Day 38 at the capitol provided plenty of news. It’s not every day that a major election reform bill passes and a legislator gets arrested in the process. Governor Brian Kemp has already signed the elections bill, with major opposition from Democrats, but the session is not yet over. There’s two days left and the question comes to mind of what’s left?
There are some final details to be nailed down in the budget but it appears the big arguments are largely done – though it’s always good to keep in mind that anything can change through midnight (or later) on Day 40 before the paper is all shredded and the session is officially complete.
There are a few other bills that are still up in the air that may see some movement before Sine Die.
SB 47 is the Special Needs Scholarship Act, which would expand the eligibility for vouchers for students with special needs. Students could use the funding to attend private school, something supported by Republicans but opposed by Democrats who reject the idea of using public funds to attend private school. Republicans contend parents should be able to send their children to the school of their choosing, with support from the state.
HB 587 is the Georgia Economic Renewal Act and is aimed to give another boost to the economy, with a particular focus on the rural economy. The bill includes several tax breaks for items like medical equipment and supplies manufacturers, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers, and small railroad operators – such as short lines in mining areas like kaolin in east Georgia.
SB 148 would create review panels to evaluate the state’s tax credits to ensure they are living up to their reputations, such as the famous film tax credit. The Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure would offer suggestions to the legislature in future sessions. The committees would focus on a handful of tax credits each year. The bill, and the associated committees, is similar to one passed a few years ago that ultimately did not make much headway in tax credit reform.
It’s well known that the Republican leadership in Georgia continues to oppose Medicaid expansion but HB 163 would provide for a reform that could benefit Medicaid enrollees. The bill would allow for children and their families that are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to automatically enroll in or renew participation in Medicaid. The measure would help to streamline the benefits process for low-income families and their children.
Lastly, for the first time, the state is proposing a bill for paid parental leave to state employees after birth, adoptions or foster placements. HB 146 would provide three weeks of leave to State of Georgia employees, affecting more than 400,000 parents. Considering that two-thirds of state employees are women, the bill could be a big boost to women who normally would receive time off through their insurance provider.