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Changes to ELOST, lottery proposed

February 10, 2019

Legislation that could allow Georgia schools to use sales tax revenue to hire mental health counselors and security guards is pending in the finance committee chaired by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler.

The Rome Republican sets the agenda for the committee, which already has several bills lined up for review.

State law currently limits education local option sales tax funds to capital expenses, and ELOST is typically used for construction, building improvements and furnishings. Senate Resolution 12 calls for a statewide vote to add school security measures, to include “the hiring of persons for purposes of providing building and campus security or mental health services.”

The resolution is sponsored by Sen. John Albers, R-Alpharetta, the Senate’s chief deputy whip and vice chair of the finance committee. It’s co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who chairs the powerful Rules Committee that determines what bills can come to the chamber’s floor for action.

Hufstetler’s committee also is assigned to review SR 85, which would let the General Assembly divert some lottery revenue from education purposes to assist veterans.

The bipartisan measure also would require a vote to amend the state constitution. If approved, the Legislature could designate the proceeds from one or more lottery games to address veterans’ PTSD, homelessness, health insurance, disability, long-term care or employment needs.

SR 85 is sponsored by Sen. Ed Harbison, a Democrat from Columbus, and co-sponsored by Marietta Republican Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick. Other signers are Sens. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville; Chuck Payne, R-Dalton; Tonya Anderson, D-Lithonia; and Michael “Doc” Rhett, D-Marietta.

Hufstetler has not scheduled either resolution for discussion yet and, as of Friday, at least four other bills had been assigned to the committee.

A meeting is set for 1 p.m. Monday and another for Thursday at 2 p.m. The proceedings can be viewed online through a livestream link on the Senate website at www.senate.ga.gov.

Committee meetings follow the morning meetings of each full chamber of the General Assembly, which convenes at 10 a.m. Monday for the 12th day of the 40-day 2019 session. Lawmakers are slated to meet every day this week and the schedule set last week calls for them to wrap up April 2. Crossover Day — the deadline for legislation to clear at least one chamber to continue moving forward this year — is set for March 7.

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