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Thursday, March 21, 2024 - Day 38.
Two legislative days remain
General Assembly will adjourn on March 28


The Georgia Senate passed a bill today that will double the amount of paid, parental leave for educators and state employees receive on the occasion of a birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child.
  The bill, HB 1010, increases the amount of paid leave from three weeks to six weeks.

Other bills passed by the Senate today:

HB 51, a bill to allow schools to use passenger vehicles such as mini-vans to transport up to eight students to school competitions and events.

HB 285 would allow the Employee’s Retirement System (ERS) of Georgia to invest a higher percent of its assets in alternative investments.  It does not affect the Teachers Retirement System (TRS).

HB 1183 will require local school systems to provide certain information to parents and guardians of students in grades six through 12 on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Also today, the Senate approved its version of the state's 2024-2025 budget, which is effective July 1, 2024.  In the bill are $2,500 permanent salary step increases for classroom teachers and 4.1% raises for school nurses, bus drivers, and custodians.  The bill also includes $5.6 million to fund an increase in retirement benefits for education support professionals in the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS).  The House version differs in some ways with the Senate spending priorities.  Therefore, a conference committee (three representatives from each chamber) will meet to iron out an agreement.

In the House today:

Members voted to approve SB 351, the "Protecting Georgia's Children on Social Media Act of 2024."  The bill requires internet and content filters on school technology, curriculum changes pertaining to the safe use of the internet and technologies as well as "cyber-bullying," and age verification on certain commercial web sites.

Yesterday, the House approved a program to assist teachers with purchasing school supplies for their classroomsNo funding is provided, however.  The bill, SB 464, also includes language to require the state Board of Education and Georgia Literacy Council approve a list of five universal literacy screeners, one of which must be provided free to schools

Newly elected state Representative Gary Richardson sworn in

The people of Columbia and McDuffie counties in east Georgia have a new state representative, Republican Rep. Gary Richardson.

Richardson won a special election for the vacant House District 125 seat on March 12, formerly held by Rep. Barry Fleming, who recently accepted a position as a Superior Court judge.

As noted in yesterday's report, the Senate Education and Youth Committee this week attached language from several controversial bills onto HB 1104, a bill intended to allow voluntary mental health screenings for student-athletes who get physicals for sports participation.

Most of the sections added to the bill pertain to sex education, gender identity, and censorship of classroom materials, school library materials, and other school materials.

HB 1104 was not among the bills that were to be on the floor of the Senate today and at this point remains in the Senate Rules Committee.

Added to the bill were provisions from bills that would:

Require that parents and guardians "opt-in" rather "opt-out" their children for sex education classes, language that originally appeared in SB 532, and mandate that no sex education may be conducted before the sixth grade.  School systems themselves could opt-out of offering sex education classes altogether,

Resurrect SB 365, which requires that public school libraries notify parents and guardians of any material checked out by their child,

Require students use the restrooms or locker rooms associated with the gender determined at birth and prohibits "any person whose gender is male but whose gender identity is female to participate in any interscholastic athletics designated for females."  This is language previously found in SB 438,

This section of the amended bill defines "sex" as: "the biological state of being male or female, in the context of reproductive potential or capacity, based on the individual's sex organs, chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones, gonads, and internal and external genitalia present at birth, including secondary sex characteristics.  An individual's sex can be observed or clinically verified at or before birth,"

Provisions of the original bill SB 438 applied to public and private schools.  However, Rep. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, stripped out all requirements for private schools, and

Expand the "Parents Bill of Rights" that passed a few years ago to create a new parental complaint process to challenge "instructional material."  The bill now expands to cover "any written or electronic materials made available students in a public school, including classroom materials, school library materials, or any materials made available to a public school student as part of an extracurricular activity offered or supervised by the public school."
Late yesterday, Senate Education passsed bills
The Senate Education Committee met last evening to consider several bills.

HB 846, a GAE-backed bill, to require school districts to notify employees of their retirement options upon hire, every five years, and at the time of separation.  Language from another bill, HB 1384, was added.  HB 1384 allows educators to use up to five days of any accumulated sick leave for "the purpose of absenting themselves from their duties for personal or professional reasons."
  The bill passed the committee.

HB 1122 provides funding for principals for charter schools.  An amendment to the bill also requires the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) to establish a ranking of schools on a scale of 0-100, which would presumably be used to identify the "lowest performing schools" in the state for eligibility in the recently passed private school voucher program.
  The committee passed the legislation.

SR 692 creates the Senate Transporting Students Safely Study Committee, particularly focused on school bus safety.  The committee passed the measure.

The committee also approved HB 338, "the Student Technology Protection Act."  Provisions from SB 405 were added to the bill to lower the age of enrollment at a state completion school to 16 from 18 years-of-age.

Rep. Lauren Daniel stripped the language from her original bill, HB 409, and inserted language from her bill concerning school bus safety, HB 1284.  The committee passed the substitute.

Then the committee deleted the text of HB 298 and inserted language from HB 1036, which requires a course of instruction in pregancy, health, and human development for students in grades 9-12.  The committee then passed this bill.

A bill, SB 284, to establish of a new QBE weight for school districts with a large number of students living in poverty, was initially scheduled for a hearing but was not brought up.
The next GAE Legislative Update will be Tuesday, March 26, Day 39.
The General Assembly will be off tomorrow.  Monday is set aside as a committee work day.
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