The 2017 session of the Georgia General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn Sine Die next week on Thursday March 30th. “Cross-over day,” the day by which all bills must be approved by their chamber of origin in order to remain in consideration, occurred on Friday, March 3rd. The committees in each chamber have been working nonstop since that time to move bills to their respective rules committees. From there, the rules committees determine which bills move to the floor of each chamber for a vote.
The House and Senate came to an agreement this week on the fiscal year 2018 budget in the form of a conference committee report. Leadership from both chambers worked to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions of the appropriations packages and the result of those negotiations is represented in the conference committee report. The budget is the only piece of legislation that the General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass during their 40-day session.
Below is a summary of relevant legislation under consideration:
- HB 338, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) has been renamed the “First Priority Act” and has been amended several times throughout the legislative process including a change that prevents for-profit entities from operating schools under the terms of the legislation. A change was also made to the formation of the education turnaround advisory council in order to include more representation from the education community and their respective associations. Finally, $1,000,000 in funding for the implementation of the bill was added to the conference committee report on the fiscal year 2018 budget.
Status: This bill has been approved by the Senate Education Committee, and awaits movement to the Senate Floor via the Rules Committee.
- HB 237, sponsored by House Education Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth). This bill, which has been characterized as a piece of legislation meant to support the intent of HB 338, would authorize the Public Education Innovation Fund to receive private donations that could be used as grants for public schools, and establishes a tax credit for such a donation. The legislation was changed in the Senate to reduce the maximum amount of tax credits available and the length of time that they are available for.
Status: This bill was approved by the Senate Finance Committee, and awaits movement to the Senate Floor via the Rules Committee.
- SB 30, sponsored by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) creates a pilot program for Sustainable Community School Operations Grants and would allow the Department of Education to issue grants to plan, implement, and improve sustainable community schools. In the Senate version of the fiscal year 2018 budget $50,000 was appropriated to allow for grants to be remitted, but the funding was not included in the conference committee report on the budget.
Status: This bill was approved by the House Education Committee, and is now in the House Rules Committee where it will be considered for movement to the House floor.
- SB 211, sponsored by Senate Education Chairman Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) seeks to clarify many of the provisions of SB 364 that were signed into law in 2016. Specifically, the legislation directs local districts along with the Department of Education to pursue maximum flexibility from the federal government in terms of the tests that are administered and required in public schools.
Status: This bill has passed out of the House Education Committee, and is awaiting movement to the House Floor via the House Rules Committee.
- HB 425, sponsored by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson) would strongly encourage the State Board of Education and local school systems to allow the administration of standardized tests in pencil and paper format. The bill would also ask the State School Superintendent to develop guidelines that would be approved by the State Board of Education to strongly encourage how local school systems should handle students who do not participate in state-wide assessments.
Status: This bill was approved by both the House and Senate and will be transmitted to the Governor’s desk.