This Week Under the Gold Dome: Week 5

Transportation Update

This week the Transportation Committee passed House Bill 170 by committee substitute. As it was passed by committee substitute, the bill has seen many changes since its original version. One of the new amendments allows local governments to create a 1.25 percent sales tax instead of the 1 percent allowed by current law. This increase was designed to give counties the ability to generate more money since they will be losing the revenue from a local gas tax.

According to the fiscal note released by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, HB 170 falls short of the original study committee’s goal. The study found that $1 to $1.5 billion additional funds were needed for transportation. The audit states that this bill will fall short of $1 billion by $125 million in its first year. The five year average of additional funds comes close to the committee’s $1 billion minimum.

The bill was passed out of committee last Wednesday and heads to the Rules committee to be assigned a day on the House floor for debate and vote. The bill might to be put on the floor sometime this week.

Water Debate

Lake Lanier is more than just a place where families can go for a fun day of water sports. In 1957, the completion of its damn created a source of hydroelectric power. But as demand increased for Atlanta’s growing population, it became a source of fresh water for the city in 1989. Since that point in time, there has been a dispute between Georgia, Alabama and Florida over water rights. The river that supplies the lake flows downstream to Alabama and Florida. Many lawsuits have been filed over the years on issues ranging from environmental violations   to endangering species. Georgia’s main concern is providing water to the millions who call Atlanta home. Additionally, there are disagreements about the water this takes away from residents in South Georgia.

The dispute continues as the Governor has now transferred $4 million from his emergency fund to finance the newest aspects of the lawsuit. The governor’s emergency fund is a separate part of the budget from which the governor can allocate resources without the legislature’s approval. Florida seeks to reduce Georgia’s withdrawal levels to 1992 levels. However, Atlanta’s population has about 2.4 million more people now than it did at that point.

Georgia has rejected Florida’s argument, and negotiations continue between the states.

What’s Happening in the House

Jason Flatt Act-Georgia ǀ House Bill 198

Rep. Frye and the Georgia House of Representatives unanimously voted to approve House Bill 198 on Thursday. HB 198, also known as the Jason Flatt Act-Georgia, addresses an issue that no family should have to endure. After Clark Flatt’s son Jason took his own life, Clark Flatt helped create this legislation to honor his son’s memory. It has since been passed in 12 states other than Georgia. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among ten to 24-year-olds. This bill establishes that the Department of Education will require public school personnel to receive training on suicide and awareness and prevention.

House Bill 100

The House of Representatives approved on Wednesday House Bill 100 which changes the qualifying date for children to enter kindergarten. This bill changes the cutoff date for enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year from September 1 to August 1 and then to July 1 for all school years following. These dates apply to enrollment in a kindergarten programs, also. Students would have to turn five on or before these dates to enroll in kindergarten.

Rep. Frye voted against HB 100. Frye explained, “Early learning has been directly tied to future success in later school years, and we should do everything we can to expand access to early learning rather than restrict it.”

Senate Bill 5

Senate Bill 5 arrived in the House on Thursday and was unanimously approved by Rep. Frye and the other members of the House. It was also unanimously approved in the Senate. This bill authorizes the Georgia Port Authority to accept loans and grants from the federal government. This bill was an essential step in beginning the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. This project is expected to bring new industry and more jobs to Georgia as a result of the deepened Panama Canal and is scheduled for completion scheduled in 2020.

We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of these issues as well as the other business Rep. Frye is working for you on under the dome.