March 25, 2020

Legislative Update: Uncertainties in the Midst of COVID-19 Epidemic
The 2020 legislative session came to an unexpected halt on Legislative Day 29 on March 13, 2020, due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. House and Senate leaders, in consultation with Gov. Brian Kemp, suspended the legislative session indefinitely. Kemp declared a public health state of emergency on March 14, and on March 16 issued an executive order to close all public schools in the state.
The spread of the virus is likely to have a significant impact on the legislature’s priorities and action when it reconvenes. Leaders have acknowledged that it will squeeze the state’s budget due to anticipated declines in state revenues as well as increases in expenditures. This may change the fiscal priorities initially identified by Kemp and legislative leaders.
It is also uncertain how lawmakers might proceed with legislation already under consideration including bills that address three key issues: an educator pay raise, a possible cut to the state income tax, and an expansion of one of the state’s two private school voucher programs. The PAGE legislative team prepared a new report to update members on the status of these and other bills directed at education as of Legislative Day 28. On the three key issues:
  • Gov. Brian Kemp and House lawmakers disagreed on a pay raise for educators in the FY 2021 budget. Kemp proposed a $2,000 pay raise while the spending plan outlined in the House budget offers a raise of $1,000. The House added $24 million to increase the number of school counselors and restored some of the cuts outlined in Kemp’s proposed budget.

  • House lawmakers approved a tax cut that would set a flat income tax rate of 5.375 percent. This would replace the state’s current graduated income tax rate, which rises from one to 5.75 percent as income increases. The tax cut would reduce state revenues.

  • The Senate passed a bill to expand the Special Needs Scholarship program, which is a private school voucher program. The bill would make many students with Section 504 plans eligible for the vouchers as well as students diagnosed with specific conditions by physicians and psychologists. This expansion could result in an additional $51 million in state funds being shifted from public schools to private schools. 
More information about these and other education-related bills is available in the report. Review the report for more about the status of the proposed return to work bill, standardized test reduction, educator evaluation legislation, and more.
When the General Assembly reconvenes, the PAGE legislative team will return to the Capitol to ensure legislators are aware of the needs of Georgia’s educators and the students they serve. We will also monitor and report on any developments on the bills already under consideration. Results from PAGE's COVID-19 Educator Impact Survey, completed by more than 13,000 members, will further guide the legislative team's advocacy efforts.

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