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Day 40: You Know What This Means

It’s Day 40 and you know what that means — we’re done for the year after a long, sorta messy, back and forth kind of day. And what would sine die be without some last minute drama and rumors? 

Rumors of Vouchers  

The drama today was all about vouchers. And there was no shortage of rumors.  Although we had been told vouchers were dead, we were still on the watch for any effort to add the bill today.  SB 68 was the likely target as HB 68 had already been tried.  There were rumors of it being added to SB 68 if the bill went to conference committee.  It didn’t. 

The House passed SB 68 last week after adding other bills to it.  This morning the Senate agreed to the House version — as they had amended it.  The Senate amendment removed HB 32 (moving the chief turnaround officer position from the State Board to the State Superintendent) and HB 86 (allowing certain teachers to appeal their evaluation) from the bill.  The House disagreed and the stage was set for a conference committee at which all kinds of amendments could turn up.  A story quickly spreading was that the voucher bill was attached already.  It was not.  Another was that it would be added to the conference committee report.  It never got that far.  Sen. Freddie Powell Sims did not make any move to bring the bill up to avoid her bill becoming a vehicle for vouchers.   

Bottom line — vouchers did not pass or move forward any of the times the bill resurfaced.  We had help with that.  Thank you to all who responded to our alerts.  It made a difference in the legislative and executive branches.  Thank you to Gov. Brian Kemp who listened to the concerns of school board members and others then championed the financial changes to the bill and understood that funding was not the only issue and acted accordingly. We appreciate his efforts and encourage you to add your thanks to ours.  House Education Chair Rick Jasperse was also a major help in working through this process and other bills. Sen. Freddie Powell Sims obviously also played a major part in stopping this today.  Please take a moment to thank them also.

What Passed Today

HB 68 prohibits an accrediting Association or a subsidiary from also being a student scholarship organization. When the voucher bill was attached to it in the Senate Education & Youth Committee, it created such an uproar (thank you for helping provide that uproar) that the bill was stuck. Friday, the Senate Rules Committee removed the voucher language. Today when it was up for debate in the Senate, an amendment was proposed to attach HB 69 allowing a student who had received the special needs voucher to continue to be eligible for it even if they left the private school for home school then wanted to go back to a private school. The amendment failed; the bill passed the Senate and was agreed to by the House.  

HB 59, allowing children of parents in the active military to enroll in a school upon receipt of orders, which now includes HB 558, allowing state charters with a statewide attendance zone to be considered a state agency for purposes of the Open Meetings Act. That means the governing board can meet by teleconference without limitation.  

SB 83, allowing for an elective to teach history, literature, art etc of Old Testament and New Testament, plus HB 562 which puts the REACH scholarship into statute. It’s currently a program but not a law. 

HB 315, requiring consultants to local governments on bids or proposals disclose any conflict of interest HB 459, requiring districts to verify school bus driver information twice a year SB 9, relating to sexual contact between a student and school employee 

SB 15, the school safety bill, passed with an amendment that would require the school safety coordinator to report reasonable suspicion of violent criminal activity to the appropriate law enforcement agency but also allowing the reporting of reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity. 

HB 322, changing the value of bids or purchases of goods or services to be placed on the Georgia Procurement Registry, had a tangled path in both chambers tonight and oddly they mirrored each other.  The bill was back in the House for agreement with the Senate version.  The House agreed then reconsidered and disagreed.  The Senate then insisted, reconsidered, and receded.  After all that, it meant that the House version is the one going to the Governor. 

SB 2, allowing EMCs to provide broadband 

SR 64, urging the Georgia High School Association to add the 4×800 meter relay to the state track meet 

SR 304, creating a Senate Athletic Association Study Committee  

SR 353, creating a Senate Study Committee on Community Schools  

SR 452, creating a Senate Study Committee on Financial Efficiency Star 

SR 468, creating a Senate Study Committee on the Educational Development of African American Children in Georgia 

The Governor has 40 days to sign or veto these bills and the others that already passed. We will update you when that process is complete. 

What Did Not Pass

HB 365, amending the tag ad valorem tax (TAVT) statute, passed the Senate.  The House then agreed as amended but the Senate took no further action. 

HB 444, the dual enrollment bill, remained tabled in the Senate 

SB 161, weighting of grades, was postponed in the House four days and never came up for a vote. 

These bills plus SB 68 from above will start next session with the status they ended up with tonight.  For example, HB 365 and SB 68 will be in the Senate for any further action to be taken. 

What else is left?  

The House recommitted all bills remaining in the Rules Committee back to the committee from which they came for next session.  In education, that includes the following:

  • HB 1, renaming the special needs voucher the Eric Johnson Scholarship Act
  • HB 10, instruction on the best practices for and risks associated with the use of tampons
  • HB 32, duties of the Chief Turnaround Officer
  • HB 69, revising the prior year in public school requirement for eligibility for the special needs voucher if already qualified for it
  • HB 86, appeal of teachers’ evaluations under certain circumstances
  • HB 464, requirements for a public comment period at regular monthly school board meetings
  • HR 553, House Study Committee on Cyberbullying
  • HR 680, House Study Committee on School Nutrition Program Funding 

The Senate had only SB 165, designation of a non-profit to govern high school athletics in the state, left in Rules in terms of education. 

The House Education Committee had 21 bills remaining and nine in Senate Education & Youth. 

So rest up, we still have plenty of work to do!  

We thank you for reading, for talking with your legislators, educating your community about these issues, and taking action as requested.  Thank you for your service to the children of Georgia attending your schools.  Also, a special thanks to the Communications Department of GSBA for their help in getting our message out quickly when Scott and I could not.