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Friday, May 31, 2019

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, MAY 31, 2019

LEGISLATION AFFECTING VETERANS AND MILITARY

With Memorial Day just passed, this is a good time to highlight what the legislature did affecting those who served our country in the past as well as those who continue to serve. Additionally, a ceremony May 31 renamed the Statesboro VA Clinic "the Ray Hendrix Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic". Ray Hendrix was a long-time advocate for veterans, served as Chairman of the Ga. Veterans Services Board and worked tirelessly for the establishment of this clinic to save veterans in the area time and expense of travel for many services.

--SB 140-Extends WWI Centennial Commission to Dec. 31, 2019
--SB 170-Designates the "Honor and Remember" flag as the state's emblem of service and sacrifice of American servicemen who lost their lives
--HB 25-Expands rights of servicemen to terminate contracts due to service deployments to include contracts related to tv, video, audio programming, internet and gym membership. Requires relocation orders of at least 90 days.
--HB 33-Allows service member whose weapons carry license expired while serving on active duty outside of Georgia to have 6 months grace in getting it renewed
--HB 59-Allows student of military parents to enroll ahead of time in public school where residency will be established. Also can apply to charter school where residency is due to be established.
--HB 64-Adds military law enforcement to list of agencies that have immunity when making a report of child abuse. Allows for reports and photos to be released to military law enforcement. Requires DFCS or other agency to make effort to determine if abused child is a military member.
--SR 466-Commends 75th anniversary of WWII Merrill's Marauders mission. Urges Congress to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Merrill's Marauders.

GOVERNOR VETOES ONLY 5 BUDGET LINES

When Governor Kemp signed the FY 2020 General Budget in Camilla recently, his veto pen only lined out five items in House Bill 31.

--In the Student Finance Commission, the Legislature had appropriated $1 million in Lottery Proceeds to establish an Early Hope Program for Dual Enrollment Students for those students who exceeded a cap that was included in House Bill 444. This was to have been subtracted from the Hope scholarship hours the student earned while in Dual Enrollment. HB 444 did not pass in the Senate and thus no changes were made by legislation. Gov. Kemp vetoed the funding for Early Hope because there is no such program at the present time.

--In the Bond Package, only half of the bond needed for a construction of a multidisciplinary greenhouse complex project at the University of Georgia was funded. That bond of $2.5 million was not matched so the Governor vetoed the partial project since $2.5 million will not complete the project.

--In the Bond Package, half of the bond needed for a project was funded at the University of Georgia for the construction of a multidisciplinary greenhouse complex. That bond of $2.5 million was not matched so the Governor vetoed the partial project since $2.5 million will not complete the project.

--The Senate included in its FY 2020 Bond package $4 million for the design, construction and equipment for a new facility for Georgia Piedmont Technical College in South DeKalb County. While this project was not on the priority list submitted by the Technical College System, the project had wide support by several senators who represent DeKalb County. Gov. Kemp vetoed the bond due to a lack of vetting by the TCSG Board and staff.

--In Conference, The House added to its FY 2020 Bonds a project for the purchase and renovation of the Center for Education and Entrepreneurship for Southern Crescent Technical College totaling $880,000. The Governor notes the project was not requested by TCSG and was not part of a plan at the present time. Since the project was not on the TCSG capital outlay list, the Governor vetoed the project.

--The House and Senate, with the support of area legislators, appropriated $720,000 in Bonds to construct a new Driver Services (DDS) Customer Service Center in Rome. Governor Kemp's veto message contends that the local community does not have a plan in place for the replacement of the Service Center and that the Department of Driver Services did not request the project so he vetoed it.

BUDGET APPROPRIATIONS

--$33,429 in existing funds in the Department of Veterans Services to re-establish the annual Veterans Benefits Supermarket. This annual event was ended during the recession. Would serve normally from 300-500 veterans to provide assistance, exposure to benefits and opportunities that might be available to veterans and their families around the state.

WHAT DOES "DISREGARD" MEAN?

Added to the Governor's 5 line item budget vetoes were 16 "Nonbinding Information Language to Disregard" items. It's not unusual for the executive branch to disagree with some items in the budget or to disagree in principle with language that is inserted in the budget by the two bodies. The fact is, language is non-binding anyway, so this is the Governor's way of disagreeing.

Half (8) of the "Disregard" listing, though, involved funding totaling about $1.6 million. So these are initiatives the Legislature funded. They were not vetoed by the Governor, but state agencies are instructed to spend the funds differently than how the Legislature appropriated the funds. That is a different issue and deserves further examination. Departments and agencies would be advised that those funds could be eliminated in the Amended budget if the Legislature decides that if the executive branch is not going to spend the funds as appropriated, they will be cut and not spent at all.

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