Legislature Adjourns Sine Die
The Georgia General Assembly adjourned sine die as the clock struck 12:30 a.m. on Friday, March 25 after a session that saw many twist and turns on key legislation. In these 40 days, lawmakers approved budgets for the remainder of FY 2016 and FY 2017, as well as legislation that addressed religious liberty, health care, public safety, MARTA expansion and education. Governor Deal now has 40 days to sign or veto legislation or to allow such measures to become law without his signature.
The House and Senate agreed on the conference committee report for the FY 2017 budget. 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 $117.3 million for merit-based pay adjustments and new USG formula funds. Also included was $52 million in bonds and $8 million in cash for major repairs and renovation. The final compromised agreement increased raises for law enforcement agencies, such as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation a Georgia state troopers, to 6 percent for the coming year.
Several study committees were established this session including SR 1001, creating the Senate Study Committee on Higher Education Affordability. SR 467, creates the Senate Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Study Committee. SR 360, creates the Senate Data Security and Privacy Study Committee. HR 1093, creates the Joint Study Committee on Mental Illness, Initiative, Reform, Public Health, and Safety.
HB 745, passed the Senate this week by a unanimous 50-0 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 goes to the Governor for his signature.
HOPE Legislation Passed
The House agreed with the Senate changes to HB 801. This revises HOPE scholarship requirements to include computer science and provides weighted scores for courses that are determined to be academically rigorous and lead to jobs in high demand STEM fields.
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.
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.
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 House agreed with the Senate changes to all Kinship Care legislation. The bills will now go to the Governor for his signature.
HB 962, creates a ‘kinship care enforcement administrator’ within the Department of Human Services. It also authorizes the Department of Human Services to provide a separate link or portal on its website specifically for kinship caregivers in order to provide information on public assistance benefits.
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.
expands Georgia’s right to visitation laws to include great-grandparents, aunts and uncles. Right to visitation laws are enforced when a child custody case has gone before a court or when the parents are no longer living together.
Law Enforcement Video Recordings
HB 976, would modify the retention schedule for law enforcement surveillance cameras, body worn cameras and in-car cameras. It would require that recordings from police surveillance cameras be stored for 30 days; and recordings from body worn cameras and vehicle mounted cameras be stored for 180 days, except in the following situations: if the recording captures an arrest, use of force by an officer, or a vehicular accident, the video must be stored for 30 months, or if there are other investigations or pending litigation, the recording must be kept through final adjudication. The bill is now goes to the Governor for his signature.
Georgia Film and Television Trail Act
SB 417, would create the “Georgia Film and Television Trail Act.” This trail would be overseen by the Department of Economic Development, it would be responsible for locating various film and television locations for productions and work with local governments on this Trail. The department would be required to get written approval from the property owner prior to any signage or materials being printed about the property being a part of the Trail. The Department of Transportation would be authorized and directed to place signs in the State at film and television production sites. The bill is now goes to the Governor for his signature.
HB 792, passed the Senate this week by a vote of 43-12. This would authorize the carrying, possession and use of electroshock weapons by persons who are 18 years old or enrolled in classes on campus or are employed at any public technical school, vocational school, college, university or other institution postsecondary education. The Senate added an age limit to the bill, which the House agreed too. The bill is now goes to the Governor for his signature.
Other Legislation Passed
SB 323, establishes the time period for a response to an open records request of intercollegiate sports programs of any unit of the University System of Georgia, including athletic departments and related private athletic associations shall be 90 business days from the date the request is received.
SB 18, 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.
HB 54, 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.
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 also adds the ability to diagnose to the definition of professional counseling, provided the counselor has graduate level education and supervised experience, or its equivalent, working with people with mental illness.
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.
HB 979, would increase the penalties of individuals convicted of aggravated assault and battery against hospital emergency department personnel and emergency medical service personnel. Current offenders are subject to a prison sentence of one to 20 years. Under this bill, new offenders would serve a 5 to 20 year prison sentence. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 51-2 and now goes to the Governor for his signature.
Medical Cannabis Expansion Fails
SB 145, was amended in the House to include language from HB 722. This would expand the list of conditions for which low THC oil can be administered by including autism, epidermolysis bullosa, HIV, peripheral neuropathy, tourette’s syndrome, terminal illness, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill failed to get a vote on the Senate floor.
Intern Spotlight: Jovan Paige
Jovan Paige is a senior majoring in public policy. He decided to become a legislative intern so that he would have the opportunity to be among the true movers and shakers within our state government. “Every single moment has been learning experience,” says Jovan. “Interaction with a lobbyist or the satisfaction of knowing that something as simple as retrieving a copy of a bill can prove to be an instrumental part of perpetuating positive change for our great state.”
Assigned to the Clerk’s office, Mr. Paige’s duties include retrieving House and Senate bills and resolutions, and other administrative duties.
At Georgia State University, Mr. Paige is a member of the 1913 Society, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi Professional Business Fraternity, and an INROADS Intern. In 2015, he was Homecoming King, and VP of Student Life for the Student Government Association.
After graduation, Jovan plans to do reputation management for professional athletes at a public relations firm such as Porter Novelli. In the future, he would like to be a lobbyist followed by a State Representative, and advocate for issues concerning post-secondary education.
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)
Primary Election: May 24, 2016
General Election: November 8, 2016
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