With just days before the scheduled end of the Georgia General Assembly session on March 28 these are some of the major legislation approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for its consideration: HOPE Grant Assistance; Ending Fee Diversion; Gun Carry Expansion; Converting a traditional public school to a charter school; Georgia a right-to-work state.
HOPE Grant Assistance:
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly March 7 to approve legislation that would lower the grade point average requirement for the HOPE Grant in Georgia's Technical Colleges from a 3.0 Grade Point Average to a 2.0 GPA. HB 372 would put the requirement back to where it was prior to sweeping changes to HOPE made in 2011.
It was estimated that about one-quarter of all technical college students had left school after the HOPE Grant requirement was raised. The state's economy needs technical college graduates to build a skilled workforce, and lawmakers came together in a bipartisan manner to address the problem.
Ending Fee Diversion:
The House voted unanimously March 4 to approve to end the practice of diverting fee revenues from specially designated funds to other state programs. HB 127 would require that revenues generated by fees such as the $1 per tire that consumers pay for the cleanup of tire dumps, and other fees intended for programs including hazardous waste site cleanups, indigent defense, law enforcement training and driver's education would be spent only on those intended purposes.
Gun Carry Expansion:
A majority of the House of Representatives voted March 7 to approve the Safe Carry Protection Act, which would allow gun owners to carry weapons in many areas where they are now prohibited. Under HB 512, guns could legally be carried into churches, bars, non-security areas of airports, some government buildings and college campuses, although not into dormitories or athletic events.
The proposal would also allow designated administrators in Georgia's K-12 school systems to carry weapons on campus. The proposal would retain the right of private property owners to exclude or eject those possessing guns. Also, the bill would allow mental health patients who had voluntarily sought treatment to obtain gun carry licenses. Those involuntarily hospitalized or treated for mental illness would still be prohibited from carrying weapons.
Other House-Approved Legislation:
HB 123, which would require local school boards to consider a petition for converting a traditional public school to a charter school when a majority of the school's student households or a majority of teachers and staff request it.
HB 125, which would allow individuals to renew business and professional licenses by submitting citizenship documentation only one time, instead of annually. The bill also would require homeowners to prove their citizenship before qualifying for a homestead exemption on their local property taxes.
HB 164, which would extend for two years the sales tax exemption on equipment purchased for the repair and maintenance or aircraft, to protect the jobs of employees at Savannah-based Gulfstream Aerospace.
HB 188, which would help military veterans obtain state licenses in fields where they have training, including plumbing, electrical work and heating and air conditioning.
HB 189, which would protect rural tourism by requiring mandatory advance notice to local governments before the closing of state parks or historical sites in their communities.
HB 199, which would enable the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority to use its funding for water conservation efforts in addition to developing reservoirs.
HB 207, which would establish a special turkey-hunting permit and an extended turkey season for young and mobility-impaired hunters.
HB 276, which would reauthorize the trust fund fee to clean up hazardous waste sites for another five years. The bill would also stop the practice of diverting environmental fee revenues to be spent on other areas of the state budget.
HB 287, which would transfer the state archives from the Secretary of State's Office to the University System of Georgia.
HB 361, which would authorize Georgia as a right-to-work state where union membership is not compulsory for workers.
HB 362, which would prohibit state and local government agencies from requiring that a bidder for a public contract use union labor.
SB 213: The bill revises the Flint River Drought Protection Act of 2000 (FRDPA), which originally set up an irrigation auction to address historic low stream flows. Since 1980, flows on the upper Flint River have declined 50-70 percent while flows on the lower Flint have dropped by around 30 percent. Today, summertime flows are routinely so low you can't even float a kayak down the upper reaches of the river, and several major tributaries in the lower Flint completely dry up.
It authorizes the state to invest in "flow augmentation" projects, and it restricts Georgians' downstream use of augmented water.