2015 Legislative Session

Lots of big issues relative to education to pay attention to this session!

First, of course, are the issues in DeKalb with Druid Hills wanting to annex to the City of Atlanta, due to their dissatisfaction with DeKalb schools, and entangled with that, there is the continuation of the push to put a vote on the statewide ballot to one way or another, change those words in the State’s Constitution that forbid forming new school districts. Those words were added way back in the 1940s when Georgia was a very different place. Although the resolution gained quite a lot of traction as it was written last year, [HR 486] rather than adding more DeKalb-centric words to that GA Amendment, legislators, led by Tom Taylor, now are simply opting to place a resolution proposing an amendment to the state’s Constitution allowing the formation of new school systems. [HR4] The City of Dunwoody has published a public message of support for this resolution.

For a bit of history on the subject, click here.

And from the Georgia PTA” [Jan. 12, 2015] >>

GeorgiaPTATakesActionLogoBlueThe 2015 Georgia Legislative Session for the House and Senate will convene today at 10:00am. Both chambers will swear in all members of the general assembly and approving their rules for this session. If you are available, you may want to attend the Governor’s inauguration at the state capitol scheduled for 2:00pm. During the 2015 session, I will provide regular updates and action alerts to keep you inform of happenings in the legislature on children related issues such as education, child safety, juvenile justice, health and nutrition, and family engagement.

In addition, your participation is critical to the success of Georgia PTA legislative and advocacy efforts. Please click here to join or update your profile in our grassroots advocacy network. By joining the network, you can inform us of any relationships you have with our elected officials and we can stay better connected with you throughout the legislative session as well as request your support for important legislation.

Prefiled Legislation for 2015 Legislative Session

  • HB 39 – (Waites-60th) “Dropout Deterrent Act”; to revise the age of mandatory education; this legislation amends the mandatory school attendance required for children between 5th and 17th birthdays.
  • HB 40 – (Waites-60th) Elementary and secondary education; bullying; revise provisions; this legislation provides provisions for bullying and add provisions for harassment of students and school employees.

Office of the Governor Newsroom

No Committee Meetings Scheduled

To find more events and the happenings of the Capitol, be sure to look at the calendar of events. You can also keep up with what’s going on during the session with live broadcasts from the House, the Senate or both chambers at the same time.

Useful Links

Tyler Barr
Georgia PTA
Legislative Policy Specialist/Lobbyist
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Bookmark this link — we will continue to update the legislature’s progress in the comments as the session rolls along.
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News! A new bill has been floated by Rep Hamilton of Cumming that would allow parents to capture state funds for education and place them in an account to be used for private or home schooling.

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UPDATE FROM DEKALB BOARD MEMBER STAN JESTER (District 1)

1st Quarter Legislative Update

The first quarter of the 2015 legislative session is now behind us. Where do we stand?  The House Education Committee passed three bills which will move on to the House Rules Committee before moving to the House action items.

HB 0091 – Eliminate Georgia High School Graduation Test

Open Current Version in New Window

GSBA Summary – Removes criterion-referenced competency tests and the Georgia High School Graduation Test from the list of approved student achievement measures leading to a high school diploma and adds end-of-grade assessments to the list. The bill also retroactively removes the Test requirement for students who have met all other graduation requirements and allows a diploma to be awarded.

Bill Summary from the State Site – A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to the elementary and secondary education, so as to eliminate the Georgia High School Graduation Test as a requirement for purposes of graduation; to provide procedures for former students who did not pass one or more portions of the Georgia High School Graduation Test to petition to obtain a high school diploma; to provide for notice of such petition option; to provide for changes for purposes of conformity; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

HB 0062 – Special needs students with active military parent

Open Current Version in New Window

GSBA Summary – The special needs voucher program currently requires a special needs student’s parent to have been a Georgia resident for at least one year and the student to have been in attendance at a Georgia public school the year prior to be eligible. This bill would amend that for military families. If the parent is an active duty military service member stationed in Georgia within the previous year, then the special needs student would be eligible.

Bill Summary from the State Site – A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Code Section 20-2-2114 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to qualifications for the scholarship program for special needs students, so as to waive certain qualifications for students whose parent is an active duty military service member stationed in Georgia within the previous year; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

HB 0065 – Public meetings on proposed operating budgets

Open Current Version in New Window

GSBA Summary – LC 33 5725 Requires boards of education and certain charter schools not part of a local education agency to hold at least two meetings to allow public input on the proposed annual operating budget. Charter schools with a statewide attendance zone shall hold one such meeting in the county where its primary business office is located and one meeting in metro Atlanta.

Bill Summary from the State Site – A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to elementary and secondary education, so as to require local boards of education and certain charter schools to hold at least two public meetings on the proposed annual operating budget; to require that a summary of the proposed and adopted annual operating budget be posted on the Internet; to require that the detailed annual operating budget be made available upon request; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

2nd Quarter Expectations
The second quarter is filled with education bills waiting for committee action.

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Also, keep checking this link to follow HR4 – the resolution calling to put out for a vote, a change to the GA Constitution prohibiting the formation of new school districts…

A RESOLUTION proposing an amendment to the Constitution so as to authorize any municipality in the State of Georgia to establish by local law an independent school system; to provide definitions; to provide for related matters; to provide for the submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes.

 

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March 16, 2015 Legislative Update

Crossover Day at the Capitol adjourned last Friday, completing the 30th legislative day. Both House and Senate members were very busy ensuring their legislation got passed. The 2015 Georgia General Assembly, will convene on Wednesday, March 18th for the 31st legislative day.

Crossover Day

The following bills were passed in House and Senate chambers:

  • HB 474, provide for enrollment priorities in charter schools for educationally disadvantaged students and military students; House passed/adopted by substitute
  • HB 131, provide policies in public schools prohibiting bullying, so as to prohibit cyberbullying; House passed/adopted by substitute
  • HB 268, require mandate and authorization to report child abuse; House Passed/Adopted By Substitute
  • HB 209relating to the “Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Act,” so as to revise the prior school year attendance requirement to the prior semester; to revise provisions relating to notification of parents of eligible students as to scholarship options;
  • HB 17, to extend the statute of limitations for actions for childhood sexual abuse; 
  • HB 401restrictions on persons with criminal records with regard to child, family, or group-care facilities relating to early care and learning; House Passed/Adopted
  • SB 130provide that any person in control of a motor vehicle who smokes or permits another occupant to smoke when a person under the age of 15 is in the vehicle shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; Senate Passed/Adopted
  • SB 138repeal a provision relating to the Council for Welfare Administration; permit Governor to appoint a director to DFCS and establish an advisory board; Senate Passed/Adopted By Substitute
  • SB 185provide for a program of clinical trials of cannabidiol or cannabidiol-containing products for use in treating certain residents of this state under 18 years of age who have medication-resistant epilepsies; Senate Passed/Adopted By Substitute
  • SB 176require that youth athletes participating in gridiron football shall be equipped with and wear a helmet which has at least a four star rating on the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings scale at the time of its use; Senate Passed/Adopted By Substitute
  • SB 141provide that minor violations of weapons in school safety zones are not considered Class B designated felonies; Senate Passed/Adopted By Substitute
Upcoming Committee Meetings

The following meetings are scheduled for this week:

General Calendar
  • Senate will convene March 18, 2015 at 10:00 AM 
  • House will convene March 18, 2015 at 10:00 AM
  • Live broadcasts of both chambers. Watch Live
Thank you for your support and advocacy on behalf of the children in Georgia. I welcome you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as we move throughout the legislative session this year.  I can be reached via email at tbarr@georgiapta.org. 
Thank you for your support and advocacy on behalf of the children in Georgia. I welcome you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as we move throughout the legislative session this year.  I can be reached via email at tbarr@georgiapta.org. 

 

Tyler Barr
Legislative Policy Specialist/Lobbyist
Georgia PTA
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March 31 UPDATE from the Georgia Center for Opportunity >>
Because Georgia runs on a biennial cycle, bills that made progress this year will pick up where they left off starting in the 2016 legislative session. This means that we are in a good position for January 2016 since we have a bill that has been vetted and has made significant progress in the House. We also feel confident that, given the broad and bipartisan support for the bill within the general assembly and overwhelming support among Georgia voters, our chances for passing the bill next session are excellent.

While this is disappointing news, we encourage you to continue to speak about the importance of educational choice (and ESAs specifically) with your legislators throughout the year! If you don’t know who your legislators are, find them here.

To learn more about ESAs and to support Rep. Hamilton and Sen. Hunter Hill, who is sponsoring similar legislation in the state senate, visit www.georgiaopportunity.org/go/esa.

Senate Bill 133 and Senate Resolution 287 – Opportunity School Districts (OSD)

The governor’s signature legislation is moving forward despite unexpected opposition and difficulty. Senate Bill 133 provides the nuts and bolts of how the OSD would operate, while Senate Resolution 287 allows voters to decide in 2016 whether they are willing to entrust new powers to the governor’s appointed OSD superintendent to take over failing schools. Each passed with the requisite constitutional majority, 108-53 and 121-47, respectively.
Senate Resolution 287 will ask voters:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

There was lots of fiery rhetoric throughout the committee hearings and on the House floor both for and against the resolution. Opponents argue that the bill would allow for power to be taken away from local school boards and placed in the hands of a centralized bureaucracy. Supporters maintain that decision‑making power in an OSD is decentralized away from the local school board bureaucracy, and transferred to individual school principals, teachers, and, often, charter school boards.

In other words, both sides argue that they support local control.

At first glance it is difficult to see how a state takeover could lead to more local involvement, but with New Orleans as an example, we can now imagine a way for government to create the space and, importantly, the pressure needed for local communities and institutions to address problems plaguing our most chronically failing schools.

House Bill 440 – Business and Education Succeeding Together (BEST) – sponsored by Rep. Mike Glanton, D- Jonesboro

In February, Rep. Mike Glanton (D) introduced a bill that would create a separate corporate-only tax credit program (Business and Education Succeeding Together, or BEST) that would provide $12 million in scholarship funding. The program is separate from the current tax credit scholarship program and has many of the acocuntable provisions that the current program lacks. While the bill has not made much progress this session, we believe it will be seriously considered next session as an additional way to continue expanding opportunities for students and families in the state.

Senate Bill 129 – Religious Freedom Restoration Act – Sponsored by Rep. Josh McKoon – R – Columbus

SB 129, the religious liberty bill, was “tabled” by the House Judiciary Committee, because of an amendment that would have effectively gutted the bill of its purpose.

The so-called “non-discrimination” clause introduced by state Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, “completely undercut the purpose of the bill,” McKoon said. Supporters of the bill felt that adding this clause, which the majority of the thirty plus state RFRA’s and the federal RFRA do not have, would effectively leave religious liberty worse off in the state of Georgia. For example, adding a non-discrimination clause could prevent private religious schools from discriminating based on religious belief when hiring staff.

SB 129 became part of a larger culture war, and its failure – tabling the bill makes it very unlikely that it will reach a House floor vote before the end of the session – was due in large part to the fear of “perception” rather than the reality of the purpose or language of the bill. The ongoing struggle over Indiana’s new law is certainly not encouraging lawmakers here to act.

Read additional commentary on the RFRA legislation on our website.

For the case in favor of Georgia’s legislation, read what these fourteen law professors had to say.

Senate Bill 8 and Senate Resolution 7 – Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act – sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford

Georgia legislators, led by Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, are seeking to tighten Georgia’s existing sex trafficking laws. The combination of Senate Bill 8 and Senate Resolution 7 would help create a new Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, using new $2,500 fines on convicted traffickers and an annual $5,000 fee on adult entertainment establishments to raise money for the fund. SB 8 sets out the framework of the proposal while SR 7 seeks amendment to the Georgia Constitution by asking Georgians for permission to create the new fund. A governor-appointed commission would manage this fund and the effort.

This money would then be used to pay for physical and mental health care, housing, education, job training, child care, legal help and other services for sexually exploited victims. In addition to the new fines, the Bill would require convicted traffickers be listed on the state sex offender registry – something which surprisingly doesn’t happen now.

Legislators are working together to merge Unterman’s version of the proposal with a similar House version, HB 244, with hopes to assure final passage. The Bill passed through the Senate on a 52-3 vote, and is now working its way through the House Committee for Juvenile Justice.

UPDATE: Both of these bills were voted out of the senate prior to crossover day and await action by the house.

Senate Resolution 80 – Demand Revision of College Board of AP U.S. History – Sponsored by Sen. William Ligon Jr., R-Brunswick

This resolution demands revision by the College Board of Advanced Placement U.S. History. Since approximately 14,000 Georgia students take the College Board’s Advanced Placement U. S. History course each year, the General Assembly is right to be concerned that the new framework “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects,” presenting, “a biased and inaccurate view of many important themes and events in American history, including the motivations and actions of seventeenth to nineteenth century settlers, the nature of the American free enterprise system, the course and resolution of the Great Depression, and the development of and victory in the Cold War.” Though the college board denies any political intent, the course content does seem to have a strong bias that focuses on negative aspects of American history, while not presenting much on America’s positive role in the world.

Those in favor of Senate Resolution 80 hope that by acknowledging this problem, other companies might form to challenge the bias of the College Board’s monopoly on Advanced Placement courses for high school students.

UPDATE: This bill, in substitute form, was voted out of the senate prior to crossover day and awaits action by the house.

House Bill 677 and House Resolution 807 – Allowing Casino Gambling in Georgia – Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah

For the last several years, some form of gambling has been proposed by various legislators under the guise of saving the HOPE Scholarship. This years’ effort is being sponsored, in part, by Rep. Ron Stephens. House Resolution 807 would place a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot that would empower the state to license casinos (which is currently prohibited by the Georgia Constitution), while House Bill 677 is a 127-page bill that describes in detail how the new gambling marketplace in Georgia would operate. These bills, like those in previous years, are being promoted on the basis of the jobs casinos could create, along with the revenue promised to the HOPE Scholarship program. Missing from the analysis is any reference to the problems associated with casinos – including increased levels of addiction and negative economic effects.

House Bill 1 – Haleigh’s Hope Act – sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake, R- Macon

Last Friday, Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order directing state agencies to prepare for the enactment of House Bill 1 which authorizes the limited use of cannabis oil to treat eight specific disorders that include cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, sickle cell disease, and seizure disorders as long as a physician prescribes the medication. The bill also allows for clinical trials to further study how the drug works.

House Bill 439 – Georgia New Markets Jobs Act – sponsored by Rep. Jason Shaw, R- Lakeland

In 2000 the U.S. Congress created the federal New Markets Tax Credit as an effort to stimulate private investment within poor urban and rural areas. Since 2000 a handful of states followed with their own versions of the law. House Bill 439, Georgia New Markets Jobs Act is another such effort.

According to the New Markets Tax Credit Coalition, the tax credits, “stimulate private investment and economic growth in low income urban neighborhoods and rural communities that lack access to the patient capital needed to support and grow businesses, create jobs, and sustain healthy local economies.”

House Bill 439 would allow for millions of dollars in private investment toward projects and communities that likely would never have received such injections of patient capital otherwise – stimulating economic growth in low-income neighborhoods. In other states this tax credit has been used to finance everything from health care centers to charter schools, groceries in food deserts, community centers, domestic violence shelters, factories and small business loan funds in distressed urban, suburban and rural communities.

HB 439 passed through the Senate last Friday 41-9. Though HB 439 differs from the federal New Markets Tax Credit, this bi-partisian sponsored bill represents innovative policy that seeks to remove barriers to opportunity.

Legislative Calendar

Today is legislative day 39 of 40. Sine Die is set for Thursday, April 2nd

Reports

These are the house and senate reports on activity in each chamber.
– House Daily Report (daily)
– Senate Daily Report (weekly)

Use Our Website to Follow Important Legislation and Contact Your Elected Representatives

Visit our Take Action page to see all of the bills we’re tracking this session, to take specific actions on bills we support or oppose, and find out how to contact your elected representatives.

One Response to 2015 Legislative Session

  1. clark martin says:

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