Capitol Update – Snowpocalypse 2014

Should you have any questions or comments about the content of this update, please email Eric Cochling.

Weather Dominates Week

As the General Assembly meets today for day 14 of the session, the subject dominating the headlines is the two days of utter chaos on Georgia’s roads this week. With so many children stranded at school and commuters stranded in their cars, the official response to the snow quickly took on political dimensions.

Our 5th Annual School Choice Celebration and Rally was cut short by the weather, but not before many of our participants were able to voice their support of school choice with their legislators. Thanks to all of our partner organizations, volunteers, and participating schools for braving the weather to show their support for more school choice options in Georgia. We’d like to especially thank the Georgia Charter Schools Association, Agudath Israel of America, Americans for Prosperity, Grace Scholars, Students First, and Hennessy Transportation for their partnership in hosting the event.

Legislation, Study Committees, and Rumors to Watch

– Education –

Given the high demand for Tax Credit Scholarships, Rep. Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), introduced House Bill 759 that would raise the cap on the program from $58 million annually to $100 million, nearly doubling the size of the program.

In other education news, supporters of Parent Trigger legislation (House Bill 123) are hoping to see it resurrected this year after gaining some traction last session but ultimately failing to make it out of the General Assembly.

Finally, whatever your thoughts about the DeKalb School Board, it does seem strange that the private organization accrediting our school districts (SACS) is, itself, not subject to transparency, especially in regard to how it makes its accreditation decisions. Those decisions impact the public interest in a major way and should be open to public scrutiny. The Attorney General is right to be pressing the case.

– Adoption and Child Welfare –

Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville) introduced House Bill 524 last session with the goal of making it easier for adopted individuals to access their original birth certificates and the information about birth parents they contain. The legislation, which is being reconsidered this session, was met with opposition by those concerned that disclosing information about birth parents could discourage adoption.

House Bill 771, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), would effectively lift the statute of limitations related to civil claims for damages brought by victims of childhood sexual abuse. Currently, the law requires these claims to be brought by a victim within five years of turning 18 years old. Should this bill become law, suit could be brought against a defendant at any time.

– Constitutional Convention? –

Citing a crushing federal debt burden, continued overspending, out of control federal mandates, and overreaching constitutional interpretations, Senate Resolution 736, sponsored by Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon), calls for a constitutional convention of the states to amend the US Constitution. Presumably, the convention would allow for the states to address the problems cited by the resolution. Of course, any convention would also open the Constitution up to mischief, so caution is in order.

– Expansion of Medical Marijuana –

Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) introduced House Bill 885, referred to as Haleigh’s Hope Act (warning: link is to a heartbreaking video) on Tuesday which would expand the permissible medical uses for marijuana to include the treatment of seizure disorders. Under current Georgia law, extracts made from marijuana may be used to treat cancer and glaucoma patients only. Unlike other states that have recently legalized the recreational use of marijuana, House Bill 885 specifically states that it is not intended to encourage recreational use and requires the delivery of the drug to be accomplished in the ways virtually all other drugs are delivered (i.e. via pill, liquid extract, etc.) and forbids smoking as a form of delivery.

Upcoming Events

Our friends at the American Federation for Children are hosting a nonpartisan candidate training school in Atlanta on February 22nd. The training is free but requires registration to attend. For more information, please see this flyer for the event or email Brian Pleva to register.

Thanks to Jamie Lord, our director of government affairs, and Jacob Stubbs, our legislative intern and John Jay Fellowship alumnus for their able contributions to this update.