Sunday, March 29, 2009
Georgia PTA’s weekly update on legislative activity
The General Assembly has completed 37 of the 40 days that it will meet in 2009. There are only three days left this session so bills will be moving fast and furiously next week. We are seeing language from bills thought dead amended to bills that are moving so anything can happen in the next few days. The Senate still has not passed a budget for next year so this final week promises to be a very interesting one. The revenue numbers remain grim so there’s talk that a special session may be needed. In this time of declining revenue it’s of note that the legislature has passed several bills that provide tax credits or exemptions that directly affect the government’s available funds.
Update: School Nurse Funding
We still don’t know about the funding for school nurses. The House put it back in, the Senate has had no public hearings so no one knows what is in their version of the 2010 budget.
• Call your Senator and let him know funding for school nurses is critical!
• If it makes it out of the legislature intact, the Governor can still line item veto the funding so contact him and let him know the funding for nurses is important to you.
Just when many thought SB 90 was done for this session, some of the language from it was amended to HB 251, the bill that allows intra-district school transfers. While the private school language was not added, the language allowing transfers between school districts was. PTA supports school choice but the issue here is how to pay for the student who transfers from one district to another. The student doesn’t reside in the new district so no property tax revenue is generated to fund his education. Currently districts can charge tuition for non-district students. In this bill the state and local funds from the sending school district would go to the new school district. The decision about how much money follows the child rests not with the local district but with the state. Local systems do not calculate how much is spent per pupil. To take the total dollars spent and divide by the number of students is too simplistic. Buses need to run whether there are 20 students or 40 students riding them, lights and heat have to be on in the school buildings and buildings must be cleaned. This bill takes the decision making about how local dollars are spent out of the control of the taxing authority that raised the dollars which many argue is unconstitutional. Some people argue that their dollars should follow their child but the reality is that it is not just their dollars; it is every tax payer’s dollars that are being spent to educate that child.
Legislation that Passed both Chambers:
HB 149: Move on When Ready: Students in 11th and 12th grades may enroll in Georgia public colleges and take Department of Education approved courses that will meet both high school graduation requirements and earn them college credit. Hours earned will not count against HOPE. What this means to you: If a student is ready to attend college and only has a few high school credits remaining to fulfill the high school diploma requirements, (s)he can earn those credits while attending college..
HB 300: Parents to be informed about meningococcal meningitis and other vaccines.
HB 484: Children of military personnel on active duty stationed in GA can qualify for HOPE.
SB 69: Any person who allows, permits, encourages or requires that a child engage in prostitution or sexually explicit conduct may be found guilty of sexual exploitation. (Currently only child’s parents of caregiver could be so charged).
HB 280: Provides differentiated pay for math and science teachers effective July 1, 2010.
HB 233: OPPOSE Two year freeze on any appreciation on the value of a property, even if it changes hands.
SB 84: Requires local school boards to have at most seven members (unless grandfathered) and abide by an ethics policy. The bill gives the Governor the power to remove board members if a school system is placed on probation by an accrediting agency and board members can remove fellow board members by a 2/3 vote. House amends: Board members cannot serve on a board of a private elem. or secondary school at the same time as on a local BOE. Prohibits gifts over $100.
Legislation to Watch: A comprehensive list of potential bills is on the website
HB 120: 2009 sales tax holiday would be from July 30 to August 2. Passed House and S. Finance
HB 23: Drivers under age 18 cannot use a cell phone nor text message while driving. Exceptions are made for driver emergencies, reporting an accident or criminal activity, or using while parked. Any driver involved in an accident while using a wireless device will face higher penalties. Passed House, passed Senate Public Safety
HB 193: Permits the required 180 day school year to be defined in hours, thus providing local school boards with flexibility in setting the school calendar. Passed House, passed Sen. Ed.
HB 243: Eliminates bonus for Nat’l Board Certified teachers. Grandfathers those currently receiving the bonus and those who began the certification process prior to Mar. 1, 2009. Eliminates from funding those teachers leaving teaching and going into administration or some other area effective July 1, 2009. Passed: Housed. Passed Sen. Ed.
HB 400: BRIDGE, Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy Act. Department of Education is to develop programs so a student can get courses at the home school, a technical college, a two or four year college, a work site as an apprentice, and other approved settings. Middle grades advisement shall provide counseling, advisement, career awareness, career interest inventories to evaluate each student’s academic skills and career interests. In grade 8, students shall select a preferred focused program and study and develop an individual graduation plan, IGP, with parents. High school students shall have annual reviews of the IGP which are to include academic core subjects and course work in math and science OR humanities, fine arts, and foreign language, OR sequenced career pathway courses; include IEP components if applicable. Passed House, to be held and will likely not pass this session
SB 5: SUPPORT Requires seatbelts be worn in all pickup trucks with an exception for those over 18 who are doing agricultural work.. Passed Senate. SB 23 also requires seatbelt use in pickup trucks but was voted down.
SB 8: Allows elementary and middle school students to carry and self administer epi-pens. Passed Senate, passed House Health/Human Services
SB 94: Removes the requirement that a dependent child up to the age 25 be a full-time student to be insured medically under the parent’s health plan. Passed Senate
SB 114: Provides special provisions for children of military personnel who transfer into GA public schools including waivers to some GA graduation requirements and additional allowable absences. Passed Senate, passed House Ed.
SB 206: Requires tax expenditure review, detailing for each item the amount of tax revenue foregone for at least a three year period, the intended objective of the expenditure, an analysis of whether or not it is achieving the objective. Taxes included in this report shall cover all state taxes collected by the Department of Revenue. Passed: Senate
SB 239: Requires parents to enroll a child within 10 days of moving into a district. Failure to do so would result in a fine between $50-500, 1-10 days incarceration or some combination thereof. Passed Senate, passed House Ed.
Key: HR- House Resolution, HB– House Bill, SR– Senate Resolution, SB– Senate Bill
Daily Reports with additional details on all the bills being tracked by GA PTA can be found on the Capitol Watch website under News