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Giving HOPE to technical students

POSTED: March 14, 2013 7:45 p.m.

The Georgia General Assembly now has fewer than 10 days of session remaining in the 2013 legislative session. The second longest day of session is crossover day and that was accomplished last Thursday evening. 

Local legislation is the exception to this rule, as this legislation can be passed throughout the session and does not have the limitation of trying to survive crossover day. 

It was a busy and successful week under the Gold Dome, and the highlights include the adoption of the conference committee report signaling the agreement by the legislature of the 2013 amended budget for our state, changes to the HOPE grant, and numerous other bills passed by the House which will continue the legislative journey in the Senate.  

The midyear budget for FY 2013, HB 105, traveled to conference committee (includes members of both chambers) at the end of February in an effort to come to an agreement on the spending adjustments for our state through June 30 of this year.

 On Tuesday, an agreement was reached on the modifications for the midyear $19.3

billion budget and both the House and Senate adopted the conference committee report, which means the final passage of the amended budget. 

The supplemental appropriation bill will now head to Governor Deal for his signature. The House expects to have the full vote on the fiscal year 2014 budget, which begins July 1, within the next couple of weeks.    

Crossover day began with a full calendar for both chambers. Starting the morning with 40 bills on the House calendar and adjourning around 9 p.m. on Thursday, the clock ticked down with some bills surviving, and many others that did not. 

One significant bill included changes for Georgia students applying for the HOPE Grant to attend technical colleges in our state.  House Bill 372 (passed 169-1) would revise and reduce the required grade-point average from a 3.0 GPA to a 2.0 GPA for students applying for the HOPE Grant to attend a technical college in Georgia. 

With this attainable goal to keep and maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, many current and future students at technical colleges will now be eligible to receive the HOPE Grant. 

I have been queried several times about why some college students must continue to maintain a 3.0 GPA to retain the HOPE Scholarship and now technical college students will only be required to maintain a 2.0 for the HOPE Grant. 

From my perspective, many technical college students today are non-traditional students. Because of the economic downturn in our society and the resulting loss of jobs, many of these students are older, have been out of school and working for many years, are working part-time jobs, and have family and financial responsibilities. They have returned to school to learn a new trade so that they may provide for their families, and this legislation will assist them to re-enter the job market, provide for their families, and become productive taxpaying citizens once again.

A tightened budget for our state, combined with unsustainable increases in Medicaid costs to provide health care services for citizens in our state, requires an in-depth analysis and study of the current Medicaid program. House Resolution 107 (passed 167-5) would create a Joint House and Senate Study Committee on Medicaid Reform. 

As a joint state and federal program, Medicaid plays a vital role in our state by helping many people in need of health care services, including some children, pregnant women, and many who are aging, blind, or disabled. 

This resolution would create a committee of 18 members to study Medicaid reform and this committee will report their recommendations with suggestions to proposed legislation, if any, to the legislature and governor by the end of this year. 

 

Many times when driving a vehicle, the safety of ourselves or of our families could depend on other drivers and whether or not they are obeying the laws of our state. I co-sponsored House Bill 407 (passed 169-3) which would require ignition locks of vehicles for one year following the second conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Last week, I discussed my optimism for the legislation I had sponsored to move forward in the legislative process by being vote on by the full House by crossover day. It should be noted that although time expired on some of the legislation I sponsored, and those bills are effectively "dead" for this session, we still have the opportunity next session to revisit many of those bills for possible revival and passage into law. 

Discussed in detail in previous weeks, two bills I sponsored passed the House this week (prior to crossover day). On Monday, the House passed HB 365 (156-16) which would require safety belts for 15-passenger vehicles, which are primarily used to transport school-age children and are three times more likely to rollover in accidents than other vehicles, and statistics show that unrestrained occupants are three times more likely to die than those who are restrained. 

Tuesday saw the unanimous vote and passage of HB 366 relating to the discipline, training, and testing for peace officers.  

I will keep you apprised of important legislation that affects your families, your freedoms, and your pocketbooks.  Working with and alongside the other members of both the House and Senate, your best interests will always remain my first priority. 

Please let me know if I can ever be of assistance to you or your family. Please feel welcome to write to me at: 501 Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg., Atlanta, GA 30334, email me at bill.hitchens@house.ga.gov, or call my office at (404) 656-0178.

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