Revisions to HOPE
HB 801, passed the Senate this week by a vote of 54-0. This bill 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.
To qualify for additional grade weighting, identified core and major courses must be determined to be academically rigorous and lead to jobs in high demand STEM fields. The bill was amended in the Senate Higher Education Committee to push back the effective date for determining the factor rate, HOPE award rate, and HOPE tuition payment to July 1, 2020. The bill will now go back to the House where they can either agree or disagree with the Senate changes. If the House chooses to disagree, a conference committee will be formed to work out the differences.
The House Study Committee on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and Kinship Care was created by HR 474 during the 2015 Legislative Session. The committee held public meetings during the summer and fall throughout the state, one of which was held at Georgia State University. The following legislation are results of the committees findings.
HB 962, bill 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.
HB 887, would require the Department of Family and Children Services, when placing a child in a foster care home, to place the child with a relative who is an adult or is regarded as being part of the family even though they are not related by either blood or marriage bonds. The relative must be willing and found by the court to be qualified to care for the child.
HB 229, expands the grandparent’s visitation statute to include great-grandparents, aunts and uncles. A great-grandparent, aunt or uncle may seek visitation rights when a child custody case has gone before a court or in cases where the parents are no longer living together. In order to be eligible for visitation rights, a great-grandparent, aunt or uncle must prove that they have a relationship with the child through clear and convincing evidence, that the health and welfare of a child will be harmed without such visitation, and that the visitation is in the best interest of the child.
The three bills all passed the Senate this week by unanimous votes, but were amended in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to include additional language from SB 3, “Supporting and Strengthening Families Act”. The bills will now go back to the House where they can either agree or disagree with the Senate changes.
HB 727, passed the Senate this week by a vote of 54-0. The bill 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 now goes to the Governor for his signature.
SB 350, is the enabling legislation for a corresponding constitutional amendment
SR 558, to provide that the existing excise tax on fireworks shall be specifically dedicated to the provision of trauma care, fire services, and local public safety purposes. SB 350 and SR 588 both passed the House this week and now go to the Governor for his signature.
Super Bowl Tax Break Approved
HB 951, would remove the tax on tickets to the Super Bowl, any semifinal or championship college tournament, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer or National Basketball Association all-star game, or any other major sporting event determined by the commissioner of economic development and the state revenue commissioner to be expected to generate revenue of at least $50 million in the host locality. The NFL requires the exemption in any city bidding to host the Super Bowl.
The bill also provides a “back-to-school” sales tax holiday to take place July 30 – July 31, 2016 and a tax exemption period for energy efficient products to take place from September 30 – October 2, 2016. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 38-14 and now goes to the Governor for his signature.
SB 18, passed the House Higher Education Committee this week. The bill would require the Technical College System of Georgia to establish policies for granting academic credit to active duty military or veteran students for college-level learning acquired prior to their enrollment from military service. Training and experience from military service must be substantially related to the coursework credit given by the Technical College System of Georgia. The bill is scheduled to be debated and voted on the House floor next Tuesday.
HB 54, passed the Senate this week by a vote of 51-0. The bill provides financial assistance in postsecondary education for children of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, paramedic, 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 was amended by the Senate to add paramedics to the list of those killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty and will now go back to the House where they can either agree or disagree with the Senate changes.
SB 319, clarifies and allows for professional counselors to diagnose emotional and mental problems or conditions. In addition, the bill requires the board which governs professional counselors to develop curriculum of continuing education for licensed practitioners relating to diagnosing individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities, or substance abuse. The bill passed the House Regulated Industries Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HB 1037, passed the Senate this week by a vote of 51-0. This bill amends the nurse aide registry established and maintained by the Department of Community Health to include nurse aides who provide services in temporary or permanent private residences. Additionally, the registry should provide a method by which the public can submit inquiries or complaints about these nurse aides. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.
SB 320, revises the existing exemptions afforded to nonresidents possessing a valid driver’s license issued by their home state or country. The bill also provides alternative options for accepting validity of a driver’s license issued by a foreign country. Drivers with a license issued by a foreign country would not be required to have an international driver’s license to drive through Georgia and would allow law enforcement to consult the person’s passport or visa to verify validity. The bill passed the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HR 1684, sponsored by Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville), creates the House Study Committee on Casino Gaming. Assigned to the House Special Rules Committee.
February Revenues Increase
Revenue collections for the month of February totaled $1.25 billion, an increase $234.5 million or 24.9 percent compared to the revenue collected in February 2015.
Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $13.73 billion for an increase of $1.32 billion, or 10.7 percent compared to the same point last year.
Intern Spotlight: Osamagbe Osagie
Osamagbe Osagie is a second year Master’s student who became interested in the Georgia Legislative Internship Program (GLIP) because she welcomed the opportunity to engage first-hand in the political process. In Osamagbe’s opinion, the session experience is fast-paced, unique, informative, and life-changing. “You’re so used to meeting and learning new people and things that by the time the session is over, you’re bummed that your experience has come to an end.”
Ms. Osagie’s legislative assignments include House Higher Education, State Planning and Community Affairs, State Properties, and Intergovernmental Coordination. She is responsible for assisting with administrative duties, running errands, and data entry. In her spare time, she tutors high school students in AP Government, mentors underprivileged high school girls, and volunteers with local social justice organizations.
Osamagbe is an aspiring education policy analyst who is constantly looking for opportunities that will allow her to advocate for the academic, occupational and life success of Georgia’s students. “Participating as an intern for the GLIP has afforded me a wonderful opportunity to display my affinity for politics and education,” says Ms. Osagie.
Intern Spotlight: Elijah Anderson
Always wanting to participate in a state legislative session, graduate student Elijah Anderson jumped at the opportunity to take part in the Georgia Legislative Internship Program. He is especially impressed in the efficiency at which things are done at the capitol. “You always hear the stereotype about government and bureaucracy being slow, but this experience has certainly proved otherwise,” says Mr. Anderson.
Elijah is assigned to the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office where he performs a number of administrative tasks including answering phones and attending committee meetings. In addition to his internship, Mr. Anderson works as a staffer for the National Model United Nations Conference in New York City. He is also a graduate research assistant for the GSU Public Management and Policy program.
Elijah plans to pursue a job in the public sector after graduation. He feels the internship has provided valuable policymaking experience that will prove useful in his future career as a lobbyist.
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 39: The House and Senate will convene at 10:00 am on Tuesday, March 22.
Day 40: Sine Die – Thursday, March 24.
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