Authored by state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), House Bill 826 was carried in the Senate by Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb). The bill now heads to Gov. Nathan Deal to be signed into law or vetoed.
“It eliminates the zero-tolerance policy under Georgia law of pocket knives and similar objects on school campuses and gives school boards complete control in how to manage and bring cases against people who violate their rules,” Setzler said.
Until now, if school officials discovered a fishing knife in a student’s car they were required to turn the student over to police and charge him or her with a felony.
Setzler’s bill allows school districts to decide how they want to respond in such cases.
“(Cobb District Attorney) Vic Reynolds has used great common sense in not bringing charges against kids in these cases, like having a knife in a tackle box,” Setzler said. “A soccer mom having a Swiss army knife in the glove box of her minivan should not be a crime under Georgia law. It should be within the school board’s discretion to determine how those things are handled on their property and unless the Legislature fixes it, nothing is going to change.”
Help for technical college students
State Reps. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) and Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) tag-teamed to pass a bill now on the governor’s desk that increases tuition assistance available for the highest achieving technical college students by creating a Zell Miller Grant Scholar designation.
Under HB 697, students who achieve a 3.5 GPA in technical college will receive a grant equal to full tuition. Those students who maintain a 2.0 in technical college will continue to receive a regular HOPE grant, which covers a percentage of tuition depending on lottery revenues.
There are 16,000 students enrolled who have a 3.5 GPA or higher.
The estimated $7 million cost to fund the bill will be paid for out of lottery revenues, Evans said.
Although in the minority party, Evans was successful in seeing the bill pass out of both chambers on the last day of the session.
“I think it proves that with hard work you can get a lot of things done, and I really appreciate the Governor being willing to work with me on this and recognize that this is not a partisan issue, this is about students, this is about access to higher education, and it’s about closing the skills gap, and when we can find areas we agree on when we agree there is a problem, we should look beyond party lines, and that’s what happened here, and I think it’s good for Georgia that it did happen,” Evans said.
Other bills pass
State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) was successful earlier this week in seeing Senate Bill 98 head to the governor’s desk. The bill prohibits teachers and other state workers from having an abortion paid for under the state health benefit plan.
State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) passed HB 863, which he says strengthens Georgia’s animal cruelty laws. The bill was drafted in collaboration with the Prosecuting Attorneys Council.
“Prosecutors and law enforcement in general have been seeing an increase in heinous crimes involving the physical abuse of animals, poisoning, torture and starvation,” Golick said. “HB 863 broadens the animal cruelty law so that prosecutors are able to more effectively prosecute these types of crimes, and the new law will increase penalties for felony offenders to up to 10 years imprisonment and up to a $100,000 fine.”
Earlier in the session, Setzler’s HB 1028, which redraws the boundary lines of Cobb’s four district county commissioners, passed out of both chambers. The map activates in 2016 if signed into law.
Voters will also have a chance in November to approve a constitutional amendment capping the state income tax at 6 percent with passage of Senate Resolution 415.
Hill said the approved fiscal 2015 state budget gives an additional $25 million to $30 million for Cobb County Schools as well as $775,000 to create a business incubator at Kennesaw State University.
“The estimates are $25 to $30 million for Cobb County Schools, which goes a long way towards helping meet some of the projected shortfalls we were hearing about last fall,” Hill said.
Fractional SPLOST lost
County Chairman Tim Lee will have to wait another year to get his fractional SPLOST legislation approved.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb) said the Senate was debating the bill when the time expired before a vote could be taken.
House Bill 153 was authored by state Rep. John Carson (R-northeast Cobb) and was one of the main requests of Lee and Cobb Chamber of Commerce. The bill would have allowed counties and cities to collect a sales tax of less than 1 cent per dollar spent.