Senate Passes FY 2017 Budget
This week, the Georgia Senate voted 53-2 to pass the $23.7 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. The proposed budget for FY 2017 is $1.9 billion larger than the current spending plan, with much of the new money added in the areas of transportation projects, education funding and 3% merit-based pay raises for teachers and state employees.
The Senate budget recommendations of interest to the University System of Georgia (USG) and Georgia State University included $5.2 million in funds for the construction of Alpharetta Labs and Student Learning Center at Perimeter College and $101 million for merit-based pay adjustments and new USG formula funds. These funds are critical in meeting enrollment demands, providing for maintenance of new facilities and funding strategic initiatives. Also included was $60 million in bonds for major repairs and renovation. Funding for Kell Hall demolition was not included in the Senate recommendations.
The Senate has added 10 percent pay raises for public health nurses, more than doubling the recommendation of the Governor and the House. Senate members agreed with the Governor’s and House recommendation of $584,000 to fund 10 additional kinship navigators.
The 2017 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.
HB 859, passed the Senate today by a vote of 37-17 with no changes. The bill would allow anyone with a weapons carry permit (must be 21 years of age and passed a background check) to carry a firearm anywhere on a public college, university, technical school, vocational school or other institution of postsecondary education, except for dormitories, greek housing or athletic events. The bill is now goes to the Governor to either sign into law or veto. If signed, the legislation would be effective July 1.
The USG issued the following statement: “We appreciate the opportunity to have been heard. We expressed our opposition on behalf of our Board, 29 presidents, campus police chiefs, faculty and many students and their parents. We are disappointed because we feel current law strikes the right balance between creating a safe environment on our campuses while affording those individuals who are carry users a safeguard location. We are committed to providing our students, faculty and staff a safe environment, which is a responsibility that the University System takes very seriously.”
HB 792, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. This bill would authorize the carrying, possession and use of electroshock weapons by persons who are students or are employed at any public technical school, vocational school, college, university or other institution postsecondary education. The bill was amended by the committee adding that students needed to be 18 years old or enrolled in classes on campus. The bill is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 801, revises the academic eligibility requirements to receive the HOPE scholarship by including computer science in the advanced science category. Beginning in academic year 2017-2018, the cumulative GPA for calculating HOPE would include weighted grades for specific science, technology, engineering and math college courses. The grade assigned by an instructor would be increased by an additional .5, if grade is a B, C or D. The bill passed the Senate Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 798, would allow home-schooled students to qualify for the HOPE Scholarship by completing a home study program and scoring in the seventy-fifth percentile or higher nationally on the SAT or ACT. It would also allow home-schooled students to qualify for the Zell Miller Scholarship by completing a home study program and scoring in the ninety-third percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT. The bill passed the Senate Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 1072, relates to service cancelable education loans for Georgia National Guard members. It repeals a provision which would make students ineligible for the loan if they were also receiving the HOPE scholarship or HOPE grant funds. The bill passed the Senate Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
SB 329, 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 House Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HB 727, regulates where and when fireworks can be exploded and sanctions the collection of a one percent excise tax to be used for public safety purposes. It changes the time in which people can detonate fireworks from midnight to 10 p.m., except on select days specified for celebrating the New Year and Independence Day. The bill also allows fireworks to be sold from a temporary consumer retail sales facility on certain dates surrounding New Years and Independence Day. The bill passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 745, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee today by a unanimous vote. 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 Senate Rules Committee.
SB 18, would require the Technical College System of Georgia to establish policies for granting academic credit to students for college level learning acquired prior to enrollment from military service, work experience, service in the community or independent study. The bill passed the House Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
SB 58, 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 such eligible student for use in the admissions process at an institution of the university system. The bill passed the House Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HB 54, 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 Senate Higher Education 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 House Health and Human Services Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
SB 114, exempts emergency medical services systems operated by counties or municipalities with a full-time medical director from the requirements of nurse protocol agreements. The bill passed the House Health and Human Services Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
SR 114, sponsored by Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), creates the Joint Entrepreneur in Residence Study Committee. The bill passed the House Small Business Development Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
SR 1137, sponsored by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), creates the Senate Study Committee on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and Kinship Care. The resolution has yet to be assigned to a committee.
Intern Spotlight: Shivani Patel
Neuroscience major Shivani Patel became interested in the Georgia Legislative Internship Program after much research and recommendation from its director, Dr. Dan Franklin. “I expect to meet many people from around the state and discover how the legislative process really works, not the ‘how a bill becomes a law’ stuff you can just read about,” says Shivani.
Ms. Patel is assigned to the Office of Legislative Counsel. Her many duties include a wide range of administrative assignments, such as drafting resolutions. This internship has allowed Shivani to network and learn from legislators, lobbyists, and administrative staff, as well as other interns.
Shivani’s campus involvement include working as a GSU research assistant, and serving as a member of the Indian Cultural Exchange and the Honors Student Organization. After graduation, she plans on attending law school.
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 36: The House and Senate will convene at 10:00 am on Monday, March 14.
Legislators are scheduled to work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 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