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Day 11: Ed-Related Bills Heard in Committee & Senate Leaders Recommit to Supporting Vouchers

Both chambers hit the ground running Monday with substantial floor debates and full committee calendars. Several of these committees heard bills of relevance to the education community. 


Senate Republican Caucus Holds Press Conference to Outline 2024 Priorities 

Senate Republicans held a press conference during which they announced their 2024 legislative priorities. Regarding education, the Senate Republican Caucus reaffirmed its support of SB 233 and urged the House to pass the measure. SB 233 would establish a third school voucher program. Please find more information about the bill along with reasons PAGE opposes its passage HERE.   


House Education Subcommittees Deliberate Multiple Bills 

Two subcommittees of the House Education Committee met. First, the Subcommittee on Education Policy, considered three bills:

 

  • HB 941 by Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer) would allow capital outlay funds to be used for Pre-K facilities. It would also allow Pre-K students to be included in student projection counts. The bill was amended in subcommittee to clarify that it would only apply to school programs operating under Georgia’s official Pre-K Program.  The bill was passed out of subcommittee and will now be considered by the full House Education Committee.


  • HB 987 by Rep. Chas Cannon (R-Moultrie) revises the definition of “qualified local school system” by reducing the minimum required millage rate or equivalent millage rate from 14 mills to 10 mills. This would allow systems to further lower their millage rates and remain eligible for equalization funds.  



  • HB 846 by Rep. Rob Leverett (R-Elberton) would require local school districts to annually notify employees whether Social Security taxes will be withheld from their pay and require notification of employee eligibility for other pension or retirement plans. The sponsor noted that some school employees are not taking part in Social Security and may not be aware of this fact. PAGE Director of Legislative Services Margaret Ciccarelli testified in support of increased transparency regarding Social Security withholdings and retirement options while also supporting minimizing the administrative burden of schools to comply with this legislation. While seemingly generally receptive to the legislation, the subcommittee provided suggestions regarding employee notification of social security and retirement benefits and asked that a substitute of the bill be drafted for consideration at a future meeting. 

Following the conclusion of the first subcommittee meeting, the Subcommittee on Curriculum met to discuss HB 822 by Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton). This bill would require each local school board to prescribe an age-appropriate and medically accurate course of study in sex education and HIV prevention by Aug. 1, 2024. The bill received a hearing in subcommittee and no action was taken. 


House Health Committee Passes Bill to Require AEDs in Schools 

The House Health Committee approved HB 874 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), chairman of the committee, which requires each K-12 public school to have an automated external defibrillator (AED) accessible during school hours and at any school-related function. HB 874 requires schools to develop a written emergency action plan with specific steps to take during a cardiac emergency. The bill also requires creation of an AED internal response team at each school to maintain the AEDs and manage the emergency action plan. Finally, the bill requires two practice drills each school year. 


A cardiologist speaking in favor of the legislation said that nationally, there are between 7,000 to 20,000 cardiac arrest events in schools each year, or about 30 cases per day. When asked about the cost of providing AEDs in schools without the equipment, Hawkins said he has spoken with Rep. Matt Dubnik, chair of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, to gain the $112,000 in funding needed to provide AEDs for 75 schools that currently do not have one. A representative of the Georgia Association of School Nurses also expressed the organization’s support for the bill. The bill passed the committee unanimously and is now in House Rules.

 

House Insurance Subcommittee Hears Bill that Aims to Prevent Unexpected Hospital Costs for Educators 

The Insurance Life & Health Subcommittee heard HB 945 from Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), which aims to prevent employees enrolled in state health plans from facing higher costs if an in-network hospital becomes an out-of-network hospital during the plan year. The bill would require insurers for state health plans to continue providing coverage at the same rate for covered persons if a hospital that was in-network during the open enrollment period becomes an out-of-network hospital before the end of the plan year. This would apply to the State Health Benefit Plan as well as the health insurance plans for state employees and employees of the University System of Georgia. 


Committee members did not vote on the bill because the meeting was hearing only. HB 945 is currently on the agenda for the full Insurance Committee meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 31. 


Upcoming Schedule  


Tuesday, Jan. 30 - Legislative Day 12 

  • 2:00 p.m. House Retirement Committee, 406 CLOB 

  • 2:30 p.m. Senate Education & Youth Committee, 450 CAP 


Wednesday, Jan. 31 - Legislative Day 13 

  • 8:00 a.m. House Insurance Committee, 406 CLOB 


Thursday, Feb. 1 - Legislative Day 14 

  • 1:00 p.m. Senate Retirement Committee, 310 CLOB 

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