Copyright 2018. Not to be reproduced in whole or part without permission.  
Nonpartisan News from the Georgia Capitol
 Published by the Education Fund of 
League of Women Voters of Georgia 
Legislation Reporting: Sally Fitzgerald, LWVAF member 
Editor: Marla Bexley-Lovell, LWVGA staff
Other Contributors:  Caleb Head, LWVGA intern
                             Tracy Adkison, LWVGA President
                               Edna Kopetz, LWVGA Member
                     Elizabeth Poythress, LWVGA Board   

 Empowering Voters.  Defending Democracy.  
Week 8: Crossover  

The General Assembly met for three days last week, completing Day 29,  which included Crossover Day.   Thus, the Capitol Report focuses on chamber action this week, with one exception.   This week they return on Monday for a three day week.
The only bill that must pass is the budget for the following year. It has not yet emerged out of House committee.  There is some concern about the impact of the federal tax bill changes on the state budget, which are still being clarified.  The budget is the only general bill that can cross over at any time.  
Campus Free Speech Bill Passes Senate 

Senate Bill 339, sponsored by Senator William Ligion (Brunswick), seeks to protect first amendment rights on public college campuses in Georgia by providing instructions to the Georgia Board of Regents to adopt policies around nine concepts regarding first amendment expression.   
Much of the language in SB 339 comes from Goldwater Institute's Campus Free Speech Proposal.  The  policy research and advocacy firm's Senior Fellow Stanley Kurtz,  co-author of the proposal, wrote that "the Goldwater proposal is the only one to systematically deal with speaker shout-downs."  Disciplinary remedies are required for those who shout down a speaker, as written in Section 6 of SB 339 and Section 7 of the Goldwater Proposal.

While in committee, SB 339 was opposed by several public college presidents including Dr. Robert Boehmer of East Georgia State College, Dr. Cheryl Dozier of Savannah State University, and Dr. David Bridges of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. All three testified that their colleges already had policies that protected first amendment rights that are informed by the long judicial history of free speech protection on college campuses.  Some expressed concerns that additional guidelines could potentially restrict free speech.

Sen. Ligon proposed an amendment to create sanctions for those who do restrict speech, however, provisions that would impose fines and penalties as severe as expulsion for student protesters were removed from the bill ( AJC 2.22.18). After passing through committee 3-2 Sen. Nan Orrock motioned an intent to file a minority report of the minority's dissenting opinion. SB 339 passed the Senate on 28 February and is currently in the House.  

2018 General Session
Issue 8
March 6, 2018
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General Assembly 2018 Calendar  
Day 30: March 5
Day 31: March 7 
Day 29: March 9
Check out the Session Schedule, set each year by resolution.  
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Report from the Capitol, Week 8
Submitted by Sally Fitzgerald, Capitol Reporter
Session Cheat Sheet  
HB = House Bill                                         SB = Senate Bill 
HR= House Resolution                             SR = Senate Resolution
NNS = Needs No Signature                      TGFS = To Governor for Signature
DV = Differing Versions                             DOE = Department of Education
CA = Constitutional Amendment*              BOLD Bill Number = final passage
* Requires a 2/3s vote in each chamber and a majority      
HB 273  Douglas - 78     PASSED House    PASSED Senate        DV
There shall be an average of 30 minutes of daily physical activity for students in K-5, both structured and unstructured.  Physical Education will be counted in this time. Senate: removes mandate.  Adds:  Not on inclement or special programming days.
SB 293  Black - 8     PASSED Senate       
Required employers to pay retirement on part time employees, but the employees earn no additional credit.
SB 355  Hufstetler - 52     PASSED Senate    
Exempts public K-12 schools from paying the costs of financing a nuclear power plant.
SB 401  Tippins - 37     PASSED Senate     H.Education
Career oriented aptitudes and career interests will be a factor in developing individuals graduation plans of middle school students.  In 2018, school counselor roles in grades 6-12 will be reviewed by DOE and a report prepared for the state board of education and the General Assembly by 12-31-2018.  The report shall include recommendations for changes to ensure student success.  This study is effective for 2018 only.  Technical colleges which have dual enrolled high school students are to report grades and other student aspects of the course so the data can be included in the longitudinal data system.
SB 457  Tate - 38     PASSED Senate    
Requires schools to practice the response to risks as defined in their safety plans on a schedule recommended by GEMA.  Safety plans are already required for GEMA oversight.  This bill requires that GEMA set a schedule for each school to practice the responses defined in those plans so all will know what to do.  Fire drills and weather related situations already are required to be done.  A student brought this proposal to the sponsor before the latest school shooting in FL and came to the Capitol to testify before the committee.
HB 482  Cantrell - 22     FAILED in House    
Educational Savings Accounts to be established for K-12 students into which the state would deposit the amount of money it would have appropriated if the student had been enrolled in a public school.  Office of Treasury to administer the fund.  Money could be used by parent for private school tuition, post- secondary expenses, texts, tutoring services, and other services student might need.  Fiscal note indicates costs would be dependent on the number of currently enrolled private school students who opened an ESA, but expected at least a $17 million first year costs and could go up to $63 million. Only 60 YES votes were generated for this bill.
HB 494  Dempsey - 13   PASSED House    
Early Care and Learning hearings regarding emergency closure of a program shall permit hearsay evidence.  Background checks of directors and employees shall be comprehensive, not just a finger-print check.  If the person does not pass, that person cannot work nor live at the facility while children are present.
HB 718  Scott - 76     PASSED House    
Up to 5 excused absences each year for two years are to be allowed for students of active or former military on extended active duty for the student to attend individual or group therapy as recommended by a licensed physician or psychologist. 
HB 759  Turner - 21     PASSED House    
The GA Special Needs Scholarship shall not require a prior year attendance at a public school if the parent is on active duty military or the student has previously qualified for the scholarship.  If the parent goes off active duty, the student does not have to change schools and the scholarship-voucher will continue to pay for any private school tuition.
HB 844  Houston - 170     PASSED House    
The GA Commission of Hearing Impaired and Deaf Persons shall be changed to The Georgia Commission for Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.  Membership is increased to 10, from 7, and includes those who are deaf or hard of hearing, use American Sign Language or Spoken English or a combination.  A task force with this commission shall make recommendations to the governor and General Assembly regarding improvements to services to these populations from birth through the end of grade 3.  Establishes coordination between Departments of Education, Early Care And Learning, and Health.
HB 852  Smith - 41     PASSED House    
Allows school systems to permit a student to finish a school year at the school enrolled if more than half the school year has elapsed even if the student's residence changes, as long as student is still living within the school system.  Parent will be responsible for transportation of the student.  Students with chronic disciplinary problems are excluded from this privilege.  Currently, many school systems allow similar options.
SB 82  Jackson - 2     PASSED Senate    
Residency requirements for HOPE scholarship and grant for students will be satisfied if the student is in the GA National Guard, the reserves of any U.S. armed forces, an active duty military service member stationed in GA or lists GA as the member's home of record or the member's spouse or dependent child.
SB 339  Ligon - 3     PASSED Senate    
Requires University System of GA and its institutions to adopt free speech policies on any subject and any speaker invited by students, student groups, or faculty to orate in public areas of the campus.  Restrictions of speech are allowed if it achieves a compelling government interest, is the least disruptive means of furthering such governmental interest, leaves open other opportunities to engage in expressive conduct, or provides for spontaneous assembly and distribution of literature.  Restrictions of student speech allowed only for activity not protected by the First Amendment, such as violations of state or federal law, defamation, harassment, threats, invasion of privacy, or action that unlawfully disrupts the function of the institution.
HB 392  Fleming - 121     PASSED House   
Aligns state payments for Move On When Ready courses at eligible postsecondary institutions which have five terms per academic year.
SB 405  Millar - 40     PASSED Senate    
A grant for students in an institution of the University System, if appropriated by the General Assembly, of $1500/semester if several conditions are met:  family income is $48,000 or under, students is receiving a federal PELL grant but not a HOPE scholarship, has a high school GPA of at least 2.3, and either ACT scores of 21 or higher, SAT scores of 480 or higher on the reading-writing portion and 530 or higher on math, earned a 3 or better on at least 2 Advanced Placement courses, 4 or higher on at least 2 International Baccalaureate exams, or passed an end-of-gateway assessment under the Carl Perkins Act.  Additionally, the student must work 15 hours/week during the semester and maintain a GPA of at least 2.3.  Sponsor has advocated for a long time for financial help for students without sufficient resources and not eligible for HOPE.
HB 664  Teasley - 37   PASSED House     S.Finance
Increases the amount deposited in a 529 account for postsecondary use by a student that may be deducted from income to $4000, from $2000.  If a joint return is filed, the deduction may be up to $8000.
SB 74  McKoon - 29     PASSED Senate      H.Juvenile Justice
When an unemancipated minor seeks an abortion, the court must find clear and convincing evidence that the minor is mature.  Clear and convincing evidence is the addition to this code section.
SB 131  Tillery - 19     PASSED Senate      PASSED House     DV
Adoption proceedings will be stayed while an appeal of an order to terminate parental rights is pending.
SB 375  Ligon - 3   PASSED Senate      H.Judiciary
The Keep Faith in Adoptions and Foster Care Act.  Allows a child placing agency to decline a referral from DFCS and decline to perform services based on the child-placing agency's sincerely held religious beliefs. Does not include contracts with the department.  Prevents the department from discriminating against or causing any adverse actions against a child-placing agency based on its sincerely held religious beliefs.  How does any entity that is not human have any religious beliefs?  Discrimination seems to be okay on one end of a contract with the state but not the other.
SR 774  Stone - 23     PASSED Senate     
Creates the 11 member Joint Study Committee on Adoption Expenses.  Serving will be 3 members from each legislative chamber, 2 appointed by the governor with knowledge of adoption process, commissioner of Department of Human Services, a Superior Court judge, and a Juvenile Court judge.  The purpose of the Joint Study Committee is to determine reasonable living expenses for mothers and the oversight of payments.
HB 906  Dempsey - 13     PASSED House     
Department of Human Service records from foster parents or former foster parents are not eligible for public disclosure except for the name.
SB 382  Martin - 9     PASSED Senate    
A Board of Optometry shall get prior approval from the Department of Public Health for an appropriate curriculum for any injectable training for optometrists so as to safeguard the public health of GA citizens.
SB 437  Payne - 54     PASSED Senate         
A minor child candidate for non-resuscitation may have such an order issued with parent consent either written or oral.  The consent of the minor is also required if the attending doctor finds the minor to be sufficiently mature to understand the impact.
HB 81  McCall - 33     PASSED House    
Adds hospital organizations to the list of government entities to whom taxpayers may owe debts and which the entities may capture income tax refunds to those taxpayers to satisfy such debt.
SR 104  Heath - 31     TABLED  in Senate
CA to prohibit the levy of a state wide property tax.  Currently, this is not collected by law.  When imposed, this tax was one quarter of a mill, about $20 a year on property worth $200,000 with no exemptions. Those opposed said that it is a tool in the tool box if the state needs it, so why put it in the constitution and make it harder to access.  In 2017, this bill FAILED to get a constitutional super majority in the Senate. It was RECONSIDERED and recommitted to committee.
HR 238  Watson - 172     PASSED House     
CA to put .75% of sales tax revenues into a trust fund to be used for protection and preservation of conservation land to protect drinking water sources, water quality, state and local parks and conserve forests, fish, wildlife habitats.  The trust fund shall not lapse.  The constitution requires all funds unspent at year end to be returned to the general treasury.  Because the funds in this trust account will not lapse, a constitutional amendment is required.
HB 811  Powell - 171     PASSED House    
Allows the Department of Revenue to release taxpayer information to contractors to analyze further taxpayer delinquencies.  Contractors will be compensated with a portion of the funds collected.  All data shared with the contractor is to be kept confidential, and destroyed after the analysis is made.
HB 918   Efstration - 104     TGFS     The revision of the tax code prompted by the changes in the federal tax code.  Standard exemption is doubled for state income taxes for all taxpayers.  The top income tax rate is lowered to 5.75% for tax year 2019, down from 6%.  If the General Assembly agrees and the new governor signs, it will be further lowered to 5.5% for 2020 and beyond.  Waives motor vehicle title tag fees for vehicles 15 years and older.  Exemption of jet fuel from most sales taxes ($40 million) removed.  The governor ' s proposal to rebate to taxpayers the increase in state income taxes expected from changes in the federal tax code. The windfall is estimated to be over $5 Billion over 5 years.  The requirement remains to file state taxes with either itemized or standard deduction as was used in the federal return for the same tax year.  GA Budget & Policy Institute estimates that this bill will cost the general treasury more than $100 million per year, that is, more is forgiven than would have been taxed without the bill.  (Analysis done prior to removal of the jet fuel exemption.) Part of the windfall could have been used to replace the old voting machines ($100-$125 million), and/or to eliminate the austerity cuts in the education budget ($167 million), or to expand Medicaid to the 600,000 without insurance.  Then, consider a rebate.
SB 376  Shafer - 48     PASSED Senate    
HB 866  Turner - 21    PASSED House
Bans consumer credit reporting agencies from charging a fee for placing or removing a security freeze on a customer's account.  Currently, fees of $3 to $10 are allowed for each action.
HB 493  Stovall - 74     PASSED House      S.Government Oversight
Videos of public board meetings posted on their website must include the public comment section unless there are technical difficulties with the taping.  The video is to be retained for the same length of time as the retention policy indicates.
SB 414  Tippins - 37     PASSED Senate    
Local governments may issue written notices to organizations which use collection receptacles for failure to clean and maintain them and the areas around them.  Copies of the notice are to be sent to the property owner and the paid solicitors.  There is a 10-day period to remediate the violation.  If 3 violations occur in a year, the local government authority may petition the Superior Court to issue an order to remove the receptacle from the boundaries of the local government for up to 3 years.
SB 39  Unterman - 45     PASSED Senate    
A second or subsequent conviction for pandering shall be a felony and require registration on the State Sexual Offenders Registry.
HB 890  Fleming - 121     PASSED House    
Using an emergency exit after shoplifting shall be a misdemeanor.  If caught, the shoplifters will be charged with one more crime.  Emergency exits frequently have audible alarms which cause people to vacate stores to determine the cause of the signal.  First responders then have far more obstacles to navigate in trying to find the shoplifters.
SB 386  Beach - 21     PASSED Senate    
Creates the 11-member Atlanta-region Transit Link 'ATL' Commission to plan and coordinate transit services, establish facilities, and fund throughout the region.  Members include the governor who serves as chair, DOT commissioner, CEO of MARTA, Atlanta mayor, Clayton County Commission chair and one mayor from Clayton County, DeKalb CEO and one mayor, Fulton County Commission chair and one additional mayor.  It shall determine and prioritize transit projects throughout the region and shall administer the payment of such projects through a sales tax of up to l% levied by the county in which projects are to be located.  The county must call the referendum and levy the tax.  Operations will be under MARTA.
SB 460  Beach - 21     PASSED Senate
All transit systems in the 13 county metro area would be branded under the ATL label, attached to their current corporate name.
HB 673  Carson - 46     PASSED House    
Use of wireless telecommunication devices while driving must be with a hands-free accessory.  Bans any actions which distract the driver while operating a motor vehicle.  Wireless telecommunication device use while driving will add 3 points on the driver ' s license, 4 points for a second or subsequent violation.  Exceptions for use are when: the motor vehicle is lawfully parked; reporting on some type of emergency; used by a public safety employee within the scope of employment; used by a public utility employee or contractor within the scope of employment while responding to a public utility emergency.  Fines collected are to deposited in the state general fund and used for trauma care.  Violation of this law which results in a death is punishable by imprisonment of at least 3 - 15 years.
HB 721  Powell - 32     PASSED House      S.Public Safety
DDS may approve additional drivers education courses which offer:
*      On-line 30 hours of instruction plus 6 hours of private in-car instruction provided by a drivers training school so licensed
*      On-line 30 hours of instruction plus 40 hours parent in-car curriculum provided by DDS
*      DDS provided 30 hours of instruction plus 6 hours on-the-road instruction provided by a licensed driver training school which will administer the driving skills test.
A driving school may apply to administer the knowledge and driving tests if they have been licensed for 5 years, currently 2 years.  The sponsor indicated that the flakier schools are those which have just recently gone into business.
HB 940  Cauble - 111     PASSED House
The requirement for Department of Driver Services to mark and return surrendered licenses and personal identification cards to the applicant is changed to be discretionary on the part of DDS.
HR 794  Morris - 2     PASSED House     DO PASS in S.Rules
Creates the 6 member Joint Georgia-North Carolina and Georgia-Tennessee Boundary Line Commission, 3 legislators from each chamber.  The boundary is to lie at the 35th parallel, north of the southernmost bank of the Tennessee River.  A flawed survey of 1818 erroneously marked the 35th parallel south of its actual location and the survey was never accepted by Georgia.  Several attempts have been made to adjust the borders to the true location of the 35th parallel but none has been successful.  Georgia wants the 35th parallel accurately defined so it can access water from the Tennessee River.

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