Update from the Gold Dome: Week 8
By: Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga)
Next week, the Georgia General Assembly will hit an important deadline: Crossover Day. The 30th day of the legislative session is an important one, as any bill that doesn’t receive a full vote in their chamber of origin will be no longer eligible for consideration in 2015. However, since this is the first half of a biennial term, any unsuccessful bills will simply carry over to the next legislative session in 2016. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it gives legislators a chance to fine tune or fix pieces of legislation that aren’t quite ready to proceed through the legislative process.
Two of the most prominent pieces of legislation passed this week were Senate Resolution 287 and Senate Bill 133. Together, they would create a state-wide Opportunity School District that will assist and improve schools that have failed to meet performance standards for three or more consecutive years.
SR 287 proposes a constitutional amendment that would authorize the creation of a statewide Opportunity School District. If approved by Georgia voters on the November 2016 general election ballot, this district would assume all operational and managerial responsibility for failing public elementary and secondary schools. The resolution passed the Senate by a vote of 38 - 15; reaching the 2/3 majority needed.
SB 133 is the enabling legislation that establishes the Opportunity School District upon ratification of the constitutional amendment. The jurisdiction of the school district would fall under the control of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, and the Opportunity School District superintendent would be appointed by the Governor and subject to Senate confirmation. The Opportunity School District would provide oversight to schools that are defined as persistently failing, or as scoring below 60 on the College and Career Performance Index (CCRPI), for three consecutive years. SB 133 passed by a vote of 38 – 17 and will now transfer to the House with SR 287 for consideration.
With the passage SB 129, the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Senate took a critical step in ensuring citizens across the state are able to freely express their religious beliefs without government intrusion. SB 129, which closely mirrors the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 1993, requires a higher standard for the state government to restrict the free exercise of religion. The measure now moves to the House for consideration.
The Senate also passed SB 89, known as the “Digital Classroom Act” this week. The legislation encourages local boards of education to make all classroom material electronically accessible by July 1, 2020. Students will receive free instructional devices provided by schools under SB 89, which includes laptops, tablets or other wireless electronic devices. Funding to assist local boards in obtaining complete digital access will be subject to Appropriations, with the State Board of Education annually presenting their recommendations to the General Assembly for consideration. Promoting technology use in the classroom will provide Georgia’s students and teachers with the educational tools and skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century.
As always, I am honored to represent you in the 53rd Senate District. Please feel free to contact my office at any time to talk about pending legislation or address other concerns in our district – my door and phone lines are always open!
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Sen. Jeff Mullis serves as Chairman of the Rules Committee. He represents the 53rd Senate District, which includes Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties and portions of Chattooga County. He can be reached at his office in Atlanta at 404.656.0057 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.