This week lawmakers hit a legislative session milestone. Thursday, March 7 marked Crossover Day, the day a bill originating in one chamber must pass to the other to have a chance at becoming law during the remainder of the legislative session.
Several bills crossed over on or before the deadline and now careen toward the finish line of Sine Die, set for April 2, 2019. Here’s a look at the status of major pieces of legislation GBPI has been watching closely:
House Bill 31, the FY 2020 budget, passed the House with some notable revisions to the initial draft proposed by the governor. Highlights are below and categorized by state agency.
Department of Education:
- All certified teachers and staff will receive a $2,775 pay increase.
- $500,000 added to fund feminine hygiene products for low-income students.
- $400,000 added to provide funds for campus personnel services and law enforcement while students are present.
Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities
- $500,000 in state matching funds for the HomeFirst public-private partnership which will provide behavioral health services and supported housing for the homeless.
Department of Community Health
- $10.6 million for direct care staff rate enhancement for nursing homes to help with retention.
- Other nursing home support including $330,000 to support enhanced background checks; $109,342 for a 3 percent increase in the ventilator reimbursement rate; and $200,762 to fund a $2.50 increase in the personal needs allowance.
- $500,000 for Federally Qualified Health Center start-up grants in Screven and Chatham counties.
- $1,875,000 in existing funds for a Rural Health System Innovation Center.
- $1.9 million for 139 new primary care residency slots.
- $828,000 for 54 OB/GYN residency slots.
- $500,000 for the Center of Excellence on Maternal Mortality at Morehouse School of Medicine.
Department of Public Health
- $2.4 million to screen an additional four new disorders in newborn infants.
- $1 million added for maternal mental health screening and referral in rural and underserved areas; $500,000 for two satellite perinatal support sites in Jenkins and Wilcox counties; $200,000 for a maternal mortality review committee.
- $500,000 to provide feminine hygiene products for low-income students.
- $300,000 for regional cancer coalitions to provide screening, education and navigation.
- $150,000 for sickle cell outreach offices in Columbus, Valdosta and Albany.
- $150,000 for a nurse peer assistance program to support nurses recovering from substance abuse.
Higher Education (University System of Georgia, Technical College System of Georgia)
- Reduction of Dual Enrollment program funding by $4 million.
- Removal of the state match portion for the REACH Georgia Scholarship.
- $747,600 for local law enforcement security at 4-H facilities.
- $544,761 to increase formula funds for public library materials.
- $348,534 for Aviation Maintenance Technician program instructors.
- Additional bonds:
- University System of Georgia: $1,838,406 in additional bonds for library projects for the University of Georgia, Augusta University, Savannah State University, Georgia Southern University, East Georgia State College, the Georgia Public Library Service and the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission.
- Technical College System of Georgia: $781,788 in taxable bonds for college and career academies, a transportation and conference center at Savannah Technical College and a commercial driver’s license (CDL) facility at South Georgia Technical College.
Of course, the budget isn’t the only legislation on the move. Several bills related to higher education crossed over before the deadline. A bipartisan proposal to extend the time limit by which students can qualify for the HOPE scholarship, HB 218, passed the full House and is viable for final passage in the Senate before the end of the session. House Bill 444, which makes changes to the Dual Enrollment program, passed the full House with more debate expected in the Senate as lawmakers seek to address the ballooning cost of the program and codify its goals.
Senate Bill 173, the hotly debated proposal to expand Georgia’s private school voucher program, failed its first full Senate chamber vote. The Senate did not take another vote on the bill before the closing gavel on Crossover Day.
Finally, GBPI has been closely watching the progress of SB 106 which passed the Senate and seeks a partial expansion of the Medicaid program. Contrasting proposals HB 37 and SB 36 that seek to fully expand Medicaid did not make the Crossover Day deadline. In addition, a bill to change Georgia’s certificate of needs laws, HB 198, failed on the House floor. That bill included an amendment to increase the rural hospital tax credit to $100 million. Since the bill failed, the amendment failed as well.
As we head into the homestretch of the legislative session, the GBPI team will continue to monitor and analyze legislation to keep you informed, with a focus on our 2019 policy priorities.