The House Passes Bills on Health Insurance Protections and High-Demand Career List
The House passed two education-related bills:
HB 945 from Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), which aims to prevent members of the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) and other state insurance plans from paying more if an in-network hospital becomes an out-of-network hospital during the plan year. Under the bill, plan members would not be charged higher co-pays, deductibles, or other fees if a hospital that was in-network during the open-enrollment period became an out-of-network hospital before the end of the plan year. The bill passed by a vote of 167-1.
HB 982 by Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville) tasks the State Workforce Development Board with publishing an annual “High-Demand Career List” which would identify careers deemed most critical to Georgia’s current and future workforce needs. State and local agencies, including local school boards, would be required to use this list to inform their use of federal and state funding and ensure relevant educational programs are aligned with the list. HB 982 is also intended to ensure that funds are used effectively. The bill passed with a vote of 161-1.
State Senate Passes School Mapping Legislation
As part of a lengthy floor session, the Senate passed SB 406 by Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett), which would create standards for a floor plan mapping system in schools across the state. Dixon said the bill is intended to provide more detailed and up-to-date maps for first responders during emergencies using an app-based program and will be integrated into public safety platforms. The cost averages $3,500 per school, and purchasing the system would be optional. The bill passed 52-0.
House Education Committee Approves ASVAB Administration Bill
The House Education Committee met briefly and passed HB 995, which is sponsored by Rep. Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville) at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense. The bill requires administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a nationally recognized multiple-aptitude battery assessment intended to measure and predict academic and occupational success in the military, to public school students in grades 11 and 12 who choose to participate. Parents and guardians are allowed to opt their children out of test administration. HB 995 now awaits action by the House Rules Committee.
Senate Begins Review of Amended Fiscal Year 2024 Budget
The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee began its review of the Amended Fiscal Year 2024 budget with presentations from Rusk Roam, chief financial officer of the Georgia Department of Education, and leaders from other state education agencies. The presentations focused on spending changes passed by the House. Roam explained the House’s addition of $980,000 is needed to cover an unexpected uptick in the number of students taking the Advanced Pre-Calculus exam. He also noted the $1.6 million for Communities in Schools added by the House would enable the organization to serve an additional eight districts and leverage other funds. Committee members will continue gathering information and are likely to propose AFY 2024 budget revisions, which PAGE will continue to monitor.
Senate Retirement Committee Considers PSERS Social Security Bill
The Senate Retirement Committee considered, but did not vote on, SB 206, sponsored by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry). The legislation would require identification of school systems that do not pay into Social Security for members of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). Following that identification and a subsequent report to chairs of the retirement committees, districts not participating in Social Security for these employees will be required to develop and implement a plan to do so.
Friday, Feb. 9: Legislative Day 18
8 a.m. - Senate Education & Youth Committee, 450 CAP
1 p.m. - Senate Joint Education & Higher Education Committees, 450 CAP
Monday, Feb. 12, Legislative Day 19
1 p.m. - House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, 415 CLOB