Georgia lawmakers filed a state constitutional amendment this week that would give state authorities the power to both create charter schools and move public funding from schools districts into those charter schools. The amendment responds to a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that disbanded the Georgia Charter School Commission. The court ruled that the commission was unconstitutional because it gave local tax dollars to charter schools without the approval of local school boards. Amending Georgia’s constitution requires a two-thirds vote from lawmakers in both the House and Senate. Afterward, it would have to be approved by Georgia voters. “It’s important that we establish once and for all that the state has a right to be a partner in the education of our children,” said state House Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman, a Republican. Coleman said he expected the House Education Committee could vote on the measure Thursday. Associations for public school teachers, schools board and superintendents are expected to oppose the amendment. “This isn’t about choice,” said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which represents 82,000 educators across the state. “It’s about who pays for other people’s choices. With local taxpayer dollars, the local board should make the decision where those are spent.”
ODDS AND ENDS:
* Democratic lawmakers said Monday they will seek a repeal of a law that launched a crackdown on illegal immigrants last year in Georgia. The small Democratic caucus lacks the votes to overturn the law in the Republican-dominated General Assembly. Democratic Rep. Pedro Marin said the crackdown is making it more difficult for the agriculture and manufacturing sectors to find workers amid an already weak economy. Republican Rep. Matt Ramsey said that illegal immigrants are financially burdening the state. Ramsey said supporters of the crackdown “will oppose any effort to diminish its provisions.”
* Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein urged lawmakers Wednesday to overhaul the state’s juvenile justice system in the same ways state leaders have discussed focusing on treatment for adult offenders. Hunstein said in her annual State of the Judiciary address that putting nonviolent youth offenders into juvenile jails increases the likelihood they will commit crimes in the future, wastes public money and exposes them to violence and abuse.
* Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration released the final report of the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative, an attempt to find ways to make the state more attractive to businesses. Deal identified job creation and economic development as top priorities for the year. The report recommended amending the state constitution to define the state’s role in the creation of charter schools; approving ballot questions across the state that would provide funding for regional transportation projects; and eliminating the sales tax that manufacturers pay on energy used to build their products.
* House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, tasked a committee of lawmakers with reviewing and reducing state regulations that he blamed for hampering small businesses. Ralston did not say which regulations, if any, he thought should be eliminated. He instructed committee lawmakers to file legislation addressing any problems they discover during the ongoing 40-day legislative session. The committee must produce its final report by July 1.
* Senate Democratic Chairman Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna) proposed legislation that would make the state’s ethics commission an independent agency. The bill filed Monday would remove control of ethics enforcement from the General Assembly. The commission would be appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court and the chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals. The members are now appointed by legislators and the governor.
DAYS IN SESSION:
31 days remain in the 40-day legislative session.
The House and Senate will resume floor sessions on Monday and will continue through Friday. House lawmakers may discuss ways next week to redesign a legislative district for Gainesville, Gov. Deal’s hometown. The area was split into several districts when lawmakers redrew the legislative maps this summer. Officials from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority will also brief Senate lawmakers on the governor’s push to build more reservoirs.