Tag Archives: special needs

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.

Legislative Report – March 18, 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 two weeks will see intense efforts to pass or prevent important legislation.

Immigration restrictions. The Georgia House of Representatives greatly expanded the scope of House Bill 125 which was intended to fix problems caused by HB 87 which had increased the processing requirements for obtaining business and professional licenses. As revised, the bill will impose many new burdens on all Georgians in the continuing efforts to make life difficult on our undocumented brothers and sisters.

The expanded bill contains a multitude of technical changes that have a huge impact on the lives of many Georgians. As a few examples, rather than ease the bureaucratic burden on individuals and businesses, HB 125 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 HB 125 and have sent out a request that individuals who subscribe to the Georgia Catholic Conference website contact legislators to oppose the bill.

Parental Choice in Education. SB 243 continues to slowly progress through the House Ways and Means Committee and we are encouraged that acceptable legislation will emerge. The bill proposes 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. 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.

Human Trafficking. HB 141which has passed the senate Judiciary Non-civil Committee and is ready for consideration by the full Senate. The bill would 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.

Abortion Funding under Insurance Exchanges.  While we continue to seek ways to prohibit payment for abortions by insurers operating under the health insurance exchanges that will be created as part of the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, it does not appear that there is sufficient support for such legislation this session.

Special Needs Scholarship. HB 70 would improve the financial operation of the special needs scholarships which benefit students in some of our schools. We anticipate a hearing in the Senate Education and Youth Committee in the near future.

Guns in Church. I have written to the members of the senate Judiciary Non-civil Committee asking that they continue the restrictions on weapons in houses of worship as set forth in current law. Current law prohibits a person carrying a weapon in a house of worship (as well as several other types of institutions); provided, that, a person holding a license to carry the weapon may approach the security or management personnel of the house of worship and follow the personnel’s instructions to remove, secure, store or temporarily surrender the weapon. Violation of this statute is a misdemeanor.

Legislative Report – March 11, 2013

The Georgia General Assembly has passed its halfway point and is focused on the thirtieth legislative day, “crossover” day, by which bills that have a chance of passage must pass at least one house of the legislature.

Parental Choice in Education. Inasmuch as the previously reported HB 140 became stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee, SB 243 was introduced in the Senate by Senator Charles Bethel as the Administration Floor Leader, meaning that the bill was supported by the Governor. SB 243 passed the Senate on “crossover” day and proposes to require students 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. 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.

Pro-life / Biotechnology.  HB 481 (Neal) proposes to prohibit human cloning and creation of human – animal hybrids in Georgia. Since the bill was introduced very late in the 2013 session, a special subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee decided to postpone further consideration until after the session to resolve questions and ambiguities. We will work with legislators over the interim with the goal of developing legislation for consideration in the 2014 session.

Human Trafficking. We continue to support HB 141which has passed the House and is expected to get a hearing in the Senate. The bill would 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.

Abortion Funding under Insurance Exchanges. The Conference supports SB 98 which proposes to prohibit payment for abortions by insurers operating under the health insurance exchanges that will be created as part of the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee did not take up the measure but we are exploring additional alternatives.

Special Needs Scholarship. HB 70 has passed the full House of Representatives  and would improve the financial operation of the special needs scholarships which benefit students in some of our schools. Having passed before crossover day, the bill is available for consideration by the Senate.

Guns in Church. Current law prohibits a person carrying a weapon in a house of worship (as well as several other types of institutions); provided, that, a person holding a license to carry the weapon may approach the security or management personnel of the house of worship and follow the personnel’s instructions to remove, secure, store or temporarily surrender the weapon. Violation of this statute is a misdemeanor. HB 512 eliminates houses of worship as locations where carrying a weapon is prohibited and obviates the need to disclose that the person is carrying a weapon or following instructions. It should be noted, however, that a church, as the owner of private property, may exclude any person from its property and, if the person fails to leave, contact law enforcement officials to bring charges of criminal trespass. In effect, though, the bill reduces the options houses of worship have in prohibiting carrying guns.

Legislative Report – March 4, 2013

The Georgia General Assembly has passed its halfway point and is focused on the thirtieth legislative day, “crossover” day, by which bills that have a chance of passage must pass at least one house of the legislature.

Parental Choice in Education. HB 140 is intended to increase the statewide maximum for donations to student scholarship organizations, such as GRACE Scholars as well as correct some deficiencies in operations of SSO’s. The bill is now stalled in the house Ways and Means Committee but we are working to have parts of the bill adopted prior to crossover day.

Pro-life / Biotechnology.  After weeks of refining details by Georgia Right to Life and its consultants, HB 481 (Neal) was introduced on February 26 to prohibit human cloning and creation of human – animal hybrids in Georgia.  A special subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee has been formed to consider the bill but the lateness of the introduction strongly suggests that there will be difficulty in passing the bill this session.

Human Trafficking. We continue to support HB 141which has passed the House but will impose requirements only until the end of 2018. The bill would 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.

Abortion Funding under Insurance Exchanges. The Conference supports SB 98 which proposes to prohibit payment for abortions by insurers operating under the health insurance exchanges that will be created as part of the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. The Senate insurance and Labor Committee has been reluctant to take up the measure.

Special Needs Scholarship. HB 70 has passed the full House of Representatives  and would improve the financial operation of the special needs scholarships which benefit students in some of our schools. Having passed before crossover day, the bill is available for consideration by the Senate.

Legislative Report – February 25, 2013

On February 20, the Georgia General Assembly passed the legislative midpoint of its forty day session. Intensity will increase over the next ten days since bills must be adopted by at least one legislative body by the end of the thirtieth legislative day to be further considered this year.

Parental Choice in Education. Student scholarship organizations (SSO’s) are being widely discussed at the Capitol and in the press. GRACE Scholars has been an important source of funding for families who seek the benefits of a Catholic education for their children. Among a number of bills related to education choice, HB140 (Rep. Ehrhart, R – Powder Springs) currently includes provisions which would most enhance opportunities for our families; namely, an increased annual maximum donation amount from $50 million to $80 million; an increase in individual donation amounts up to 50% of one’s state tax liability; and restriction of corporate donations to 25% of the statewide maximum.

Human Trafficking. The House Judiciary Non-civil Committee recommended passage of HB 141 to require certain business, such as bars, etc., to post notices with a toll free number and other information to help people caught in sex or labor servitude trafficking.  The Conference supports the bill and has further encouraged adding reproductive services clinics as a location where women caught in trafficking could see the toll free number.

Abortion Funding under Insurance Exchanges. The Conference supports SB 98 which proposes to prohibit payment for abortions by insurers operating under the health insurance exchanges that will be created as part of the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Special Needs Scholarship. HB 70 was favorably reported by the House Education committee and to improve the financial operation of the special needs scholarships which benefit students in some of our schools. The bill is now ready for consideration by the full House of Representatives.

Legislative Report – February 18, 2013

The week of February 11 has seen an increase in legislative activity as the midpoint of the session approaches.

Parental Choice in Education. Student scholarship organizations (SSO’s) are being widely discussed at the Capitol and in the press. GRACE Scholars has been an important source of funding for families who seek the benefits of a Catholic education for their children. Among a number of bills related to education choice, HB140 (Rep. Ehrhart, R – Powder Springs) currently includes provisions which would most enhance opportunities for our families; namely, an increased annual maximum donation amount from $50 million to $80 million; an increase in individual donation amounts up to 50% of one’s state tax liability; and restriction of corporate donations to 25% of the statewide maximum.

Human Trafficking. HB 141 would require certain business, such as bars, etc., to post notices with a toll free number and other information to help people caught in sex or labor servitude trafficking.  The Conference supports the bill and has further encouraged adding reproductive services clinics as a location where women caught in trafficking could see the toll free number.

Abortion Funding under Insurance Exchanges. The Conference supports SB 98 which proposes to prohibit payment for abortions by insurers operating under the health insurance exchanges that will be created as part of the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Special Needs Scholarship. HB 70 was favorably reported by a subcommittee of the House Education committee and would improve the financial operation of the special needs scholarships which benefit students in some of our schools. We expect the bill to be heard by the full Education committee in the near future.