Education Committee.
SB 58, sponsored by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), provides that each member of the General Assembly, the Governor, and the Lieutenant Governor may select an eligible student annually for public designation as a Georgia Leadership and Service Scholar and offer a written recommendation for use in the admissions process at an institution of the university system. Assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
HB 32, sponsored by Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain), would require law enforcement officers to be equipped with body cameras. Assigned to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
SR 103, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), commending Georgia State University and recognizing February 4, 2015 as Georgia State University Day at the Capitol. Read and Adopted
Intern Spotlight: Joseph Velazquez
Having the opportunity to experience firsthand “living, breathing” politics excites Georgia State junior Joseph Velazquez. After working in the film industry in Los Angeles for 10 years, Joseph decided to return tocollege and major in political science.
Mr. Velazquez is eager to develop relationships with current and futureleaders through the Georgia Legislative Internship Program. He’shoping the experience will lead to future employment in governmentand politics and/or the private sector. “I am excited to learn aspects of government that aren’t found in our textbooks,” says Joseph.
Joseph is assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee. He has a wide range of duties including compiling information for resolutions, writing assignments, as well as handling constituent issues. After graduation, Mr. Velazquez would like to attend Law School.
Intern Spotlight: Monique Carter-Harper
This experience will help me “encourage my peers to become moreinvolved in the issues of our community and in selecting the people that represent them when it comes to passing laws that govern us all,” says Monique Carter-Harper, a senior political science major at GeorgiaState University.
Monique became interested in the Georgia Legislative Internship Program because it directly relates to her major and she expects to get an inside view of the entire process for making laws and the daily work of politicians and their supporting staff.
Ms. Carter-Harper’s intern assignment is with the Office of Legislative Counsel where she works the front desk, greets members of the General Assembly, distributes legislation, and writes resolutions for the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Outside of classes and her internship, Monique volunteers at New Life Academy of Achievers, where her six year old daughter Alyssa is a student. After graduation, Monique plans to teach, attend law school, and eventually become a public defender.
Information on legislative activities including bills and resolutions as well as webcast of daily sessions in both Chambers and committee meeting are available via the General Assembly website at ** www.legis.ga.gov (http://www.legis.ga.gov)
Day 9: The Senate will convene at 10:00 am and the House at 1:00 pm on Monday, February 2.
Legislators will work three days next week and take a four day recess returning on February 9.
Georgia State University Day at the Capitol — February 4, 8:00 am – 11:00 am
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