Feb. 28 marked “Crossover Day” in the Georgia General Assembly. This was the last day bills could “cross over” from one chamber to the other and still have a clear path to becoming law this legislative session. Below are updates on some of the key bills we have been monitoring:

HB 820 is a bill sponsored by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) related to property tax exemptions and deferral. The bill goes to the Senate and if adopted, would allow voters the opportunity to approve a new homestead exemption from ad valorem taxes for municipal purposes. It also would exempt COA from the requirement to publish tax increases. We were successful in carving out Atlanta Public Schools from the bill and will continue to monitor to ensure the school system does not get added in the Senate.

HB 869 and HB 870, both sponsored by Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta), passed the House and are in the Senate’s State and Local Government Operations Committee. These two bills are identical to bills the governor vetoed last year relating to Fulton Industrial annexing into the new City of South Fulton.

Here are a few other bills to note :

House Passes Amended Fiscal Year 2018 Budget

The House passed the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) 2018 budget on Monday, agreeing to adjustments made to the Senate version of the Georgia Department of Education's (GaDOE) AFY18 budget with the inclusion of additional funding for six more school buses. This brings the number of new buses to 200 from Gov. Nathan Deal's original recommendation of 194.

CLICK HERE to view the budget.

The Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) section of the budget added $400,000 to fund a statewide leadership academy for principals created by a committee that met in fall 2017. It also includes an additional $408,115 to fund one non-STEM AP exam for low-income students.

Voucher Bill Dies in the House

HB 482 — sponsored by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), a member of the House Education Committee — would create Education Savings Accounts (ESA) that could be used for private school tuition, higher education costs, tutoring by a certified educator, school transportation, education technology, and occupational, behavioral, physical or speech language therapies. The amount of public funding allocated to the savings accounts would be equivalent to the state funding that would have been appropriated had students attended public schools. In a fiscal note on the legislation, the Department of Audits estimated the plan would cost about $22.8 million in FY 2019 and would balloon to about $23 million annually. The department noted that additional costs to the state would vary based on the number of students already attending private schools who might utilize the voucher. By 2022, if 75 percent of ESA participants already attending private school opt to use the voucher, the fiscal note estimates the bill’s additional annual cost at an eye-opening $69.3 million.

Here is the vote record from the representatives on this bill.

Recess Bill

The Senate passed HB 273, a bill sponsored by Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) in the House and carried by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R- Chickamauga) in the Senate. The bill would provide a daily recess for students in K-5. The bill passed unanimously and now goes on to the governor’s desk.

Excuse Absence for Students of Military Families

HB 718, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), would give schools the option to excuse certain absences for students with parents in the U.S. Armed Forces. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Private School Voucher

HB 759, sponsored by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), seeks to change eligibility for Georgia's special needs private school voucher. The bill would allow students who have established eligibility for the voucher with an IEP in a public school and subsequently attend private schools (which do accept the vouchers) to use the vouchers without being required to re-establish eligibility at a public school. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Attendance Zone and Enrollment

HB 852, sponsored by Rep. Michael Smith (D-Marietta), would allow a student who has been enrolled in and attended a public school for more than half of the school year and moves during the school year to another attendance zone within the same district to continue to attend his or her original school. Students with chronic disciplinary issues would not allowed to participate, and parents would be responsible for transportation costs.

Required Videotaping of Public Comment

HB 493, sponsored by Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Forest Park), would require local public agencies, including school boards, to include the public comment section of meetings in its video recordings. This bill passed the House and has been assigned to Senate Government Oversight Committee.

School Calendar

HB 936, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), would have required that a school year not begin prior to the third week in August. This measure, however, did not make it to the floor for a vote in the House.

Below is list of bills that we are tracking. Please feel free to ask us any questions or express your concerns.

Click here to view the table.