Monday, March 17, 2008

CONNECTED to Public Policy

Note: The following is from CONNECTED to Public Policy. They send a regular update that we thought you might be interested in. We've included links at the end of the update.

Legislators have completed 31 of 40 legislative days. Last Tuesday was Crossover day, the 30th and last day to pass legislation in the originating chamber. Bills that did not pass their originating chamber are dead unless they find new life by being attached to bills that were passed.

The most notable event of Crossover day was the passage of a revised version of Speaker Glenn Richardson’s tax plan. The House overwhelming voted to pass HR 1246 and HB 1158 that will allow Georgians to vote on a plan to eliminate car tag taxes and freeze property tax assessments. Gov. Sonny Perdue had just announced that revenue estimates for FY08 will be reduced by $65 million and by $245 million for FY09. If passed by the Senate and agreed to by Georgia voters, the tax cuts in HR 1246 will remove $423.7 million from the FY09 budget and $772.8 million when fully implemented in FY10.

The amended FY08 budget remains in conference committee but negotiations began again after Perdue announced the reduced revenue estimate. The major source of debate between the House and Senate negotiators had been education funding, and it now appears that there will no money for technology upgrades or new school buses, so the point is moot. As for the FY09 budget, House and Senate budget writers have had to begin again with new numbers. Perdue recommended cuts to his original budget for FY09, but House leaders quickly disagreed with some of these proposed cuts:

Department of Education
§ Reduce funding recommended for three new Performance Learning Centers for Communities in Schools ($750,000)
§ Reduce funding recommended for training and experience for graduation coaches ($4.2 million)
§ Reduce funding recommended for Very Important Parent Recruiter for at-risk schools ($5.5 million)
Department of Human Resources
§ Reduce additional funding recommended for general Grant-In-Aid in Public Health ($7.16 million)
Department of Juvenile Justice
§ Reduce funding recommended for System of Care pilot to coordinate delivery of community-based services for children with severe emotional disorders ($2 million)
Note: All these cuts are to funding for new or expanded services recommended for FY09.

Healthy Children
HB 279 (Rep. Doug Collins, 27th) would define medically necessary services under Medicaid’s Early Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment Program (EPSDT) to mean services that are deemed necessary by a physician or other health-care provider, whether or not such services are covered under the state plan. This definition tracks the federal definition and also would require the Department of Community Health (DCH) to provide notice to Medicaid recipients when services are denied. Status: Passed the House in 2007 and was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, but did not reach the Senate floor for a vote. Reassigned to and passed Senate Health & Human Services on March 5, 2008 and is in Senate Rules.

HB 924 (Rep. Melvin Everson, 106th), the Billy Foulke Teenage Seatbelt Safety Act, passed House Judiciary Non-Civil, however, it did not pass the House on Crossover day.

SB 507 (Sen. Dan Moody, 56th) requires DCH and Managed Care Organizations (CMOs) to simplify procedures for prior approvals of children’s therapy services. This is a revised version of legislation passed in 2007 that by Perdue vetoed. Status: Passed the Senate and assigned to House Health and Human Services.

HB 1234 (Rep. Mickey Channell, 116th), the Medicaid Care Management Organizations Act, places new requirements on CMOs. Status: Passed the House and assigned to Senate Committee on Government Oversight.

In the past weeks we have kept you updated on a number of bills that were introduced that would have an impact on health insurance coverage for individuals and families. Attempts by advocates to work with bill sponsors to include language that protects health-care services such as mammograms, pap smears, after-childbirth hospital stays, newborn coverage, immunizations, and other preventive health care have been short-circuited by House and Senate leaders.

HB 1087 (Rep. Mickey Channell, 116th), dealing with high deductible health plans, was added to HB 977 (Rep. Tom Knox, 24th), another bill giving tax preferences to such health insurance policies. Status: Passed the House and assigned to Senate Finance Committee.

SB 404 (Sen. Tommie Williams, 19th) permits the sale of high-deductible health plans that do not cover a 48-hour hospitalization after newborn delivery, well- child visits, or contraceptives (among other things). It authorizes taxpayer money to promote such plans alongside more comprehensive, high-value traditional coverage and PeachCare for Kids on a state-run Web site. Status: Passed the Senate and assigned to House Insurance.

School Success
SB 461 (Sen. Chip Rogers, 21st) requires local boards of education to adopt a bullying policy that defines age appropriate consequences. Status: Passed Senate and assigned to House Education.

HB 905 (Rep. Fran Millar, 79th), the BRIDGE (Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy) Act, was passed by House and is assigned to Senate Education & Youth.

Stable, Self-Sufficient Families
SR 1020 (Sen. Renee Unterman, 45th) to create a Senate Study Committee on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors was passed by Senate Health and Human Services and assigned to Senate Rules. SR 445 (also by Unterman) to create a Joint House-Senate Study Committee on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors was introduced and passed the Senate in 2007. SR 445 will be heard in House Judiciary Non-Civil on March 19, 2008.

SB 54 (Sen. Preston Smith, 52nd) would modify the incest statute to make it gender neutral and to include sodomy in the definition of incest. This bill was introduced and passed the Senate in 2007 and is scheduled to be heard in House Judiciary Non-Civil on March 19.

Strong Communities
HB 901 (Rep. Roger Bruce, 64th), the Parent Protection Act, was discussed in Subcommittee but no vote was ever taken. The bill is dead.

HR 413 (Rep. Tim Bearden, 68th), the proposed “English only” constitutional amendment that passed the House, failed to pass the Senate on Crossover Day. It was on the calendar but the Senate adjourned without discussing or voting on the legislation.

Advocates had been concerned about the impact of the bill, which sought to prohibit forms, notices, or tests such as the Georgia driver’s license exam from being offered in any language other than English. Georgia law already states that English is the official language of Georgia’s government.

Connected toPublic Policy Hot Line
Georgia Family Connection Partnership invites you to join its weekly conference call Tuesdays, 11-11:30 a.m., to discuss key policy and legislative issues with Mary Frances Williams, legislative and policy consultant.
To join the discussion on ReadyTalk, call 866-740-1260.
Access code: 4207411#

· Legislators are off today, but return tomorrow for Day 32 and will be in session Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

· Last week Gov. Sonny Perdue announced that state revenues for February were less than anticipated. As a result, the amounts to be spent in the amended FY08 and FY09 budgets have been reduced and cuts have been recommended.

· Legislators have revised their calendar and now expect to be in session at least through the first week of April. The new calendar has not been set beyond Thursday, March 27.

Legislative Policy Resources
To tune in to live broadcasts or watch highlights of the legislative session, or for research on bills, visit:
Georgia General Assembly

Georgia Public Broadcasting Lawmakers

Georgia Public Broadcasting Blogspot

For an in-depth analysis of HR 1246 and HB 1158 visit:
Georgia Budget and Policy Institute

For more information on legislative priorities from our partner organizations, visit:
Association of County Commissioners
Barton Law Clinic
Georgia Parent Teacher Association
Voices for Georgia’s Children: Children’s Policy Watch
Fayette Front Page
Community News You Can Use
Fayetteville, Peachtree City, Tyrone

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