Last Thursday, March 24, 2016, was “Sine Die.” This means that the legislative session came to an end, but not before we passed a number of important bills.
One of the most important pieces of legislation passed this session was House Bill 751, which establishes the state budget for Fiscal Year 2017. The final version of HB 751 was passed after a House and Senate conference committee worked out the differences between each body’s version of the budget. The budget will guide state spending from July 1, 2016 until June 30, 2017. The FY 2017 budget set the state’s largest budget in history at $23.7 billion dollars.
As a result, the House was able to fund a number of its priorities, including:
- rate increases for health and human service providers
- salary adjustments for K-12 teachers, Pre-K teachers, bus drivers, nutrition workers and school nurses
- salary increases for public health nurses, sworn law enforcement officers and other critical positions to address retention issues
We prioritized education funding in the state budget, and we focused on key education policy initiatives last week, passing three education-related measures.
- Senate Bill 18 would establish policies within the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) that would allow active duty military or veteran students to obtain academic credit for previous college-level learning attained prior to their enrollment. SB 18 would require any institution within TCSG to grant academic credit for college-level learning accomplished before enrollment and would only apply to training and experience obtained through military service that was substantially related to the coursework credit given by the TCSG. This bill would give those who defend our country a head start in their post-secondary education!
- Senate Bill 329 would expand the Quality Basic Education Act to award high school diplomas to students who complete dual credit coursework. SB 329 would award a high school diploma to students who complete college dual-credit coursework and have earned certification to work in an “in-need” industry as determined by the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia. Furthermore, students who meet these requirements to receive a high school diploma would also be eligible to receive the HOPE Scholarship or participate in the Move On When Ready dual-enrollment assistance program.
- My colleagues and I also gave final passage to Senate Bill 348 this week. SB 348 would simplify the process of creating a college and career academy. A college and career academy operates as a partnership and collaboration between businesses, high schools and postsecondary institutions to advance workforce development and work based learning programs. SB 348 would allow local school systems to create a college and career academy as part of a contract to act as a strategic waivers school system. Any established charter or strategic waiver district would have the power to create a college and career academy, as opposed to current law which only allows standalone charter schools to create college and career academies. Finally, SB 348 provides training requirements for the governing boards of college and career academies, including best practices, constitutional and statutory requirements, applicable statutes, and rules and regulations.
Senate Bill 230, the “Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act,” also received final passage this week to provide Georgians with increased access to healthcare resources and medical personnel during states of emergency in Georgia and other cooperating states. SB 230 would waive licensing requirements for volunteer health practitioners from participating states to allow those volunteers to assist with medical needs in the event of a natural disaster or during a state of emergency even if those volunteers are not residents of Georgia. Volunteer health practitioners would be eligible to provide health and veterinary services provided that they are registered with a volunteer health practitioner registration system, have a license to practice medicine in their home state, and are in good standing in the state where they are licensed. During a state of emergency, the governor would define the length of time, locations, and types of medical practice which volunteer practitioners would perform, while representatives of GEMA or any host entity would have the authority to accept or deny volunteer applications.
Senate Bill 304, the “Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act,” unanimously passed the House to outline proper protocol and requirements for recording and reporting evidence collected during a forensic medical evaluation for investigations of rape. Forensic medical examiners would be required to notify law enforcement officials of this evidence, and law enforcement officers would then have 96 hours to collect the kit once the exam is completed. After collecting the kit, law enforcement officials would then have 30 days to submit the evidence to the proper division, where records of all evidence and kits collected would be kept. An annual report would be complied each December and given to the Governor, Speaker of the House, Lieutenant Governor, members of the House and Senate Judiciary and Non-Civil Committees, and posted online at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s website detailing the number of kits tested as well as those that were not tested.
Now that the General Assembly has adjourned sine die, these bills are in the hands of Governor Deal. The governor has 40 days to sign or veto the legislation. This means that any bill or resolution that the governor has not vetoed by Tuesday, May 3, 2016, will become state law in the coming months.
Although session is over, I hope that you will continue to contact me with any questions or concerns that you might have regarding your state government. If you have any questions about these potential changes to state code or if you have any suggestions for future legislation, I hope that you will contact me. You can reach me at my capitol office at (404) 656-0213 or by email at Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.