It takes 120 votes to pass a bill through the General Assembly: 29 or more in the Senate, and 91 or more in the House. In the waning hours of the 2023 legislative session, a major school choice bill fell a mere five votes short.
Senate Bill 233, which would create $6,500 Promise Scholarship Accounts for students who leave low-performing public schools for private or home schooling, came to the House floor just before 8 p.m. on the 40th and final day of the legislative session. It was the dramatic moment pretty much all Gold Dome denizens had been waiting for, as a great deal of other legislation had been held up pending a resolution of this high-profile bill.
After nearly an hour’s debate – after an even longer debate last Thursday, when the bill was introduced and then tabled – Speaker Jon Burns called the question. Burns later told news reporters he would have voted for the bill, as the crucial 91st vote, if given the opportunity.
Alas, after a longer than usual voting period in which proponents made emotional final appeals, the bill failed on an 85-89 vote.
For an issue that enjoys strong public support transcending partisanship, this is a disappointing outcome. Two recent statewide opinion polls found that more than two-thirds of Georgia voters support the concept of Promise Scholarships, including majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents. There is no good reason for school choice not to be a bipartisan priority.
Three bills that would have reduced certificate of need regulations by varying degrees were introduced this year. Why were all reform efforts unsuccessful?
Georgia has cut red tape for new residents and will now recognize occupational licenses obtained in other states.
The Georgia Lemonade Stand Act removes regulations on businesses run by minors, such as lemonade stands. By doing so, the act encourages children to become entrepreneurs and learn how to develop, market and sell a product.
Seven counties in Georgia are run by a single commissioner, rather than a board. Does this lead to a more effective form of government? Or is it too much power in the hands of one person?
A year ago, Georgia lawmakers approved a $1 billion reduction in the personal income tax and set the stage for cutting at least $1 billion more. While we didn’t see reforms this year, things are lining up for more big reforms in 2024.
At the Capitol
The 2023 session is over with Sine Die on Thursday. So what happened during the 40-day session?
These bills are headed to the governor:
- House Bill 155, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, would recognize occupational licenses obtained in other states when an individual moves to Georgia.
- House Bill 203, sponsored by Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta, would amend telemedicine laws to include eye examinations.
- Senate Bill 55, sponsored by Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, is known as the “Lemonade Stand Act.” It would prohibit local governments from regulating most youth businesses, such as lemonade stands.
- Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, would require state agencies to assess whether current educational requirements, such as a four-year college degree, are necessary for many state jobs.
What didn’t make it?
- Senate Bill 233, sponsored by Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, would have created education scholarship accounts that families could use to pay for tuition, tutoring, curriculum and other approved educational expenses. During the process, the original bill was modified to only apply to students who attend schools in the bottom 25% of state assessments while the scholarship amount increased from $6,000 to $6,500. After passing the Senate, it failed 85-89 in the House on the last day of the session.
- Senate Bill 99, also sponsored by Dolezal, would have exempted new hospitals in rural counties from the Certificate of Need (CON) process. After passing the Senate, it never made it out of committee in the House.
- Senate Bill 162, sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, would have initially replaced the state’s CON system with a licensing process for all healthcare facilities and services with the exception of long-term care. Despite a committee substitute that scaled back repeal and received the support of some of the state’s largest health systems, the bill was never brought up for a vote in the Senate after passing out of committee.
- House Bill 557, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, would expand prescription authority for physician assistants (PAs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) while also expediting the process to enter into an agreement with a supervising physician. Though it passed both chambers in different forms, the House and Senate were unable to come to a final agreement.
- House Bill 514, sponsored by Rep. Dale Washburn, R-Macon, would prevent local governments from enacting building moratoriums for new housing for no longer than 180 days. Despite both chambers passing a version of this bill, the House and Senate could not ultimately agree on whether the bill should also prevent bans on multifamily housing and whether development impact fees should be waived to accommodate new workforce housing initiatives.
- Senate Bill 157, sponsored by Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, would clarify the standards for licensure eligibility for a person with a criminal record. Specifically, it removes vague “moral turpitude” licensing criteria, while allowing licensure denial only if there is a direct relationship between a criminal record and the licensed occupation. It passed the Senate and cleared the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, but was never voted on by the full chamber.
Occupational licenses impose heavy costs on workers, consumers, the economy, and society at large. But new research finds no evidence to support the claim that licensing raises quality—and even finds some evidence that licensing can reduce it.
A manufacturer of lightweight advanced materials for sustainable technology plans to open a manufacturing facility in Cartersville. Hanwha Advanced Materials Georgia, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Hanwha Group, plans to spend roughly $147 million on the facility, which will supply a Qcells facility in the Bartow County community.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed universal school choice into law, making the Sunshine State the fourth state to pass such a law this year. The new law expands available school choice options for almost 3 million students in Florida by eliminating financial eligibility restrictions and the current enrollment cap.
The school board voted Tuesday to renew the contract of Dr. Calvin Watts, who was hired two years ago. Watts quickly became a lightning rod of controversy over violence in the schools and other hot-button issues.
Georgia lawmakers have sent a measure to bar TikTok and other “national security software threats” on state-owned devices to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk. This follows an executive order from Kemp in December banning TikTok from state devices.
When supply chain issues caused a baby formula shortage last year, Congress (eventually) cut tariffs to help get more formula onto American store shelves. Then the government put those barriers back in place. On January 1, baby formula tariffs returned. Now, so has the crisis.
A MARTA board committee approved plans for an Atlanta Streetcar extension to Ponce City Market despite opposition from some neighborhood residents. The Foundation has previously written why bus rapid transit, rather than streetcar expansion, would be a better option for both taxpayers and those that use public transportation.
Senate Bill 146 changes the way motorists charging their EVs will pay for the electricity they buy from the current system,based on the length of time a customer uses an EV charger. Instead, they will pay by the kilowatt hour, a federal requirement Georgia must meet to be eligible for federal funds earmarked by Congress.
Quotes of the Week
“Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.” – Charles Mingus
“Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.” – C.S. Lewis
“I don’t play with a lot of finesse. I usually play like I’m breaking out of jail.” – Stevie Ray Vaughn