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Monday, January 22, 2024 - Day 6


HB 897 bans schools, government entities, and businesses from requiring vaccinations or immunizations for any contagious or infectious diseases and also prohibits them from requiring masks.

The bill would prohibit the requirement of vaccinations already required in Georgia, including for whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus (DTaP shot), chickenpox, Hepatitis A and B, Haemophilus influenzae Type B, measles, meningitis, mumps, polio, rubella, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and tetanus.

The bill states, in part: "No law, rule, or order by any state or local government entity or any agent or official thereof shall require the receipt of a vaccine or proof of post-infection recovery for any reason, including, but not limited to, as a condition of access to any government service, building, or space; employment; professional licensure; access to or enrollment an attendance at any public or private pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, elementary, secondary, or postsecondary educational institution; any educational diploma, certification, licensure, or degree access to any mode of transportation; access or admittance to any child care facility, healthcare facility, long-term care facility, or nursing home; or admittance to any place of business or entertainment ..."

The bill further reads: "No law, rule, or order by any state or local government entity or any agent or official thereof shall require a person in this state to wear a face mask or other facial covering to minimize the spread of a contagious or infectious disease."

HB 936 requires each multiple occupancy restroom or changing area in a public school to be designated for use by either males or females.  The bill also requires a reasonable accommodation to an individual who is unwilling or unable to use a multiple occupancy restroom or changing area designated for such individual's sex.  "A reasonable accommodation under this paragraph shall not include allowing such individual to access a restroom or changing area that is designated for use by members of the opposite sex while members of the opposite sex of the individual are present or may be present in the restroom or changing area."

Under the bill, a parent of guardian is authorized to sue the school or school system if they encounter a member of the opposite sex in a multiple occupancy restroom or changing area and that person had received permission from school staff.  The Professional Standards Commission (PSC) is also authorized to investigate reported non-compliance.

HB 941 makes voluntary pre-kindergarten programs provided by the local school system eligible for state funding for capital projects, such as construction, acquisition, maintenance, and repair.  SB 360 is a Senate version of HB 941.

More details on governor's budget proposals

For the current fiscal year, Gov. Brian Kemp proposes $1,000 bonuses for full-time, benefit-eligible school nutrition staff, bus drivers, school nurses, custodians, and employees in the Georgia Department of Education, RESA (Regional Education Service Agencies) staff and the Charter School Commission.  Pre-K teachers and assistant teachers are also included.

These $1,000 bonuses are the holiday bonuses Kemp announced in December.  Schools systems have until the end of January to distribute the funds.  Funds dispersed to local districts do not include every employee only those funded by QBE.  Local districts must use other sources to provide the bonus to all employees.  School districts have the flexibility to award reduced supplements to all employees so that everyone gets something but less than $1,000.

In the budget for the next fiscal year, 2024-2025, Kemp includes an increase in funding to recognize a 4.1% increase to the salary earnings in the nutrition formula, the pupil transportation formula, and a 4.1% salary increase for school nurses.  He provides for a $2,500 permanent increase to the state's teacher salary schedule, effective September 1, 2024.

The governor also proposes $104 million to provide grants to local school systems to support school security needs.  Also in the budget submitted to the General Assembly is $5 million for universal reading screeners for all K-3 students pursuant to HB 538, which passed last session.

Kemp adds $68 million to the Teacher Retirement System due the increase in the TRS employer contribution rate from 19.98% to 20.78%.

House Education Committee met today;
Senate Education Committee meets tomorrow

Today was the sixth day of the legislative session.  The legislature will be in session Tuesday through Friday of this week.

The House Education Committee held its first meeting of the year, hearing remarks from the Georgia Teacher of the Year.  Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones also addressed the committee, outlining several pre-k initiatives that will be offered this year.

Among the proposals are funding to reduce the average pre-k class size from 22 to 20 and increases in the salaries of assistant teachers in from $20,190 annually to $25,700 and increasing pay for lead pre-k teachers to match the state salary schedule for K-12 public school teachers.  As found in HB 941, above, pre-kindergarten programs offered by public schools would become eligible for state funding for capital outlays, such as classroom construction, equipment acquisition, maintenance, and repair.  Speaker Jones stated that pre-k enrollment in Georgia has fallen from a high of 82,868 students in 2012 to 73,462.

Much of what Speaker Jones said is included in the recently released report of the House Working Group on Early Childhood Education.

The House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Education also met today to review changes the governor is making to the current year budget (2023-2024) outlined above.  Specifically, the subcommittee heard from representatives of the Department of Early Care and Learning, the state Department of Education, and the Governor's Office of Student Achievement.

The Senate Education Committee will meet tomorrow at 2:30 p.m., Room 450 of the state capitol, and may be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/showcase/9027934?autoplay=1

Wednesday, the Senate Higher Education Committee will meet at 2 p.m., in 307 Coverdell.  No agenda has been posted.

The Senate Retirement Committee will meet on Thursday at 1 p.m. in 310 Coverdell.  The meeting will be live-streamed at: https://vimeo.com/showcase/9076396?autoplay=1.  No agenda has been released.

The next Legislative Update will be Tuesday, January 23
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