Photo by Tom Hightower

The Georgia General Assembly adjourned Sine Die on March 29, marking the end of the fortieth and final day of lawmaking. During this legislative session, Georgia senators and representatives considered several bills and resolutions that, if made law, will impact the University System of Georgia (USG) and Tech.

Of the several Tech-related bills considered during this session, House Bill 683 (HB683) was the first to be passed and signed by the Governor, with a vote of 54 to 0 in the Senate and 155 to 8 in the House.

An amended Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bill, HB683 proposed amendments to the 2018 budget including provisions for and changes to certain appropriations for the university system and common schools, and will become law on the bill’s effective date, July 1, 2018.

Of the bills that did not pass in the final days of the legislative session, two were especially relevant to Tech students. One of these was Senate Bill 348 (SB348) which primarily aims to decrease the jurisdiction of campus police departments from 500 yards to 500 feet beyond university property.

Although the bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 48 to 1, its failure in the House’s Public Safety Committee means that Tech students can continue to expect campus police patrols and arrests beyond the two-block boundary that the bill would have imposed.

Senate Bill 405 (SB405) was another highly anticipated bill that did not pass this legislative session. SB405 intends to establish a new $1500 grant program for students who demonstrate financial need but are not eligible for the HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships. Despite passing in the Senate with a vote of 44 to 5, it failed to pass in the House and will not continue at this time.

Five additional bills pertaining to Tech and the USG were passed by the General Assembly and have been sent to the Governor for approval. The first of these is House Bill 684 (HB684), the general appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2019.

HB684 includes many USG and Tech specific priorities. It proposes $51.1 million to be shared among USG schools for enrollment growth, as well as an additional $60 million to repair USG facilities. Most relevant to Tech, the budget also includes $30.6 million for the Price Gilbert Library and Crosland Tower renewal project and $5 million for the Georgia Advanced Biomanufacturing Center. HB684 was passed by both chambers of the General Assembly, in the Senate with a vote of 54 to 1 and in the House with a vote of 175 to 1.

Along with HB684, two other finance-focused bills were passed. House Bill 700, which expands certain educational loans to include graduate degree program candidates, received unanimous approval from both chambers. House Bill 787, which increases funding for state charter schools, was passed in the Senate with a vote of 43 to 7 and in the House with a vote of 111 to 56.

Senate Bill 315 (SB315) was also just passed in the Senate with a vote of 42 to 7 after receiving House approval with a vote of 107 to 63.

SB315 defines unauthorized computer access as a crime,  providing that anyone convicted of password disclosure or unauthorized computer access will be “punished for a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature,” according to the language of the bill.

The final approved bill of this session, Senate Bill 339 (SB339), establishes policies of free expression on college campuses and outlines penalties for violating these policies.

Having passed in the Senate with a vote of 35 to 17 and in the House with a vote of 110 to 57, SB339 joins the other bills currently awaiting the Governor’s approval.