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Puiblic school 'vouchers' being offered
Legislative update
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Last week, the House of Representatives approved HB 326, which I co-sponsored as a member of the House Game, Fish & Parks Committee.
In 2008, there was a great deal of controversy over plans by the state Department of Natural Resources to “farm out” the sale of Georgia hunting and fishing licenses and boat registrations to a private company in Missouri. HB 326 would allow anyone in Georgia who wants to sell licenses to do so but also has other provisions.
Under the bill, outdoor enthusiasts could obtain hunting or fishing licenses online or by phone. They would also receive a $2.75 discount for purchasing licenses before they expire, and the primitive weapons license would be eliminated.
In addition, hunting fees for non-Georgia residents would be increased, raising $2.2 million, and a combined hunting and fishing license would be established. Georgia is the nation’s No. 1 destination for hunters. HB 326 now moves to the Senate for its consideration.
House members also voted to approve HB 251, which would allow parents to enroll their students in any public school in their school district, as long as the school has classroom space after its assigned students have been enrolled.
Parents would be responsible for transporting the student to and from school. This school choice proposal is different from legislation that would create universal school vouchers, because this measure involves only public schools rather than private schools. HB 251 now goes to the Senate.
Last year, several of Georgia’s technical colleges were combined without any input from the legislature, which is responsible for appropriating funds for the system. Georgia has outstanding technical colleges, and 80 percent of the people graduating from a technical college do so with a job.
Believing we need to continue to fully support programs that are working for our citizens, House members passed HB 294, which would require legislative approval for any consolidation, suspension or discontinuation of a technical college or institution under the State Board of Technical and Adult Education. The Senate now has HB 294 under consideration.
Also last week, the House passed HB 217, which would allow physicians to issue protocols for nurses or pharmacies to administer influenza vaccines. Doctors could issue up to 10 protocols under the bill, which moves to the Senate for its consideration.
Legislation that could lead to a statewide, 1 percent sales tax for transportation funding cleared a key House committee week. The House Transportation Committee favorably reported HR 206 and HB 277, sending the proposal one step closer to a vote on the House floor.
If approved by two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate and then by a simple majority of voters in the next general election, the additional sales tax would bring in an estimated $25 billion to fund transportation projects across the state during the next 10 years. An 11-member oversight committee would include five members from metropolitan Atlanta, five members from the rest of the state and one member at-large to ensure the funds are invested equitably for both urban and rural projects.
At the same time, the governor and legislative leaders are supporting legislation to create a new state transportation authority to replace the current Department of Transportation board, which has governed the highway program in the state for decades. Authority members would be appointed by the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker, instead of being elected by state legislators within congressional districts, as the DOT board is chosen now.
The governor reversed his position on Georgia’s Homeowner Tax Relief Grants last week and signed HB 143 into law. The bill requires the state to put $428 million into the budget to fund the grants, which will keep local governments from having to raise property taxes by $200-$300 on the average homeowner this year, but requires a 3 percent increase in state revenue for the grants to be funded in future years.
The governor reiterated his opposition to the grants in principle but said the money will be available this year because of the federal economic recovery package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Williams represents the 165th District (Liberty County) in the Georgia House. Contact him during the legislative session at 511 Coverdell Office Building, Atlanta, GA, 30334; by phone at 404-656-6372; or by e-mail at
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