January 30, 2019
Both the House and Senate were back at work today to round out their legislative business before adjourning ahead of the Super Bowl. While floor activity remains largely administrative and ceremonial to date, action is beginning in legislative committees. Today, the Senate Public Safety Committee voted out its first bill, which addresses an issue created last year with passing school buses on divided highways, and the House Appropriations subcommittees completed their hearings on the Amended FY 2019 budget. Details on these meetings and more are in today’s #GoldDomeReport.
After the Super Bowl break, legislators will return to Atlanta on Tuesday, and the House is expected to sign off on the Amended FY 2019 budget, sending it to the Senate for consideration by the end of the week.
In this Report:
Senate Committee Hears School Bus Passing Measure
The Senate Public Safety Committee, chaired by Sen. John Albers (R-Alpharetta), convened for its first meeting today and also took action on its first bill. SB 25, authored by Senator Bill Heath (R-Bremen), amends Title 40 to clarify the circumstances in which a driver must stop for a school bus. This bill provides that drivers must stop for a school bus except when driving the opposite direction on a divided highway separated by a grass or other prohibitive barrier. Due to the drafting of HB 978 during the last legislative session, current Georgia law is unclear and appears to exempt drivers on multi-lane roadways separated by a turn lane median from stopping. As presented, the bill will take effect immediately upon passage and receiving signature of the governor. Chairman Albers noted that the Committee has received numerous letters in support of the bill, and representatives from the Georgia Department of Education, Professional Association of Georgia Educators, Georgia Association of Solicitors-General, and Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police all spoke in favor of the legislation and asked for the legislature to act quickly to resolve this issue. The Committee voted unanimously that the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Senate Rules Committee.
The Senate Public Safety Committee will meet next Wednesday to consider SB 15, Chairman Albers’s “Keeping Georgia's Schools Safe Act”.
Appropriations Subcommittees Complete Hearings on AFY 2019 Budget
The House Appropriations Committee completed its subcommittee hearings on the Amended FY 2019 today, paving the way for subcommittees and full committee to sign off on the mid-year budget and send it to the House floor. We expect that action to occur late next week. In addition to the Economic Development and Transportation Subcommittees, the Higher Education Subcommittee met for a second time to wrap up its part of the budget.
House Appropriations Committee -- Higher Education Subcommittee
The Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin), met for the second time to consider the Amended FY 2019 budget proposals introduced by Governor Kemp earlier this month.
The committee heard testimony from Matt Arthur, Commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia (“TCSG”), who began by giving a profile of the average student of the TCSG: 27 years old, married with children, and a member of the workforce for nine years. Typically, TCSG trains students for the middle-skill job area of the workforce, the only area in Georgia’s workforce with more jobs than workers. Commissioner Arthur noted that the HOPE Career Grant is instrumental in helping students attend TCSG institutions. According to the Commissioner, Dual Enrollment has seen a significant increase in recent years, with the highest percentage of participation in rural areas. TCSG’s Last Mile Fund is designed to provide aid for students that need $500 in assistance to remain enrolled in a program. In the past three semesters, $80,000 was allocated for this purpose from the TCSG Foundation. The TCSG’s amended FY2019 budget request totals $35,156,182. The largest line item in this request is for a new aviation maintenance academy for Chattahoochee Technical College at a cost of $35,147,814.
Chairman Knight expressed his appreciation for TCSG’s focus on a variety of sectors and inquired into the process by which new industries are prioritized and added. Commissioner Arthur explained that many considerations are made, including costs, time, number of prospective students, and necessity for the HOPE Career Grant to keep the program full.
Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) asked what percentage of the total student body utilizes the HOPE Career Grant and its qualifications. Commissioner Arthur explained that of a total student population of 56,000, 39,000 students use the grant. Rep. Cheokas also inquired which industry partners are helping in the development of the proposed aviation program expansion. Per the Commissioner, a variety of aviation companies provide assistance in the program.
Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) asked which programs in TCSG were not in the HOPE Career Grant’s purview. Commissioner Arthur explained there are not any programs that do not have access to the grant, but some specific courses will not receive funding; however, none of these special courses are taught statewide.
Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) asked about the current status of the aviation program, making sure there is a need for a new location. He was satisfied by the Commissioner's answer and assurance that any additional program spots will be filled.
The following legislation of interest was introduced in the House today:
The following legislation of interest was introduced in the Senate today:
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