August 7, 2020

Gov. Kemp Signs Education Legislation
After the Georgia General Assembly adjourned on June 26, Gov. Brian Kemp had 40 days to sign or veto any legislation passed during the 2020 session. Legislation which was not signed or vetoed before Wednesday, Aug. 5, became law. 
 
The effective date for each bill is July 1, 2020, if the governor signed the bill in June. If the bill was not signed by July 1, the effective date is Jan. 1, 2021, unless the bill has an effective date specified within it.
 
Kemp signed the Fiscal Year 2021 budget on June 30. CLICK HERE to read PAGE's 2020 comprehensive legislative session final report, which contains more information about the state budget and other education-related legislation that failed to pass.
House Education Bills Signed by Gov. Kemp
Educator Evaluations

HB 86, by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), requires school districts to create an evaluation appeals policy. The policy would allow teachers with four or more years of experience who receive summative evaluation ratings of unsatisfactory or ineffective to receive an evaluation review by an independent third-party administrator or administrator designated by local administrators. Local appeals policies must include a statement that teachers will not be the subject of any reprisal as a result of filing appeals. Should any reprisal occur, teachers may refer the matter to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC). School districts have until July 1, 2021, to submit their appeals policies to GaDOE and anytime thereafter if material changes are made to local policies.

Teachers Retirement System
 
HB 292, also by Benton, who chairs the House Retirement Committee, removes a statutory requirement that the University System of Georgia (USG) make payment to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) for participants in USG’s Optional Retirement Plan (ORP), which was created in 1990. A 2019 state audit indicated USG failed to pay TRS approximately $600 million. The payments, which ended at the recommendation of a TRS actuary in 2001, were intended to prevent retiree pension costs from being borne by the state or local school districts.

Dual Enrollment
 
HB 444, by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), limits state-funded dual enrollment courses to core courses and eligible Career Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) courses, excluding fine arts, electives, and physical education. Dual enrollment hours are capped at 30. The program is limited to 11th and 12th grade students, though a limited allowance is made for some 10th graders. HB 444 does not prevent students from participating in dual enrollment at their own expense. As reported during the legislative committee process, the current annual cost of Georgia’s Move on When Ready program is $100.8 million. Once implemented HB 444 is expected to reduce dual enrollment costs by about $17 million each year.

Fiscal Transparency

HB 755, by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), requires school districts to provide locally approved charter schools with annual allotment sheets itemizing state, local, and federal allocations for the upcoming school year.

Foster Care Students
 
HB 855, by Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), allows for the immediate assessment of students who enter foster care to determine if the students qualify for an individualized education plan (IEP). The students must continue to qualify for IEPs in order to receive services, but the process would begin more quickly in order to address student trauma.

Surprise Medical Billing
 
HB 888, by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), the “Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act” is intended to curb surprise billing by out-of-network medical providers at in-network facilities. The legislation applies to State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) members and covers emergency and non-emergency medical services. 

Charter Schools
 
HB 957, by Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton), clarifies that educators working in charter schools can participate in the SHBP and allows charter school student residency requirements to be met when students apply or enroll in such schools.

Child Abuse Registry
 
HB 993, by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), eliminates Georgia’s problematic child abuse registry, which lacks procedural safeguards which has inspired legal challenge. When presenting the bill on the House floor, Dempsey mentioned that other reporting systems will serve the purpose of tracking child abuse.

Health Benefits
 
HB 1090, by Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs), mandates that employers, including schools, provide a paid break of “reasonable time and duration” to allow employees to express breast milk. Employers must provide a private location, other than a restroom, where employees can do so.
 
HB 1125, by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), would provide insurance coverage for breast cancer screening for high-risk individuals participating in SHBP, beginning at age 30. These screenings include an annual mammogram or digital breast tomosynthesis as well as an annual MRI scan or breast ultrasound.
Senate Bills Signed by Gov. Kemp

Educator Evaluations, Fiscal Transparency, and Chief Turnaround Office Changes

SB 68, by Sen. Freddie Sims (D-Dawson), also contains Rep. Benton’s evaluation appeal language from HB 86. However, under SB 68, school districts must submit evaluation appeals policies to GaDOE by Aug. 1, 2021. If HB 86 is not vetoed and becomes law, the July deadline in HB 86 will control, as Georgia law stipulates that when two bills conflict, the legislation signed last prevails. Sims’ bill became a vehicle for several other pieces of legislation which were added; the original bill incorporates recommendations from the 2018 Senate Study Committee on Continual Audit Exceptions on Local School Systems. Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas), added language requiring the inclusion of public comment periods at all regular monthly meetings of local boards of education. Public comment periods must be included in posted agendas, and local boards must not require more than 24-hours notice from members of the public who wish to speak. Board chairs retain discretion to limit the length of individual comments and the number of speakers for or against a specific issue. SB 68 also includes language authored by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), which reorganizes Georgia’s Chief Turnaround Office (CTO), effectively abolishing the program created by legislation Tanner sponsored in 2017.

Teachers Retirement System
 
SB 294, by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta), chair of the Senate Retirement Committee, allows TRS to invest up to five percent of pension funds in alternative investments. When the bill moved through the committee process, Black reported that other Georgia public retirement systems with the ability to invest in alternative investments have produced higher returns from alternatives than from equities and bonds, which comprise TRS's current portfolio.

Standardized Testing

SB 367, PAGE supported legislation sponsored by Senate Education and Youth Committee Chair P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville), more closely aligns Georgia’s assessment program with the federally required testing minimum by removing five of seven tests mandated by state regulation. The bill shortens the length of Georgia Milestones and maximizes instructional time by creating a testing window within the final 25 school days of the academic year. SB 367 also seeks to address locally required testing by allowing the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) to conduct an analysis of local assessments. Based on this analysis, GaDOE will identify school districts to assist with identification and elimination of redundant assessments and provide guidance regarding development of locally implemented assessments.

Legislator Pay Cut
 
SB 416, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), originally sought to rename the office in Georgia’s technical college system which works with career academies and to establish a director of that office. However, the original language was struck, and SB 416 was modified to reduce legislator pay by 10 percent and reduce the pay of Georgia’s lieutenant governor by 14 percent.

Private School & Home School Students in Career and College Academies
 
SB 430, by Sen. Bill Ligon (R-Brunswick), would allow private school and home schooled students to enroll in Career and College Academies in their resident school district if space is available.

On-time Graduation Rate
 
SB 431 by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) seeks to define "on-time graduation rate" as the graduation rate of the four-year cohort of students that attend a school continuously from Oct. 1 of the calendar year four years prior to the calendar year of the regular date of graduation of that cohort and graduate on or before that regular date of graduation. The graduation rate defined in SB 431 would not supersede other definitions promulgated by federal, state, or local laws or regulations.
Josh Stephens
Legislative Affairs Specialist