FIRST TWENTY-FIVE DAYS. The General Assembly has completed slightly more than half of our 40-day session. On March 7, 2012, we will hold Cross-over Day (the day by which a bill must pass at least one chamber of the General Assembly to be considered for final passage). Below are bills that have been adopted by the House and are before the Senate for consideration. I have also listed bills that are currently under consideration.
HB 741: Supplemental Budget for FY 2012. Restored funds initially cut to education and several human services programs. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 806: Permits DOT to carry forward funds appropriated but not spent during the prior fiscal year. Allocation of funds from the Mandatory Appropriations Carryover Program will not be permitted to go to any program or activity that did not have an appropriation in the fiscal year in which such allocation is made unless the need was not ascertainable at the time of the General Appropriations Act for that fiscal year. Additionally, the department will not be allowed to allocate funds from the Carryover Program to a new program or activity which would require operating funds or capital outlay funds beyond the fiscal year in which the allocation is made. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HR 1162: Amends the Constitution of Georgia to add charter schools to the list of special schools that the state may authorize independent of local school districts. Also clarifies the role of the state in funding education and setting public policy. STATUS: Adopted. I opposed this bill.
Rationale: While Democrats successfully negotiated changes to the amendment that (1) define “state charter schools” for the purposes of limiting the state’s role in creating schools and (2) restrict funding for state charter schools to general appropriations and prohibits reductions to local school districts, I find that a constitutional amendment to achieve this end is ill-advised and an over-reach of government.
HB 713: Delays implementation of some career and college readiness initiatives until the 2013-2014 school year, require career education in grades kindergarten through 12, and change the mandated assessment for post-secondary readiness to the end of the eleventh grade. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 824: Defines “equivalent millage” for the purpose of being eligible for equalization (the transfer of funds to less wealthy districts to provide additional funding for education). Also changes the benchmark for equalization from the 75% percentile to the statewide average (less any outliers based on wealth). STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 760: Establishes a capital outlay program to replace existing exceptional growth program for school construction, which will allow districts to access funds faster and on an emergency basis (e.g., natural disaster). STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 636: Provides for a public referendum for the incorporation of the city of Ashford and contains the proposed charter for the city. STATUS: Adopted. I opposed this bill.
Rationale: The current system for the creation of municipalities unfairly allows the selection of wealthy parcels at the expense of less-economically viable areas, creating islands within counties. In addition, the restriction of voting rights to only those within the proposed geographic boundaries, rather than all impacted areas, is contrary to local control and public policy.
HB 707: Expands the list of qualified identification for voting to include official college identification. The bill is a part of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus’s Shared Responsibility Legislative Agenda. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 811: Mandates that fees collected for a specific purpose must be appropriated for that purpose or face reductions in funding. If funds are not properly allocated, in the following fiscal year, the fees collected for that purpose would be decreased to match the amount appropriated for that purpose the previous year. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
SB 183: Allow local boards of education to consult with off-campus health care professionals, using appropriate protocols and contracts, for the school nurse program, including telemedicine. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 434: Revises a definition of social worker to permit licensed clinical social workers to diagnose certain patients with mental illness. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 675: Revises the definitions of "approved nursing education programs" for registered professional nurses and licensed practical nurses by removing the four-year institution requirement. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 879: Requires the Department of Education, the Department of Public Health, the Georgia Board of Nursing, and the Georgia Medical Board to develop guidelines for training school employees in the care of students with diabetes. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 730: Prohibits the state Department of Administrative Services, as well as any local government, from requiring or prohibiting bidders, offerors, contractors, subcontractors, or material suppliers to enter into or adhere to prehire agreements, project labor agreements, collective bargaining agreements, or any other agreement with one or more labor organizations. STATUS: Adopted. I opposed this bill.
Rationale: The legislation interferes with the local decisions of cities and counties, which may use these agreements to support local hiring for major public works projects. Given the nearly $3B in approved E-SPLOST funding and the likely funding of $20B in T-SPLOST projects, refusing to require local hire requirements could lead to the hiring of cheaper labor from outside Georgia. Moreover, this bill is part of a national campaign by ALEC to undermine collective bargaining rights. Georgia is a right-to-work state that has limited union presence, and this is an unnecessary assault on union workers and local government power.
HB 785: Provides that state licensure requirements for physicians and dentists in this state shall be granted based on demonstrated skill and academic competence. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 342: Expand the definition of “family violence order” to include restraining orders, pretrial releases of someone arrested for family violence, and any order for probation which arose out of an act of family violence. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 683: Provides that companies, banks and other entities who are enforcing a garnishment action do not need to hire a lawyer to carry out the garnishment action. If, however, the person being acted against challenges the garnishment, then an attorney must represent the garnishee in further garnishment proceedings. STATUS: Adopted. I opposed this bill.
HB 711: Modifies the rules of evidence by not extending the privilege of spousal immunity to spouses whose crime fits certain criteria, including where a spouse is charged with a crime against someone younger than 18, spouse is charged with a crime against their spouse or their marital or separate property, alleged crime occurred before the marriage of the spouses. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 744: Revises estate law to offer protections to heirs of estates, where the owner dies without a will. If a court determines that the property subject to partition is an heirs property, then it will select an independent appraiser to identify the fair market value of the property. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
HB 850: Provides that any person wishing to become a guardian for a child must submit to a background check and provide fingerprints. STATUS: Adopted. I voted in favor of this bill.
BILLS TO WATCH
HB 954 (Fetal Pain Bill): This bill restricts abortions after 20 weeks to only those instances where the life of the mother is in jeopardy. No exceptions are made for rape, incest or the potential mortality of the fetus. I oppose HB 954 because no reputable medical institution has acknowledged the existence of “fetal pain” at 20 weeks. Both the American Medical Association and the Royal Academy of Obstetrics have rejected the “findings” used by the author to support this legislation. STATUS: In House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
HB 242 (Anti-Sharia Law Bill): The bill is based on “American Laws for American Courts” model legislation put forth by the American Public Policy Alliance. This model legislation is explicitly promoted by APPA as a protection against Shariah Law. Not only has there been not a single case of Shariah Law being a threat to U.S. or state law, but First Amendment jurisprudence already prohibits U.S. courts from imposing any kind of religious law, including Sharia. I find it reprehensible that this legislative body would go out of its way to target a specific religion. The bill is fundamentally unnecessary as it seeks to address a problem that does not exist. Our courts are not allowed to defer to any law if doing so would result in an outcome contrary to American public policy. Moreover, because it targets religious law, this bill will impact Orthodox Jews who rely on religious law to settle disputes. It also may impact custody cases when enforcement is sought abroad. STATUS: Passed out of House Judiciary Non-Civil. Awaiting action in the Rules Committee.
HB 641 (The Child Protection and Public Safety Act): The Child Protection and Public Safety Act is a comprehensive revision of the Georgia Code’s juvenile court provisions, which govern the state’s response to children and their families in case of abuse, neglect, violations of the law by children, and other circumstances requiring court intervention. The current law is a patchwork of provisions stitched together over the past 40 years. Its sections relating to abuse and neglect (deprivation) are intermingled with those relating to children who have violated criminal law (delinquency), creating contradictions and confusion. The Act reorganizes the code for ease of understanding and application, modernizes substantive provisions to reflect advances in research and practice, and brings Georgia into full compliance with federal laws applicable to juvenile court proceedings. Furthermore, communications between agencies will be improved in order to create a coordinated plan for each child in the system. STATUS: Passed out of Judiciary Committee. Awaiting action in the Rules Committee.
SB 447 (Unemployment Insurance Bill): This bill seeks to amend our employment laws to account for the more than $700M Georgia owes to the federal government due to our “employer holiday” that led to nearly bankrupting our trust funds. In response, this bill will cut employment benefits down to 20 weeks, cut actual benefits and only require a nominal increase in employer contributions, which are among the lowest in the nation. Because Georgia has an unemployment rate of 9.7%, this will have a devastating effect on not only the families of the unemployed but the economies of their communities. STATUS: Passed the Senate. In Committee in the House.