Tag Archives: disabled

Legislative Report – April 2, 2013

The Georgia General Assembly adjourned sine die on March 28. The following is a summary of results of our advocacy efforts.

Legislation related to parental choice in education passed to benefit our parents and schools as did legislation to combat human trafficking in Georgia. Unfortunately, the General Assembly increased burdens on Georgians so as to make it more difficult for immigrants and others to obtain State benefits. The General Assembly did not complete work on bills to restrict use of State funds for abortions, to restrict payment for abortions in health insurance exchanges, to study cloning or human – animal hybrids or to reduce restrictions on carrying weapons.

All the bills that have been adopted now go to the Governor who has forty (40) days to sign them, veto them or allow them to go into law without his signature. Bills that did not pass are available for continued consideration in the 2014 session.

Parental Choice in Education. Eventually denominated as part of HB 283, the General Assembly adopted changes to the Student Scholarship Organization (SSO) tax credit program to increase the state-wide cap on contributions to $58 million. The bill also rectifies some perceived abuses by requiring a student to attend a public school for at least six weeks before becoming eligible for a scholarship, requiring an SSO to consider a recipient family’s financial condition, requiring that a higher percentage of contributions be directed to scholarships, and requiring an SSO to report the aggregate average of recipient family adjusted gross income. SSO’s may not accept a donation designated for any recipient. We also support these changes as they improve the integrity of the SSO program and are consistent with current practices of G.R.A.C.E. Scholars. We actively supported the legislation and are pleased with the outcome for our students.

Special Needs Scholarship. HB 70 will improve the financial operation of the special needs scholarships to benefit students in some of our schools by allowing students to obtain expedited individual educational programs (IEP) on an expedited basis to facilitate transfer to a more suitable public or private school.

Immigration Restrictions. Originally intended to correct problems caused by HB 87 passed in 2011, in the final minutes of the session, both houses adopted provisions of SB 160 to impose new burdens on all Georgians in the continuing efforts to make life difficult on our undocumented brothers and sisters. As directly impacting individuals, the bill will require increased forms of proof of lawful presence for persons seeking grants, retirement benefits, and driver’s licenses and will require documentation in addition to passports as “secure and verifiable documentation” for identification purposes in Georgia. The bill will allow the provisions for some, but not all human services, without the increased levels of proof. The Conference opposed SB 160.

Abortion Funding for State Employees. The Senate adopted an amendment to HB 246 to prohibit State employee benefit plans from funding abortions. Research has shown that the State of Georgia has paid over $900,000 for abortions over the three most recent years available. The House did not take up the bill; however, the Governor’s office has agreed to make whatever changes can be made administratively to reduce use of public funds for abortions.

Human Trafficking. HB 141 was adopted to require posting of information about a toll free number for those seeking to escape from sexual and labor trafficking as a step toward ending such trafficking. The Conference supported the legislation which grew out of a study committee seeking ways to stop human trafficking in Georgia.

Guns in Churches and Private Schools. After much legislative and public discussion about authorizing the carrying of weapons in more places, a conference committee of the House and Senate were unable to resolve issues in time for action this session. The conference bill, however, can be considered as early as the first day of the 2014 session.

Amended versions of both the House and Senate bills would have allowed the “administrative boards” of churches to determine whether weapons were permitted in their houses of worship. With respect to non-public elementary and secondary schools, a duly authorized official could authorize the carrying of a weapon in a school safety zone, at a school function, or on a school bus of a public or private elementary or secondary school.

Elder and Disabled Person Abuse. HB 78 was adopted to protect the elderly and disabled adults, whether or not a resident in a facility, along many of the principles that have been adopted with respect to abuse of children. The bill specifically includes clergy members among those specified as mandatory reporters who must report possible abuse or neglect to adult protection agencies or to law enforcement. The bill does contain the same protection for matters revealed to a priest in the context of confession as was included in the child abuse bill but, in all other respects, priests and deacons will have the same responsibilities as other mandatory reporters.

In addition to clergy reporting, the elder and disabled bill also requires reporting from the same persons who are defined in the child abuse law as well as others who are identified as working with the elderly and disabled.

Adoption. The General Assembly passed HB 21 which will authorize post-adoption agreements for adopted children with respect to visitation and other rights of family members.

Legislative Report – March 25, 2013

The Georgia General Assembly is approaching the final days of the 2013 session, now scheduled to conclude sine die on March 28. The next three days will see intense efforts to pass or prevent important legislation.

Immigration Restrictions. As originally introduced, HB 125 and SB 160, in slightly different ways, were intended to correct problems caused by HB 87 passed in 2011 which had increased the processing requirements for obtaining business and professional licenses. Members of the House of Representatives have attempted to impose many new burdens on all Georgians in the continuing efforts to make life difficult on our undocumented brothers and sisters.

The expanded provisions of SB 160 contain a multitude of technical changes that will have a huge impact on the lives of many Georgians. As a few examples, rather than ease the bureaucratic burden on individuals and businesses, SB 160 proposes to make it more difficult for all Georgians to obtain grants, homestead exemptions, public and assisted housing, retirement benefits, tax credits and driver’s licenses. The bill will also limit the use of certain internationally accepted documents in Georgia for many services now permitted, including in many places limitations on the ability to marry or obtain human services necessary for human dignity.

We oppose SB 160 and have sent out a request that individuals who subscribe to the Georgia Catholic Conference website contact legislators to oppose the bill.

(Please note that the offensive provisions are currently contained in SB 160 rather than HB 125 which was amended in the Senate.)

Parental Choice in Education. We continue to support amendments to the Student Scholarship Organization (SSO) tax credit program to require a student to attend a public school for at least six weeks before becoming eligible for a scholarship and to require an SSO to consider a recipient family’s financial condition, donate a higher percentage of contributions to scholarships, and report the aggregate average of recipient family adjusted gross income. SSO’s may not accept a donation designated for any recipient. We also support the increase of the state-wide cap on contributions to $65 million. These changes improve the integrity of the SSO program and are consistent with current practices of G.R.A.C.E. Scholars. We are actively supporting the legislation although the number of the bill that will contain those provisions is not known at this time.

Human Trafficking. HB 141 will require posting of information about a toll free number for those seeking to escape from sexual and labor trafficking as a step toward ending such trafficking. The bill has passed both houses of the General Assembly and, with the expected agreement of the House to a technical correction, the bill will be sent to the Governor at the end of the session.

Special Needs Scholarship. HB 70 would improve the financial operation of the special needs scholarships which benefit students in some of our schools by allowing students to obtain expedited individual educational programs (IEP) on an expedited basis to facilitate transfer to a more suitable public or private school. The bill has passed the house and has been recommended by the Senate Education and Youth Committee. The bill is available for consideration by the Senate in the coming week.

Guns in Churches and Private Schools. There is a conflict between the positions of the House and Senate related to carrying weapons in churches and private schools. The Senate supports the provisions by which as a default position, weapons may not be brought into a house of worship unless the “administrative board” of the church has authorized such action.

With respect to on-public elementary and secondary schools, a duly authorized official may authorize the carrying of a weapon in a school safety zone, at a school function, or on a school bus of a public or private elementary or secondary school.

We support the Senate position for HB 101 but a conference committee is likely to resolve differences and we will continue to work to protect the people in our churches and schools.

Elder and Disabled Person Abuse. HB 78 is a long needed and widely supported reform of laws related to protection of the elderly and disabled adults, whether or not a resident in a facility, along many of the principles that have been adopted with respect to abuse of children.

The bill includes clergy members among those specified as mandatory reporters who must report possible abuse or neglect to adult protection agencies or to law enforcement. The bill does contain the same protection for matters revealed to a priest in the context of confession as was included in the child abuse bill but, in all other respects, priests and deacons will have the same responsibilities as other mandatory reporters.

We support the bill which has passed the House and has been recommended by the Senate Judiciary Non-civil Committee.

In addition to clergy, the elder and disabled bill also requires reporting from the same persons who are defined in the child abuse law as well as others who are identified as working with the elderly and disabled.