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Friday, March 29, 2019

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, MARCH 29, 2019

FY 2020 BUDGET FEATURES TEACHER PAY RAISE
Both the House and the Senate agreed on a conference committee report of the FY 2020 General Budget for the State to begin July 1, 2019.

The final agreement featured a $3000 pay raise for Georgia's teachers and other certified school personnel including counselors and librarians. This raise will begin July 1, 2019 and will become part of the teacher pay scale.

This is a $530.8 million budget addition and will raise the starting state base teacher pay from $34,092 to $37,097.

STATE EMPLOYEES GET 2%
Also included in the FY 2020 General budget is a 2% increase for state employees, Board of Regents faculty and employees, TCSG faculty and employees and non-certified school personnel.

Additionally, the Public School Employees Retirement System benefit for non-certified school employees like school bus drivers and school cafeteria employees was increased by .25 to $15.50 per month for each year of service.

HB 530- PROTECTING HOMESCHOOLED YOUTH
The horrible torture and murder of two children in Effingham County caused a re-examination of the process of children being withdrawn from school. HB 530 attempts to create a failsafe if parents might be withdrawing children for reasons other than homeschooling. It requires the Georgia Department of Education to provide local school systems with the required Declaration of Intent by parents to utilize a home study program. If a withdrawn child is out 45 days and there is no transfer or declaration, it requires the Division of Family and Children Service to conduct an assessment. This bill now awaits the governor's signature.

FINAL PASSAGE
HB 130: Authorizes the Georgia Foundation of Public Education to establish a nonprofit corporation to qualify as a public foundation.
HB 310: Requires the Department of Insurance to submit a report on autism coverage to the General Assembly by June 15, 2019, and annually by June 15 thereafter.
HB 344: Exempts property owned by public charities like Habitat for Humanity that is held exclusively for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes from ad valorem property taxes. This bill is subject to approval by the electors of the entire state in the November 2020 election.

HEALTHCARE
HB 26: Joins Georgia to the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact for psychologists to practice telepsychology and practice face-to-face temporarily in the state for up to 30 days. Authorizes the State Board of Examiners of Psychologists to conduct background checks.
HB 287: Creates a new income tax credit for licensed physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, and physician's assistants who provide uncompensated preceptorship training to medical students, advanced practice registered nurse students, or physician's assistants students.
SB 118: Requires insurers to cover the cost of healthcare services provided through telemedicine and telehealth. Prevents insurers from having an annual maximum on coverage for telemedicine or telehealth services other than the maximum that applies to the aggregate of all items and services covered under the policy.

PUBLIC SAFETY
HB 91: Allows the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to retain fingerprints when an agency is participating in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's program.
HB 227: Prohibits insurers from denying or refusing to insure a victim of sexual assault. Adds provisions to protect victims of sexual assault in the same ways that victims of family abuse are protected.
HB 281: Increases the penalty for pimping and pandering so the second offense is considered a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of one to ten years. Requires that the penalty for a person who is found guilty of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, and pandering where the offense involves the conduct of a person under the age of 16 to require both a term of imprisonment of ten to thirty years and a fine of up to $100,000.

EDUCATION / CHILDREN
HB 83: Requires schools to schedule 30 minutes of daily recess for students between kindergarten and fifth grade.
HB 266: Raises the allowable state income tax deduction for contributions to the Georgia Higher Education Savings Plan from $2000 to $4000.
SB 167: Allows for DFCS to stop considering a relative of a child as a placement option if they have failed to demonstrate an interest in and willingness to provide a permanent home for a child for a period of six months. Allow for a child who has been with his or her caregivers for a period of 12 months to be allowed to remain in the care of those caregivers if it is in the child's best interest, and requires that a change of placement is a failure by DFCS to make reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan.

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. The FY 2019 budget (HB 30) may be found at http://www.house.ga.gov/budget/Documents/2019_FiscalYear/AFY_2019_Bill_As_Passed.pdf. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

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