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Mar. 29 – 7:00 p.m. - Increased Tax Credits for Those Who Contribute to Private School Scholorship Funds Passes Senate

Category: Georgia Business News

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

March 29, 2017 - The Senate continued to work through a list of bills on Day 40 of this year's session, with many still to be considered, though there is no 'working list' available as amended bills flip back and forth from the House to the Senate, and visa versa. 

HB 217 passed in the Senate as the Senate moved into the evening hours Tuesday, but with strong opposition by Senate Democrats, including Sen. Lester Jackson (D). The bill provides for increased levels of Income Tax Credit for those contributing to “certain scholarship organizations,” and increases the cap on the amount of state income taxes that can be lost due to the tax credits each year - now up to $65 million a year from $50 million in the bill.

Opponents believe it’s a part of a continuing effort to undermine public education in Georgia by supporting school choice. Some states have worked to end such scholarship programs, which allow children from lower-income families to attend private schools, students who are often student athletes.  Sen. Ben Watson (R) spoke in favor of the conference committee report.  The report passed 34 – 20, mostly along party lines.

After the vote, Sen. Jackson said that his opposition was because, “ I’m not opposed to enabling scholarships for children at private schools, but if we’re going to do that, we should also be able to raise money through school corporations to support public schools, which is not allowed. There should be equal access.  Equity is important in education.”

Other bills passing the Senate in the afternoon session, or sent back to the House were:

SB 127 – The Senate voted to agree to the House substituted bill, titled “Marcie’s Laws,” 54 – 0, an enabling law that increases the rights of victims of crime. The question will be now be on the ballot in November. If passed by voters, it will allow a victim of crime to challenge what will happen to a perpetrator in court. A Senate Resolution supporting the bill, SR 146, also passed.

SB 286 – The Senate agreed to the House substituted bill regarding the State Court in Troup County being allowed to charge a technology fee of $10.00.

SB 357 – Senate agreed to House substitute, creating a Health Coordination and Innovation Council. Passed 53 – 1.

HB 769 – Senate agreed 49 – 2 to the House version. The bill is a result of the Rural Development Council’s work on many issues relative to health care in many of Georgia’s rural counties. This bill is specifically regarding pharmacies, including levying penalties if hospital authorities are not trained appropriately.  The bill also provides a grant program for insurance premiums for physicians practicing in underserved rural areas.       

SB 118 - Senate agreed to the House substitute to the bill, which changes the age limit for medical insurance for autism spectrum individuals.

SB 407, the final piece of the Governor Nathan Deals series of bills over the past few years, working to reform the state’s Criminal Justice System, returned to the Senate, but with an add-on that “has nothing to do with criminal justice what so over,” said Sen. Bill Cowsert.  “The amendment would mandate electronic filing starting as of July 1,” he said, which is not possible. And, it’s another effort that takes away local control, and sets fees by the state, he added.

The primary bill aims to change the cash bail system, allowing law enforcement to cite people where they have to appear in court for lesser crimes, correcting the problem where many people charged with a crime sit in jail because they can’t post bail, and would have been immediately released on their own recognizance after posting bail.

The Senate disagreed to House amendments to the Senate substitute to HB 149, and Senate substitutes to HB 93another bill sent back to the House, joining a long list of bills that are bounding back and forth on the last day of the legislative session.  

The Senate will return at 7:30 p.m.

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