Day 40: Halleleujah It's Over
by Angela Palm on 4/29/2010

The longest session in anyone's memory is finally over.  This last day was filled with farewells and announcements as many are calling it quits or running for a higher office. Sine die is known for last minute drama and shenanigans, and this one had its moments. 

Bills that could not pass on their own were pulled apart and put into others.  Versions of bills went back and forth between the chambers.  Instead of conference committees, they seemed to prefer to keep amending each other's bills.  That led to some real tongue twisters to describe the legislative action taking place, such as a motion for the Senate to agree to the House amendment to the Senate amendment to the House substitute for a Senate bill.  That method also allowed them to hold particular bills until others made their way through.

There were last minute attempts to amend bills, but most of them failed to go anywhere.  One of those was an attempt to revive the school start date bill.  They also kept searching for a bill to add the teacher evaluation language from SB 521.  All those attempts failed.  Unfortunately the dual enrollment funding was lost in the maneuvering.  

FY 2011 Budget

For four months, legislators struggled over the budget, water, budget, transportation, budget, guns, and a number of other issues but always came back to how to keep the state going in the midst of the revenue meltdown.  After all the arguments over taxes, fees, and no-new-tax pledges, agreement over the budget was finally reached.  

There were no surprises in the education section.  There were no changes to cuts to QBE, and no cuts were made to equalization.  Here are a few of the items:

  • Transportation funding was cut $5 million
  • School nurse program was cut $1.6 million
  • Pre-school Handicapped program was cut $1.3 million
  • Severely Emotionally Disturbed program was cut $3.5 million
  • National Board Certified program was eliminated
  • The alternative sparsity grant program was eliminated
  • 1st and 2nd grade CRCTs and 3rd and 5th grade writing assessments were eliminated
  • PSAT and 2 AP exams are funded only for students on free and reduced lunch
  • Capital outlay was funded at 100%
  • $50 million in bonds is authorized to buy buses
  • The reimbursement for the forestland protection act is $10.5 million

Budgets are always based on revenue assumptions.  The FY 2011 budget is dependent upon revenue growing 3.9% over the amount collected in 2010.  About 3.5% of the anticipated revenue comes from three new sources:  

  • The new hospital provider payment -- $229 million
  • Selling the GEFA bonds -- $288 million
  • New user fees -- $96 million

What Did They Do To Us?

For some reason at the end of a session, no one has ever asked what wonderful thing happened.  I wonder why.  Several bills we had watched closely did not pass.  Although we were frequently threatened with the passage of HB 480, the repeal of motor vehicle sales taxes and ad valorem taxes, the Senate did not bring it to the floor.  Earlier in the session HR 1, the assessment caps, was stopped. Those two bills would have had a major impact on local revenue.

Another positive action taken was passage of SB 206, requiring a tax expenditure report detailing the state tax exemptions to be a part of the annual budget process.  This was one of GSBA's legislative priorities this year. 

The biggest disappointment was passage of SB 308, the guns bill.  This bill did go to a conference committee, and the final version eliminated the 1,000 foot safety zone around schools among other changes.  It was far better than when it started two years ago though.

Here is a brief list of other bills that made it through tonight:

  • HB 400, the BRIDGE bill which includes a requirement for an individualized graduation plan
  • HB 907, dealing with middle school funding including the Senate amendments dealing with additional notification to parents of special needs students of the voucher program and changes in the disbursement of the voucher funds
  • HB 923, extending the period for finishing a leadership for a higher rate of pay
  • HB 936, allowing bus replacement funds to be used for refurbishing buses including the Senate amendment for the federal bond program
  • HB 1013, requiring an annual report on SPLOST funds
  • HB 1079, allowing payments to the Professional Standards Commission to be by credit or debit card.  The bill was amended to include the original version of HB 1103 which shifts the burden of background checks to the PSC among other things.
  • SB 239, regarding truancy and school registration when moving into a new district
  • SB 250, on disruptions on the school bus plus the inclusion of HB 927, the bullying bill
  • SB 299, regarding juvenile proceedings and weapons at school
  • SB 346, revising the assessment and appeals of ad valorem taxes
  • SB 457, revising the way a cluster charter petition can be submitted to the local board

All these bills and the budget are now in the hands of the Governor.  He has forty days to sign or veto them.  If he does not veto them, they can become law without his signature.  It usually takes about a week for the legislative offices to catch up and sort out what happened on the final day.  We will do a full legislative wrap-up as always.

Once again, we thank all of you for your help during this session.