Governor Deal Signs FY 2016
Governor Nathan Deal signed a $21.8 billion state budget this week that will increase state spending by $1 billion over the fiscal 2015 budget adopted last spring. Much of the new money was added in the areas of education funding, child welfare and criminal justice reform. The fiscal year begins July 1.
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 an $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 help fund merit-pay and employee recruitment and retention salary adjustments. The budget included a $1.1 billion bond package, of which $218 million is recommended for the University System.
The governor made only one line-item veto in the spending plan. That veto deletes $809,900, the initial payment on a $3.5 million bond issue that would have financed the construction of a seawall on Hutchinson Island in Savannah.
Governor Deal Vetoes Eleven Bills
Governor Deal this week released a list of eleven bills that he vetoed. One of the bills would have allowed motorcycles and bicycle riders to enter intersections without regard to traffic signals in instances where the lightweight nature of their vehicle would not activate a traffic controlled device. Deal vetoed legislation that would have moved the current Division of Aging Services out of the Department of Human Services. The new agency, the Adult and Aging Services Agency, would have been attached to the Department of Community Health.
Deal vetoed bills that would have created the Georgia Sports Commission Fund to help communities lure sports tournaments, the Georgia New Jobs Market Act with $110 million in tax credits and one creating a statewide trade registry maintained by the Georgia Superior Court Clerks Cooperative Authority.
Governor Deal also vetoes six bills dealing with local legislation including Americus and Columbus, and the counties of Newton, Paulding, Rockdale and Schley.
New House Leadership Elected
House Republicans selected Rep. John Burns (R-Newington) as their new majority leader Monday to replace Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire). O’Neal resigned to accept an appointment by Governor Nathan Deal for the Judgeship of the Georgia Tax Tribunal.
Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) was elected as the majority caucus secretary/treasurer, replacing Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) who stepped down to run for majority leader.
Open House District Seats
There will be several upcoming special elections held to fill vacated House seats. District 24, held by Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming) represents a portion of Forsyth county. District 48, held by the late Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell) represents a portion of Fulton county. District 55, held by Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) represents a portion of Fulton county. District 80, held by Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven) represents a portion of DeKalb and Fulton counties. District 146, held by Majority Leader Larry O’Neal (R-Boaire) represents a portion of Houston county. District 155, held by Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla) represents Ben Hill, Coffee, Irwin, Tift and Turner counties.
Transportation Funding Plan Signed
HB 170, a transportation funding bill that could generate an estimated $900 million dollars a year to build roads, repair bridges and finance other transit projects. The main feature is to replace the combination of excise and sales tax on motor fuel with a single excise tax of 26 cents per gallon for gasoline and 29 cents per gallon for diesel fuel.
The plan also levies an annual fee on electric, propane and natural gas powered vehicles of $300 for commercial vehicles and $200 for non-commercial vehicles and repeals the state’s $5,000 tax credit on the purchase of electric vehicles.
HB 170 includes a $5 per day hotel-motel tax on all of the state’s 168,000 hotel rooms. The tax would not be imposed on extended stays of 30 consecutive days or longer. The bill eliminates the state’s tax exemption on purchases of jet fuel by Delta and other airlines. Signed May 4. Effective July 1, 2015.
Dual Enrollment Bills Signed
SB 2, provides local Boards of Education the ability to award a high school diploma to students that fulfill certain requirements in the completion of college coursework after their 10th grade year. Signed April 30. Effective Immediately.
SB 132, creates the “Move on When Ready Act,” allowing eligible students to enroll in dual credit courses at postsecondary institutions for which the student receives secondary credit from his or her eligible school. Additionally, this bill will assist these students in purchasing required textbooks and will introduce a ‘flat fee’ for non-course related items. Students and parents will be informed about the program in the students 8th grade year to ensure that individuals are aware of this opportunity. Signed April 30. Effective Immediately.
Opportunity School District Signed
SB 133 and SR 287, create an Opportunity School District headed by a superintendent appointed by the governor, that will allow the state to temporarily step in and take control of low-performing schools. The superintendent could choose up to 20 schools to join the state district each year. The district would be limited to 100 total schools at any time. Schools will stay in the district for no less than five years but no more than ten years. Signed April 21. Effective January 1, 2017, only if an amendment to the Constitution is ratified in November, 2016 general election.
Public Private Partnership Bill Signed
SB 59, creates the “Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act.” It grants board authority to state and local governments to finance, design and build infrastructure projects through Public‐Private Partnerships. Signed May 5. Effective Immediately.
Medical Marijuana Bill
HB 1, would allow a low cannabis oil 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. It will also allow children with seizure disorders to participate in a clinical trial of cannabis oil at Georgia Regents University. Signed April 16. Effective Immediately.
April Revenues Increase
Revenue collections for the month of April totaled $1.93 billion, an increase of $252 million or 15 percent compared to the revenue collected in April 2014. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $15.78 billion for an increase of $1.05 billion, or 7.1 percent compared to the same point last year.
Other Signed Legislation of Interest
HB 3, nicknamed the Gurley bill, prohibits the solicitation of a student-athlete by persons who have knowledge that such a transaction could cause the student-athlete to be sanctioned. It also authorizes action against such persons by the institution. Signed May 6. Effective Immediately.
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. Signed April 29, Effective July 1, 2015.
HB 110, legalizes the sale of all fireworks in Georgia. Sales would be regulated by the state insurance commissioner and sellers would be required to pay an initial license fee of $5,000 and $1,000 for each yearly renewal. Sales will be limited to people 18 years or older. Signed May 5. Effective July 1, 2015.
HB 190, requires $1 million insurance coverage for transportation network companies for all drivers from the moment the driver accepts a ride request to the time the ride ends. Signed May 6. Effective January 1, 2016.
HB 225, requires drivers for transportation network companies to submit to fingerprinting and state background checks. Signed May 6. Effective July 1, 2015.
HB 237, extends until 2020 the state income tax credit for a person (“angel investor”) who invests in a small, startup business. The credit would be equal to 35 percent of the amount invested. The aggregate tax credit would be capped at $5 million a year. Signed May 5. Effective Immediately.
HB 255, requires equal credits be given to certain forestry certification systems when using green building standards in state construction. Signed May 4. Effective July 1, 2015.
HB 259, creates the “Georgia Business Act” providing for an exemption for state purchasing from competitive bidding procedures. Signed May 6. Effective July 1, 2015.
HB 313, would allow full time, non-temporary employees of the State of Georgia or of any branch, department, board, bureau or commission to be eligible for up to eight hours of paid leave per calendar year for promoting education in the state. Rules and Regulations will be promulgated by the State Personnel Board. Signed May 6. Effective July 1, 2015.
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. Signed May 6. Effective
July 1, 2015.
HB 339, extends through 2018 the tax credit for film, video, or digital production companies. The total tax exemption is capped at $12.5 million a year and the production company must have a facility physically located in Georgia. Signed April 30. Effective Immediately.
HB 394, would allow individuals who have graduated from a nursing education program outside of the United States to be eligible for licensure as a registered professional nurse. Signed May 6. Effective Immediately.
HB 429, requires healthcare insurers to cover autism treatments for children aged six and younger, with a yearly cap of $30,000 on the payment for treatments. Businesses with ten or fewer employees would be exempt. Signed April 29. Effective July 1, 2015.
HB 492, provides that minor violations of a weapon in school safety zone is not considered a Class B designated felony. The bill also revises the unauthorized locations to provide that carrying a firearm in a government building as a non-license holder is unlawful. Also, provides that the prohibition on polling places is only in effect when elections are being conducted and polling places are being used for that purpose. For renewals, the presentation of the current license is evidence to the judge of the probate that the applicant’s fingerprints are on file. The background check for renewals will be a non-fingerprint check with GCIC and the FBI. Signed May 6. Effective July 1, 2015.
HB 504, would allow pharmacists and nurses to administer meningococcal vaccines to college students under a physician protocol agreement.The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 47-0 and now goes back to the House for consideration. Signed May 5. Effective July 1, 2015.
SB 203, creates the Georgia World War I Centennial Commission to plan activities to commemorate the centennial of World War I and Georgia’s role in it. The commission will be attached for administrative purposes to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Signed May 5. Effective July 1, 2015.
Teachers Retirement Bill Stalls
SB 152, would amend provisions relating to plan coverage under the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia. The bill creates a hybrid retirement plan for all individuals who become TRS members on or after January 1, 2017. This bill does not affect individuals who are TRS members or retirees on December 31, 2016. This blended type of retirement plan would consist of a defined benefit plan and a defined contribution plan in the form of a 401(k).
The proposal, which was strongly opposed by retirement educator organizations, was on the agenda last week for a joint meeting of the House and Senate Retirement Committees. Senators voted against sending the bill to the state auditors office for an actuarial analysis, which effectively killed the measure.
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)
June 16, 2015: Special Election (To fill vacancies)
September 15, 2015: Special Election (To fill vacancies)
November 3, 2015: General / Special 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