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Sine Die can’t come soon enough for those of us who are weary from the longer than usual legislative session.  Yet, the General Assembly still has a full day ahead, and the 40th day can be a dangerous time as  troubling amendments can be attached to seemingly innocuous bills.

Most of my day will be spent watching out for amendments to bills that can affect kids.

The major item that the House and Senate must pass is the FY 11 conference committee report on the budget.  Based on tonight’s conference committee meeting, I expect that House and Senate leadership will congratulate each other tomorrow on the work that they did together to ensure that core state services are funded.  They will state that the budget process this year was transparent, that legislators in both chamber came together to make hard decisions in tough budget times, and they will state that the primary objective of the budget is to help strengthen Georgia’s economy.  Then, they will pass the budget.

But, tomorrow is also expected to be a day on which some of the most controversial social issues, including guns and abortion, are debated on the floor.  A conference committee is expected to meet to work to ensure that provisions on graduated sanctions are included in a juvenile justice bill.  The House could take up a bill that would base teacher salaries on student performance.  And the House and Senate must reach agreement on bills banning texting while driving.

And, throughout the day, we’ll learn who is filing to run for office and who is opting to retire as election qualifying week continues and legislators take the well to tell their colleagues that this will be their last sine die as members of the House or Senate.  Many members are retiring or leaving the legislature to run for other office.  The last number of empty seats expected was 21.

Voices will be at the Capitol all day and will share news about legislation relevent to children’s advocates.

Mindy Binderman

Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

www.georgiavoices.org

The Conference Committee on FY 2011 Budget held a public meeting tonight to sign the conference committee report that will be presented to the House and Senate tomorrow.  I waited all day for news of the meeting and had returned home when I received notice that the conferees would be meeting at 9 pm. 

It was worth the drive back downtown to hear a little good budget news.  So far, based on comments at the meeting and discussion with the always helpful, calm, knowledgeable and gracious budget staff afterwards, I have be able to confirm that the conferees:

  • Rejected the Senate’s proposed additional $727,000 cut to school nurses;
  • Provided $10 million for a new needs based HOPE scholarship (the Senate had proposed $52 million while the House had originally included nothing)
  • Cut by about half the Senate’s proposal to reduce DJJ funds for a regional principal, an assistant principal, and 17 certified teaching positions and replacing them with 15 GED instructors;
  • Rejected the $3.1 million in DJJ funding proposed by the Senate which would have eliminated summer school in 18 Secure Detention Facilities (RYDCs).
  • Included Peachcare Premiums in the amount proposed in the House Budget and attached budget language proposed by the Senate;
  • Fully funded Medicaid,  and
  • Included funds for programs for foster care families without a specific reference to Project Embrace.

 

I did not get details about Babies Born Healthy or specific items in the Department of Education budget which, according to comments from Chairman Harbin, may have been spared some cuts and hope to have more information in the morning.

We can’t forget that, in context, the FY 11 budget, as well as the FY 10 amended budget, contain deep, potentially devastating cuts to child welfare programs, education, and benefits eligibility workers.  Most of the conference committee actions for kids reduce but do not eliminate program cuts. Yet, the conferees deserve our thanks for trying to alleviate a bit of the harm that a few specific cuts may have inflicted.

The conference committee report will be delivered to the House and Senate tomorrow- just in time for Sine Die.

Mindy Binderman

Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

www.georgiavoices.org

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