Starting March 25, All Georgians Over Age 16 are Vaccine Eligible
At a press conference under the Gold Dome this afternoon, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that beginning Thursday, March 25, all Georgians age 16 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. The governor encouraged all groups currently eligible to schedule vaccination on the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) website at https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine and mentioned his own plans to be vaccinated at a south Georgia vaccine site later this week.
Of the three vaccines currently approved for use in the U.S., Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for 16 and 17 year olds. DPH recommends scheduling an appointment at a CVS or Walgreens pharmacy or at one of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) mass vaccination sites to ensure Pfizer vaccine availability for teens. Learn more about GEMA mass vaccination sites at https://myvaccinegeorgia.com/.
Senate Committees Approve Amended Teacher Tax Credit, Bill Adding Transparency for Tax Credit Voucher, and Accrediting Legislation
The Senate Finance Committee approved HB 32, authored by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), which would establish a tax credit program for teachers who work in rural or low-performing schools identified by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE). The committee amended the bill to sunset the program in five years (though it could be extended in the future).
Committee members also signed off on HB 517, offered by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), which aims to add much-needed transparency to aspects of the operations and funding of the tax credit private school voucher program. The bill does not increase transparency and accountability for student outcomes in the program.
In a separate meeting, the Senate Higher Education committee approved HB 606 sponsored by Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange), which would add the Georgia Independent School Association to the list of approved school accrediting agencies.
All three bills now move to the Senate Rules Committee.
House Committee Endorses Charter School Bill
The House Education Committee approved SB 59 from Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), which aims to increase the supplemental state funding local charter schools receive. The bill would also allow local charter schools to opt into the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) when renewing their charters as well as receive assistance from their local school board in addressing facility needs.
The committee heard, but took no action on SB 153 by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Alpharetta), which changes the charter authorizer and funding structure of several regional charter high schools serving at-risk students. House Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones (R-Milton) reported to the committee that she is working with leaders of the three special schools to create a study committee, in which representatives from the schools will participate. A new version of the legislation creating the study is expected at the next House Education Committee meeting.
Senate Passed State Fiscal Year 2022 Budget
The Senate unanimously passed HB 81, which outlines its version of the state’s spending plan for FY 2022. More about the Senate’s plan is available here. The bill now goes to a conference committee made up of three members of each chamber who are tasked with resolving differences in their budget proposals.