The week of February 4 has seen continued slow progress bills that are of interest to the Georgia Catholic Conference.
HHS Mandate. Following the release of the notice of proposed rulemaking regarding the HHS mandate, USCCB staff continues a thorough examination of the new rules but has expressed concern that the rules continue to fall short. A fuller statement of the concerns is found on the USCCB website at http://usccb.org/news/2013/13-037.cfm.
Education. The Conference’s principal concern in education bills is the increase in the annual aggregate amount of contributions from the current $50 million and the restriction of corporate contributions in a way that allows maximum participation by individuals. HB 140 (Rep. Ehrhart R – Powder Springs), includes those changes along with others. Although GRACE Scholars operates within both the letter and spirit of the law, publicized concerns about the operations of some student scholarship organizations is impeding our efforts to expand this very beneficial program.
There are several bills that are contrary to our interests in parental choice in education. HB 231(Neal) would create a new scholarship program for public school programs but reduce the cap for private school programs such as GRACE Scholars by fifty percent. HB 239 (Brockaway) would allow corporations to take credits against alcohol and beverage tax and insurance premium tax and thereby further reduce the contributions available to individuals. HB 239 includes beneficial provisions that would require DOR to notify potential donors in the event that additional tax credits become available after annual cap has been reached and would carry forward unused tax credits to following year.
Legislative Ethics. HB 142 and 143 (both by Rep. Ralston – R- Blue Ridge) are aimed at public concerns related to influences on legislators. The bills have been favorably reported by a subcommittee with changes that more reasonably define “lobbyists” in an attempt to balance registration requirements with the constitutional rights of individuals to petition their government.