Gold Dome Report - February 14, 2017
Today the halls and offices of the Capitol were filled with flowers and many hearts, observing Valentine's Day. Despite the festive spirit, the people's work was accomplished. A major accomplishment of the day was the approval of the FY 2017 Amended Budget, HB 43. See notes from the Senate below.
Water wars were a topic late in the afternoon. Governor Deal announced in a press release that he was encouraged by the Special Master's action in the dispute:
Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Chris Carr are encouraged by Special Master Ralph Lancaster, Jr.'s recommendation that the U.S. Supreme Court deny Florida's request for an equitable apportionment of the waters of the ACF Basin. This action is the latest battle in a long-running dispute between the State of Florida and the State of Georgia over the use of the waters of the basin, which is comprised of the Apalachicola River, Chattahoochee River and Flint River.
The House took up these measures:
- HB 42, by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), was presented as a Committee Substitute from the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
- HB 143, by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), is the annual banking law update in Title 7.
- HB 169, by Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), provides that future elections of the probate court judge for Charlton County, who also serves as the Chief Magistrate Court Judge, shall be nonpartisan elections.
- HB 183 was presented by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella). This legislation recreates the Georgia Geospatial Advisory Council in Article 13 of Chapter 8 of Title 50.
The Senate honored one of its own this morning. Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) was honored by his fellow senators as he will be retiring from the State Senate to seek the Congressional seat vacated by now Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.
The Senate placed three pieces of legislation on its Rules Calendar today:
- SB 41, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), was presented. She explained that the DME licensure would be done by the Board of Pharmacy. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee narrowed the products to be regulated. There were no questions or changes on the Floor. The legislation passed 40-8. Those opposing were Sens. Albers, Cowsert, Heath, Gooch, Jeffares, Harbin, McKoon and Shafer.
- SB 87, by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), addresses bankruptcy laws of the State, providing for the discharge of judgments against exempt property in bankruptcy and the procedure to be followed in O.C.G.A. § 44-13-100(d). SB 87 received no questions or amendments. Stone stated the legislation will help lenders and closing attorneys. It passed 49-1.
- SR 95, by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta), seeks to amend Georgia's Constitution authorizing a county school district or an independent school district within the county having a majority of the students enrolled in the county to call for a referendum for a sales and use tax for education with the proceeds distributed on a per student basis. Two Floor Amendments were proposed. There was great debate over the underlying proposal - many felt it was a tax bill which should have been heard in the Senate Finance Committee. Instead, this legislation went through the Senate Education and Youth Committee. There were queries if this legislation's intent was to halt ESPLOST. Amendment 1 failed 6-46. Amendment 2 also lost 5-46. The Committee Substitute was adopted and the resolution passed 47-5.
The Senate also agreed to the House Amendment to the Senate Substitute to HB 43 - the FY 2017 amended Budget. The vote was 52-0. Chairman Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) explained the changes which focus on a 3.2 percent overall growth in the State's spending. It does include $108 million in new funding for transportation. Other areas of focus are the mid-term education adjustment; economic development; mental health funding; law enforcement raises; and refunds of money to Governor's emergency fund.
HB 323, by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell, Jr. (R-Thomaston), is the annual Code Revision Commission update. It revises, modernizes, corrects errors or omissions in the Code and re-enacts the statutory portion of the Code – looking for matters which may be obsolete or unconstitutional or have been preempted or superseded by subsequent laws.
HB 326, by Rep. Ron Stephenson (R-Savannah), is a reconstitution of the Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority in Article 4 of Chapter 7 of Title 50. The Department of Economic Development is tasked with working with this Authority. This Authority is to look at the State's imports and exports through its ports.
HB 327, by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla), seeks additional changes to Georgia's laws regarding alternative ad valorem tax on motor vehicles in Chapter 5C of Title 48. In part, it seeks to provide for the fair market value determination of "kit cars." These are cars which are assembled by the purchaser from parts supplied by a manufacturer. It will not include those which are rebuilt or salvage vehicles.
HB 331, by Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), is the proposed "The Caregiver Educational Consent Act" created in Article 1A of Chapter 1 of Title 20. It provides for a kinship caregiver to give legal consent in the form of an affidavit for a child residing with such kinship caregiver to receive educational services and medical services directly related to academic enrollment and to participate in curricular or extracurricular activities for which parental consent is usually required. These authorizations are for kinship taking care of a child who is not in custody of the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Services. See O.C.G.A. § 20-1-16. The legislation also addresses liability issues when a person acts in good faith reliance on a properly executed kinship caregiver's affidavit so that such person will be subject to civil liability or criminal prosecution or to professional disciplinary procedures for any action which would have been proper if the facts had been as they believed them to be. The form for such "kinship caregiver's affidavit" is included at O.C.G.A. § 20-1-18.
HB 333, by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), brings this bill to rewrite the law relating to employee leasing companies, which are deemed professional employee organizations or PEOs. They require registration with the Department of Labor, the annual production of financial statements, and maintenance of insurance bonds. A PEO may conduct payroll and tax withholding activities for a client and then services as agreed between the PEO and client in a professional services agreement, such as the arrangement of health or disability insurance and other benefits. The bill requires compliance with all other federal and state laws and permits allocation of responsibilities between client and the PEO.
HB 336, by Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta), establishes certification of certain counties and municipal corporations as broadband ready communities. The legislation seeks to enact the "Broadband Strategy for All of Georgia Act" in Chapter 66C of Title 36.
HB 337 – Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) brings this bill to establish new standards for the statewide uniform automated information system for real and personal property records operated by the Georgia Superior Court Clerk's Cooperative Association or its designated agent. It provides for certificates of clearance for the payment of property taxes or liens and establishes mechanisms for payment of property, withholding and income taxes on property transactions and the locus for records of such release of tax executions.
HB 340, by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), addresses alternative ad valorem tax on motor vehicles in O.C.G.A. § 48-5C-1(b)(1). It seeks to change the manner of distribution of the proceeds of the tax - both state and local title ad valorem including set percentages of the funds to be remitted to the State revenue commissioner.
HB 341, by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), addresses crimes and offenses and the punishment for sexual offenders. It proposes mandatory terms of imprisonment for trafficking of individuals for sexual servitude in O.C.G.A. § 16-5-46(f)(1) so that a person convicted of violating O.C.G.A. § 16-5-46(c) is to be punished as prescribed in paragraph (f) and in addition be subject to the sentencing and punishment provisions of O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.2. The legislation also proposes changes to O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12, regarding the State Sexual Offender Registry. It specifies in (B.2) a "dangerous sexual offense," with respect to convictions occurring after June 30, 2017.
HB 342, by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), is a bill addressing enterprise zones in Chapter 88 of Title 36. It adds the definition of "sales and use tax" to O.C.G.A. § 36-88-3(8.1) which are taxes applicable to sales transactions within the boundaries of an area designated as an enterprise zone. It allows a sales tax exemption in such enterprise zones in O.C.G.A. § 36-88-4(a). Finally, it expands criteria for an enterprise zone, providing for what is included in a "nominated area."
HB 343, by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), seeks to make changes in criminal procedure law in Title 17 to replace outdated terminology. This is about the use of the terms, 'mental retardation,' 'mentally retarded,' and 'intellectual disability.' It adds a definition for the term, 'intellectual disability' at O.C.G.A. § 17-7-131(a)(2) to mean:
Having significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning resulting in or associated with impairments in adaptive behavior which manifested during the developmental period.
Corrections are made throughout Title 17, removing 'mental retarded' or 'mental retardation,' and inserting "intellectual disability."
HB 344, by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), proposes changes to O.C.G.A. § 19-7-54(d) regarding the motion to set aside determination of paternity. It allows parties beyond movants in a case concerning a child support order to request a genetic test from the Department of Human Services when accompanied by a statement setting forth requirements to set aside a determination of paternity described in O.C.G.A. § 19-7-54(b) paragraphs (2) through (5). The Department has the ability to deny the request if:
(1) Paternity testing was previously completed
(2) The child was adopted either by the requester or the other party involved in the enforcement by the Department of Human Services
(3) The child was conceived by means of artificial insemination; or
(4) The Department of Human Services has previously offered paternity testing and the requester refused the opportunity for testing at that time.
HB 345, by Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta), seeks to enact the "Georgia Pay Equity Act" in Title 34. It further proposes to repeal Chapter 5 relating to sex discrimination in employment and insert a new Chapter 5. In O.C.G.A. § 34-5-2, it would prohibit an employer from discriminating in any way on the basis of gender in the payment of wages, or pay any person in its employ a salary or wage rate less than the rates paid to its employees of a different gender for "comparable work" - it does take into account a system rewarding seniority with the employer; a merit system; a system measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue; geographic location where the job is performed; education, training or experience to the extent that such factors are reasonably related to the particular job; or travel if the travel is a regular and necessary condition of the particular job. At O.C.G.A. § 34-5-3, it outlines what is an unlawful practice of the employer. It provides remedies in O.C.G.A. § 34-5-4 should the employer violate the provisions of this chapter. If the employee recovers unpaid wages from the employer and also files a complaint or brings an action under 29 U.S.C. Section 206(d) which results in an additional recovery for the same violation, then the employee is required to return to the employer the amounts that he or she recovered under O.C.G.A. § 34-5-4 or the amounts recovered under federal law (whichever may be less). It provides for the Attorney General to bring an action; it also provides for affirmative defenses and when an employer can use a self-evaluation in good faith of its practices and any remedies it has made towards eliminating wage differentials based on gender for comparable work.
HB 346, by Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville), addresses election and primaries' law in Chapter 2 of Title 21. His proposal is to provide for portable voter registration in Georgia, enacting the "Permanent Portable Registration Act." It further amends O.C.G.A. § 21-2-218 and adds that "a change of address or residence by an elector within this state shall not disqualify such elector as a voter." Further, it permits that elector who has not transferred his or registration to a new address to vote a regular ballot at the polling place for the precinct containing the elector's new residence on the day of a primary or election and at any advance voting location during the advance voting period prior to such primary or election. The elector is required to complete an "affirmation" which is outlined in this proposal. The bill also proposes additional requirements on the Secretary of State requiring at least every three months the official list of electors to be compared to the change of address information supplied by the United States Postal Service through its licensees, the Department of Driver Services database, and the databases of other state agencies as the Secretary may determine for the purpose of identifying those electors whose addresses have changed.
HB 354, by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), reconstitutes the Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority in Article 4 of Chapter 7 of Title 50. This legislation is like HB 326 above.
HB 357, by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), proposes to enact the "Georgia Uniform Certificate of Title for Vessels Act" in Chapter 7 of Title 52. It seeks to require in O.C.G.A. § 52-7-4(b) that "every vessel using the waters of this state shall be titled unless it is exempt from the numbering requirements of paragraph (a) of this Code section or exempt under Code Section 52-7-7." No person may operate a vessel on Georgia waters unless the vessel is titled; every outboard motor greater than 25 horsepower is also to be titled. The legislation also contemplates situations where there is hull damage to a vessel and what is to occur for insurance purposes.
HB 358, by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), seeks to change O.C.G.A. § 48-7-27 and computation of taxable net income. It proposes for tax year 2018 and all subsequent tax years to provide an exemption for military retirement income when those members of armed services served at least 20 years or have a service-connected disability and are the age of 50 years of age on January 1 of such tax year. The exemption is increased based on the individual's age as of January 1.
HB 359, by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), seeks to make changes in Title 19 providing for the creation, authorization, procedure, revocation, rescission and termination of a power of attorney from a parent to an agent for the temporary delegation of certain power and authority for the care and custody of his or her child. It proposes the creation of the "Supporting and Strengthening Families Act" in O.C.G.A. §19-9-120 et seq. At O.C.G.A. § 19-9-122, it permits the parent of a child to delegate caregiving authority of the child to an individual who resides in Georgia and is "the grandparent, step-grandparent, aunt, uncle, great aunt, great uncle, cousin, or sibling of such child or a fictive kin for a period not to exceed one year" by executing a power of attorney that complies with this Article. The agent under this power of attorney is required to act in the best interests of the child but will not be liable to the individual executing the power of attorney for consenting or refusing to consent to medical, dental or mental health care for a child when the decision is made in good faith and is exercised in the best interests of the child. It does permit this agent under the power of attorney to enroll the child in a public school in the area where the agent resides or a private school, pre-k program or home study program. When the individual with the sole custody of the child intends to execute the power of attorney, he or she is required to provide written notice to the non-custodial parent by certified mail. These power of attorney documents are to be signed before a notary public. The duration of such power of attorney is for one year.
HB 360, by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), seeks an amendment to O.C.G.A. § 26-4-80(c)(2), concerning prescription drug orders and the control of venereal disease. It revisits a bill from 2016 in an effort to provide for "expedited partner therapy" for patients with Chlamydia or gonorrhea. A new Code Section is added in O.C.G.A. § 31-17-7.1 which defines "expedited partner therapy" and permits the licensed practitioner who diagnoses a patient to be infected with Chlamydia or gonorrhea the ability to utilize the expedited partner therapy in accordance with rules developed by the Department of Public Health.
HB 361, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), seeks to change the Fulton County system pension and retirement pay for teachers and employees of the Board of Education of Fulton County. It proposes to provide that contributions made into the pension and retirement plan by employees "shall be considered employer contributions for tax purposes." The Board of Education of Fulton County is to administer the plan.
HB 362, by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough), proposes another set of changes in Georgia's elections and primaries laws. It seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 21-2-541.1, regarding terms for municipal offices elected as general municipal elections. "Persons elected on or after January 1, 2018, the term of office of a member of a municipal governing authority, including the mayor, shall begin on the Monday following such person's election which is at least five days following the certification of the results of such person's election to such office unless a petition to contest the results of such person's election to such office filed pursuant to Article 13 of this chapter." Provisions are added for county elected commissioners and for those who are elected to offices of consolidated governments.
HB 363, by Rep. Heath Clark (R-Warner Robins), seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 33-20C-5, adding a new subsection (c), regarding printed provider directories and their accuracy. In his legislation it intends to exempt standalone dental plans for these requirements for printed directories.
HB 364, by Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger), proposes to repeal O.C.G.A. § 48-13-50.3, regarding the excise tax on rooms, lodgings, and accommodations, and the additional tax imposed by innkeepers, forms for reporting, use of funds from additional taxes and termination.
HB 365, by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), addresses the Sheriffs' Retirement Fund of Georgia and amends O.C.G.A. § 47-16-102, increasing the benefit payable upon the death of a fund members who dies before retirement. The death benefit would be increased from $15,000 to $25,000. It would be payable to inactive members who would otherwise qualify to be carried upon the active membership rolls except for the fact that the member no longer holds the office of sheriff; members who are receiving retirement benefits; members who are qualified to receive retirement benefits except they have not reached the age of 55 years, have not filed an application or have not been approved for benefits; and active members.
HB 366, by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), is a Georgia Judicial Retirement System bill. It seeks to revise the definition of salary for the purpose of determining benefit amounts payable to solicitors general and state court and juvenile court judges in O.C.G.A. § 47-23-100. Benefits would be calculated on their earnable monthly compensation from state funds on the date that the member begins receiving benefits. Currently, those members' benefits are calculated using an average earnable monthly compensation.
HB 367, by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), is a proposed new Code Section at O.C.G.A. 45-1-7, regarding public officers and employees. It seeks to provide a procedure for having certain information redacted in order to protect the privacy of the public safety official and his/her relatives. In (b), it requires that the GBI, in cooperation with the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia, and the Georgia Public Defender Council develop the form to be utilized as a "Certificate for Redacted Information" as well as the form for the application for redaction. This process is to redact the public safety official's home address and telephone number and home address and telephone number of any person related to that public safety official by blood or marriage. The Certificate for Redacted Information is to be valid for ten years from the date of issuance. If passed, this would become effective on January 1, 2018.
HR 240, by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), proposes creation of a Joint Study Committee on Reforming HIV Related Criminal Laws. This Joint Study is an effort to look at the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention article, "Prevalence and Public Health Implications of State Laws that Criminalize Potential HIV Exposure in the United States, AIDS and Behavior." The goals are to align Georgia's laws so that it is not criminalizing behaviors that the CDC may regard as posing either no or negligible risk for HIV transmission even in the absence of risk reduction measures.
HR 279, by Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Forest Park), seeks to designate March 21 as "Single Parent Day" in the State.
SB 164, by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta), amends Title 33, relating to insurance, to prohibit health benefit plans from charging different or additional co-pay or office visit charge when an insured individual sees a therapist or chiropractor than when such individual sees a primary physician or osteopath.
SB 166, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), establishes the "Nurse Licensure Compact." Under this bill, a multi-state licensed nurse is authorized to practice nursing in all "party states," states that have adopted this Compact, after the state has verified that the nurse is in good standing and meets all licensure and other qualifications. The bill outlines the application process for multi-state licenses, the authority of Party State Licensing Boards, and the information disclosure requirements of all party states. Further, the bill establishes the Interstate Commission of Nurse Compact Administrators, a joint entity comprising of one administrator from each party state that has rulemaking authority and is tasked with the oversight of the party states.
SB 167, by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), increases the maximum amount a disabled veteran may claim in homestead tax exemptions under O.C.G.A. § 48-5-48 from $32,500 to $77,300. Additionally, children of a disabled veteran that live in his/her home are also eligible for a homestead tax exemption.
SB 168, by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), allows the Department of Human Services, counties, and other agencies to share reported child abuse records with licensed adoption agencies, local and state law enforcement agencies, the Department of Community Supervision, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Juvenile Justice. Further, this bill grants any federal, state, or local government entity that is investigating a report of possible child abuse or conducting background checks on prospective foster parents' access to the state's child abuse registry.
SB 169, by Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus), establishes a special license plate honoring Georgia law enforcement officers. The funds raised by the sale of this license plate will benefit the Peace Officers Association of Georgia.
SB 170, by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), seeks to increase the involvement of volunteers in our foster care system. Officially titled the "Georgia SERVES Act of 2017," this bill requires the Department of Human Services and the Georgia SERVES Act Advisory Committee to establish a three-tiered certification system and guidelines for foster care volunteers. The bill outlines the various requirements for each tier in the certification system and the duties of the advisory committee.
SB 171, by Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), adds "exploding targets" to the definition of "fireworks" under O.C.G.A. § 25-10-1. An exploding target is a package in which two or more components are sold together that can be combined to create an explosive device. The bill provides that any person or entity that sells an exploding target is guilty of a misdemeanor.
SB 172, by Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), grants a 10% tax credit on income tax to individuals who qualify for federal tax credits under Section 32 of the Internal Revenue Code. If the tax credit amount exceeds the taxpayer's income tax liability for that year, excess funds must be refunded to the taxpayer.
SR 216, by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), commends Kennesaw State University and recognizes February 16, 2017 as Kennesaw State University Day at the Capitol.
SR 222, by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), proposes to create the Senate Special Tax Exemption Study Committee.
House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee
Chairman Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) and his Committee met on Monday, taking up these proposals:
- HB 9, by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), also cleared the Committee in the form of a new Substitute incorporating changes by the Committee. This bill is similar to SB 45, authored by Larry Walker III (R-Perry), and arises from the same Court of Appeals decision where a Houston County conviction was overturned where an individual filmed another in a public place but state law only prohibited filming in a private place. Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) inquired about adequate protections for local governments (such as jails and holding cells) whereby they could use technology for surveillance. Rep. Robert Trammell (D-Luthersville) asked questions and proposed language suggestions so as to allow surveillance by businesses in the "ordinary course of business" that were adopted by the Committee in its Substitute.
- HB 213 was presented by Chairman Golick and Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter. HB 213 seeks to address the growing problem with trafficking of heroin products by adding fentanyl to the list of drugs that can base prosecution for drug trafficking. Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell) asked questions about the bill potentially excluding certain derivatives of fentanyl. The GBI's Drug Chemistry Section spoke about the language of HB 213 and indicated that the language in HB 213 does not address such "analogs" of fentanyl and perhaps, as argued by Rep. Price, it should. Action was suspended on HB 213 so as to allow the author and others address Rep. Price's concerns about any unintended consequences with the wording in the proposal.
- HB 214, by Chairman Golick, is a bill which was requested by the Department of Insurance. The intent is to make punishment consistent for all cases involving the unlawful manufacture, sale, and distribution of insurance documents and fake identification cards. Currently, Title 16 makes such offenses misdemeanor offenses, but Title 33 treats them as felony offenses. This legislation changes O.C.G.A. § 16-9-5(c) so that these offenses will be felonies. The change came about due to a court case in which the judge used Title 16 rather than Title 33. The legislation received a do pass recommendation to the Committee Substitute presented. The bill moves to House Rules.
- HB 231 by Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), is the annual update to Georgia's controlled substance schedules in Title 16. HB 231 was presented as a committee substitute that added two additional benzodiazepines that were requested by the GBI and included certain fentanyl-based drugs in Section 2. Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) and Chairman Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) asked why HB 30, which adds the synthetic opioid known as U-47700 as a Schedule I drug, was a separate bill from HB 231. No reason was apparent. After consulting with Legislative Counsel, the Committee agreed to amend the Committee Substitute on HB 231 to include the language from HB 30, and the resulting Committee Substitute received a do pass recommendation from the Committee. This bill now heads to the Rules Committee.
The Committee's original agenda included HB 116, by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), which proposes to address original jurisdiction for cases involving aggravated battery and aggravated assault. It would require those cases involving juveniles to be elevated automatically to superior court cases. Amendments have been in the works on this proposal and no agreement apparently was reached over the weekend. HB 116 was withdrawn from this afternoon's agenda.
Chairman Golick announced that his Committee would meet on Wednesday and take up HB 65 by Rep. Allen Peake (this is the medical cannabis legislation which adds expanded conditions for its use). Chairman Golick explained that the Committee will be asked to look at recommendations, in the form of a Committee Substitute, which were developed by the Medical Cannabis Work Group. HB 213 will also be back before the Committee after action was suspended as noted above.
House Health and Human Services Committee
Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) and her Committee worked through a fairly large agenda this afternoon. WellStar Health System provided the Committee an overview on what it is sharing with its physicians, and other hospitals in Georgia, on ways to combat opioid abuse. Debi Dalton, M.D. provided this educational piece on WellStar's behalf. She noted that from 1999 to 2013 there has been a four-fold increase in overdoses. 37 percent of deaths in 2012-2013 were due to prescription medications. In 2011, there were 1.4 million emergency department visits. 53 percent of medications are taken belonging to friends or family members. Since 1996, there have been 10,000 lives saved by using Naloxone. Rep. Cooper appreciated the update but seemed to think that the education was lacking as it was not as in depth as she and others probably expected. However, Dr. Dalton indicated that the video message was a starting point. Rep. Rick Jaspers (R-Jasper) inquired about whether prescriptions for opioids had decreased since the training had been commenced at WellStar.
HB 165, by Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell), was passed out of the Committee with a do pass recommendation to a Substitute she presented. This legislation addresses requirements for "maintenance of certification" by physicians. The Medical Association of Georgia supported Rep. Price's bill. No insurer can discriminate against maintenance of certification.
HB 206, by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), was passed with a do pass recommendation. This legislation, addressing the Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights, is similar to HB 916 which was passed and vetoed by Governor Deal in 2016. The intent is so that there will be no recoupments of Medicaid payments on providers for scrivener or clerical errors. There were several groups present from the developmental disability segment who explained their own experiences with recoupments. Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton) inquired about requirements for these audits – in particular that notice is to be provided to the provider that an audit is to take place. These errors can be simply the lack of signing all the documentation submitted. The Department of Community Health stated that since the legislation in 2016, it had undertaken to address the issue of recoupments. There is a new corrective action process in place with better communication to providers. The Inspector General has also reached out and talked to providers across the State. There has also been a focus on looking at whether "members" are receiving quality care and if the care was actually delivered. They have also looked at adverse findings so that the providers will know what the Department of Community Health is concerned about. Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) inquired more about how the auditors are actually paid and whether they receive a percentage of moneys recouped.
HB 210 was presented by Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans). It takes out specimen collection stations and blood banks from the definition of clinical laboratory when the human blood and component parts are intended as source material for the manufacture of biological products regulated by CBER through the Federal Food and Drug Administration. The change is made at O.C.G.A. § 31-22-1(2). Rep. Lott indicated that this was similar to the Baxalta legislation passed in 2016. These centers will have to comply with federal guidelines for patient safety. This legislation did not raise questions and received a do pass recommendation, moving on to the House Rules Committee.
Finally, Chairman Cooper presented her resolution on chronic fatigue syndrome, HR 170, which urges state agencies and medical schools to do more education, care and research on myalgic encephalomyelitis. This Recommendation sailed through without discussion and now moves to the House Rules Committee.
House Judiciary Committee – Fleming Subcommittee
The Fleming Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), heard one proposition today:
- HB 159, authored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), is a comprehensive revision of the adoption code in Georgia law. The bill modernizes the code's provisions, including easing the domestication of foreign adoptions and related processes, and codifies case law that has developed in the field. The Subcommittee originally heard the bill on February 8, and Committee members have been working with the author to resolve several concerns. The author presented a Committee Substitute that addresses these concerns, including sealing DFCS adoption records, removing the provisions in the bill relating to annulments, and requiring local boards of education to match maternity and adoption leave policies. The Committee recommended that the bill be given a do pass by Committee Substitute, and the bill moves to the full Judiciary Committee.
Senate Judiciary Committee – Subcommittee A
Subcommittee A, chaired by Sen. William Ligon, Jr. (R-Brunswick), heard presentations on five propositions today:
- SB 39, authored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), increases the penalties for certain pimping and pandering crimes. The bill also adds these offenders to those who must register on Georgia sex offender registry. This legislation passed the Senate last session. Several groups appeared in support of the proposed legislation. Marissa Dodson of the Southern Center for Human Rights expressed a concern that the legislation would require sexual offender registration for individuals who engaged in pandering for themselves rather than in a commercial or pimping setting, and Ms. Dodson offered proposed language to remove these offenders from the registry requirement. There is some concern among the prosecutors and GBI that, as the pandering statute is currently codified, such exception may be difficult to functionalize. The Subcommittee HELD the bill for consideration of this issue.
- SB 126, also authored by Sen. John F. Kennedy (R-Macon), allows a victim of crime to file a motion with the court when he or she does not receive the notification of proceedings required under the currently codified Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. The bill does not give a victim a right to intervene in a criminal case, only the ability to file a motion and be heard. This bill is presented by Sen. Kennedy as a companion to SR 146, but it is not enacting legislation. Many of the concerns from SR 146 were also applicable to this bill, so the Subcommittee also HELD the bill so that members will have time to address concerns with interested parties.
- SB 130, authored by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), amends the right to counsel provisions of the Juvenile Code to include language that any waiver of right to counsel must be made knowingly and voluntarily. This requirement is already clear in case law, but the State Bar has requested it be included in code. The Subcommittee recommended that the bill be given a do pass by Committee Substitute, and it will now move to the full Judiciary Committee.
- SB 131, also authored by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), provides that adoption proceedings be stayed while the determination of parental rights is still pending. Currently, an adoption can occur while a determination of parental rights is on appeal, and a successful appeal would result in an annulment of the adoption. This amendment was requested by the State Bar. The Subcommittee recommended that the bill be given a do pass, and it will now move to the full Judiciary Committee.
- SR 146, authored by Sen. John F. Kennedy (R-Macon), is the Georgia Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, known nationally as "Marsy's Law." The resolution seeks to amend Georgia's Constitution to include rights for victims that are already provided to suspected and convicted offenders. Specifically, the amendment would provide for victims to receive notification of proceedings relating to the prosecution of suspected offenders, the rights to be present at proceedings and be heard, and the right to receive restitution. Many of these rights are already provided for in the Georgia Code; this resolution would constitutionalize these rights. The resolution includes specific language providing that the amendment would not create a private cause of action against the state or its political subdivisions, a concern of some legislators when this proposition was presented last session. The Subcommittee heard from numerous victims who appeared in support of the resolution. Representatives of the state's prosecutors expressed concern about the proposed amendment, particularly that only certain, not all, rights are included in the constitutional amendment, and there is uncertainty of how the statutory and constitutional provisions would affect one another. They prefer a general amendment that recognizes victims' rights and then leaves space for the General Assembly to legislate specific rights, many of which exist already. A representative of Georgia's criminal defense lawyers expressed concern about how some of the proposed rights might affect finality of judgments. The Subcommittee HELD the resolution so that members will have time to address concerns with interested parties.
House Education Subcommittee of Early Learning & K-12 Education
This subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson) and they considered two bills today. The first bill was HB 114, by Chairman Robert Dickey (R-Musella) which addresses valedictorian and salutatorian status at high schools throughout the State. It specifically would prohibit local school systems from excluding high school transfer students from eligibility for valedictorian or salutatorian status if they have taken one or more dual credit courses. Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) proposed an amendment to line 152 that provides that students must have completed at least one course at the high school they'd receive such status from. This amendment was meant to address concerns that students who do not actually attend a school can go on to become the valedictorian of that school's graduating class. Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock) and Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Forest Park) also voiced this concern. This amendment was adopted by the Committee.
The committee heard public comment on HB 114. The Georgia Education Coalition has not taken an official position, but Chuck Clay reminded the Committee of some of the concerns about allowing students to be eligible for valedictorian status who do not attend a local school. Jimmy Stokes on behalf of GAEL also echoed these concerns. The Committee voted to do-pass HB 114 and it now moves to the full House Education Committee.
The Committee also heard HB 77, by Dar'shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) which requires the Department of Education and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to require local school systems to provide evidence based educational materials on mental health and substance abuse. Gary McGiboney with DOE spoke in favor of the bill, stating that the department supports it. He indicated that the bill was also introduced last session, but it did not make it to a floor vote. The Professional Association of Georgia's Educators was also supportive of the bill. This was a hearing only, so no action was taken on HB 77 today. Chairman Chandler also stated that Rep. Kendrick should consider making this an urging resolution instead of a house bill. Chairman Chandler then adjourned the meeting.
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.