The Blog

This Week Under the Gold Dome: Week 4

Posted on February 16, 2015

By: Elizabeth Holland

House Votes to Facilitate Residential Use of Solar Power

Athens is a city on the front lines of conservation and concern for the environment. From the recycling bins across UGA’s campus to the recycling pick-up that occurs in many of your front yards, Athens is a town that knows our current resources are finite, and our district is trying to do its part.

Rep. Frye and the Georgia House of Representatives voted unanimously last Monday to approve the Solar Power Free Market Financing Act of 2015, making it easier for Athenians and everyone across Georgia to expand their use of renewable energy.

In recent years, falling costs of producing solar panels and new business models have spurred interest from developers and homeowners in rooftop solar panels to increase electricity consumption drawn from renewable sources. Despite the growing market, financing projects on already-built homes has remained out of reach for many homeowners due to steep upfront costs.

House Bill 57 gives homeowners the option to finance the installation of solar panels on their roof with an electric service provider and an affiliate who leases, finances, and installs solar panels.. Homeowners can use this additional electricity for their own use but not for the purpose of resale. Payments are based on the performance and output of the solar technology.

The bill has been read in the Senate and referred to the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.

House Votes to Prioritize Senior Health Services in Reorganization

As we previously reported, Rep. Frye signed on to House Bill 86. It provides for transferring the existing Division of Aging Services within the Department of Human Services into a newly formed Georgia Adult and Aging Services agency within the same department. The bill also provides for rules on membership and duties of the Agency’s Georgia Adult and Aging Services board.

This week, the House of Representatives passed the bill 160-3. When the House passes a bill by substitute, this means the House made changes to the bill and passed the bill with these changes

DAS currently investigates “abuse, neglect and exploitation of Georgians age 65 or older and adults with disabilities over the age of 18 who do not reside in a long-term care facility, and it intervenes to reduce the risk of maltreatment.”

HB 86 will ensure that the needs and concerns of the elderly are addressed and not forgotten. By giving these issues their own department, their elder needs will not be overshadowed by health issues that impact other populations.
The bill has been read in the Senate and referred to the Health and Human Services Committee.

Recovery Schools Update

As a devoted father himself, Rep. Frye is always looking out for the best interest of the children in his district as well as his own. He is continuously striving to improve education for all children in the best possible way.

Last week, the Governor began reaching out to legislators concerning his plan to amend the state constitution and create Opportunity School Districts. This week, he released his plan, and a hearing was held that included witnesses with Recovery Schools experience from other states.

Paul Pastorek, former Louisiana education superintendent; Neerav Kingsland, former CEO New Schools for New Orleans; Kevin Hoffman, former Tennessee commissioner on education; and Sam Rauschenberg, deputy director in the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, all attended the hearing held last Wednesday. Delegates from the other states testified about their experience with Recovery School Districts, a model similar to the proposed Opportunity School Districts.

The plan deems schools that score under 60 on the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI), Georgia’s educational accountability measure, to be “failing”.

There are 141 schools that currently fit this criteria, including two charter schools. Under the Governor’s plan, the first year a school does not meet the standard they will be issued a warning, and the second year they will be on probation. In Clarke County, Gaines Elementary School would be considered for a state-takeover based off their CCRPI scores.

The Governor will appoint the new superintendent once the state takes over, and the new unit will be part of the Office of Student Achievement.

As introduced, the state will take over no more than 20 schools per year. To determine which schools these are, the state will look at other performance level indicators and whether or not the school has recently undergone leadership changes.

Once schools are selected a variety of things can happen. They can close, go under contract for specific actions and changes or become a charter school. Schools will be under the state’s jurisdiction for a minimum of five years and a maximum of ten years. The earliest this will occur is 2017-2018, and each school will still be allotted to receive their per student share of funds.

Once again, a bill on this proposal would be a constitutional amendment meaning there would be many additional hurdles to pass this through the legislative process. If it did pass, there would also be a statewide referendum.

We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of this proposal as well as the other issues on the table in Atlanta.

Have a great week!

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