My committees for the upcoming legislative session are chairman for Higher Education, secretary of Health & Human Services, Education & Youth and Rules.
Below are the highlights from our first two weeks in session (week two budget hearings):
Four major issues this session
1. Legalization of cannabis oil (marijuana) for the treatment of seizure disorders.
2. Considering the need for new funding for maintenance and high dollar transportation projects in the state.
3. Looking for solutions to the problems of rural hospitals.
4. Considering the religious freedom issue and determining the need for new laws.
Governor’s Policy Proposals
1. Creating an “Opportunity School District” for consistently failing schools (3 years) to be managed by the state to attempt to upgrade educational opportunities.
2. Combining probation, parole (adult and juvenile) supervision under a new Department of Community Supervision to eliminate duplication.
3. Creating the Georgia Film Academy linking film production and production skills training and academics in Regents colleges and Technical institutions.
Major items in FY15 and FY16 budgets proposed by Gov. Deal
1. $280 million for the K-12 QBE Formula that reduces the Austerity cut and is intended for systems to pass on to teachers as furlough replacement or pay raises for teachers.
2. $16.7 million in Lottery funds for a 3 percent increase in the HOPE scholarship in public and private colleges to keep up with tuition increases.
3. $139.8 million to fund the Annual Required Contribution for Employees Retirement, Teachers Retirement and Public School Employees Retirement Systems.
4. $149.1 million in new funds for Medicaid growth and Affordable Care Act compliance, and voluntary case management for the Age, Blind and Disabled population. Offset by reductions totaling $179.4 million in PeachCare and Medicaid costs and an increase in the federal match.
5. $239.6 million to fund growth in K-12 enrollment and teacher pay scale recognizing 1.35 percent increase in enrollment this past year. Georgia’s schools now educate 1.72 million students.
6. $800 million in bonds including $230.0 million for K-12 school construction, $197.7 million for Regents projects, and $19.8 million for Technical Colleges.
Legislation introduced in the Senate this week
SB 1- Provides insurance coverage for basic autism therapy
SB 2- Students who complete educational requirements may be awarded a high school diploma early
SB 8- Creates “Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission” and extends the rights of sexually abused children
SB 29- Compensation for occupational diseases by firefighters
SB 34- Persons entering locked vehicles to remove a child would be immune from liability
SR 7- Constitutional amendment allowing additional penalties or fees for sexual offenses against children
SR 27- Constitutional amendment lowering the age requirements for members of the Senate from 25 to 21