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Sen. Tolleson Reports from the Capitol | People

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Sen. Tolleson Reports from the Capitol

Written by Senator Tolleson, Submitted by the Senate Press Office:

This week, the legislature took the final step to preserving Georgia’s greatest gift to its students, the HOPE Scholarship. The Senate and House agreed on a final version and have sent the bill to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Putting the program on a financially sustainable path will ensure the viability of HOPE and the pre-kindergarten program for generations to come. With the first merit-based program of its kind, Georgia is still one of only ten states with an active lottery scholarship program. It’s imperative that we maintain this valuable education tool. 

The final version of the bill was amended to allow all valedictorians and salutatorians from all Georgia schools to be eligible for the Zell Miller Scholarship. It also establishes a low interest loan program that will help students presently covered under HOPE to bridge the gap between actual tuition cost and costs covered by HOPE once the bill is enacted. 

Governor Deal also chose to restore Georgia’s full-day pre-k program of six hours. Other programmatic changes include shortening the school year from 180 to 160 days, increasing class size by two students and adding 2,000 slots, bringing total enrollment to 86,000. We also reduced the decrease in pre-k teachers’ salaries. Georgia remains a leader in early childhood education and is one of only four states in the nation to provide a high-quality, universal Pre-K program. We are proud of the work our governor and legislature did to preserve this gift to Georgia’s students.

The Senate also honored Bob Izlar, director of the Center for Forest Business at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, for being recently inducted into the Swedish Royal Academy for Agriculture and Forestry. This is an extremely high honor as very few Americans receive this prestigious international award.  

It was an honor to speak at the Diversity and Inclusion Dinner with United Water and Utility Service Company, two great local partners in water solutions. United Water’s corporate parent, Suez Environment, boasts the world’s largest water and wastewater research program. As we continue to work toward establishing a sustainable infrastructure for water planning and management in Georgia, these private partners will be a vital part in improving our natural resources.

Looking ahead, the General Assembly is preparing for Crossover Day, the last day for bills to pass from one chamber to another. This falls on Day 30 of our 40-day legislative session. Lawmakers have been hard at work in committee preparing legislation to be passed by the Senate, and we’ll soon begin working on bills from the House of Representatives. One of those bills will be the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, which faces a $1.5 billion shortfall. Next week, Senators will begin work in subcommittees to analyze our spending plan and ensure that we balance the budget for the following fiscal year.   

 

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