Gold Dome Report - January 13, 2016
It was an important day under the Gold Dome today as Governor Deal gave his State-of-the-State address to members of the General Assembly, Constitutional Officers, the State's Judiciary, and others.
In the State-of-the-State address, Governor Deal outlined the work he and his staff have done thus far and their goals for 2016. Governor Deal also announced today that State revenues for December had increased 3.6 percent and year-to-date net tax revenue collections were in excess of $10.44 billion (this amount is an increase of $834.2 million, or 8.7 percent, compared to December 2014 when State revenues totaled approximately $9.61 billion). In his address, which he entitled an "Ocean of Opportunity," Governor Deal touched on several points, noting in part how far the State had progressed since the Great Recession and in particular when he first addressed the State in 2011. Since then, Georgia has moved forward and has built its rainy day fund to $1.4 billion and it has added thousands of jobs (moving Georgia's unemployment rate of over 10 percent to now around 5.6 percent), including many in the construction area. Georgia has also benefited, according to the Governor, from the elimination of the sales tax on energy purchases. The HOPE program has also been bolstered. In looking at ways to bolster job growth, the Governor and General Assembly took on supporting more training of the State's citizens through the Technical College System; students in 11 areas can receive 100 percent tuition through the HOPE grant for those trainings (which actually comprise 140 programs) – this year, Governor Deal has proposed in his FY 2017 Budget to add $17.1 million for "industrial maintenance." Governor Deal also highlighted the success of Move on When Ready (along with Dual Enrollment), the initiative passed in 2015 that allows high school students to attend postsecondary institutions and receive credit at no cost to them or their parents – this initiative currently has more than 22,000 students participating and the Governor's FY 2017 Budget includes a 654 percent increase in funding of Move on When Ready (over FY 2011) at a cost of $58.3 million. Deal also announced his plans for k-12 education – including the request made to the State Board of Education and the University System of Georgia to permit certain computer science courses to count as core courses in high school and for the purpose of college admission. Governor Deal reminded folks that his administration had spent more on k-12 education than any administration in the last 50 years – it also included $1 billion more in the last two years alone and an additional $417 million in the FY 2017. However, graduation rates are still not the best but have improved significantly to 78.8 percent (however, 96,660 students in the years between 2011-2014 dropped out of school). In the last year, Dr. Charles Knapp, chosen by Governor Deal along with 33 others, headed the Education Funding Reform Commission – it does include an updated student-based formula to QBE and a recommendation to allow systems the flexibility to utilize their local talents. That Commission has released its findings and he asked the General Assembly to look at those ideas – his Budget does include a new compensation model for Pre-K to help retain lead teachers, etc. and part of the Pre-K recommendation includes salary increases and merit pay increases. The education work does include $300 million for k-12 education – more than what is necessary to give teachers a three percent pay raise. The money will flow through QBE formula and to the local school system; the local system has the responsibility to pass along the pay raise. He did touch on furlough days and how those had been eliminated. Testing of students was also discussed – he did not suggest the abolishment of tests but looking at tests that are duplicative or that do not enhance educational achievement as needing to be eliminated. Governor Deal also touched on the passage of the Opportunity School Districts legislation and its Constitutional Amendment which will be on the ballot in November. Governor Deal thanked Judge Michael Boggs and Thomas Worthy for their ongoing work on Criminal Justice Reform; Georgia has seen a substantial drop in its prison population with more non-violent offenders diverted to accountability courts. There is also an increase for State employees' salaries included in his Budget. He has added funding for Departments and agencies which have high turnover rates to be provided additional pay raises of three percent (there are four agencies with a 20 percent or more turnover rate last year). Transportation was discussed, building on what he announced on January 12, 2016, so that road paving would be more frequent with the passage of HB 170. The Georgia National Guard was also recognized for its service to Georgia and the country; he highlighted that more than 18,000 guardsmen and women had been deployed since 9/11.
The Korean American community celebrated at the Capitol today. This included participants in native dress and Korean food was served, both to educate others about their culture.
Easter Seals celebrated with parents and their children at the Capitol too. They were commended in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ed Rynders (R-Albany) and other legislators for their work with children with disabilities. Easter Seals has also provided additional resources to families of medically fragile children through their Champions for Children initiative.
HB 710, by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), creates a new Chapter 9 in Title 30 which will be known as the "Georgia Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act." It is to encourage and assist families by allowing them to save private funds in tax-exempt accounts in order to pay for qualified disability expenses of an eligible individual with disabilities. It establishes the "Georgia ABLE Program Corporation" for the purposes of establishing and administering this program in O.C.G.A. § 30-9-4 which would be governed by a board of directors with the Governor as its chairperson; the duties and responsibilities of this board are enumerated in the legislation. The Georgia ABLE Program is established in O.C.G.A. § 30-9-5 so that a person may make contributions for a taxable year for the benefit of an eligible individual to an ABLE account – only one such account may be established for each individual. The ABLE Program is to be a qualified ABLE program under Section 529A of the Internal Revenue Code with participation agreements to be made available to the public (such agreements' terms and conditions are outlined in O.C.G.A. § 30-9-7. At O.C.G.A. § 30-9-8, the Georgia ABLE Program Trust Fund is created as a separate fund in the State treasury which would be administered by the State treasurer. Account contributors are permitted to contribute only cash – except as otherwise permitted under Section 529A of the Internal Revenue Code. It outlines too the earnings which are derived from these contributions and how they are to be held in trust. The board would establish a comprehensive investment plan for the trust fund's investments and the board is required to annually make a report on the fund which would be submitted to the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House. The Departments of Community Health, Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Human Services and Education are required to assist, cooperate and coordinate with the corporation in the public information and outreach about this ABLE Program. Upon death of a designated beneficiary or the abandonment of an ABLE account by a designated beneficiary, the Department of Community Health and the Medicaid program are permitted to file a claim with the ABLE Program for the total amount of medical assistance provided for that beneficiary after the date of the establishment of the ABLE account, less any premiums paid by or on behalf of the designated beneficiary to a Medicaid buy-in program. Funds in the ABLE account of the deceased beneficiary or in an abandoned ABLE account are to be first distributed for qualified expenses; then to distributions for the Medicaid claim authorized – any remaining amount is to be distributed pursuant to the participation agreement. There are prohibitions enumerated on how the ABLE account may not be used (such as assigned for the benefit of creditors). The legislation outlines in O.C.G.A. § 48-7-27(11.2) language relating to the computation of taxable net income, permitting $2,000.00 deductions for taxable year beginning on January 1, 2016. It would also be subject to being governed by the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act in O.C.G.A. § 50-13-2.
HB 722, by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), amends and adds a Chapter 2B in Title 31 regarding medical cannabis to provide for a patient registry program when such medical cannabis is used. It further repeals O.C.G.A. § 31-2A-18 which established the Low THC Oil Patient Registry. "Medical cannabis" is defined as "any species of the genus cannabis plant, or any mixture or preparation of them, including whole plant extracts and resins, which is delivered in a liquid or pill form, including but not limited to oils or a vaporized delivery method using liquid or oil but which does not require the use of dried leaves or plant matter, or any other method, excluding smoking, approved by the commissioner." Several qualified medical conditions are enumerated which include: cancer (when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment procedures related to wasting illness, recalcitrant nausea, and vomiting); mitochondrial disease; Parkinson's disease; Sickle cell disease; Glaucoma; Human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome; Tourette's syndrome; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; seizures (including those characteristic of epilepsy); severe and persistent muscle spasm (including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis); Crohn's disease (including ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome); epidermolysis bullosa; terminal illness (where life expectance is less than one year); severe pain; nausea or severe vomiting; cachexia or severe wasting; post traumatic stress disorder; intractable pain; autism spectrum disorder; Alzheimer's disease; or other medical condition or its treatment approved by the commissioner.
HB 725, by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), seeks to address child abuse and deprivation records. It is to be known as the "Child Abuses Records Protection Act." Its amendments include:
- O.C.G.A. § 49-5-40, adding and modifying definitions
- Changes the definition of "child abuse" so that such could also be injuries, death, neglect or exploitation by a guardian or legal custodian of a child; changes the definition of "sexual abuse" (changing that such is between "individuals" rather than "persons"); "sexual exploitation" which includes trafficking, obscene depiction of a minor, or nude or sexually explicit electronic transmission
- Adding definitions for "child advocacy center," "court," "emotional abuse," "legal custodian," and "record"
- O.C.G.A. § 49-5-41 regarding persons and agencies permitted access to records, which in part is eliminating the ability of a court, by subpoena, upon its finding that access to such records is necessary for determining an issue before such court; adding that a prosecuting attorney may seek such access to such records; and altering reporting requirements in cases of suspected child abuse (requiring that within 24 hours of receiving a report the entity is required to acknowledge, in writing, the receipt of such report to the reporting individual). It also outlines in (g) the process when a subpoena, a notice to produce or other process seeking access to or disclosure of child abuse records or access to any individual who conducted the creation of, was present during the creation of, prepared, or assisted in preparing those records as well as the process the court is to follow in permitting such information.
- O.C.G.A. § 49-5-46, addressing the liability of the department or agency – adding that a child advocacy center and its employees providing access to or disclosure of records or information will have no civil liability or criminal responsibility for such.
HB 729, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), would amend O.C.G.A. 9-14-4 to allow for the writ of habeas corpus to be presented in person or by video conference.
HB 731, by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Atlanta), would amend O.C.G.A. § 11-4-16 to ban certain assault weapons, large capacity magazines, armor-piercing bullets, and incendiary .50 caliber bullets, as well as to provide for penalties for possession of said weapons and ammunition and to more severely penalize ownership and use of machine guns. This piece of legislation would specifically ban the distribution and importation of assault weapons into Georgia, even if they are legal in other states. Lawful owners of assault weapons would include police officers and members of the armed forces. Given these new rules, any person possessing a machine gun in a crime of violence would be guilty of a felony.
HB 732, by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), would amend O.C.G.A. § 40-6-189 to amend Georgia's "Super Speeder" law. It provide that the Department of Public Safety shall administer and collect a fee of $200 from any driver who is convicted of driving at a speed of ten or more miles per hour over the posted speed limit.
HB 733, by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), amends the hotel-motel taxation as found in O.C.G.A. § 48-13-50.3, reducing the amount of a certain fee imposed by innkeepers and to expand the types of innkeepers which must charge this fee. In July 2015, an innkeeper was to charge $5.00 per night to the customer (unless an extended stay rental) for each calendar day a hotel or motel room was rented or leased. This proposal removes the exception for the extended stay rental and decreases the fee from $5.00 to $2.50 per night.
HB 734 by Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), proposes the "Georgia Space Flight Act" in Chapter 93 of Title 36. It prohibits in O.C.G.A. § 36-93-1(b) a local governmental unit from adopting any ordinances, resolutions, permits or other regulations relating to noise control, noise pollution, or noise abatement to prohibit conduct of a space flight operation (with certain exceptions). It defines "space flight activities" and "space flight operation" in O.C.G.A. § 51-3-41. With certain exceptions, a space flight entity is not to be liable to any person for a space flight participant injury or damages arising out of space flight activities occurring in or originating from the State (under certain conditions). Any space flight participant will be required to sign an agreement and warning statement which is outlined in the legislation.
HB 735, by Rep. Gerald Greene (R-Cuthbert), would amend an Act creating the Stewart County Water Authority.
HB 736, by Rep. Alex Atwood (R-St. Simons Island), addresses special license plates which promote beneficial projects and support worthy agencies, funds or nonprofit entities. It proposes a special license plate promoting marine habitat conservation in O.C.G.A. § 40-2-86(n)(5).
HB 737, by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell, Jr. (R-Thomaston), is the annual Code Revision and Correction proposal from the Code Revision Commission. This eliminates references which have become obsolete, have been declared unconstitutional, or have been preempted or superseded by subsequent laws.
HB 738, by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell, Jr. (R-Thomaston), addresses O.C.G.A. § 36-15-7(c) concerning county law libraries and any excess fees which might be found. It permits the disbursement by the board of trustees by either grants to charitable tax exempt organizations which provide civil legal representation for low-income people; or used to purchase software, equipment, fixtures, or furnishings for the office of the district attorney or solicitor-general or for county judicial facilities, including but not limited to courtrooms and jury rooms; provided, however, that the county commissioners are given a copy of the receipts for such purchases. Other remaining excess funds may (current law requires such funds to be turned over) be turned over to the county commissioners who in turn can purchase equipment, fixtures and furnishings for the courthouse (currently, they are not permitted to purchase equipment).
HB 739, by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), addresses Chapter 2 of Title 20 providing that the State recommendation process for instructional materials and content for elementary and secondary education is optional. The State Board of Education would, if it elects to provide for State approved instructional materials and content, create a review and recommendation process for such. Further, any such State materials would be required to be posted on the Department of Education website in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-1012. A new Code Section is proposed at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-1017 with the process that a local board of education is to use in reviewing and recommending locally-approved instructional materials and content to be used by the local school system. Again, any such materials approved would be required to be posted on a website maintained by the local school system.
HB 740, by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta), is a Tax Code modification relating to imposition, rate and composition of and exemptions from income taxes. It adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 48-7-29.20, creating an annual tax credit for up to five years for taxpayers who purchase, own, and occupy a dwelling that qualifies for a homestead exemption located within a school attendance zone assigned to a public elementary school that is among the lowest five (5) percent of academic achievement public elementary schools in Georgia (as published by the Department of Education). The credit permitted is $3,000.00 per tax year for five consecutive tax years for a total of $15,000.00.
HB 741, by Rep. B.J. Pak (Lilburn), amends O.C.G.A. § 15-2-4 to change the Supreme Court's terms of court. The December term would begin on the first Monday in December and end on March 31; the April term would begin on the first Monday in April and end on July 17; the August term would begin on the first Monday in August and end on November 18.
HB 742, by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin), addresses Title 48 and incorporates the Internal Revenue Code federal law provisions into Georgia law and also changes dates for partnerships and corporations other than Georgia Subchapter S corporations (requiring those Subchapter S corporations made on the basis of a calendar year have their returns to be filed on or before the fifteenth of March following the close of the calendar year; those Subchapter S corporations made on the basis of a fiscal year shall be filed on or before the fifteenth day of the third month following the close of the fiscal year). Returns of partnerships made on the basis of a calendar year are to file returns on or before the fifteenth day of March following the close of the calendar year; returns of partnerships made on the basis of a fiscal year are to file returns on or before the fifteenth day of the third month following the close of the fiscal year. Revisions are placed in O.C.G.A. § 48-7-56 and O.C.G.A. § 48-7-80. The proposal also amends law relating to statements of wages paid and taxes withheld to employees, time and extensions in O.C.G.A. § 48-7-105. Further at O.C.G.A. § 48-7-106, it amends law governing annual and final returns, time, extensions, return to be filed upon sale of business, withholding unpaid withholding taxes from purchase prices and penalties for violations.
HB 743, by Rep. John Yates (R-Griffin), requires the State Board of Education to issue a general education development diploma to an individual who has received a GED diploma issued by the armed forces of the Unites States and it would be required to be recognized as equivalent to any other GED diploma in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-21.
HB 744, by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson), addresses O.C.G.A. § 16-6-5.1, concerning the crime of sexual assault, to prohibit sexual contact between school personnel (teacher, principal, assistant principal, administrator or employee of the school) and students who are enrolled in the same school.
HB 746, by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 34-1-9 in an effort to allow employees to use sick leave for the care of immediate family members (employee's child, spouse, grandchild, grandparent, or parent or any dependents shown on an employee's most recent tax return).
HB 747, by Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville), amends O.C.G.A. § 40-1-8, concerning the safe operation of motor carriers and commercial motor carriers. It updates the current Code reference to federal regulations under 49 C.F.R. which are in effect on January 1, 2016 rather than January 1, 2015.
HB 749, by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), amends O.C.G.A. § 50-8-34 concerning councils of regional commissions and their memberships. It adds a new subsection (g) so that the "council of each regional commission is authorized to meet by teleconference or similar means in the same manner as boards, bodies, and committees of State government pursuant to Code Section 50-1-5."
HB 753, by Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), is the placeholder proposal for the amended General Appropriations Act for State fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015.
HB 754, by Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), is the placeholder proposal for the State General Appropriations Act beginning on July 1, 2016.
HB 756, by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), adds a new Article 35 to Chapter 1 of Title 10. It proposes to protect certain sellers of goods or services against infringement of religious freedom. It states that "no sole proprietor, partner in a business partnership, or statutory close corporation under Code Section 14-2-902 shall be required to sell goods or services directly to a religious organization or for a religious or matrimonial ceremony in violation of such seller's rights to free exercise of religion under the Constitution of this State or of the United States."
HB 757, by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), also seeks to protect religious freedoms in Chapter 3 of Title 19. It adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 19-3-3.1, concerning same-sex marriage: "No minister of the gospel or cleric or religious practitioner ordained or authorized to solemnize marriages according to the usages of the denomination, when acting in his or her official religious capacity, shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of his or her right to free exercise of religion under the Constitution of this State or of the United States." It also adds in O.C.G.A. § 10-1-573(b) that no business or industry is to be required by county, city or consolidated government ordinance or resolution to operate on either of the two rest days (Saturday or Sunday). Further it adds a new Article 35 in Chapter 1 of Title 10 and defines the term "religious organization" and adds in (b) of O.C.G.A. § 10-1-1000 that "no religious organization shall be required to rent, lease, or otherwise grant permission for property to be used by another person for purposes which are objectionable to such religious organization."
HB 758, by Rep. LaDawn Jones (D-Atlanta), addresses training for members of the General Assembly in O.C.G.A. § 28-11-4(a) to require that all such members within the first year following their initial election to attend and complete a series of instructional classes or courses relating to the organization and operation of State government in general and the role and powers of the General Assembly in particular. The classes are to be nonpartisan and unbiased and would include topics on the economy, history and demographics of the State of Georgia as well as basic economic theory, criminal justice and procedures and diversity and inclusion. This training is to be developed, arranged, and administered through joint cooperation and consultation by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House.
HB 759, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), amends O.C.G.A. § 15-19-52, regarding lawful acts by certain parties that shall not constitute the unauthorized practice of law to include certain financial institution (defined in O.C.G.A. § 7-1-4 whose deposits are federally insured) activities.
HB 762, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), relates to disposal of aborted fetuses and the reporting requirements in O.C.G.A. § 16-12-141.1(a)(2) to require that "each hospital, clinic, and laboratory shall report the manner in which it disposes of the aborted fetus. Such reports shall be made annually to the Department of Public Health by December 31 and whenever the method of disposal changes. The commissioner of public health shall provide forms for reporting under this paragraph." Further, it alters O.C.G.A. § 16-12-160 concerning the buying, selling or offering to buy or sell a human body or parts thereof and it adds in (c)(2) that "any natural person who buys or sells, offers to buy or sell, or assists another in buying or selling or offering to buy or sell an aborted human fetus or any part thereof in violation of subsection (a) of this Code section shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for five years." Another change is added in O.C.G.A. § 44-5-154, "Georgia Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act," adding that a person, who for valuable consideration knowingly purchases or sells an aborted human fetus or a part of an aborted fetus for any purpose, is to be punished in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 16-12-160.
HB 763, by Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville), amends O.C.G.A. § 48-8-3(57.1) and (57.2), regarding the sales tax exemptions provided on sales of food and food ingredients to a qualified food bank and the use of food and food ingredients donated to a qualified nonprofit agency when such is used for hunger relief. These current sales tax exemptions are to expire on June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2020, respectively; this legislation eliminates the "sunsets."
HB 764, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), amends two Code Sections which deal with crosswalks with pedestrian-activated rapid flash beacons. It defines the term, "rectangular rapid flash beacon," in O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1(50.02) and in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-91(b) it requires a driver of a vehicle to stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within the crosswalk when such beacon or similar device has been activated. It further adds in (c) that: "No pedestrian shall manually activate or intentionally cause to be activated a rapid flash beacon or similar device at a crosswalk unless such pedestrian intends to cross a roadway."
HR 970, by Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville), honors the life of Mr. Solomon T. "Sol" Dover and dedicates a bridge in his memory.
HR 977, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), honors the life of Mr. Louie Morris for his leadership in Hart County and dedicates a bridge in his memory.
HR 979, by Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville), would create the House Study Committee on Programs That Provide Services to the Blind and the Visually Impaired. Membership is to include four members of the House of Representatives, including the Chairperson of the Economic Development Subcommittee of House Appropriations; the Executive Director of the Public Service Commission; the Director of the Public Library Service of the Board of Regents; a Representative of the Center for the Visually Impaired.
SB 262, by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), amends O.C.G.A. § Title 15-1-8 to provide that a judge, judicial officer, grand juror, or trial juror may be disqualified from presiding or serving due to being related by consanguinity or affinity within the third degree to any party interested in the result of the case. This legislation changes the requirement from the sixth degree to the third degree.
SB 263, by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), amends O.C.G.A. § 35-1-20 to allow counties and municipalities that employ P.O.S.T. certified police officers to adopt policies that allow retired officers to retain their weapon and badge. This would apply only to officers who left employment due to a disability arising in the line of duty.
SB 264, by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), adds a new chapter at O.C.G.A. § 50-39-1, relating to pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing.
SB 265, by Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), creates a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 33-7-2.1 to clarify that a "physician agreement" is not considered to be an insurance arrangement or agreement and is not subject to state insurance laws, so long as the direct financial relationship with a patient does not exceed a fee of $6,000,000 (adjusted for inflation). Physicians who enter into a physician agreement would not be required to obtain a certificate of authority or license other than to maintain a current license to practice medicine in Georgia. To be considered a "physician agreement," the agreement shall be in writing; be signed by a physician, physician agent or legal representative; allow either party to terminate such agreement upon written notice within 30 days; describe the scope of services covered by the periodic fee; specify the periodic fee and any other fees; specify the duration of such agreement and any automatic renewal periods no more than 12 months of the period fee; and state in writing that such agreement is not considered to be "health insurance". The bill further holds that a physician may decline to accept a patient if the person's condition is untreatable. Physicians may also discontinue care for a patient under a physician agreement if 1) the patient fails to pay the periodic fee; 2) the patient has performed an act of fraud; 3) the patient fails to adhere to recommended treatment plan; 4) the patient is abusive; 5) the physician or medical practice closes.
SB 267, by Sen. Tommie Williams (R-Lyons), amends O.C.G.A. § 12-11-129, relating to carry and possession of firearms. It reduces the application fee for weapons carry and renewal licenses from $30 to $15 for people 65 years or older.
SB 268, by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), amends O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391, and provides that if a parent or guardian of a child passenger is convicted of driving under the influence, the prosecuting attorney shall provide a copy of the traffic citation to the county department of family and children services of the violator's residence to aid in investigation of possible child abuse.
SB 269, by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), amends O.C.G.A. § 36-80-23, regarding the prohibition on immigration sanctuary policies by local government entities. This legislation will require a local governing body to provide entities with a certification of compliance with such Code section as a condition of funding by the Department of Community Affairs, Department of Transportation or other State agency.
Joint Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee
The House Public Safety and Homeland Security committee and the House Appropriations Public Safety subcommittee combined for a joint anti-terrorism meeting at 2:00. The meeting room was well-attended, especially by members of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), whose organization was second on the agenda. The goal of the meeting, as stated by the joint committee, was to address what the state of Georgia is doing to prevent terrorism and terrorist-related activities, an objective made especially important given the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, CA.
First on the agenda was the role of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA/HS), presented by Director Jim Butterworth. Butterworth serves as the Homeland Security Advisor to Governor Nathan Deal and generally is accountable for protecting the state from and responding to public safety and environmental threats. He began by listing in detail the state organizations formed in the post-9/11 era to respond to and counter terrorism. The Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center, also known as GISAC and informally known as the Fusion Center, is Georgia's sole U.S. Department of Homeland Security base and serves as the primary agency for counter terrorism and criminal intelligence information. $1.2 million of funds that have passed through the Department of Homeland Security have gone directly to the Fusion Center. Additionally, Butterworth noted the beneficial role of the Homeland Security Task Force in reducing the state's vulnerability to terrorist attacks and the Counter Terrorism Task Force's (CTTF) responsibility as rapid-reaction responders to public safety threats. Butterworth went on to point out the sheer amount of response groups geared toward public safety in the state, including search and rescue, HazMat and explosives teams. During questions, Director Butterworth mentioned that eighty percent of funds given to counterterrorism efforts in the state of Georgia are given to local constituents to bolster the state's preparedness in case of emergency. GEMA/HS provides grant funding to all counties in Georgia.
Vernon Keenan, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), followed with a discussion on the flawed nature of investigation agencies in the immediate wake of 9/11. Until recently, information and investigation agencies in different sectors (local, state, federal) had difficulty sharing useful information with each other, given the organizational gap between sectors. Keenan believes that organizations such as the Fusion Center remedy the problem of disjointed information by synthesizing the totality of information coming from down below, at the local level, and from the FBI at the federal level. The Fusion Center takes over 15,000 local and state law enforcement requests a year and acts as a conduit to local and state criminal and terrorist investigation groups by passing down information from the FBI. To drive home the closeness of the Fusion Center with federal agents, Keenan noted that GISAC and the FBI are housed in the same building in Georgia.
Brigadier General Joe Jarrard, the leader of the Georgia National Guard, detailed the preparedness of Georgia for public safety threats and environmental disasters. Jarrard claimed that the National Guard namely provides homeland defense and fast response to civil disturbances and environmental hazards. The Brigadier General echoed the prior speakers when he made a point to show how closely the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the GBI work together on preparing and training for crises. Rep. Gloria Frazier voiced her opinion that significant National Guard security in the public sector would work well as a counterterrorist effort and may be necessary to reduce the risk of attacks. Director Keenan spoke from the audience to say that the greatest threat to America is homegrown terrorist activity because the people involved are usually not on anyone's radar.
The final speaker was Colonel Mark McDonough from the Department of Public Safety. Colonel McDonough emphasized the strength and diversity of response teams and units in the state. Furthermore, the colonel underlined the need for proactive counter terrorism measures, including increasing police presence in potential terrorist target areas such as government building and schools and continuing to provide rapid-response training for emergency teams.
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.