The big story last week was the return of HR 1162, the charter school amendment. It had been defeated in a floor vote a couple of weeks ago but remained alive because a motion to reconsider was adopted. This time it passed by a three vote margin and now heads to the Senate.
Since I wrote in some detail about this legislation previously, I will not do so again here. Changes were made to the bill in the interim, but the basic problem remains the same. This would allow the state to create a charter school then divert funding from the local school district to the charter school. The local school board would then be faced with the choice of making cuts to offset this loss of funding or raising local property taxes to fill the gap.
As I have said all along, I have no problem with charter schools and think they can serve a legitimate and useful role in our education system. However, I cannot support creating them in a way that penalizes the students in our public schools by further depriving them of resources. The blunt reality is this: no matter how many ways we as a state create to try to shift students from our public schools, from a statewide perspective none of them will ever affect more than a relative handful of students. Thus, the overwhelming majority of our students will still be attending our traditional public schools. This means that if we are to make real improvements in our education system, we must put our focus on the overwhelming majority instead of the relative handful. Legislation like HR 1162, in my view, takes us in the opposite direction.
Other legislation voted on in the House last week included HB 875. This bill address the problem of various merchants obtaining mailing address and other contact information on persons who obtain hunting licenses, fishing licenses, and the like through the Department of Natural Resources. They do this by submitting requests for information through the state’s open records act. HB 875 addresses this by declaring that such contact information is not subject to open records requests. This bill passed overwhelmingly and now goes to the Senate.
Finally, HB 419 addresses the high number of foreclosures on homes in our state. Basically, this bill allows homeowners in foreclosure to pay all past due amounts plus any accrued expenses, including costs of the foreclosure, until five days prior to the foreclosure sale. If the homeowner is able to do this, the lender accepts those payments and the mortgage is reinstated. This allows the homeowners to keep their home and avoid foreclosure.
Obviously, this space does not allow me to include everything. If you have questions or concerns about these bills or other legislation, please let me know. Remember that you can read bills and see other information, including watching floor sessions and many committee meetings, by going to www.legis.ga.gov. You can reach me during session by sending an email to email@example.com or calling (404) 656-0265. As always, thank you for the honor of representing you in the Georgia House of Representatives.