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Friday, March 24, 2017

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, MARCH 24, 2017

LEGISLATURE APPROVES FY 2018 BUDGET

Both the House and the Senate gave final approval to the FY 2018 General Budget. This budget totals $24.997 billion in state funds and is based on a conservative growth rate of 3.6% over the FY Amended estimates.

Highlights include:

2% teacher pay raises in the teacher pay scale

20% increases for state law enforcement officers

19% average increase for DFCS caseworkers

2% merit based raises for state employees

A 3% onetime benefit for state ERS retirees

Raises from $14.75 to $15.00 per month, per year of service for retired school bus drivers and food service workers

$2.8 million to fund the purchase of cyber insurance for state agencies

$1 million to the Department of Education to hire a statewide turnaround coach and to implement HB 338

$4.1 million to begin a program for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's

The full text of the final budget can be found online at http://www.senate.ga.gov/ . Go to this address and then click on the tab for 'Budget and Evaluations Office'. On the left of the page, click on 'Appropriations Documents'.

PASSED BY THE SENATE - FINAL PASSAGE

HB 245 - Requires the Professional Standards Commission to adopt a process to temporarily certify military spouses who have moved to Georgia to teach in our state's public schools. (Passed 50-0)

HB 319 - Increases the amount from $10,000 to $30,000 that counties must be reimbursed by state funds for costs for each writ of habeas corpus for indigent petitioners. (Passed 50-0)

HB 320 - Makes it a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature to knowingly manufacture, sell or install a counterfeit or nonfunctioning air bag, or any component part. (Passed 51-0)

HB 328 - Changes some Georgia driving laws to allow six feet of overhang instead of four feet, and deleting the eight hour limit on FlexAuto lanes. (Passed 52-0)

HB 391 - Expands current law that allows mothers to legally abandon newborn babies at medical facilities to include fire stations and police stations. Also increases the allowable age of the infant from one week old to 30 days old and eliminates the requirement that the mother provide proof of identity, name and address. (Passed 53-0)

HB 425 -Requires the State School Superintendent to develop guidelines for students who choose not to take standardized tests, which should involve alternate instructional activities and prohibit school systems from punishing students for refusal to participate. Also encourages the Board of Education to allow standardized tests in paper-and-pencil format. (Passed 44-9)

HB 437 - Reestablishes the former Agricultural Education Advisory Commission which had expired in December 2016. The Commission will consist of three House members appointed by the Speaker, three Senate members appointed by the Committee on Assignments, three appointed by the Governor, and three appointed by the State School Superintendent. (Passed 53-0)

HB 463 - Allows the Department of Early Care and Learning to establish the nonprofit Georgia Foundation for Early Care and Learning to Promote Public-Private Partnerships in order to aid the department in carrying out its mission. The nonprofit can receive funds through a competitive grant process or appropriations by the General Assembly ($357,000 in FY 18 Budget). Must issue an annual report disclosing all donors and the amount donated. (Passed 49-0)

LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN THE SENATE THIS WEEK

SB 293 - Would require public and school employers to make employer and employee contributions to the Teachers Retirement System on employed retired individuals who receive a benefit from TRS.

SB 294 - Would require public employers to make employer and employee contributions to the Employees' Retirement System of Georgia for employees who draw retirement benefits.

Full transcripts of bills may be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx . Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

LEGISLATURE TO ADJOURN SINE DIE MARCH 30th

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