The End of the Session


A few Thursdays ago was Sine Die, the end of the legislative session. I'd like to update you on key bills that passed both the House and Senate, and which await the Governor's signature. You can also find a list of bills signed by Governor Deal here.


HB 372 reinstated the 2.0 GPA requirement for technical college students to receive the HOPE grant. While attending college, students must still maintain a 3.0 GPA to receive the HOPE scholarship.

As a result of HB 115, taxpayer dollars will not be used for the legal defense of school board members who have been removed. This bill was a response to the lawsuit in DeKalb County that followed the dismissal of six school board members by Governor Deal.

The legislature increased the cap on income tax credit for student scholarship programs from $51.5 million to $58 million. HB 283 also allows a tax credit of up to $10,000 for S corps and LLC's that are involved with Student Scholarship Organizations.

HB 487 transfers control of video poker machines to the Georgia Lottery, with a portion of the profits being used to fund HOPE. The bill creates an electronic monitoring system that tracks the money fed to the machines, ensuring the owners are paying the correct taxes.

As a result of the passage of HB 244, teacher and principal evaluations developed by the State Board of Education will be administered by local school boards by the school year 2014-2015.


With a unanimous vote in both the House and Senate, the Georgia General Assembly passed an historic yet imperfect ethics bill. HB 142 institutes a $75 per occurrence cap on lobbyist gifts. While a step in the right direction, the legislation does not address many of the ethical concerns surrounding lobbyist gifts. For example, the new law doesn't prevent a group of lobbyists from "teaming up" and spending a virtually unlimited amount of money on a legislator. The law also provides a loophole for legislators, as well as their families and staff, for "official duties."

Constituents who come to the Gold Dome to talk to their legislator will not be required to register as lobbyist unless they have $1000 in expenditures per calendar year or are paid more than $250 per calendar year.


Sine Die also saw the passage of Georgia's $19.9 billion state budget for FY 2014. HB 106 contains around $147 million for public school enrollment growth, $72 million in higher education growth in the state university system, and $850 million in bond funding for public works. The budget includes $224 million to cover a shortfall in Medicaid.


As a result of disagreement between Republicans in the House and Senate, HB 512 and SB 101 failed. I have written extensively about both of these measures previously. I suspect we will see some of these proposals resurface next year.


This year saw the strengthening of elder abuse laws. HB 78 updates the statutory definition of elder abuse to include financial exploitation and sexual abuse. It also augments mandatory reporting by expanding the list of medical professionals and caregivers required to report abuse.

Previously, day care employees were required to pass a state-wide background check. HB 350 will require these employees to pass a national background check every five years. The bill should prevent people who have committed crimes in other states from working in day care centers in Georgia.

SB 14 saw the creation of an Alzheimer's task force to create a statewide plan for dealing with the disease and other forms of dementia.

The legislature expanded 2011's immigration law by passing SB 160. The measure requires all contractors employed by state or municipal agencies to use the e-verify system. The bill also prevents immigrants who only possess a foreign passport as ID from obtaining marriage licenses and public services such as water and sewage.

Cityhood bills

At the very end of the session several bills pertaining to the possibility of one or more new cities forming in DeKalb County were filed. Called "placeholder bills," each of these would enable a process to begin in which an area within a specific boundary is studied with respect to the economic feasibility of incorporating. Some of these bills propose names and/or possible boundaries—e.g., "Lakeside," "Tucker," and "LaVista Hills"—while others simply enable the process of discussion and determination of feasibility to begin. I will do my best to keep you updated on this process. It needs to be inclusive, fair, and nonpartisan.

Green 81

A few weeks ago, we started a discussion about water conservation and what we could do outdoors during the spring planting season to reduce our consumption. Now, here are a few ways to scale back indoors:

Keep a close watch on your water bill for any conspicuously high use. This is a good way to discover leaks.

Collect the water that you use rinsing fruits and vegetables, and reuse it to water your plants.

Designate one glass for drinking water for the entire day, reducing the number of glasses you have to wash.

Avoid using running water to thaw food. Think ahead and use the refrigerator instead.

Install a water-efficient showerhead. That can reduce consumption by 20 to 60 percent.

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. That can save as many as 25 gallons a month.

Turn off the water while shaving. That can save as many as 300 gallons a month.

Insulate hot water pipes. You'll get hot water faster, and you'll save money on your water and gas bills.

Send your own tips to and I'll share them in my next newsletter.

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