Gold Dome Report - January 11, 2016
Today marked the first day of the 2016 legislative session and the first day of the second year of the legislative cycle. All pieces of legislation which did not receive attention and action in 2015 are eligible to be addressed this year. Both the House and the Senate convened at 10:00 a.m. this morning and adopted their Rules resolutions.
There are a number of new faces under the Gold Dome:
- Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry; who replaced former Sen. Ross Tolleson (R-Perry))
- Sen. JaNice VanNess (R-Conyers, who replaced Sen. Ron Ramsey (D-Lithonia))
- Rep. Taylor Bennett (D-Brookhaven, who replaced Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta))
- Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire, who replaced Rep. Larry O'Neal (R-Bonaire))
- Rep. Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia, who replaced Rep. Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia))
- Rep. Sheri Gilligan (R-Cumming, who replaced Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming))
- Rep. Marie Metze (D-Atlanta, who replaced Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta))
- Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn, who replaced Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla))
- Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell, who replaced Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell))
A Senate schedule has been proposed for the General Assembly for the following days:
January 12, 2016 – Legislative Day 2
January 13, 2016 – Legislative Day 3
January 14, 2016 – Legislative Day 4
January 15, 2016 – Legislative Day 5
January 20, 2016 – Legislative Day 6
January 21, 2016 – Legislative Day 7
January 22, 2016 – Legislative Day 8
January 25, 2016 – Legislative Day 9
January 26, 2016 – Legislative Day 10
January 27, 2016 – Legislative Day 11
January 28, 2016 – Legislative Day 12
February 1, 2016 – Legislative Day 13
Rumor is that lawmakers would like to conclude their work by March 24, 2016 to allow them the ability to return home to campaign for re-election.
Governor Deal will unveil shortly his goals for the FY 2016 Amended and FY 2017 Budgets. The House and Senate have worked out a schedule for joint hearings starting next week. See the attached link below for the schedule:
Study Committee Updates
Various study committees have held meetings throughout the year. Many of these groups have created final reports to summarize their work. Links to those with available reports can be found below:
House Study Committee Reports
Adult Day Services
Fibroids Education and Awareness
HOPE Scholarship Program Award for Critical Field Fields
Intellectual and Developmental Disability Community-based Services
Life Insurance Consumer Disclosures
Senate Study Committee Reports
Rate of Diagnosis for Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
HB 19, by Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville), would amend O.C.G.A. § 40-5-100, to require the Department of Driver Services to make the name, date of birth, and most recent address of anatomical gift donation program participants available to federally designated organ procurement organizations. This information is to be used in the establishment of a state-wide organ donor registry accessible to organ tissue and eye banks. Each application for issuance, reissuance, or renewal shall include a voluntary contribution of $1 to the Department of Public Health to be used for the purposes of preventing blindness and preserving the sight of Georgia's citizens.
HB 28, by Rep. Ronnie Mabra (D-Fayetteville), would create O.C.G.A. § 43-34-46 to require medical patients who are prescribed Schedule II or III pain relief substances for 90 consecutive days or greater to participate in a counseling program meant to educate and advise concerning the risks of addiction to prescribed substances. Officially called "Opioid Education and Pro-Active Addiction Counseling," the program would not cost more than $100.00 per session to the patient. HB 28 would amend O.C.G.A. § 43-2-34.
HB 29, by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), would create a new chapter at O.C.G.A. § 50-15A-1 to provide for the preservation of religious freedom on a State government level. This piece of legislation notes the need for protection from encroachments on religious exercise from State or local law or governments, akin to the religious exercise protections offered by the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993" on the federal government level. Citing that other states have successfully instituted state-level religious freedom statutes since the aforementioned Act passed, HB 29 clarifies that Georgia State government shall not hinder the religious practice of any Georgia citizen even if the hindrance results from a rule of general applicability, except for extreme cases.
HB 31, by Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain), would add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 44-14-162.5 to give a debtor, in the event of foreclosure, the chance to cure said foreclosure by paying all debts to the creditor. According to this piece of legislation, the debtor must act at least five calendar days prior to foreclosure in order to pay the debts.
HB 35, by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), would amend O.C.G.A. § 48-7-29.16, relating to the qualified education tax credit, to increase the total amount of tax credits allowed from $58 million to $250 million.
HB 39, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), would revise subsection (a) of O.C.G.A. § 20-2-690.1, expanding the requirements for compulsory attendance in elementary and secondary education. Deemed the "Dropout Deterrent Act," this piece of legislation mandates that attendance in a public school, private school or home school program is required for children between the ages of five and seventeen (previously required for children between the ages of six and sixteen). The "Dropout Deterrent Act" does not apply to students who have completed all requirements for a high school diploma.
HB 702, by Rep. Emory Dunahoo (R-Gainesville), would alter Georgia's laws concerning the use of force in defense of oneself or others and the punishments for serious violent offenders. It would specifically amend O.C.G.A. § 16-3-21(d) and allow a battered persons defense for aggravated assault or aggravated battery. It would also amend O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.1(e) regarding the punishments for serious violent offenders permitting the court discretion and allow for the judge to depart from the mandatory minimum sentences in such instances (if the defendant had been a victim of acts of family violence or child abuse committed by the deceased and in the interest of justice when the imposition of the prescribed mandatory minimum sentence will not be served).
HB 703, by Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland), would create a new Article I in Chapter 41 (Chapter addressing the "Georgia Captive Insurance Company Act") of the Insurance Code found in Title 33. Extensive revisions are made adding definitions for types of captive insurance companies; requirements and restrictions of a protected cell captive insurance company; provisions of reporting to be made to the Commissioner of Insurance; provision of a report; creation and regulation of different types of captive insurance companies; creation and regulation of special purpose financial captive insurance companies; etc.
HB 704, by Rep. John Pezold (R-Columbus), would create a new Chapter 23 in Title 22 to allow for the industrial cultivation of hemp. It defines "industrial hemp" as "the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-0 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis." A grower who would cultivate industrial hemp would be required to obtain a license from the Department of Agriculture which could inspect the hemp crop for compliance. It would further permit an institution of higher education to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program approved by the Department. It would further allow an individual to possess or have under his or her control industrial hemp under certain conditions (having obtained a license from the Department or if he or she is a part of a study by an institution of higher education) in O.C.G.A. § 16-12-191. Improper cultivation, distribution, dispensing, selling or possessing with the intent to distribute such industrial hemp without a license would be a felony which could be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years, a fine not to exceed $50,000.00 or both.
HB 705, by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), would create a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 37-1-7 to require a mental health care provider (a physician or psychologist) who provides mental health treatment to a patient to provide such patient periodic opportunities for the patient to designate a family member or other individual he or she selects as a person with whom the provider may discuss the patient's medical condition and treatment plan. This information would be captured on an information form or through electronic records. The form would be provided: for inpatient, emergency room or residential care, such would be done upon admission or transfer to the facility and upon discharge (if the patient remains in the facility, the opportunity is to be repeated within 72 hours of admission and seven days after admission); and a patient in an ambulatory or outpatient care would be offered the opportunity upon admission or transfer to the practitioner or entity which provides the mental health treatment and upon discharge or transfer from that practitioner or entity (as long as the patient remains in the practitioner's or entity's care, the opportunity is to be repeated seven days after admission, 30 days after admission and then quarterly). The legislation proposes the language for this designation and permits the mental healthcare provider to disclose information unless the authorization has been revoked or modified. It also requires mental healthcare providers subject to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) to complete continuing education for licensure renewal about how the law applies to the disclosure of mental health information to family, friends, and other representatives of a patient and requires such continuing education to conform to the guidance established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
HB 707, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), would amend O.C.G.A. § 40-6-186 and O.C.G.A. § 40-6-251 to increase the severity of the penalty for breaking certain uniform rules of the road. Racing on highways or streets and driving in a circular or zigzag course would be considered felonies. Both crimes are proposed to be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, a fine of not less than $1,000.00 nor more than $5,000.00, or both such fine and imprisonment.
HB 708, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), is a four-part Act that generally relates to the Georgia Driver's Education Commission. Part I of the Act repeals a provision at O.C.G.A. § 15-21-179 which sunsets the collection of additional penalties upon fines for the violation of traffic laws. Part II amends the education curriculum at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-149.3, installing driver education and training elective course in all Georgia schools with grades nine through 12. This course will be worth a half credit and will begin in the 2017-2018 school year. Part III changes the rules for acquiring drivers' licenses at O.C.G.A. § 40-5-21. The minimum age to acquire a license is changed from 16 to 17 and the minimum age to acquire an instruction permit is changed from 15 to 16. Part IV mandates that Part I of the Act will become effective on July 1, 2017, and Part II and Part III become effective on July 1, 2016.
HB 709, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), would amend O.C.G.A. § 16-11-129 to require the completion of firearms safety training to acquire a weapons carry license, in cases of certain persons. According to the Act, carry license applicants must complete firearms safety training within three years prior to the date of application. Applicants may satisfy the training requirement by submitting proof that they: 1) are a peace officer; 2) are serving on active duty or in an active reserve component with the U.S. armed forces or Georgia National Guard; 3) are a firearms safety instructor certified by the National Rifle Association holding a rating as a personal protection instructor or pistol marksmanship instructor; or 4) has received basic firearms training provided by a lawfully recognized trainer. This Act is proposed to become effective on January 1, 2017.
HB 711, by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Atlanta), would amend Chapter 1 of Title 36 by adding a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 36-1-27 and proposes the creation of special districts in Georgia counties to correlate with pension obligations. "Pension obligation," in this context, refers to the amount of unfunded pension liability attributed to a special district for a period of 30 years. Based on the provisions of this piece of legislation, the pension obligation becomes the responsibility of the related special district via an ad valorem tax until the 30 years are over and the pension obligation is retired.
HB 712, by Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta), relating to the Department of Administrative Services, would create the Division of Supplier Diversity by adding a new 'Article 5' at O.C.G.A. § 50-5-150. It also provides for the appointment of a director.
HB 713, by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), would amend O.C.G.A. § 15-11-2 and Title 19 to provide that parental rights may be terminated when it is determined that a parent caused a child to be conceived as a result of rape, incest, or trafficking for sexual servitude.
HB 714, by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), would amend O.C.G.A. § 48-7-27 to exempt retirement income received from military service from State income tax. In order to offset the cost, there would be an increase the excise tax on cigarettes from 37 cents per pack, to 55 cents per pack.
HB 715, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), would require the Veteran Service Board, at O.C.G.A. § 38-4-57, to apply for certification for the Georgia State War Veterans' Home to obtain approval to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. This must be done no later than July 1, 2016. These programs would be used as funding sources for paying a portion of the operating costs for facilities. The bill further proposes to authorize the Department of Veteran Service to collect money from veteran patients of the Georgia State War Veterans' Home directly or through a third party payor.
HB 716, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), would create a new chapter in Title 43 to require that a person who is licensed to provide professional counseling shall not engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under 18 years of age. This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, professional counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists.
HB 717, by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), would amend O.C.G.A. § 40-2-85.1 to provide for a woman veteran's license plate.
HB 718, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), would amend O.C.G.A. § 42-1-11.3 to prohibit the use of individual mechanical restraints, including handcuffs and shackles, on pregnant inmates at penal institutions. Such restraints are prohibited while an inmate is experiencing labor or during delivery or postdelivery recovery, unless there is a reason to believe that use of such restraints is necessary to prevent the inmate from harming herself or her child.
HB 719, proposed by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), would require at O.C.G.A.§ 45-2-10, that in addition to all other qualifications, a person be a legal resident of Georgia in order to be eligible to serve on any municipal, county, or State commission, board, or authority.
HB 720, by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), would amend O.C.G.A. § 36-80-1 and O.C.G.A. § 50-1-10 to require that any individual appointed to authorities, boards, councils, and commissions be a citizen of the United States and a legal resident of the jurisdiction being served for one year prior to such appointment. That requirement increases to four years for people being appointed to serve on a state authority, board, council or commission.
HB 721, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), would revise the provisions relating to the sale, use, or explosion of fireworks. It changes the times and locations in which fireworks may be used. In O.C.G.A. § 25-10-1, it defines the phrase "used for residential purposes" to mean any lot or tract five acres or less in size on which is constructed a habitable dwelling unit". O.C.G.A. § 25-10-2 would be amended to prohibit the use of consumer fireworks within 50 feet of residential buildings and within any park, historical site, or recreational area operated by a governing authority, except pursuant to a special permit. It would remain lawful to use fireworks on residential property between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on the following dates: March 17, the last Monday in May, July 4, the first Monday in September, and December 31. Use of fireworks would not be permitted on residential property after 10:00 p.m., but they could be used on any property other than residential property. O.C.G.A.§ 36-60-24 would be further amended to state that governing authorities of a county or municipality can further regulate the use of consumer fireworks.
HB 722, by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), amends Title 31 by repealing O.C.G.A. § 31-2A-18 in order to establish a patient registry system for patients who use medical cannabis. The bill would create a new chapter at O.C.G.A. § 31-2B-1. It increases the number of qualifying medical conditions to 17, to include: Cancer (end stage); Mitochondrial disease; Parkinson's disease; Sickle cell disease; Glaucoma; Human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome; Tourette's syndrome; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Seizures; Severe muscle spasms; Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome; Epidemolysis bullosa; Terminal illness, with probable life expectancy of under one year so long as the pain is severe or the patient has been experiencing severe nausea or cachexia; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Intractable pain; Autism spectrum disorder; Alzheimer's disease; or any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the commissioner.
HB 723, by Rep. David Stover (R-Newnan), would create a new code section at O.C.G.A § 28-1-18 to prohibit members and former members of the General Assembly from being employed by the State for less than one year after leaving such office.
HB 724, by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), relates to the "Crime Victims' Bill of Rights". It would amend O.C.G.A. § 17-17-13 to require that 30 days of advance notification be given to a victim by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, whenever it considers making a final decision to grant parole. It also amends O.C.G.A. § 42-9-47, to require 30 days of advance notification be given to an inmate whenever the State Board considers making a final decision to grant parole or place the inmate into transitional housing.
HB 725, by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), is known as the "Child Abuse Records Protection Act". It would amend O.C.G.A. § 49-5-40 to provide for greater confidentiality of child abuse records. It provides a definition for 'child advocacy center', defining it as an entity which is operated for the purposes of investigating known or suspected child abuse . It changes who is permitted to access records; It provides for a protective order; provides immunity for child advocacy centers in releasing child abuse records.
HR 961, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), would amend Article III, Section IX, Paragraph VI of the Constitution to provide that certain existing fees and assessments be dedicated for the purpose of funding driver education and training courses in public schools between grades 9-12.
HR 962, by Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), would add a new Section IV to Article 2 of the Constitution to provide that legislative and congressional reapportionment be done by an independent, nonpartisan commission, instead of the General Assembly. The resolution would add a new Section IV to be titled "Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment", where it establishes a new Citizens' Redistricting Commission. The commission would have a total of 14 members, including 5 Republican member seats, 5 Democrat member seats, and 4 seats for those who do not identify with any political party.
HR 963, by Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), proposes to add a new Section IV to Article 2 of the Constitution that would require the General Assembly to reapportion the State into between 30-56 Senatorial districts and between 120-170 representative districts. It would require the Governor to reconvene the General Assembly in a special reapportionment session following the adjournment of sine die in the second year following each federal decennial census. This special session is proposed to not last more than 30 days and must at all times focus on reapportionment. This proposal would also make it a mandatory duty of the General Assembly to adopt a general law to reapportion the State. If the General Assembly fails to adopt such a law, the duty of reapportionment would fall to the Supreme Court. Reapportionment general law would be subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court. If the law is found to be invalid, the Governor would be required to reconvene the General Assembly so they could conform to the Supreme Court decision. Additionally, the proposal specifies that district lines cannot be drawn to favor political parties or an incumbent or hinder the ability of minority groups to participate in the political process.
HR 964, by Rep. Brad Raffensberger (R-Johns Creek), proposes to amend Article IX, Section I of the Constitution which would allow for the re-creation of a previously existing county that was merged into another county. The boundaries of the recreated county may be the same as those in effect prior to the previous merger, or they may be generally similar, but not identical. Recreation of a county must be approved by a majority of voters. A superior court that is recreated under this section would be included in the same judicial circuit as the county which previously included the greatest part of the territory of the re-created county. Additionally, the territory within the recreated county would constitute a new county school district and be removed from any other local school district.
HR 965, by Rep. Brad Raffensberger (R-Johns Creek), proposes to amend Article VII, Section I the Constitution to comprehensively revise the State's ad valorem property taxes. This is to be known as "The Ad Valorem Tax Assessment Limit Amendment". The rate of increase of the assessed value of real property for State, county, municipal, or educational ad valorem tax purposes, as proposed, would not exceed an aggregate of 7.5% for each three-year period of successive ownership and would not exceed from one taxable year to the succeeding taxable year the lesser of 2.5 percent change in the rate of economic inflation on individual taxpayers as determined by the State revenue commissioner.
SB 9, by Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale), would amend O.C.G.A. § 20-2-911 and create a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 45-18-22 to require that the Board of Community Health reopen the 2014 open enrollment period, no more than two weeks after this legislation's effective date. This would permit employees, whose elected medical claims administrator declared a major medical facility as being out of their network, to elect coverage under a different administrator. O.C.G.A. § 45-18-22 would define 'defaulting medical claims administrator' as the administrator who declared such a facility to be out of the network. It also defines 'open enrollment period for 2014' as the period that was between October 27, 2014 and November 14, 2014.
SB 250, by Sen. Michael 'Doc' Rhett (D-Marietta), would create a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 16-11-132.1 to prohibit the purchase of a firearm by a person who is currently a party to a proceeding instituted under Chapter 5 of Title 19 without permission from the presiding judge. Any person who attempts to do so without such permission will be guilty of a misdemeanor.
SB 251, by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus), would revise O.C.G.A. § 48-9-3 to exempt school buses from the levy of an excise tax on motor fuels.
SB 252, by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus), would repeal an excise tax on hotel and motel room rentals of $5.00 at O.C.G.A. § 48-13-50.3.
SB 253, by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R- Columbus), would amend O.C.G.A. § 48-9-3 to exempt school systems, counties, and municipalities from the levy of an excise tax on motor fuels.
SB 254, by Sen. Harold Jones II (D-Augusta), would amend O.C.G.A. § 16-13-2, to provide that a simple possession of marijuana charge constitutes a misdemeanor.
SR 674, by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus), amends the Rules of the Senate by adding a new subsection (f) to Rule 5-1.3 to require that each floor amendment offered for adoption with regard to a bill or resolution being considered by the Senate shall be voted upon by a roll call vote and the results shall be recorded.
SR 675, by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus), would amend Article I, Section II of the Constitution by adding a new paragraph X to declare English as the official language of the State of Georgia.
SR 676, by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus), would amend the Rules of the Senate by revising paragraph (c) of Rule 1-5.1, to require public notice of the time and place of all meetings of Committees of Conference. It also would further require video recordings of such meetings.
SR 677, by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus), would amend the Rules of the Senate by revising paragraph (b) of Rule 2-8.3 to remove the requirement that conference committee reports be printed and distributed during the first 35 days of the regular session. It also removes the requirement that, between the 36th and 40th days of the session, that such reports are to be distribute at least two hours prior to consideration.
Our 2015 Georgia Capitol team consists of Stan Jones, Chuck Clay, Helen Sloat, 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.