Gold Dome Report - January 10, 2017
Greetings from the Gold Dome! Today marked the second day of the 2017 Session. It was fairly evident that Lawmakers are eager to "get down to work" to address the people's business. The annual Eggs and Issues breakfast, which is hosted by the Georgia Chamber, met early this morning. Governor Deal made remarks about the state of Georgia's economy. The full transcript from his speech can be found HERE. Tomorrow, the Governor will give his State of the State address from the House Chamber.
There are a number of new folks in the House this session:
- Rep. Dewayne Hill (District 3) is a Republican who replaced retiring Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold).
- Rep. Jason Ridley (District 6) is a Republican who won his seat over Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta).
- Rep. Matt Gurtler (District 8) is a Republican who replaced retiring Rep. Stephen Allison (R-Blairsville).
- Rep. Todd Jones (District 25) is a Republican who replaced retiring Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek).
- Rep. Matt Dubnik (District 29) is a Republican who replaced retiring Rep. Carl Rogers (R-Gainesville).
- Rep. Deborah Silcox (District 52) is a Republican who took the seat previously held by Rep. Joe Wilkinson (R-Atlanta).
- Rep. David Dreyer (District 59) is a Democrat who took the seat previously held by Rep. Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta).
- Rep. William Boddie (District 62) is a Democrat who took outgoing Rep. LaDawn Jones (D-Atlanta).
- Rep. Debra Bazemore (District 63) is a Democrat who replaced retiring Rep. Ronnie Mabra (D-Atlanta).
- Rep. Derrick Jackson (District 64) is a Democrat who replaced retiring Rep. Virgil Fludd (D-Fayetteville).
- Rep. J. Collins (District 68) is a Republican who took the seat held by now Judge Dusty Hightower (R-Carrollton).
- Rep. Josh Bonner (District 72) is a Republican who replaced retiring Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City).
- Rep. Karen Mathiak (District 73) is a Republican who won her seat over Rep. John Yates (R-Griffin).
- Rep. Rhonda Burnough (District 77) is a Democrat who took the seat previously held by Rep. Darryl Jordan (D-Riverdale).
- Rep. Meagan Hanson (District 80) is a Republican who defeated Rep. Taylor Bennett (D-Atlanta).
- Rep. Renitta Shannon (District 84) is a Democrat who took the seat held previously by Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur).
- Rep. Vernon Jones (District 91) is a Democrat who took the seat held previously by Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D-Lithonia).
- Rep. Scott Hilton (District 95) is a Republican who replaced retiring Rep. Tom Rice (R-Norcross).
- Rep. Brenda Lopez (District 99) is a Democrat who took the seat previously held by Rep. Hugh Floyd (D-Tucker).
- Rep. Samuel Park (District 101) is a Democrat who defeated Rep. Valerie Clark (R-Lawrenceville).
- Rep. Clay Cox (District 108) is a Republican and former member of the House who took the seat held previously by Rep. B.J. Pak (R-Lilburn).
- Rep. Mark Newton (District 123) is a Republican who took the seat from retiring member Rep. Barbara Sims (R-Augusta).
- Rep. Sheila Clark Nelson (District 125) is a Democrat who replaced Rep. Earnest Smith (D-Augusta).
- Rep. Bill McGowan (District 138) is a Democrat who defeated Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus).
- Rep. Miriam Paris (District 142) is a Democrat who replaced retiring Rep. Nikki Randall (D-Macon).
- Rep. Ricky Williams (District 145) is a Republican who replaced retiring Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville).
- Rep. Carl Gilliard (District 162) is a Democrat who replaced the former Rep. Bob Bryant (D-Garden City).
- Rep. Don Hogan (District 179) is a Republican who replaced retiring Rep. Alex Atwood (R-St. Simons).
Governor Deal announced late Monday that two members have been added to the State Board of Education. Those individuals are the former Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) and Lee Anne Cowart who is from Thomson. Rep. Cheokas now takes the Second Congressional Seat on the Board and Ms. Cowart assumes the Tenth Congressional Seat.
New Committee Chairs
The Senate Committee on Assignments has announced changes to its list of standing committee chairs and vice chairs for the first session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly:
- Sen. Brandon Beach (R – Alpharetta) will serve as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.
- Sen. Ellis Black (R – Valdosta) will serve as chair of the Senate Retirement Committee.
- Sen. Mike Dugan (R – Carrollton) will serve as chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee.
- Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R – Rome) will serve as chair of the Senate Finance Committee and as vice chair of the Senate Retirement Committee.
- Sen. Burt Jones (R – Jackson) will serve as chair of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.
- Sen. William Ligon (R – Brunswick) will serve as chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and as vice chair of the Senate Ethics and Reapportionment and Redistricting Committees.
- Sen. Jesse Stone (R – Waynesboro) will serve as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah) will serve as chair of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee.
- Sen. Lee Anderson (R – Grovetown) will serve as vice chair of the Senate Agriculture and Science and Technology Committees.
- Sen. Matt Brass (R – Newnan) will serve as vice chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee.
- Sen. Dean Burke (R – Bainbridge) will serve as vice chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
- Sen. John Kennedy (R – Macon) will serve as vice chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.
- Sen. P.K. Martin (R – Lawrenceville) will serve as vice chair of the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations and Higher Education Committees.
- Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia) will serve as vice chair of the Senate State Institutions and Properties Committee.
"These senators have distinguished themselves as leaders in the Senate and they are committed to advancing the interests of every Georgia citizen," said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. "I look forward to their work as chairs and vice chairs of the Senate Standing Committees and am confident they will bring a great deal of insight to the legislation that comes before their committee."
"The Georgia Senate is composed of individuals with a breadth of talent and experience," said President Pro Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth). "I believe our new committee chairs and members have the right expertise to address critical issues. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that Georgia’s priorities are the Senate’s priorities."
Once a piece of legislation is introduced in the Senate, it is assigned to a committee depending on its topic. If the committee gives the legislation a "do pass" recommendation, the proposed law is then sent to the Rules Committee for consideration.
The appointed chairs will oversee the operation and order of Senate committee meetings; including calling for action on bills, resolutions or other matters assigned to that committee.
Joint Education Committee
A Joint House and Senate Education Committee held a meeting today for the purpose of hearing testimony from the State Department of Education and school superintendents regarding the CCRPI. There are two new members on the Education Committees. Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) will join the House Education Committee and Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan) is the newest member of the Senate Education and Youth Committee. Chairman Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) recognized Melissa Fincher, who spoke on behalf of the department. She began by saying that teaching and learning are the drivers of education in Georgia and that assessments should inform instruction. She went over the different types of assessments that Georgia offers students. Formative assessments take place during instruction, throughout the year. One example of a formative assessment is the GKIDS program. Interim assessments are given at certain times to measure content that has just been taught, such as benchmarking assessments. Summative assessments take place at the end of instruction and certify that students have mastered the content. She discussed the Georgia Milestones tests, which are mandated in the 3rd and 8th grades. The Georgia Alternative Assessment serves as the alternative to the Milestones tests.
When asked by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) about federally mandated tests, Mrs. Fincher indicated that Georgia requires more assessments than are required by the federal government. Science assessments are given once in elementary schools and once every six-to-eight months in high school. Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) asked what the maximum number of tests a school system in Georgia can give to students. She indicated that one system gives around 20 assessments to students throughout the year. There was some discussion about potentially replacing some of the Georgia Milestones tests with math courses, which Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead) seemed to support. Many members of the Committee asked her about the timing of required end of year assessments. Specifically, they wondered if the tests could be given closer to the end of the year. Mrs. Fincher stated that one reason they provide the tests earlier is for those students who need to retake the test for various reasons. Some members, including Chairman Tippins, believe that keeping end-of-course and end-of-grade assessments closer to the end of the school year would allow for more instructional time. Mrs. Fincher indicated that she and the Department will work to address some of these concerns and become more efficient when administering the tests.
Chuck Clay introduced a number of School Superintendents who are members of the Georgia Education Coalition, which represents 9 schools systems that serve around 40% of the State's student population. Dr. Brian Hightower is the Superintendent of the Cherokee County School System. He stated that a couple of schools located in Cherokee County, which are nearly listed as failing under the Governor's Office of Student Achievement's grading scale, are not broken like the rating indicates. These two schools have seen great improvements recently. He said that Lieutenant Governor Cagle actually visited the school and was surprised when he was told of their low rating score. Chairman Brooks Coleman indicated to Dr. Hightower that he would like to schedule a visit to one of these schools. David Goldie and Vijay Purugulla spoke to the Committee on behalf of the Fulton County School System, thanking the Committee for their work. They were also concerned that some schools are given a rating that they should not have received. Mary Elizabeth Davis, who is the chief Academic Officer at Cobb County Schools, offered her insight on the issue as well. Overall, the school superintendents' comments were well received. Chairman Coleman said that these are the types of question that the Committee needs answered. Chairman Tippins adjourned the meeting after public comment concluded.
HB 9, by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), would add a new Code section at O.C.G.A. § 16-11-61.1 to prohibit individuals from using or installing a device for the purpose of surreptitiously video recording or photographing another person (defined as an individual who is 16 years of age or older) for the purpose of viewing that person’s body or undergarments. The dissemination of any such video recording or image is also prohibited. The bill provides exceptions for law enforcement and prosecution agencies and for retailers that provide surveillance of a customer changing room if such retailer places conspicuous signs to warn customers of its surveillance.
HB 27, by Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) would add a new Code section at 44-14-162.5 that would seek to provide an opportunity for a debtor to cure a foreclosure and bring the debt current by making all past due payments along with any late fees. The code section applies to property that is currently used as a dwelling place by the debtor who is an original borrower who entered into the mortgage or lien contract. The debtor would have the right to have enforcement of the power of sale discontinued as long as the debtor pays the creditor all sums which would be due if no acceleration had occurred; cures any default of any other terms of the mortgage; and pays all expenses and fees due as a result of the acceleration. The legislation indicates the methods of payment that would be acceptable, including cash, money order, electronic funds transfer, or a certified or cashier's check. Upon reinstatement, the debtor's obligation to pay such payments shall remain fully effective.
HB 32, by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson), amends O.C.G.A § 16-6-5.1 relating to sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority, by prohibiting sexual contact between employees or agents of a school. The bill also repeals the current exception provided for married couples that are employed at the same school.
Our 2017 Georgia Capitol team consists of Stan Jones, Helen Sloat, Chuck Clay, George Ray, and Logan Fletcher. We will also try our hand at tweeting this year – so follow us! @GDR_Live
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.