Gold Dome Report - January 23, 2017
Lawmakers convened today for Day 5 of the legislative session. Both chambers took time to offer condolences to the victims of the tornadoes that devastated parts of South Georgia. Governor Deal declared a State of Emergency in Atkinson, Baker, Berrien, Brooks, Calhoun, Clay, Colquitt, Cook, Crisp, Dougherty, Lowndes, Mitchell, Thomas, Turner, Wilcox and Worth Counties. Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville) was said to have friends who were directly affected by the tornados. On a lighter note, a number of lawmakers recognized the Atlanta Falcons for their victory over the Green Bay Packers last night. The Falcons are now heading to the Super Bowl where they will dominate the New England Patriots. Additionally, Georgia Right to Life hosted their "March for Life" today at Liberty Plaza to advocate against abortion. Huge crowds were outside the Capitol during the morning.
House Human Relations and Aging Committee
The House Human Relations and Aging Committee met Tuesday afternoon, with Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) presiding. The Committee had a presentation on the process of training and certifying individuals who provide proxy care services to the developmentally disabled and elderly. The view was generally expressed that the training of care given by nurses had grown too cumbersome and expensive since the statute was passed in 2010 and was known as the "Proxy Health Care". It was an amendment to the Nursing Practice Act, Title 43, Chap. 26 and 26.12. The first speaker was Mike Walker, Director of Athens Center for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities and President of SPAD. He discussed cost issues and the impact of the present training regimen. For compensation at levels not much more than minimum wage, the turnover rate is way too high with cost being borne by providers. Next, Charles Harper, VP of Georgia Association of Community Care Providers, discussed the plight of rural providers trying to provide these proxy services. Again, the cost is too high because of the present system of training and recertification annually. Parents of a disabled child with cerebral palsy gave similar testimony. Lisa Risma, RN, also spoke from a nursing perspective. She did not oppose regulatory or legislative modifications but clearly felt that training is important and should remain under the direction of the nursing profession. The Committee expressed sympathy, but no direct solution, statutory or regulatory, was proposed. It suggested that interested parties should meet with DBHDD and DCH and see if they can agree to a solution or specific statutory change recommendations.
House Ways and Means Committee
Chairman Jay Powell (R-Camilla) conducted the organizational meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee. He first introduced the new members of the Committee and then described procedures for bills in 2017, including Reps. Patty Bentley (D-Butler), Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro), Spencer Frye (R-Athens) and Sam Watson (R-Moultrie). Each bill is expected to have two subcommittee meetings to perfect it before it comes to the full Committee. Each Member of the Committee is assigned to at least three of the subcommittees on tax reform, income tax, sales tax, policy and ad valorem tax. The chairman’s goal is to schedule subcommittees back to back so that members are not in the position of having their subcommittee assignments compete in the same block of time. Each subcommittee Chair is also ex officio on all five committees in order to assure there is an experienced Member to lead each subcommittee meeting. The Rules with these revisions then passed unanimously. Chairman Powell also described a new web based system of using iPads for each Member to keep electronic versions of each bill readily accessible to the public and to each Member of the Committee. The system will have the capability to record personal notes by each Member to him or herself. The public can also access the bill versions through the web. His hope is that this system will help assure that the current version of each substitute or amendment is readily available to Members of the Committee.
Senate Education and Youth Committee
This Committee met briefly today for the purpose of introducing members of the Committee. Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) will act as the Chairman of the Committee, and the other members include Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa), Sen. Freddie Powell Sims (D-Dawson), Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta), Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan), Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta), Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), and Sen. Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta).
Chairman Tippins indicated that future meetings will look at possible alternatives to the Governor's proposed opportunity school district since it failed by referendum in the November election. He thanked members of teacher and superintendent organizations for being in attendance. The Committee will also look at the CCRPI and will consider the ESSA State plan being developed currently. The Committee voted to approve the Committee Rules. Chairman Tippins then adjourned the meeting after a few minutes. A number of education advocates were present, including representatives from the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) and the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA). Some of the discussion in the crowd was critical of the new Secretary of the Federal Department of Education, Betsy DeVos because she has been an advocate for school vouchers in the past.
Senate Finance Committee
The Senate Finance Committee also held a brief organizational meeting in which the Committee rules were adopted. Chairman Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) invited each member to let him know which subcommittees he or she preferred. The meeting adjourned very quickly.
HB 69, by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Hiram) would amend O.C.G.A. § 48-7-40 to provide that beginning on September 1, 2019 and annually for five years thereafter, the Insurance Commissioner shall issue a report to the Governor, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House, including a list of all counties and their tier classifications, as well as the following information: A) The total number of employers that claimed a credit under this code section, B) The number of all credits earned and all credits applied during such tax year, and C) An estimate of the number of jobs and overall economic impact produced by this code section.
HB 70, by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Hiram) would amend O.C.G.A. § 48-7-40 to provide that a county classified as a 'tier 4' county shall be reclassified as 'tier 3' if at least 70 percent of the county's workforce commutes outside the county for work. Additionally if 70 percent of a county's workforce commutes outside the county for work, 'tier 3' counties shall be reclassified as 'tier 2' counties and 'tier 2' counties shall be reclassified as 'tier 1' counties.
HB 75, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) would amend O.C.G.A. § 49-5-41 to provide any entity included under this code section access to any part of a record of the Department of Family and Children Services or a governmental child protective agency that includes information provided by law enforcement or prosecution agencies in any pending investigation or prosecution of criminal activity contained within the child abuse, neglect, or dependency records.
HB 77, by Rep. Dar'Shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) would create a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-779.2 to require the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, to develop a list of training materials for awareness in mental health, behavioral disabilities, and learning disabilities. Such materials may include training materials currently being used by school systems.
HB 80, by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) would amend O.C.G.A. § 48-2-6.1 to provide that the Commissioner of Revenue shall be permitted to disclose information requested by the House Committee on Ways and Means or the Senate Finance Committee regarding the Department of Revenue's administration and collection of any tax. The Committees would be subject to the same confidentiality conditions as the Department and any member of such Committees who divulges such information shall be subject to the same criminal and civil penalties as employees of the Department.
HB 81, by Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton) would amend O.C.G.A. § 48-7-161 to include under the definition of 'Claimant Agency' any health care facility that is formed, created, or operated by a hospital authority established pursuant to Article 4 of Chapter 7 or Title 31.
HB 83, by Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas) would amend O.C.G.A. § 47-20-83 to provide that the Georgia Firefighters' Pension Fund may invest up to 10 percent of the total assets in real estate, provided, however, that if the fund's assets decrease in value, the funds shall be entitled to retain all real estate investments if owned prior to the reduction in value of assets.
HB 85, by Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas) would amend O.C.G.A. § 47-20-87 to provide that 'alternative investments' by the Georgia Firefighters' Pension Fund shall not exceed 10 percent of its assets at any time.
HB 86, by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) would expand the definition of sexual abuse to include acts involving trafficking a person for sexual servitude, by adding a new subparagraph (J) to O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5 to include "any act described by subsection (c) of O.C.G.A. § 16-5-46."
HR 39, by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Hiram) would create the House Study Committee on Enhancing Economic Development Through the County Tier System. This study committee would be tasked with reviews of "the strengths and weaknesses of the current county tier system to ensure that Georgia taxpayers are receiving the best value for their investments and that all counties receive an equitable distribution of funds."
SB 5, by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) would amend O.C.G.A. § 50-27-13 relating to the Georgia Lottery, to provide that, for Fiscal Year 2018, net lottery proceeds shall equal at least 26 percent of the lottery proceeds. For Fiscal Year 2019, net proceeds shall equal at least 28 percent of lottery proceeds. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2020, net proceeds shall equal 30 percent of lottery proceeds for each consecutive year. The bill further states that if net ticket sales revenue in FY 2018 is 5 percent less than in FY 17, the net proceeds shall be at least 26 percent of the lottery proceeds for each consecutive fiscal year. If such revenue in FY 2019 is 5 percent less than in FY 18, the net proceeds shall be at least 30 percent of the lottery proceeds for FY 2020. 'Net sales revenue' means the total amount of revenue derived from ticket sales, minus the value of any tickets provided as prizes. These contingencies shall not be applicable unless there is such a decrease of 5 percent in ticket sales.
SB 7, by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) would add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 49-4-142.3 to provide for appropriations for the purpose of obtaining federal financial participation for medical assistance payments to providers on behalf of Medicaid recipients and funding the expansion of the Medicaid program under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Such appropriations authorization would not be required in the event the federal government does not provide a minimum of 90 percent of such funding.
SB 23, by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus) would add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 28-1-18 to require that no member of the General Assembly who serves on a conference committee shall be eligible for employment in State government for a period of 24 months following such member's service.
SB 24, by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus) would amend O.C.G.A. § 20-1A-14 to provide an exemption from regulatory requirements for nursery schools, playschools, kindergarten programs, or other educational programs for children from age zero to six which operate for no more than four consecutive hours per day and up to five days per week.
SB 26, by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus) would amend O.C.G.A. § 20-2-501 to provide that local boards of education shall provide that all contracts for professional services exceeding $50,000 over a 12 month period shall be awarded by competitive sealed bidding. The local board would not be required to comply if it deems, by majority vote, that such professional services are unique and can only be obtained from a single source. Such determination will, however, be subject to judicial review. The bill further adds a new Code Section at 36-91-103 to provide that if a local board selects a 'construction manager at risk' for such bid, such board shall require that the guaranteed maximum price shall not be subject to change after the contract is executed.
SB 28, by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) would amend O.C.G.A. § 34-4-3 to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $15.00 per hour. It further provides that beginning on January 1, 2019 and each successive year thereafter, the minimum wage shall be adjusted to reflect the increase in the cost of living.
SB 29, by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) would create a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 20-1-11 to require child care learning centers and every school in Georgia to conduct testing of drinking water outlets for lead contamination, no later than June 30, 2019. If such contamination is found, the learning center or school shall 1) Provide written notice of test results to parents, 2) Post test results at the physical location or on the school's website; or 3) Submit test results to the Department of Public Health (DPH). DPH shall establish rules regarding testing of drinking water by January 1, 2018.
SB 40, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) would amend O.C.G.A. § 37-3-42 to provide that emergency medical services personnel, which includes medical technicians, cardiac technicians, paramedics, or first responders may transport any person within the county directly to an emergency receiving facility if: 1) Such personnel have been dispatched in response to an emergency, 2) Such personnel have probable cause for believing that the person is mentally ill and requires involuntary treatment, and 3) Such personnel have consulted with the emergency receiving facility physician and it is such physician's opinion that it is in the best interest of the person and the public to have such person transported immediately to the facility. The services personnel shall provide a written report detailing the circumstances under which the patient was transported, which shall be included as part of the patient's clinical record.
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.