General Assembly decisions could impact Decatur County residents

Published 6:53 pm Friday, February 27, 2015

Amidst cooler than average temperatures, icy roads and a little snow in the Atlanta area this week, the Georgia General Assembly continued to trudge along through the current legislative session, either ushering bills along or stopping them in their tracks.

State budget proposal

Thursday, the House approved a $44.6 billion 2016 budget proposal, which narrows public education cuts and keeps part-time public school employees, such as bus drivers, on the State Health Benefit Plan, but requires local boards of education to fund those benefits.

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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s original budget proposal cut non-certificated, public school employees who work on average less than 30 hours per week from the SHBP, which subsequently caused widespread concern.

The Georgia Association for Pupil Transportation came out against the proposal with a statement highlighting bus drivers’ value to the public education system.

“If school bus drivers are driven from their profession as a result of this recommendation being approved, how will we ensure that every Georgia student receives access to quality learning opportunities? How will we be able to protect and support students during the entire educational process?,” the statement read.

Decatur County Superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield also opposed the original proposal, echoing the GAPT’s concerns about attracting employees to bus driver positions without the health benefits.

Haleigh’s Hope Act

A medical cannabis oil bill, House Bill 1, or Haleigh’s Hope Act, is headed to the Georgia Senate after it overwhelmingly passed the House Wednesday by a vote of 158-2.
The bill would allow Georgian’s suffering from certain conditions to possess up to 20 fluid ounces of a “low THC oil.” THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a chemical in marijuana that is responsible for the drug’s psychoactive effects, the high users experience.

The conditions the current version of the bill allows medical cannabis oil use to treat are: cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease or sickle cell disease.

Effective Sept. 1, 2015, the Department of Public Health would be allowed to issue registration cards to patients or caregivers of patients with eligible conditions.
Haleigh’s Hope Act was originally introduced last year and was named for a Georgia girl who suffers from severe seizures that such medical cannabis oils are used to treat.

Transportation Funding Act

The Transportation Funding Act of 2015, H.B. 170, hit a setback on Tuesday, when the House sent the bill back to the House Transportation Committee for further revisions.

The bill, which aims to raise more than $1 billion for state transportation infrastructure, was altered several times before being sent to the House and has been a point of interest for local governments and boards of education due to its potential financial impacts.

One House republican, Rep. David Stover, R-Palmetto, has removed his name from the list of sponsors, calling the bill a “$500 million tax increase,” on his public Facebook page.

“As it currently stands, it would be a $500 million tax increase and I can not and will not support any such increase on the backs of our citizens,” Stover said in the post.

The most recent version of the bill eliminates some local sales taxes on gasoline but changes the way in which the state taxes gas. It would change the four percent sales tax and 7.5 cent-per-gallon excise tax to a 29.2 cent-per-gallon excise tax as a way to generate more funding for the Georgia Department of Transportation.