Given two rounds of severe winter weather and the rush to early primary elections, the 2013-2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly seemed to fly by. In case you were unable to keep up with the session, this edition of the Capitol Update offers a summary of some of the important legislation that survived to see the Governor’s desk, and some that did not.Legislative Recap
Bills sent to the Governor:
- HB 60: This bill allows land owners/lessees in places such as bars and churches the final decision as to whether properly licensed citizens may carry concealed firearms on their premises, and removes restrictions on non-secure government buildings and public housing. This bill replaced HB 875.
- HB 251: This bill prevents the sell of “e-cigarette” products to minors.
- HB 697: This bill allows for the HOPE scholarship fund to cover 100% of tuition for students who have maintained satisfactory academic progress at a Georgia technical college.
- HB 702: This bill allows for privately funded monuments containing the Ten Commandments, a portion of the Declaration of Independence, and a portion of the Georgia Constitution to be placed on the grounds of the State Capitol.
- HB 714: This bill prevents contracted workers with the state government-school janitors, bus drivers, etc.-from receiving unemployment benefits during summer breaks.
- HB 766: The “Work Based Learning Act” would permit schools – in collaboration with the Department of Labor and the Technical College System of Georgia – to award secondary credit for approved off campus work to students age 16 and over.
- HB 772: This bill requires that adult applicants for and recipients of food stamps or benefits under TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) submit to drug testing if a state caseworker from the Department of Family and Children Services determines that there is a “reasonable suspicion” of drug abuse. Eligibility of children under both programs is not affected by this legislation.
- HB 990: This bill would require legislative approval for any future expansion of Medicaid in Georgia.
- HB 1080: This bill would allow for the placement of a privately funded monument dedicated to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to be placed on the grounds of the State Capitol.
- SB 98: Prevents coverage for abortions under qualified health plans offered within the state, including any exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. This bill was amended to allow for consideration of an abortion if the mother’s life is at stake.
- SB 281: This bill mandates that state employees and teachers be offered a high-deductible insurance option in the State Health Benefit Plan.
- SB 365: This bill focuses on lowering barriers to employment for those returning from prison. The legislation contains many of the recommendations from our Prisoner Reentry Working Group.
Bills that Failed:
- HB 707: This bill prevents the State Insurance Commissioner from enforcing provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), local and state agencies and governments from spending money attached to the ACA, and prevents the University of Georgia from operating the navigator program that assists people who are seeking coverage under the ACA.
- HB 885: This bill allows for the usage of medical cannabis derivatives for the treatment of patients who suffer from severe seizure disorders and encourages research on additional medical uses of cannabis. Despite many attempts at attaching this bill to other legislation, HB 885 was not passed.
- HB 886: This bill would require the governing body of Charter Schools to hold a minimum of two public hearings to review their budget before its adoption each year.
- HB 897: This bill would eliminate obsolete provisions, and update and clarify other provisions relating to elementary and secondary education. It is noteworthy that aspects of this legislation (Section 36) would directly impact the approval process for homeschooling. After Sen. Tippins and the Senate Education Committee drastically altered the content of this bill in relation to charter schools, the House and Senate leadership were engaged in a battle over the status of this bill.
- SB 167: This bill calls for the creation of an advisory council to review Common Core Standards and propose changes that are “in the best interest of students, their parents, teachers, and taxpayers.” Following this bill’s “unfavorable recommendation” by the House Education Committee, Sen. Ligon attempted to add this bill to HB 897. All three amendments that would have imported this bill into HB 897 failed on the Senate Floor.
- SB 350: This bill would begin a process of privatizing child welfare services through contracts with community-based providers. Following the favorable recommendation of a more watered-down version of this bill by the House Judiciary Committee, Sen. Unterman attempted to attach this bill to other legislation. Shortly before Sine Die, Gov. Deal appointed the “Child Welfare Reform Commission” to further study this issue.
- SB 397: This bill, known as Ava’s Law, mandates that state healthcare plans provide coverage children with autism. Following action in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, this bill was attached to HB 885-the Medical Marijuana Bill-and renamed the “Children’s Care Act.” Despite Sen. Unterman’s attempts to attach this bill to other legislation, SB 397 was caught in the battle between the House and the Senate and did not pass this year.
_____________________________________________________________________________ Thanks to Eric Cochling, our VP of Policy Advancement, Jamie Lord, our director of government affairs, and Jacob Stubbs, our legislative intern and John Jay Fellowship alumnus for their able contributions to this update.