February 25, 2020

Legislative Session
Day 18
Report Snapshot

Harmful Voucher Bill in Senate Committee Tomorrow – Gear Up for Advocacy

Hearing on Daylight Saving Time Referendum

Senate Passes Bill Allowing Teacher Retirement System to Invest in Alternative Investments

House Academic Achievement Subcommittee Passes Charter School “Clean-Up” Bill
Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, Feb. 26 – Legislative Day 19
House Higher Education Committee, 1 p.m., 606 CLOB

House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, 1 p.m., 341 CAP

Senate Education and Youth Committee, 2 p.m., 307 CLOB

Thursday, Feb. 27 – Legislative Day 20

Friday, Feb. 28 – Legislative Day 21
Harmful Voucher Bill in Senate Committee Tomorrow – Gear Up for Advocacy 

The Senate Education and Youth Committee is slated to hear, but not vote on,  SB 386  tomorrow afternoon. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford); Senate Education Chair P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville) is also a signer on the legislation. The bill seeks to expand Georgia’s controversial special needs private school voucher program to include foster children and students with 504 plans. The current voucher program and proposed expansion are contentious for many reasons, most notably because special education students and students with 504 plans lose their legal protections and adherence to their medical and education pla ns if they leave public schools. For more, read the  PAGE Day 17 report

Please stay tuned to PAGE’s report from tomorrow’s committee hearing, and get ready to advocate in support of both taxpayer transparency and the students you serve. 

-Margaret Ciccarelli
Hearing on Daylight Saving Time Referendum 

Many thanks to the 85 PAGE members who submitted feedback in response to the  PAGE Day 16 report regarding Rep. Wes Cantrell’s (R-Woodstock) proposal to hold a non-binding statewide referendum on Daylight Saving and Standard Time.  HB 709  was heard in the  House State Planning and Community Affairs Committee today. PAGE Director of Legislative Affairs Margaret Ciccarelli shared a summary of educator feedback with the committee. Ciccarelli reported that educators were eager to have their say in the matter but differed in opinion regarding the merits of converting permanently to Daylight Saving Time or staying with Standard Time year-round. Despite the lack of consensus, most responding educators cited strong concerns regarding the biannual conversion. Educators described tired students who struggle socially and emotionally due to the impact of the time change. 
Accompanying Ciccarelli was Girl Scout Troop 16184 from Decatur, who spoke with committee members and the news media about the negative impact of the time change. 

Though House committee members expressed interest in the legislation, they did not vote on the bill today. Committee Chair Jimmy Pruett (R-Eastman), who talked with the Girl Scouts after the meeting, expressed his desire to reconvene the discussion about HB 709 soon.
-Margaret Ciccarelli
Senate Passes Bill Allowing Teacher Retirement System to Invest in Alternative Investments

The Senate passed  SB 294  by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta), chair of the Senate Retirement Committee, today by a vote of 34-19. The bill would remove the current exemption in state law that prevents TRS from investing in alternative investments. For several years, other Georgia public retirement systems have had the ability to invest up to five percent of their funds in alternative investments, and returns from those alternatives have been higher than returns from equities and bonds. Black explained from the Senate floor that the Board of Trustees asked for this legislation. Black and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), chair of the Senate Finance Committee and vice-chair of the Senate Retirement Committee, commended the TRS investment managers and expressed confidence that they would competently manage alternative investments. 

The bill now moves to the House.

-Josh Stephens
House Academic Achievement Subcommittee Passes Charter School “Clean-Up” Bill

The House Academic Achievement Subcommittee unanimously passed  HB 957  authored by Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton). Jones described the bill as a “clean-up,” which seeks revisions to elements of current law related to charter schools. HB 957 would clarify that charter school teachers are eligible to participate in the State Health Benefit Plan. The educators currently do have this eligibility, but unclear language in the law has caused confusion. Other changes proposed by the bill are:

  • Allowing charter school governing boards to accept proof of student residency in schools’ attendance zone at time of application or time of enrollment.

  • Having State Charter School Commission board members serve four-year terms instead of two-year terms.

  • Establishing that records created by state charter schools are their property. If the charter closes, the records belong to the nonprofit that holds the charter contract, which will turn over the records to the state commission after one year. 

  • Moving the submission date for annual reports on virtual charter schools to April 1 from December. 

The bill now moves to the full House Education Committee. 

-Claire Suggs
Claire Suggs
Senior Education Policy Analyst
Josh Stephens
Legislative Affairs Specialist
Margaret Ciccarelli
Director of Legislative Services