Lawmakers Work to Pass Bills Before Session Ends Next Week

Cindy Morley

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

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The clock is ticking on the 2021 session on the Georgia General Assembly, and lawmakers are working to get their bills passed before session ends March 31st.

One of the most pressing is the new budget which must be passed before Sine Die.  Lawmakers came a step closer Tuesday when the Senate passed its version of the $27.2 billion budget for FY22 by a 54-0 vote. This vote sets up conference committee negotiations between the Senate and House.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Senate Appropriations Chair Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) told members of the Senate, “We are in a better position than we thought we would be in last year.”

Like the House version, the Senate’s budget proposal includes $40 million for a rural innovation fund and $10 million to extend high-speed internet in rural areas. Both budgets also include pay raises where there is high turnover in state government.

Among the recommendations made by the Senate are: adding $250,000 for a Law Enforcement Teaching Students program under the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and adding $191,525 to the School Resource Officer program operated by the Department of Public Safety.

Over in the House, lawmakers approved Senate Resolution 134 which gives voters the chance to approve a constitutional amendment that would keep taxpayers from paying the salary of any state official suspended from their job while under felony indictment. The measure passed by an overwhelming 169-0 vote. The question will be placed on the 2022 ballot.

A number of education bills have moved through committees and are now waiting on a floor vote.

The House Education Committee approved SB 51 by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) which would allow homeschool students in grades 6th to 12 to participate in extracurricular activities in the public school they are zoned to attend if they enroll in at least one class at the school.  Lawmakers also gave approval to a new version SB 42, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) which now includes language from Rep. John Carson’s (R-Marietta) HB 545, which would also allow homeschool students to participate in extracurricular activities under criteria similar to SB 51.

SB 42 also was altered to keep student discipline data in the school climate rating and also requires districts to post discipline data prominently on their websites. Originally, SB 42 removed discipline data from school climate ratings.

The House Education committee also gave its approval SB 246 by Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan), which prevents state agencies, school districts, or other government entities from regulating student learning pods which have become popular during the pandemic.

The Senate Education and Youth Committee passed HB 455 by Rep. Timothy Barr (R-Lawrenceville) which would allow school districts to use motor vehicles other than school buses for student transportation.