Georgia General Assembly Week in Review: February 25 – March 1

March 1, 2013

Pardon Our Dust

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House Bill 372 Approved in House of Representatives


House Bill 372, a bill revising eligibility for the HOPE Scholarship at technical colleges, was approved by the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on Friday. Two years ago, the Georgia General Assembly raised the minimum GPA for HOPE from a 2.0 to a 3.0 so they could cut the cost of HOPE scholarship and encourage better performance in schools across the state. The higher standards drastically decreased the number of applicants and enrolled students at technical colleges. Under HB 372, students at technical colleges earning a GPA of 2.0 and above are still eligible for the HOPE Scholarship. The bill will now head to the House Rules Committee and from there the bill should head to the House floor for a vote next week.


Juvenile Justice Reform Approved in House of Representatives


On Thursday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 242, which aims to substantially revise, supersede, and modernize provisions relating to juvenile proceedings and enact comprehensive juvenile justice reforms recommended by the Governor’s Special Council on Justice Reform in Georgia. HB 242 would offer community-based alternatives to youths who commit nonviolent crimes instead of locking them up behind bars. Representative Wendell Willard, the main sponsor of the bill, argued that it’s very expensive and inefficient to lockup every youth who commits a nonviolent crime. The legislation is based on a task force that Governor Deal and the General Assembly created. The bill now moves to the Senate.


House Ways & Means Committee reported favorably on HB 164


The House Ways and Means Committee reported favorably on House Bill 164, which would continue an exemption on parts and equipment used to repair and maintain aircraft registered outside of Georgia. Representative Alex Atwood, the sponsor of the bill, explained, “We are competing with other states…Until other states stop giving these exemptions, Georgia has to compete with them.” Many aviation companies would like to see these tax exemptions made permanent, but, if approved by the General Assembly, the tax break would be reconsidered again in 2015.


Two Ethics Bills Pass Through House of Representatives


Two bills sponsored by Speaker David Ralston passed through the House of Representatives with four dissenting votes on Monday the 25th. House Bill 142 and House Bill 143 would impose bans on gifts from lobbyists and restore powers to the state’s ethics enforcement agency, among other changes. In January, the Senate adopted a rule which put a cap of $100.00 on gifts from lobbyists but this rule does not apply to the House. Speaker Ralston told reporters on Monday that he would not negotiate on changing his proposed ban on gifts to match the $100 limit that the Senate enacted. The bills are part of a greater effort in the legislature to improve transparency and prevent corruption. There are many skeptics who believe the two bills will not pass the Georgia Senate.  


HB 282 Passes out of Subcommittee to Full Committee


The House of Representatives favorably reported on House Bill 282, the “Municipal Broadband Investment Act.” HB 282 limits municipal governments’ abilities to build digital networks. The bill would require a city or county to get permission from the Public Service Commission to provide broadband service. The PSC could grant permission only if it determines an area is unserved. Inadequate service by an existing provider would not be sufficient to grant local governments the opportunity to provide the service, according to GMA. Governments currently providing broadband service would be grandfathered, but would not be allowed to expand services beyond the existing customer base unless there is no service provided in that area by the private sector. House Bill 282 passed out of subcommittee to full committee on Thursday afternoon.  


Further Reading


Panel OKs lower HOPE grant standard


Georgia House united on juvenile justice reform


Bills offering tax breaks advance in Georgia


Georgia House approves ethics reform package


Officials oppose three bills with local impact