What survived, what sank in legislative session

Thursday marked the final day of the General Assembly’s 40-day legislative session, which started slowly in January but came to a hectic close. Here’s how some of the most watched and debated bills in this year’s session fared:

K-12 EDUCATION/HIGHER EDUCATION

• HB 713: Would extend the career pathways initiative — which requires Georgia public school ninth-graders to select a field of study for high school — so that it will start a year later.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? No, although the Senate added an amendment to allow the state Education Department to opt out of common national academic standards.

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• HR 1162: A constitutional amendment that would give the state authority to create local charter schools. The bill would essentially reverse a state Supreme Court decision that said local districts had the sole authority to create charter schools that run on local funding.

Did it pass: Yes; does not need the governor’s signature. Instead, it will get an up or down vote by the public in November.

Significant changes? No

• HB 673: Would create rules by which coaches and trainers must abide when dealing with student athletes who suffer, or are believed to have suffered, a concussion.

Did it pass: No; never made it out of the House.

• SB 87: Would create an education voucher in Georgia that would pay for private school for parents who want that option.

Did it pass? No. Failed to make it out of the Senate.

• HB 692: Would require any school personnel who profited from false test scores to pay back the money.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? No

• HB 659: Would toughen Georgia’s hazing law by prohibiting anyone convicted of hazing from enrolling in any school, college or university in the state.

Did it pass: No. Stalled in the House.

• SB 458: Would ban illegal immigrants from attending public colleges — that includes the 35 in the University System of Georgia and the 25 in the Technical College System of Georgia.

Did it pass: No. Passed the Senate but failed in the House.

• SB 302: Would increase to $500 million from $300 million the cap for the Georgia Higher Education Facilities Authority, giving Georgia’s public colleges more money to build dorms, parking decks, student centers and other nonacademic buildings.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? No

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

• HB 636: Would establish the city of Brookhaven in DeKalb County.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor for his signature to become law.

Significant changes? Yes; attempts to call the city “Ashford” failed.

• SB 234: Would end the personal payments to county tax commissioners when handling city tax bills.

Did it pass: No

COPS, COURTS, GUNS, GAMBLING

• HB 397: Would revise the state’s open records and meetings law for the first time in more than a decade. The bill strengthens penalties by increasing maximum fines to $1,000 for a single offense and $2,500 for an agency that commits a repeat offense. It also would allow civil enforcement and clarify roles and responsibilities of government agencies.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? Yes. State development authority incentives offered for large projects would be exempt from open records scrutiny.

• HB 1176: Would change the state’s approach to criminal sentencing to try to control the growth in the state’s prison population by sentencing nonviolent offenders to alternative programs.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? Yes. Raises the monetary thresholds to determine whether some theft crimes are felonies and creates new categories of punishment for drug-possession crimes, with less severe penalties for those found with small quantities and the most severe penalties available for those possessing large amounts of drugs.

• SB 469: Initially targeted unions and others who picket in front of the homes of business leaders involved in labor disputes. Later amended to broaden the bill to anyone picketing any house at any time.

Did it pass: No

• SB 316: Would extend the statute of limitations related to sex crimes against children.

Did it pass: No

• HR 1151: Would establish a commission to study human trafficking, including that involving sex and forced labor.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? No

• HB 467/SR 1025: Would allow gambling on horse racing in Georgia.

Did it pass: No

Significant changes? No

• HB 685: Would create new penalties for owners of dangerous dogs who attack others.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? No

• HB 981: Would allow concealed weapons in schools, colleges, government buildings and other places where they are now banned.

Did it pass: No

• HB 350: Would provide reciprocity with other states on concealed carrying of weapons and return stolen guns used in crimes to rightful owners.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? No

ETHICS

• SB 391/HB 798/HB 1105: All three would impose limits on lobbyists’ gifts to Georgia lawmakers and were supported by an alliance of groups that included Common Cause Georgia, Georgia Watch and the Georgia Tea Party Patriots.

Did they pass: No. Leaders in both chambers showed little interest.

PUBLIC ASSISTANCE

• HB 861: Would require drug tests for parents seeking welfare.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? Yes. This House-Senate compromise would require parents to pass a random $17 drug test to qualify for benefits.

• HB 347: Would cut nearly in half how long Georgians could receive unemployment payments.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? Yes. A compromise erased a proposed delay in distributing unemployment checks; payments would drop from 26 weeks to a sliding scale of 14 to 20 weeks.

TRANSPORTATION/TAXES

• HR 1350/ HB 938: Would replace the currently scheduled 2012 regional transportation referendum with a more counties-oriented one.

Did it pass: No

• HB 1052: Would restructure how MARTA is governed and change some restrictions on the agency. 

Where it stands: Did not pass.

• SB 474/ HB 1199: Initiating regional transit governance, would create a body within the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority to oversee local mass transit agencies in metro Atlanta.

Did it pass: No

• SB 146: Would raise weight limits on loaded freight trucks for several industries. Local governments say that would be dangerous to creaky roads and bridges, but freight companies say it would save them money.

Did it pass: No

• HB 386: A sweeping tax plan targeting cuts to manufacturers, airlines and married couples, and eliminating the much-hated car tax paid on motorists’ birthdays.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor for his signature to become law.

Significant changes? No

ENVIRONMENT/RECREATION

• SB 362: Would allow sunken logs to be raised from Georgia’s rivers and sold to the highest bidder.

Did it pass: No

• SB 269: Would exempt local governments and businesses from water-pollution fines if they agree to voluntarily correct problems.

Did it pass: No

• SB 401: Would loosen restrictions on how consumers install and use solar panels and other alternative energy; opposed by power companies.  

Did it pass: No

• SB 301: Would allow Georgia hunters to use gun silencers.

Did it pass: No

• SB 309: Would allow terminally ill youngsters who want to hunt to fulfill their last wishes under proposed “Taylor’s Law.”

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? No

HEALTH CARE

• SB 418 /HB 801: Would create a Georgia-run health insurance marketplace to help small businesses and individuals buy health insurance, as called for by the federal health law.

Did it pass: No

• SB 434: Would block qualified health plans from providing abortion coverage, as allowed by federal law, except when the life of the mother is endangered.

Did it pass: No

• SB 438: Would ban state employee health insurance plans from offering coverage for abortion services.

Did it pass: No

• HB 954: Would shorten the period for elective abortions to 20 weeks of pregnancy from 26 weeks.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? Yes. Would include an exemption for “medically futile” pregnancies, giving doctors the option to perform an abortion past 20 weeks.

VETERANS/MILITARY/NATIONAL GUARD

• SB 327: Would help veterans who receive financial help through programs such as the GI Bill pay college tuition in installments.

Did it pass: No

• SB 329: Would create a “returning veterans” task force to aid those back from combat.

Did it pass: No

• SB 328: Would give military service members academic credit or exemptions from required coursework in Georgia colleges based on instruction they received in the military.

Did it pass: No

RESTRUCTURING

• HB 456: State agencies could face abolishment unless lawmakers act specifically to renew them.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? No

BUSINESS/CONSUMERS

• SB 136: Would grant owners the right to file a petition in Superior Court to gain oversight of their condominium’s homeowner association.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? No

• SB 305: New-car buyers in Georgia would have to shell out an extra $2 for the state’s “lemon law” fee.

Did it pass: No

• HB 872: Would make it harder to sell stolen metal; opposed by scrap-metal recyclers.

Did it pass: Yes; sent to governor.

Significant changes? No

-- Staff writers Kristina Torres, Christopher Quinn, Laura Diamond, Nancy Badertscher, Ariel Hart and Carrie Teegardin contributed.

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