Final Chapter of 2010 Session
by Angela Palm on 6/8/2010

The Governor finished signing and vetoing bills today.  He vetoed several bills of interest to school boards:

  • HB 907 allowed flexibility in middle school programs.  Grades could have been housed in separate facilities and still earned middle school funding.  Sen. Chip Rogers' amendment regarding the special needs voucher program caused the veto.  It required the disbursement to be four equal quarterly payments which would not allow the voucher amount to be cut during the year.
  • HB 1028 allowed landowners who had put property into a conservation covenant to subdivide it without paying the penalty.  This contradicted the intent of the Forest Land Protection Act and so was vetoed.
  • HB 1082 expanded the freeport exemption so that it could include property now taxed as inventory.  The Governor vetoed it since it "would only create competition between counties at the expense of the property tax base of each county".
  • HB 1251 allowed future tourism projects to be funded up to 25 percent by sales tax exemptions.   The Governor did not find that to be such a good idea.
  • SB 239 gave parents 30 days to register their child for school when moving into a new school district.  It was amended to safeguard homeschooling families from having to enroll.  The Governor found the amendment to do just the opposite and vetoed it.

This session of the General Assembly was one for the history books as it lasted longer than any on record, saw a woman elected Speaker Pro Tem for the first time, and had drama unlike anything anyone had seen there in recent decades.  It's a chapter many are glad to close.

 

Who Knew?

Who knew the law could be such a source of surprises?  This session we learned school board members could not be bail bondsmen, but HB 980 fixed that.  There must be a really good story there.  

 

Although the state constitution clearly allows school boards to accept donations, HB 1200 now makes it doubly clear.  The constitution tops statutes but we needed a statute to affirm the constitution?  Alrighty.

 

Topping the list in this category though is the discovery that we have a state Pledge of Allegiance.  SB 518 requires that a study of the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States and the Georgia flag be included in American and Georgia History classes.  

 

O.C.G.A.  50-3-2 states:  The following is adopted as the pledge of allegiance to the state flag: "I pledge allegiance to the Georgia flag and to the principles for which it stands: Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation."  Curiousity about this led to the discovery that it was created in a resolution passed by the General Assembly in 1935 and put into law in 1951.  Also in the 1935 session, they passed a requirement for a Teachers Oath of Allegiance.  That must have been some session.

 

And now we all know.

 

Budget

Legislators searched for ways to balance the budget as the revenue estimate continued to shrink.  Efforts to raise the cigarette tax, to reinstate the grocery tax, to approve horse racing, a casino, and Sunday sales of liquor all failed.  Instead, they created new fees, a new hospital tax, raised a multitude of fees, and made other financial moves to make the numbers work.

 

They also focused on ways to make sure the state is collecting what is due.  They were willing to spend $677,700 for six Special Investigation Agents and four Fraud Detection Group Financial Analysts to enhance revenue collections.  $9.2 million was appropriated to fund 95 tax compliance auditors and 40 revenue agents to work outstanding accounts receivable and to fund field work.  May they be very, very successful.

 

The Governor found certain language in the budget to be for informational purposes and non-binding on the agencies.  Some of those were within the Department of Education's appropriations.  The Department is to ignore the General Assembly's instructions regarding the following:

  • Eliminating the SAT Prep and using the ACT and SAT practice tests in GACollege411 instead
  • Limiting the PSAT and payment for two AP exams to students who qualify for free and reduced lunch
  • Eliminating the CRCTs for grades 1 and 2
  • Eliminating the writing assessments for grades 3 and 5

In other words, the SAT Prep and assessments are to remain in place.

The Nitty Gritty

Rather than make this very, very long, the details of what passed and what it does can be found here.  The summary includes an extensive list of bills that did NOT pass.  

Thank all of you for taking time to read our Capitol Watch reports regularly and we are grateful for all the work you do all year on behalf of the children of Georgia.