Day 28: Spend the Money
by Angela Palm on 3/22/2010

There has been little news on the budget lately.  Lawmakers need to sort out a few things about the 2011 budget before they are ready to complete the supplemental budget.  The legislative schedule changed today to allow more time to work on it.  Apparently there is a disagreement on how much revenue should be counted on from the hospital "bed tax."  In the meantime, good luck figuring out those local budgets.

  • The legislature will be in recess tomorrow and Thursday.  Friday will be the magical Day 30 that prevents any bill that has not passed one chamber from crossing over to the other for consideration -- unless the rules are suspended or it becomes part of another bill.
  • The legislature will be in recess April 2 - April 11.  April 12th will be Day 34, and that is as far as the calendar is planned now.  Time may fly somewhere, but not in the General Assembly -- Day 1 was January 11th.

Senate Ed Says Spend Reserves

The Senate Education and Youth Committee met today to get a few more bills to the Rules Committee.  SB 515, the Educators' Salary Protection Act, was heard.  

  • Sen. Preston Smith described the issue as systems holding large reserves while furloughing teachers.  He referred to $1.2 billion being held in local reserves with a range from $0 to $153 million.  
  • He brought a substitute to try to address some of the issues raised.  Since systems use the reserves to pay employees over the summer months, he put September 1st as the date to measure whether the unencumbered portion of the reserve is 6% or more of that year's operating budget.  
  • If it is, the local board would not be allowed to furlough employees under this bill.  
  • Local boards would be required to use the reserves to receive QBE funds.  
  • The substitute also defined "unencumbered" as excluding "contractually obligated amounts or amounts reserved for teacher and other school system personnel salaries."

Arguments that a healthy reserve is not only necessary to meet the changing fiscal picture but also good fiscal management were dismissed.  Chairman Dan Weber voiced reservations about the effect on local control and whether it could be implemented reasonably.  He also acknowledged, as did several other Senators, that it is politically popular. Other committee members seemed to see no problem with the bill, only with those opposing it.

Of course there is another option -- the state could fund the salaries based on the schedule and class sizes it has set.  The bill received a "Do Pass," but the sponsor and Chairman expect to continue work on the bill. 

SB 518, requiring the study of the Pledge of Allegiance and the Georgia flag be added to the curriculum, was also heard.  It was pointed out that this is in the kindergarten standards, but sponsor Sen. Jeff Mullis wanted to proceed with his bill.  So apparently did the committee as it also received a "Do Pass."

Testing Bill Bounces Around

HB 1100, eliminating the first and second grade CRCTs and authorizing the State Board to forego unnecessary tests if the General Assembly does not appropriate the funding for them, passed out of House Education and went to Rules a couple of weeks ago.  Rules sent it back to the Education Committee  on Thursday.  Reportedly the Governor did not agree with the elimination of the CRCTs and the bill was to be amended.  Today the House Education Committee decided they liked the bill as it passed from their committee to begin with and passed it again.  Now it's back to Rules to vie for a spot on the calendar.



The General Assembly is in recess until Wednesday, March 24th.  

Committee meetings were being rescheduled due to the new calendar.  Check here for the latest.