The 2013 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly officially completed Crossover Day on Thursday and it marks the 30th day of our 40-day session. The bills that survived Crossover Day in the House will now travel to the Senate to be considered, and vice versa. The legislation debated on the House floor was sometimes heated and lengthy. This open debate allows legislators representing all areas of our state to offer valuable input and to have their voices heard, both in support of and against proposed legislation. Numerous bills passed the House this week, but several were of particular importance to our state and to many citizens in our district. I will discuss legislation passed by the House that proposes changes to the HOPE Grant for students in technical colleges, moving the enforcement and responsibility of the legal video poker machines to the Georgia Lottery Corporation, a bill passed to expand our 2nd Amendment Rights in Georgia, and bills I co-sponsored which will require state collected fees be used for their intended purposes.
The HOPE (helping outstanding pupils educationally) Scholarship and Grant Program is one of our greatest assets in Georgia that helps assist students with their higher education costs. It is funded entirely by the Georgia lottery. In 2011, it was crucial that the Georgia General Assembly make changes to the HOPE Scholarship and the HOPE Grant Program in order to preserve and save this program for our future college attendees. This session, additional changes are being proposed so the HOPE Grant (that relates only to Technical colleges) can continue to provide educational opportunities for our students. House Bill 372 passed overwhelmingly with only one dissenting vote. This legislation would change the eligibility requirements to qualify for the HOPE Grant Program for technical colleges from 3.0 grade-point average (GPA) to a 2.0 GPA. Approximately 9,000 technical college students lost the HOPE Grant last year because they could not maintain the GPA requirement. Our goal is to help students attain technical training and degrees so they can become a successful part of our workforce. Lowering the GPA back to 2.0 for students in technical colleges will help many students across Georgia achieve their goals and obtain the skills necessary to compete for higher paying jobs. During the 2012-2013 school year, over 173,000 students have earned and received assistance from the HOPE program (both the HOPE Scholarship and the HOPE Grant) and that totals around $383 million.
House Bill 487 passed 166 to 4 and would authorize the Georgia Lottery Corporation to direct a share of the profits from the legal video poker machines in our state to be directed to the HOPE program. A centralized monitoring system will give reports of these legal video poker machines, which are registered and taxed. This bill would also transfer responsibility for administration and enforcement relating to coin operated amusement machines from the Department of Revenue to the Georgia Lottery Corporation. Since our HOPE Scholarship and Grant Program is funded entirely by the Georgia lottery, this legislation should lead to additional funding for the HOPE Program that will continue to provide higher educational opportunities for our students, as well as identify those who are illegally operating these machines.
Many gun bills have been proposed this year in the Georgia General Assembly and, throughout this legislative session, I have discussed the need to protect our 2nd Amendment Rights. As a defender of our Constitution, I supported House Bill 512 to expand the carry rights of the law abiding, legally permitted citizens of our great State. The Safe Carrier Protection Act of 2013, House Bill 512, would expand permitted citizen’s rights to carry on public college campuses, in churches, in unsecured government buildings, and would give local school boards the authority to decide whether to allow staff members in their schools to be armed. This bill passed 117 to 56 and now goes to the Senate for further debate and consideration.
I co-sponsored House Bills 127 and 276, which passed this week. Each of these bills contain provisions to require that state collected fees ($1 tire disposal fee and 75 cent per ton hazardous waste disposal fee) be used for their intended purposes rather than placed in the general fund budget. When not used as intended, the fees to be collected would be reduced proportionally.
The Georgia General Assembly will continue day thirty-one of the 2013 Legislative Session on Monday, March 11th. Please contact me with your ideas and opinions or if I can be of service to you in any way. It is your input and common sense ideas that develop into the best legislation and potentially becomes the laws of our State. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-5087 or write to me at: State Rep. Randy Nix, 18 Capitol Square, Suite 402 CLOB State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.