Legislative Daily Reports

03/31 - Day 40: Another Session in the Books

Day 40: Another Session in the Books
63721 on 3/31/2021

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Following a lengthy Day 40, the 2021 session of the General Assembly wrapped Sine Die Wednesday night (Senate) and early Thursday morning (House). The highlight of the day was the final FY2022 budget, which was unveiled Wednesday afternoon. The budget looked very similar to the versions passed by the House and Senate over the past few weeks. There were very few differences between the House and Senate versions passed, with the most notable being a $5 million addition for school nutrition. The House had that allotment in their budget while the Senate did not, and ultimately the House prevailed. There was no change in the QBE amount from the House passed budget, with a minor increase over the Senate's version. 

Also of note is the amount in the budget for testing. In their budget, the Senate completely reduced the amount to administer the Georgia Milestones, while the House fully funded it ($5,315,882). In the final version a compromise of $2,313,876 was settled upon.

While most of the noteworthy education bills, including the expansion of the special needs voucher, were finalized earlier in the session, the following bills were voted on Wednesday:

Senate Approval of House versions: 

SB42 - This  original version of this bill removed student discipline data from the school climate rating. The final version kept that data in school climate ratings, and requires districts to post their student discipline data and report on their website. Late in the session, the language from the "Dexter Mosely Act" was added to the bill. That language allows home school students to participate in extracurricular activities at their local school. Home school students must be enrolled in at least one class to participate in any activity. 

SB246 - The Learning Pod Protection Act

House Approval of Senate versions:

HB282 - Revises the definition of contiguous when referencing timberland property.

SB59Raises the charter school supplement amount for local charter schools

HB287 - Requires tobacco and vaping products be added to current drug and alcohol courses for grades K-12 

Back and Forth:

HB32 - Creates a tax credit to attract teachers to teach in rural and high needs areas.

These bills, as well as ones previously passed, now head to Governor Kemp for his signature. 

03/29 - Day 39: The Penultimate Legislative Day

Day 39: The Penultimate Legislative Day
by Grace Kim on 3/29/2021

Today is Legislative Day 39, the penultimate legislative day. The Senate started with a floor calendar that was 4 1/2 pages long and then added more bills around dinner time. The House started the day with two floor calendars but it had four calendars by the end of the day. 

Bills that were in 'agree/disagree' mode popped up throughout the day. These are bills that pass one chamber and get changed by the second chamber. The first chamber can agree or disagree with the changes made by the second chamber. If the first chamber agrees to the changes, the bill passes and goes to the Governor's desk. If the first chamber disagrees, a process is set in motion that usually ends in both chambers appointing a conference committee to iron out the differences. 

The Senate passed the following education bills:

  • SB47- The Senate agreed to the House's version of the Special Needs Voucher bill. While it is disappointing that this voucher expansion bill passed at all, swift passage is better than the bill going to a conference committee or passage of the the Senate's larger version. This bill will now go to the Governor's desk.
  • SB153 - This bill moves the GOAL Academies from the State Charter Commission to the Department of Education and continues their current level of state funding through the schools' current charter. The Senate agreed to the House's version of this bill. It will now go to the Governor's desk.
  • HB134 - This bill excludes meetings on cyber security contracting and planning from open meetings requirements. The Senate passed HB 134 unaltered, so it now goes to the Governor's desk. 
  • HB287- This legislation requires tobacco and vaping products be added to drug and alcohol abuse prevention courses for grades K-12. At the request of the Governor's office, the Senate added language that would include human trafficking awareness information for grades 6-12. Combating human trafficking has been a major focus of Governor Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp, and this aligns with their initiatives. HB 287 now goes back to the House. 

The House passed the following education bills:

  • SB42 This bill removes student discipline data from school climate ratings but requires local districts to publish student discipline data on their websites or provide hard copies upon request. This bill also includes language that allows home school students to participate in extracurricular activities in public schools. Since the House passed its own version of this bill, it will have to go back to the Senate for final passage. 
  • SB59 This bill provides that local charter schools will be given the same amount of QBE funding as other charter schools. This bill also permits charter school teachers to opt-into the State Health Benefit Plan. SB 59 will now have to go back to the Senate.
  • SB95 This bill amends the Open Meetings laws to allow public meetings to be held by teleconference.  This bill will have to go back to the Senate. 
  • SB213 - This bill allows school systems to use SPLOST funds to install equipment that reduces energy or water waste. This bill will now go to the Governor's desk.  
  • SB220 The House Rules Committee stripped the Civics Renewal Act and inserted financial literacy language. This bill will have to go back to the Senate for final passage. 
  • SB246 - The Learning Pod Protection Act places limits on how much local governments can regulate learning pods. This bill will have to go back to the Senate for final passage. 
  • HB146 This bill provides for three weeks of paid parental leave for public employees, including public school employees. The House agreed to the Senate's version of this bill, so now it goes to the Governor's desk. 

The budget, HB81, is currently in conference. I had hoped that the budget would be out of conference committee today, but I didn't see any of the pink cover sheets that indicate a conference committee report has been printed.  Hopefully, the conferees will come to an agreement soon and the General Assembly will adjourn before midnight on sine die.  

Tomorrow is a committee day. Neither the House nor Senate Education Committees are scheduled to meet. 

03/25 - Day 38: Voucher Bill on Brink of Approval

Day 38: Voucher Bill on Brink of Approval
63721 on 3/25/2021

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It was a preview of Sine Die, as both chambers held their floor business later into the evening. The most noteworthy legislation of the day (for the education world) was in the House, where SB47 (the expansion of the Special Needs voucher) was called for a vote. If you recall, the bill adds students with a 504 plan for 21 specified conditions to the voucher program. The State Board is authorized to add to the eligible conditions. The bill also eliminates the requirement that students attend a Georgia public school for at least one year for more groups of students. After a lengthy debate, the bill was passed by an extremely narrow vote of 91-71. Because the House made changes to the bill, it now goes back to the Senate for them to agree or disagree to the changes.

We appreciate all of you who reached out to your Representatives leading up to this vote. Several speakers noted the numerous calls they received and the impact it had. 

Other legislation of note to pass today:

Senate

HB146 - Legislation that provides paid parental leave for eligible government employees, including those employed by a local board of education.  

HB98 - A bill that amends the Open Meetings law to require public hearings held via teleconference to allow members of the public to participate fully as if the meeting were held in public.  

House

SB153 - Moves the GOAL Academies from the State Charter Commission to the Department of Education, and only continues their current level of state funding through the schools' current charter. 

Two other education bills, SB213 and SB246, were on the House's Rules Calendar for today but were held for next week. 

Monday March 29

The House and Senate kick off the final stretch of session on Monday at 10am 

03/24 - Alert: We Need You Again!

Alert: We Need You Again!
by Angela Palm on 3/24/2021

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SB 47, expanding the special needs voucher program, is on the first supplemental calendar for the House tomorrow!  We need your help one more time.  If you have already talked to your Representative about the bill, thank you for your advocacy, now please remind them of your opposition.  If you have not yet made contact with your Representative, PLEASE do so as soon as possible. Put the message in your own words as you ask them to vote "NO" on SB 47.

The bill has changed some so please click on the linked bill above to see the summary to be sure you are speaking about the current provisions.  The bill adds students with a 504 plan for 21 specified conditions to the voucher program.  The State Board is authorized to add to the eligible conditions.  The bill also eliminates the requirement that students attend a Georgia public school for at least one year for more groups of students.

Here are other points to remember: 

  • There is no requirement that a student be re-evaluated to determine the students' continued needs or eligibility. For example, an elementary student might have an IEP to receive speech therapy that they would not need after a few years.
  • There is no requirement that a private school provide the services in the IEP or 504 plan that the taxpayers are funding them to receive.
  • There is no report to the taxpayers as to whether the students are receiving services or not.   
  • Parents must give up all federal rights under IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to take the voucher.
  • There has never been an independent evaluation of the voucher program so we have no idea about a number of things including its effectiveness.  
  • Parental satisfaction has been the major measure for accountability for this program and nothing in this bill changes that.  That is completely inconsistent with a belief in transparency and accountability for the use of taxpayer dollars. 

You may hear from your Representative that a former school board member and past president of GSBA is carrying the bill, so it must be okay.  It is true that Rep. Will Wade is carrying it in the House, meaning he will present the bill and ask that they vote for it.  As an elected Representative, his role is different now.  The position GSBA members have on vouchers remains unchanged:

GSBA opposes the creation of any new program or any expansion of existing programs that directly or indirectly use public funds to pay private school tuition for students.  GSBA urges the General Assembly to include accountability measures in such programs including financial and policy transparency, performance evaluation measures, and consequences for poor performance. 

Ask them to vote "NO" on SB 47. 

03/23 - Day 37: Mad Dash Ramps Up

Day 37: Mad Dash Ramps Up
63721 on 3/23/2021

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I mentioned in yesterday's Capitol Watch that we would see the FY2022 budget on the Senate floor sometime this week. As it turns out, that "sometime" turned out to be today. Chairman Blake Tillery presented the budget on the floor this morning, and the chamber passed it by a unanimous 54-0 vote. Following the vote, the House and Senate appointed their conferees to take part in the conference committee to hash out the differences between the House and Senate version of the budget. As there were relatively few differences, it is expected that the conference committee will move quickly and a final budget will be revealed soon. How quickly? The conference committee meets tomorrow to begin consideration of the budget so we may have an idea then.

Also of note out of the Senate this morning was the final passage of SB159, the student transportation bill. The House made some changes to the bill before sending it back to the Senate, where they agreed to the changes. The bill now heads to the Governor's office for his signature. We will start seeing more agree/disagrees as we inch closer to Sine Die.

House Education Committee 

It was an unfamiliar location for the House Education Committee, as they met in the large Appropriations room as opposed to the smaller hearing rooms in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. Despite the unusual location, the committee handled work by voting on two bills, and holding a hearing only on a third.

SB42, which was in committee yesterday, was brought back do to a clerical error. The bill now goes back to Rules. 

SB59 was also voted out of committee this afternoon. There were some changes to the bill, with the most significant being the removal of the $25,000 stipend that districts would have been required to pay local charters.

The majority of the meeting was focused on SB153, a bill that makes changes to GOAL Academies. A completely new version of the bill was presented by Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones which moves the GOAL Academies from the State Charter Commission to the Department of Education, and only continues their current level of state funding through the schools' current charter. The intent of the sponsors of this new version is to have a study committee over the next year to look at the appropriate levels and share of funding for these academies and come back and put that new formula into law. No vote was taken on the bill, but it will come back up before next week.

Senate Finance Committee

It was education day for the Senate Finance Committee as they took up and voted out the two education related bills in their committee. The following bills were approved and now go to Senate Rules:

  • HB32Creates a tax credit to attract teachers to teach in rural and high needs areas.
  • HB517Makes technical changes to the Student Scholarship tax credit, but does not raise the cap or extend the sunset of the credit. 

Wednesday March 24 and Thursday March 25 

Wednesday is a committee work day.

The Senate Education and Youth Committee is scheduled to meet at 10am.

The House and Senate come back to session for Day 38 on Thursday at 10am. 

03/22 - Day 36: Stop me if you've heard this...

Day 36: Stop me if you've heard this...
63721 on 3/22/2021

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Voucher bills have been the theme of the session so far, and that trend will continue through the end of the session. Earlier today, the House Education Committee advanced SB47, the Senate expansion of the Special Needs Voucher program to include students with a 504 plan. The bill now goes on to the Rules Committee. We sent out an alert earlier today with much more information on SB47 and what to expect in the days ahead. 

Most of the action was in committee today, however there was one notable education bill voted on in the House. SB159, the pupil transportation bill. This bill Allows local districts to use motor vehicles with a capacity of eight passengers or less and are marked and operated for the transportation of school children. There were slight changes made to the bill in the House, so the bill will now go back to the Senate before heading to the Governor's office.

House Education Committee

While SB47 was the headliner for the committee, the following bills were also heard and passed out:

  • SB51 - The Dexter Mosely Act (The Senate's version of the Tim Tebow bill)
  • SB246 - The Learning Pod Protection Act, protects learning pods from "additional restrictions or regulations"
  • SB213 - Legislation that allows school systems to use SPLOST funds to install equipment that reduces energy or water waste. 
  • SB42 - A bill that removes student discipline data from school climate ratings. A new version of this bill was introduced which includes language requiring local districts to publish student discipline data on their website. Also part of the new bill is the text fromSB51. As we get closer and closer to Sine Die, bills will start getting wrapped into one another to save time on the floor. This is the first, but most certainly won't be the last 

SB59 was on the agenda but was not heard or voted on today. 

Senate Education and Youth Committee

The committee only took action on one bill this morning, voting out HB455 the House's version of the transportation bill mentioned above. HB681, a bill creating a course in financial literacy, was held for a hearing only. There will be a substitute to this bill, but the text was still being worked on. This bill is a prime candidate to have additional language added to it like was addressed above. 

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee

The nicknamed "Library Bill" was heard in the House Judiciary Non-Civil committee this morning. SB226, which requires local boards to develop a policy regarding the process for a parental appeal of books and materials used in the classroom, has seen many different version in the last few weeks, and today added more new language. The new language requires local boards to adopt a complaint resolution policy by January 1, 2022, it also requires districts to make available on their website any text or graphical material deemed by the district to not be harmful or offensive so the general public can review the text or graphic in question. The committee voted out the bill and it now goes to Rules. Because the bill changed, it will have to go back to the Senate for approval if it passes the House.

Senate Appropriations Committee

Chairman Blake Tillery introduced the Senate's FY2022 budget this morning, and frankly it did not look much different that the House's version, at least in the education world. The most notable difference is the Senate's removal of the $5 million the House put in for school nutrition. Whether or not this change is reflected in the final budget remains to be seen. The budget will head to the Senate floor later this week.

Tuesday March 23

The House and Senate meet at 10am

House Education meets at 1:30pm

Senate Finance meets at 4:45pm 

03/18 - Day 35 Stop and Go Traffic

Day 35 Stop and Go Traffic
by Grace Kim on 3/18/2021

Stop-and-Go

Sometimes following legislation is a bit like driving in stop-and-go traffic. For example, today we were supposed to have two House Education Meetings (an 8 am meeting and a 1 pm subcommittee meeting). The meeting notices indicated that the agendas were 'to be determined' so Scott and I were worried that SB47 would pop up at the last minute and catch us by surprise. By the end of the day, both meetings had been canceled.

On the Floor

The House passed SB66, which combines the Georgia Foundation for Public Education and Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation. This bill will now go to the Governor's desk. 

Next week

The House and Senate will reconvene on Monday. The Senate Education and Youth Committee will consider HB 455. This bill allow schools to use vehicles smaller than school buses to transport children.   

03/17 - Day 34: More Floor Action

Day 34: More Floor Action
63721 on 3/17/2021

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After roughly a week of limited action in either chamber, the pace picked up this morning as the House and Senate both took up several bills before adjourning. They must be feeling the pressure of the impending arrival of the end of session as there are only six legislative days left until Sine Die.

The House had the General Assembly's only education specific legislation when they voted out SB88, the Governor's teacher recruitment and retention package. The bill:

  • Makes the Georgia Teacher of the Year an ex officio member of the State Board of Education 
  • Creates an alternative teacher certification program for veterans
  • Directs local districts to use evaluation time that was to be spent on teachers with 3+ years and "Exemplary" or "Proficient" ratings to coach and mentor teachers with under 3 years of service with performance ratings of "Needs Improvement" or "Deficient" 
  • Directs PSC to include differentiated instruction and instruction on the fundamentals of reading in approved teacher education programs and to partner with HBCUs to recruit and train minority teachers 
It was passed by a vote of 171-1.

The Senate stayed in session slightly longer than the House, going into the afternoon. The biggest portion of their session focused on HB112, which extends the sunset for the COVID-19 liability protections that were passed last summer. The bill passed by a 36-17 margin. 

Senate Education Committee

Despite a short delay to begin the meeting, Chairman Chuck Payne and the Senate Education Committee held a brief meeting this afternoon to take up HB287, legislation that requires tobacco and vaping products be added to current drug and alcohol courses for grades K-12. At the request of the Governor's office, language was added that would include human trafficking awareness information for grades 6-12. Combating human trafficking has been a major focus of Governor Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp, and this aligns with their initiatives.

Senate Finance Committee

The main bill of focus in Senate Finance this afternoon (for us at least) was HB282. The House passed version of the bill changed the valuation process for qualified timberland property, as well as update the definition of "contiguous" when referencing property lines. The committee removed the language regarding the valuation process, and it was passed out of committee.

Thursday March 18 

Weather looks to play a part in tomorrow's session with the potential for major storms for parts of west Georgia. Several 8am meetings have already been canceled, presumably due to weather concerns. 

As of now, the House and Senate are set to meet at 10am. 

03/16 - Day 33: A Little More Movement

Day 33: A Little More Movement
63721 on 3/16/2021

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It was State of the Judiciary Day as the House and Senate joined together to welcome Chief Justice Harold D. Melton to the Gold Dome. Chief Justice Melton presented the chambers with an update on the judicial branch, his third and final address. Not much else happened on the floor of either chamber, as following the State of Judiciary both legislative bodies went their separate ways to begin committee work.

Senate Government Oversight Committee

The Senate Government Oversight Committee met early this morning to hold a hearing only on HB248. This bill would restrict the permitting of speed cameras in school zones to the county or city whose law enforcement agency enforces the speed limit.

House Education Committee

After a scratch of the earlier scheduled meeting of the House Education Committee, a later afternoon meeting was added to take up two bills. You may recognize SB159, the student transportation bill. This bill was passed out of the House Education Committee earlier this week but several school districts requested changes so the bill was sent back to the committee for changes. The main intent of the bill remained unchanged, with the major adjustment coming in the area of ride shares (like Uber or Lyft). Previous versions of the bill did not allow for the usage of rideshare for pupil transport, however that prohibition was removed. The bill now goes back to Rules.

The final bill of the afternoon was SB59 a bill from Senator John Albers that would make changes to the charter school statue. Most notably the bill raises the charter school supplement amount for local charter schools, but also requires local districts with local charter schools to provide either a facility or a stipend to go to facility costs. There was a lot of discussion surrounding the bill and changes are expected.

Wednesday March 17 

You might as well call it the "Green Dome" tomorrow, as the House and Senate kick off Day 34 where I'm sure there will be a lot of green around for St. Patrick's Day.

Senate Education meets at 2:15pm to hear one bill, HB287. As of now, this is the only bill on the agenda. 

Senate Finance meets at 3:30pm to take up HB282, legislation that makes changes to definitions and valuations for qualified timberland property.

03/15 - Day 32: Resetting the Clock

Day 32: Resetting the Clock
by Grace Kim on 3/15/2021

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School Board Appreciation Week:

Governor Kemp has designated March 15th-19th as School Board Appreciation Week. Thank you for all the work that you do and the time you have dedicated to serve our public schools. 

Reset:

We all reset our clocks forward on Sunday and it seems that the legislature is in reset mode as well. There was a flood of activity and late night voting on Crossover Day, but bills have been trickling out of the chambers the last few days. Today, the House heard one bill and the Senate heard none. Some of the delay can be attributed to the time it takes to get bills through committee. Some of this is related to the politics between the two chambers. 

On the Floor Tomorrow: 

The House and Senate will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. No education bills are scheduled to be heard.

At 11 a.m., the two chambers to come together to listen to the State of the Judiciary speech. 

In Committee Tomorrow:

The Senate Government Oversight Committee will meet at 8 a.m. HB248 will have a hearing, but is not scheduled for a vote. 

The House Education Committee will be meeting at 11 am. No agenda for the House Education Committee meeting has been posted yet.