Capitol Update Week 8 – HOPE, Immigration, Human Trafficking

This week, as we passed the halfway point of the legislative session, the Georgia House passed several important measures – HB 326 HOPE preservation, HB 200 Anti-Human Trafficking, and HB 87 Anti-Illegal Immigration bills.

Under HB 326, next year, merit-based HOPE scholarship students attending public colleges and universities, as well as technical college students, will receive 90% of 2011 tuitionamounts. HOPE scholarship students attending private colleges and universities would receive $3,600 for tuition. The HOPE Scholarship will continue to require a 3.0 GPA, but will no longer cover books, fees or remedial college classes. The bill also creates the Zell Miller Scholarship, which will offer full tuition to Georgia’s public colleges to students who graduate from high school with a minimum 3.7 GPA and1200 on the SAT or 26 on the ACT. To continue receiving the Zell Miller Scholarship these students will have to maintain a 3.3 GPA while attending college. Home school students continue to qualify for HOPE as they have in the past.

House Bill 200 targets the horrendous crime of human trafficking and gives victims of this crime a pathway out of their criminally forced servitude. Gwinnett’s own Rep Buzz Brockway co-sponsored and spoke forcefully from the well in support of passage (view Rep Brockway video on HB 200 here).

With nearly 425,000 illegal aliens, Georgia has the seventh highest total illegal population in the nation. After exhaustive public hearings and 21 revisions, the House passed House Bill 87, legislation calling for fair practices for Georgia’s laborers and local communities. Under HB 87, employers would be required to verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States by using the E-Verify system. Additionally, HB 87 requires secure and verifiable identification for official purposes, and helps local law enforcement agencies handle issues associated with illegal immigration. It is important to note that this legislation does not affect the existing H-2A visa programthat provides a legal avenue for foreign workers to temporarily come to Georgia and work with the agriculture industry in our state. Gwinnett again actively participated in this legislation as Rep B.J. Pak assisted in rewriting several sections to improve enforcement, eliminate profiling, provide a private cause of action, and preserve our clergy and non-profit community’s ability to continue humane activities.

Now that House Bills 326, 87, and 200 have passed the House, they will make their way through the Senate committee process. If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, these bills will become law.

Finally this week, HB 291, the bill I authored to prevent non-tax fees added to property tax bills had a preliminary hearing in the Ways and Means Ad Valorem Subcommittee. The meeting was well attended and the bill received great interest. I anticipate additional committee meetings in the near future.

Next week, the House will consider HB 175 that I co-sponsored with Rep David Casas, providing an Online Clearinghouse for local school systems to make online classes available to students across the state.

As I continue to consider sensitive issues and legislation, I need to know how you and your family feel about matters concerning the future of our state. Please feel free to call me with any questions or comments that you might have regarding HOPE, illegal immigration, public safety, or an outstanding member of our local community deserving recognition. You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-7859 or on my cell at 404-966-5804 or via email at brett.harrell@house.ga.gov.