Senate Passes Amended Budget
The Senate passed HB 683, the FY 2018 Amended budget this week by a vote of 53-0. Of the additional spending, a majority of the new revenue focuses on required growth in education, healthcare, and human services. Once the House and Senate agree on the minor revisions that each chamber made to the $25.3 billion spending plan, the measure moves to the Governor’s desk for consideration.
The mid-year budget includes $102.1 million to pay for enrollment growth in K-12 public schools, $15.1 million for out-of-home care growth for the rising number of children in Georgia’s foster care system and $400,000 in start-up funds needed to establish a statewide leadership academy for principals. The Senate added an additional $250,000 for the purchase of four additional school buses bringing that total to $15.75 million and 204 school buses.
Included in the budget of interest to the University System of Georgia (USG) and Georgia State University is an additional $9.5 million to the Georgia Student Finance Commission to meet projected dual enrollment needs, $1.2 million less than recommended by the Governor and the House. The Senate agreed with the Governor and the House by adding $10 million for the Graduate Medical Education program at Augusta University and $2 million to the Technical College System of Georgia to purchase four mobile welding laboratories for HOPE Career Grant welding training on site throughout the state. The Senate disagreed with the House to increase funds by $75,000 for the planning of the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations as recommended by the House Rural Development Council. The Senate appropriated $25,000 for the project.
The House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee met this week to start reviewing the FY 2019 Budget. The Committee heard testimony from the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia, Georgia Military College and the University of Georgia.
Free Speech Hearing
The Senate Higher Education Committee held its first hearing regarding SB 339, which would require the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to develop and adopt a policy of free expression. Georgia State University President Mark Becker, University of Georgia President Jere Morehead and Vice Chancellor of Legal Affairs for the University System of Georgia Edward Tate gave testimony in opposition to the proposed legislation. Another hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday where the committee is expected to hear testimony from other USG Presidents.
Georgia State Football Team Commended
SR 788 (http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/SR/788) , sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) and HR 1204 (http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/HR/1204) , sponsored by Rep. Trey Kelley (R- Cedartown), commending the Georgia State University Panthers football team for its outstanding season and earning its first bowl game victory with a 27-17 win over Western Kentucky University in the AutoNation Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
Affordable Learning Georgia
In a press release Thursday, The University System of Georgia (USG) announced it is saving students more than $18 million a year with its free online textbook initiative, Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG).
ALG is one-stop service to help USG faculty and staff identify lower cost, electronic, free and open educational resources as highlighted in the USG’s presentation to the Georgia House of Representatives Higher Education Subcommittee of Appropriations on Feb. 14.
State Tax Code Overhaul
HB 918, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), updates the 2018 Internal Revenue Code. The bill addresses the state revenue projections resulting from the Federal Tax Act while mirroring its 10-year timeframe. The legislation would allow Georgia taxpayers to take the increased standard deduction at the federal level while providing flexibility to take either standard or itemized deductions at the state level. Another component would enhance personal exemptions by 25 percent. Assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Criminal Justice Reform
Governor Deal introduced criminal justice reform legislation this week with two pieces of legislation. SB 406 and SB 407, sponsored by Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough). SB 406, would require comprehensive criminal background checks for elder care providers in personal care homes or other assisted living facilities, and also require elder care providers and their employees to participate in the FBI database to better protect older adults. Assigned to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
SB 407, would reform the misdemeanor bail process, provide judges with additional opportunities to convert monetary fees or fines into community service, and impose tougher penalties on firearm-related offenses. Assigned to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
Regional Transportation Legislation
HB 930, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), would create a new regional board to oversee transit planning in 13 metro Atlanta counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Coweta, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding, and Rockdale.
The bill would allow the counties to impose sales taxes for transit projects, if their voters approve them. The regional board would have to approve the project lists for any county transit referendum and the taxes raised in any county would be spent only in that county. Assigned to the House Transportation Committee.
Military Affairs & Veterans Legislation
HB 749, states that any military retirement income received by a surviving family member of a deceased veteran is excluded from income tax regardless of the age of the surviving family member. The bill passed the House by a vote of 170-0 and has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee.
HB 719, allows housing authorities to develop and implement policies which grant preference to homeless veterans of the United States Armed Forces or a state’s National Guard, in addition to preferences already granted to homeless individuals. The bill passed the House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HB 750, removes the requirement that an individual had to serve in the United States Armed Forces, reserves or a state’s National Guard during wartime or a conflict in order to receive a veteran’s license. The bill passed the House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HR 655, provides that the Georgia House of Representatives will recognize November 9th as Gold Star Father Day annually in Georgia. The bill passed the House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HR 888, creates the Joint Study Committee on Converting Closed Hospitals to Veterans Homes. The bill passed the House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
Other Legislation Being Considered
SB 405, sponsored by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), would create grants up to $1500 per semester for non-HOPE students, whose family income does not exceed $48,000 and is enrolled in an institution of the University System of Georgia. The student must also be receiving a Pell scholarship, achieved certain academic criteria, and is employed at least 15 hours per week during the semester. The bill passed the Senate Higher Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 762, sponsored by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), would require the inclusion of age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education for students in kindergarten through 9th grade. The bill passed the House Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HB 852, Sponsored by Rep. Michael Smith (D-Marietta), would give local boards of education the option to allow students to continue attending the public school in which the student spent more than half a school year if the student moves into a different attendance zone within the same school system. The bill passed the House Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
HR 354, sponsored by Rep. Darshun Kendrick (D-Lithonia), urges the Department of Education to develop a list of training materials for mental health, behavioral disabilities, and learning disabilities. Once the training list is developed, the Department of Education shall provide the list to all school systems. The bill passed the House Education Committee and is now eligible for consideration in the House Rules Committee.
SB 17, sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), would allow restaurants and wineries to start selling alcohol at 11:00 am on Sundays. Current law prohibits the sell of alcohol before 12:30 pm on Sunday. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 38-18 and has been assigned to the House Regulated Industries Committee.
Intern Spotlight: Wesley Dunkirk
Wesley Dunkirk has been interested in working in government since high school. He applied to the Georgia Legislative Internship Program (GLIP) in hopes that it would help him decide whether he wanted a career in the public sector. “I hope to develop a greater understanding of the legislative process and build connections with my coworkers,” says Mr. Dunkirk.
Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Wesley’s duties include researching bills, handling constituent concerns, and preparing for committee meetings.
Wesley is a recent past president of the GSU Rowing Club. He currently serves as the Community Outreach Coordinator for GSU’s Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, an International English Honor Society.
After graduation from GA State, Mr. Dunkirk plans to apply for law school and eventually practice criminal law. “The Senate Judiciary Committee gives me constant exposure to the judicial system and allows me to build relationships with people who have amassed years of experience as attorneys,” says Wesley.
Wesley’s favorite quote is “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice,” Polonius in Hamlet by William Shakespeare. His favorite book is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Information on legislative activities including bills and resolutions as well as a webcast of daily sessions in both Chambers and committee meetings are available via the General Assembly website at www.legis.ga.gov
Day 23: The House and Senate will convene at 10:00 am on Tuesday, February 20.
Research University Day at the Capitol: Tuesday, February 20.
Senate Higher Education Committee Meeting: Tuesday, February 20, 3:00pm.
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
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