Gold Dome Report - January 24, 2017
Today was Legislative Day 6 at the State Capitol. On the House Floor today, Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) recognized Mrs. Louise Blais who is the Canadian Consul. She spoke about the $10 billion economic impact Canada has on the State of Georgia by importing Georgia goods. She discussed the re-write of the North American Free Trade Alliance (NAFTA).
House Appropriations Subcommittees held a joint meeting early this morning to vote on HB 43, the Amended Fiscal Year 2017 State Budget. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Veteran Affairs reported no changes to their requests. The Department of Human Services requested two changes, including moving the 57% rate increase for DFCS foster families forward to begin on April 1, which is a $10 per day increase for foster parents and $1 per day for relative foster care (or $365 per year). This change is to be annualized in the FY 18 State Budget. There was no provider rate increase for child placing agencies or child caring institutions.
House Judiciary Committee
The House Judiciary Committee held its organizational meeting today with Chairman Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) presiding. Chairman Willard introduced the members of the Committee, as well as the Committee's staff and interns. The Committee adopted its rules for the session by unanimous vote, and Chairman Willard noted that legislation assigned to the Committee will be initially reviewed and revised by two subcommittees, the Fleming Subcommittee, chaired by Committee Vice Chairman Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), and the Kelley Subcommittee, chaired by Committee Secretary Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown). The Judiciary Committee will have standing meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2PM.
Senate Judiciary Committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee also held its organizational meeting today with Chairman Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) presiding. Chairman Stone noted that the Judiciary Committee will have standing meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4PM, and subcommittees, which will be used more frequently this session, will typically meet on Wednesdays. The Committee adopted its rules for the session by unanimous vote.
HB 71, by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), would add a new chapter (Chapter 20E) to Title 33 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated relating to insurance. This bill requires health care providers, group practices, diagnostic and treatment centers and health centers to inform patients of the various health benefit plans and hospitals that it contracts with. If the provider is out of network for a patient and the patient is receiving nonemergency services, the provider must, upon the patient's request, provide the patient with the estimated cost of such services in writing. The bill also requires physicians to make certain disclosures to patients regarding referrals, such as the name and address of the referred physician or provider. Hospitals would be required to post information about its health benefit plans, physician groups contracted by the hospital, and a statement regarding the physician's services that are not included in the hospital's charges. Further, this legislation requires hospitals to enter into credentialing agreements with health benefit plans insurers. Finally, O.C.G.A. § 33-20E-3 and O.C.G.A. § 33-20E-5 of this bill create disclosure requirements for insurers.
HB 72, by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), would add a new Code section (O.C.G.A. § 48-7-40.32) relating to state income tax credits. This bill would allow employers to claim an income tax credit of $2,000 for each veteran hired after January 1, 2018 that is employed full-time. An employer can claim a maximum credit of $50,000 in one taxable year. Additionally, the credit amount claimed cannot exceed the employer's income tax liability for that year. Finally, the state revenue commissioner must submit a report to the General Assembly for the next three years detailing the number of employers that claimed such credit and the total value of credits earned and applied.
HB 87, by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), would amend Title 14 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated to allow corporations, partnerships, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies to file for registration with the Secretary of State once every three years as opposed to annually.
HB 88, by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), would amend O.C.G.A. § 15-6-4 to require that individuals be in good standing with the State Bar of Georgia to become a superior court judge. Further, if any superior court judge is disbarred or suspended from the practice of law, he or she must vacate their office immediately.
HB 92, by Rep. Carson (R-Marietta), amends O.C.G.A. § 33-24-45 to include "policies issued by the same insurer" under the definition of a motorcycle insurance 'Policy'.
HB 114, by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella), would amend O.C.G.A. § 20-2-161.3 relating to the 'Move on When Ready Act" by providing that no local school system receiving State funding shall exclude eligible high school students who take dual-credit courses from eligibility determinations for valedictorian and salutatorian determinations.
HB 119, by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), would amend O.C.G.A. § 47-23-64 to provide that any 'member' of the Employees' Retirement System of Georgia may elect to have their contributions transferred to the Judicial Retirement System. Currently, only superior judges, state court judges, solicitors general, or district attorneys may transfer such funds.
SB 4, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), creates the Georgia Mental Health Treatment Task Force for the purpose of assessing the current mental health landscape in Georgia and determining how it can be improved. A few key goals of the task force include determining what changes can be made to the State's Medicaid program to increase its ability to provide care and developing a complete application for a Section 1115 Medicaid waiver targeted at mental illness and substance abuse disorders. The task force will be composed of three members from the House of Representatives, three members of the Senate, and nine members appointed by the Governor, including the commissioners of relevant agencies such as behavioral health and developmental disabilities, public health, and human services. The task force will be abolished on January 1, 2018.
SB 31, by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), would amend O.C.G.A. § 31-2-3 relating to the Board of Community Health to mandate that at least two of its nine members be active or retired participants of either the Employee's Retirement System of Georgia or Teachers Retirement System of Georgia. This bill also creates the State Health Benefit Plan Customer Advisory Council. The Department of Community Health must consult the council when coordinating and purchasing health care benefit plans. SB 41, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), amends O.C.G.A. § 26-4-28 to authorize the State Board of Pharmacy to issue durable medical equipment supplier licenses. With the exception of the entities listed in subsection (f) of this bill, any person who wishes to sell or rent durable medical equipment must obtain such licensure. Finally, the board is required to promulgate rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of this Code section.
SB 44, by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge), would amend O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 to create an exemption from public disclosure for individuals or corporations that donate to a rural hospital organization.
SR 34, by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), would amend Article VI of the Constitution to provide for state-wide grand juries consisting of at least 13 members that have the authority to investigate and return indictments for crimes committed in the state, including crimes committed by the executive, legislative, or judicial branch.
SR 35, by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), would amend Article III, Section IV of the Constitution to create a special "budget session" that will convene for a maximum of 20 days, starting on the second Monday in January, with the sole purpose of considering and passing the general and supplemental appropriations act.
SR 36, by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), would amend Article III, Section IX, Paragraph VI of the Constitution to mandate that .025% of the total state funds appropriated be allocated to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. Further, such appropriations are not subject to the lapse rules created by Article III, Section IX, Paragraph IV(c) of the Constitution, which require agencies to remit any unexpended funds back to the general fund at the end of each fiscal year.
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
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