Senate Passes FY 2016 Budget
The Senate today, voted 52-1 to pass the $21.8 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. The proposed budget for FY 2016 is $1 billion larger than the current spending plan, with much of the new money added in the areas of education funding.
The Senate budget recommendations of interest to the University System of Georgia and Georgia State University included $4.9 million in funds for the addition of Phase II of Classroom South Building and $500,000 for the expansion of instructional labs and student learning at Georgia Perimeter College. Also included is $47 million for new USG formula funds, which are critical in meeting enrollment demands along with $60 million in bonds for major repairs and renovation. $11.3 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 included a $1.1 billion bond package, of which $218 million is recommended for the University System.
The Senate agreed with the House to continue health insurance coverage under the State Health Benefits Plan for roughly 22,000 school bus drivers and cafeteria workers. The budget maintains the coverage but will require local school systems to pick up the $103 million in payments that will be required.
The 2016 budget, which the House passed last month, now heads to a joint House-Senate conference committee to work out differences between the two legislative chambers.
Senate Tweaks Transportation Bill
The Senate this week passed it’s version of the transportation funding bill, HB 170 by a vote of 29-25. Under the Senate’s plan, the Legislature would allocate $250 million from the general budget each year for the state Department of Transportation to use to pay debt service, freeing up $250 million in motor fuel tax revenues that DOT could spend on highway construction.
The Senate bill drops the 29.2 cents per gallon excise tax on gasoline in the House version to 24 cents per gallon. It would also charge a annual highway user impact fee that drivers would pay each year when they renew their vehicle tags: $25 for a passenger car and $50 for a truck or bus and impose a daily fee of $5 on each rental car that is leased in the state.
Remaining unchanged from the House version would be to levy an annual fee on electric, propane and natural gas powered vehicles of $300 for commercial vehicles and $200 for non-commercial vehicles, eliminate the state’s $5,000 tax credit on the purchase of electric vehicles and eliminating the state’s sales tax exemption on purchases of jet fuel by Delta and other airlines. The bill is now goes back to the House for consideration. A conference committee will likely be appointed to work out the differences.
Medical Marijuana Bill Advances
The Senate Health and Human Services voted out of committee, HB 1, combining language from the Senate’s version SB 185. Under the new proposal, a low cannabis oil could be to be used to treat the following conditions: cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), crohn’s disease, parkinson’s disease, mitochondrial disease and sickle cell disease. Dropped from the bills list was fibromyalgia.
The new version will also allow children with seizure disorders to participate in a clinical trial of cannabis oil at Georgia Regents University. The bill now heads to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration.
HR 474, creates the House Study Committee on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and Kinship Care. The bill passed the House by a vote of 164-0.
HR 302, sponsored by Rep. Butch Parrish (R-Swainsboro), urges the United States Congress to enact significant reforms to the nation’s federally financed graduate medical education (GME) program. This comes as an effort to address the state’s shortage of physicians. The bill passed the House by a vote of 151-2.
HB 320, restricts the data the Georgia Study Finance Authority, Georgia Student Finance Commission, and Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation can release for public disclosure. The bill passed the Senate Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HR 304, encourages Georgia’s technical schools, colleges, and universities to expand gerontology and dementia education and training throughout their academic curriculum in order to address the growing economic, social, and healthcare needs created by an aging population. The bill passed the Senate Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 212, adds Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists to the current pain management clinic listing of professionals who must be present at such clinic for it to remain operational. The bill passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 62, would waive the one year requirement for students whose parent is an active duty military service member stationed in Georgia within the previous year to apply for a special needs scholarship. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
Intern Spotlight: David Jackson
“I love it! It’s fast-paced, and I’m learning so much every day,” says junior pre-law major David Jackson, referring to the Georgia Legislative Internship Program. Having always been intrigued by the legislative process, David hopes GLIP will expose him to the application of theoretical politics that he’s studied in courses at Georgia StateUniversity.
Mr. Jackson is assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee where he conducts research, prepares meeting materials, and assists the staff with administrative tasks.
David has participated in numerous extracurricular activities. Currently, at Georgia State University, he is a member of the Marching Band and is the Head Senator for the College of Arts and Sciences within the Student Government Association (SGA). His past GSU activities include working as an Aquatics Instructor and lifeguard in the Student Recreation Center and co-chairing the committee that made major revisions to the current SGA constitution and bylaws.
In the spring of 2014, David interned for State Representative Ronnie Mabra and last summer, he began interning for Congressman John Lewis. He also traveled abroad last summer to Europe and studied the public policy of Germany, France, Czech Republic and the Netherlands. David also volunteers with the Atlanta Beltline and Habitat for Humanity.
After graduation, David plans to work for two years and then attend law school. He is also considering participating in the Peace Corps, Teach for America and Fellowships in Washington D.C.
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 34: The House and Senate will convene at 10:00 am on Monday, March 23.
Legislators are scheduled to work Monday through Friday of next week.
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