Senate Passes Amended Budget
The Senate passed HB 750, the FY 2016 Amended budget by a vote of 49-0. The amended budget totals $23 billion, an increase of $1.1 billion over the budget originally adopted last year. Of the additional spending, $758 million will go toward road and bridge projects.
The mid-year budget includes $110 million to pay for enrollment growth in K-12 public schools, an increase of $90 million for Georgia’s Medicaid program and an additional $51 million for HOPE scholarships and Move on When Ready, a new dual enrollment program that allows high school students to attend postsecondary institutions at no cost to them or their parents. Differences must be worked out before the measure moves to the Governor’s desk for consideration.
The House Higher Education subcommittee of Appropriations met this week to review the FY 2017 budget. Chancellor Hank Huckaby addressed the committee and spoke to the USG budget items recommended by Governor Deal. Chancellor Huckaby stated that a salary increase for faculty and staff is the top priority for the University System. He asked members to support the Governor’s recommendation of a 3% pay raise, $38 million million for new USG formula funds, which are critical in meeting enrollment demands along with $60 million in bonds for major repairs and renovation. Subcommittees are expected to vote recommendations early next week with the full committee approving and sending the measure to the floor later in the week.
Bill to Cap Tuition Introduced
HB 977 and HR 1326, sponsored by House Majority Whip Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), would limit increases in tuition and fees within the University System of Georgia to the rate of inflation. The constitutional amendment, HR 1326, authorizes the General Assembly to limit tuition and fee increases via the enabling legislation of HB 977. If approved, voters will be asked in November: Shall the General Assembly be authorized to prevent increases in tuition or fees at institutions of the University System of Georgia from exceeding the rate of inflation.
The Georgia Student Finance Commission would determine the inflation rate to be used in setting the following academic year’s tuition in April. The enabling legislation also specifies that for any given year, the limit on tuition and fee increases could be waived by a majority vote of the Senate Higher Education Committee and the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill has been assigned to the House Rules Committee.
Revisions to HOPE
HB 22, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna), proposes that HOPE grants cover the full cost of tuition at Georgia’s technical colleges. This is expected to cost an additional $21 million per year. The bill passed the House Higher Education subcommittee of Appropriations and is now eligible for consideration in the full House Appropriations Committee.
HB 6, sponsored by Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia), would authorize the Georgia Student Finance Commission to provide for weighted grade point averages in excess of 4.0 for international baccalaureate, advanced placement, and dual credit course grades in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses for purposes of determining eligibility for the HOPE scholarship for incoming freshmen. The bill passed the House Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
SB 329, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), clarifies courses applicable for high school graduation and HOPE scholarship credit to include classes relating to high demand technical and job skills. The bill passed the Senate Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
Kinship Care Bills Introduced
HB 962, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), would create a ‘kinship care enforcement administrator’ within the Department of Human Services. This position would be appointed by the board and subject to the approval of the Governor. It would be the responsibility of the administrator to supervise, direct, account for, monitor, facilitate, and ensure compliance with all laws which relate to any programs, pilot programs, subsidies, or benefits available to kinship caregivers or children within their care. Assigned to the House Juvenile Justice Committee.
HB 963, sponsored by Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), would be known as ‘The Kinship Educational Consent and Transparency Act’. It allows a parent who is not a foster parent to give legal consent for a child in his or her custody to receive any medical or educational services for which parental consent is usually required by executing an affidavit thats valid for one year. Assigned to the House Juvenile Justice Committee.
HB 971, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), authorizes the Department of Human Services to provide the same medical assistance and health insurance coverages to kinship caregivers and the children in their care that are provided to foster parents and the children in their care. Assigned to the House Juvenile Justice Committee.
Carry Forward Legislation Advances
The House Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee met this week and passed out HB 745. This bill allows the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia to write off small amounts due to the state and carry forward certain fees and revenue through July 1, 2021. This mechanism allows the USG to better manage their operational budget to meet the critical needs on campus. Currently, authorization is set to sunset on June 30, 2016. The bill is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HB 54, sponsored by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), provides financial assistance in postsecondary education for children of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, and prison guard employed by the state or other public employer and Highway Emergency Response Operator who was killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. This allows the Department of Revenue to establish a contribution method in which Georgia residents can deem part of their tax refund to go towards financial assistance. The bill passed the House Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HB 542, sponsored by Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Powder Springs), expands the parameters for the Georgia Higher Education Savings Plan by adding incentives for low-income families to save for higher education. In addition to the incentives, the state will create and implement a program to match low-income families contributions with state funds. The bill passed the House Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
SB 350, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamuga), is the enabling legislation for a corresponding constitutional amendment to dedicate a portion of the excise tax from the sale of fireworks to the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission. Assigned to the Senate Public Safety Commission.
SB 319, would change the definition of professional counseling in relating to professional counselors, social workers and others by adding “diagnose” to their scope of practice. The bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
SB 314, revises the definition of advanced nursing practice to include clinical nursing specialist. It also requires applicants to complete fingerprinting and criminal background check performed by the Georgia Crime Information Center of the FBI to be eligible for licensure or renewal as an advanced practice registered nurse. The bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HR 1311, sponsored by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson) creating the House Study Committee on College Course Credit. Assigned to the House Special Rules Committee.
January Revenues Increase
Revenue collections for the month of January totaled $2.05 billion, an increase $119.3 million or 6.4 percent compared to the revenue collected in December 2015. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $12.49 billion for an increase of $1.02 billion, or 8.9 percent compared to the same point last year.
Intern Spotlight: Jordan Hall
“The Georgia Legislative Internship Program experience has helped me by allowing me to learn about the law and presenting new opportunities to broaden my horizons,” says Jordan Hall, a junior majoring in philosophy with a concentration in pre-law. Ms. Hall’s expectation from the program is to gain new insight about policy and legal matters.
As a Senate aide for Senator David Shafer, some of Jordan’s assignments include summarizing audits, and writing constituent letters and e-mails. Her extracurricular activities include volunteering with several campus ministries including The Living Room, BCM and IMPACT. She’s also a member of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Pre-Law Club and Sigma Alpha Omega sorority.
After graduation, Jordan plans to attend law school, while working part time. Her career goal is to become a civil corporate attorney and eventually start a nonprofit for individuals with disabilities.
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 21: The House and Senate will convene at 10:00 am on Tuesday, February 16.
Legislators are scheduled to work Tuesday 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