Ordinarily, in light of the significance of Crossover, one chamber does not take up bills passed by the other until after Crossover and continues to focus on its own legislation until that point. However, we do sometimes see exceptions to this. Such was the case last week with HB 326, the revisions to the HOPE scholarship program.
HB 326, as the title (House Bill) indicates, originated in the House. It was taken up by the Senate and returned to the House last week. If the other chamber makes changes to the bill, as was the case here, the chamber of origin can choose to insist on its version or agree to the changes. If it insists, the bill goes to a Conference Committee consisting of three members from each chamber who attempt to negotiate a compromise version acceptable to both chambers. The Senate’s changes to HB 326 weren’t all that substantial, and the House agreed to them. That means that the bill has now been sent to Governor Deal, who is expected to sign it.
The main change was that the Senate added a new category of students who will qualify for the Zell Miller Scholarship (students who will continue to receive 100% of tuition paid). Under this change the valedictorian and salutatorian (top two graduating students) from each high school in the state will receive Zell Miller Scholarships regardless of whether they meet the 3.7 GPA and 1200 score on the SAT.
If you would like to read the entire bill, just go to www.legis.ga.gov and enter HB 326 in the space to search for legislation. While there is a certain amount of “legalese” in all bills, this one is fairly straight-forward to read if you would like to look at all the changes in the HOPE program. As you read the bill, keep in mind that the text that is struck through is deleted by the bill and the text that is underlined is added by the bill.
The Pre-K program was also addressed last week, although it is not included in HB 326. The Pre-K program is a budget item, and last week the House took up the budget for FY 2012 (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012). You may be aware that Governor Deal’s original proposal for cuts to the Pre-K program called for the state to fund only a 4 hour day instead of the current 6.5 hour day. It became increasingly apparent that making this kind of shift in the nature of the program would have caused problems for both patents and schools (transportation, day care, etc.), so the current proposal maintains the 6.5 hour day. However, the current proposal makes other cuts in the program. Basically, class size will be increased by two students per class, and the state will fund only 160 days instead of 180.
Before I close, I will make one final pitch for the email list I have mentioned previously. There is simply no way I can keep you fully informed through the limited space of this weekly report. I had thought the email list would be a way I could get additional information out to those who may be interested, but I have still had very few people request this.
Should you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me. The best ways to do that are to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 404-656-0265. Please remember to include your name and address to identify you as one of my home folks, as we get more messages than you can imagine from all over. I do read the messages and send out the replies personally, so please do not be offended if I miss getting a reply out to a particular message when things are hectic. If you are expecting a reply and don’t see one in a couple of days, please send another message. Rest assured that I do consider the opinions expressed to me in deciding how to vote.
As always, thank you for the honor of representing you in the Georgia House of Representatives.