Gold Dome Report - February 22, 2017
Today was a busy day at the State Capitol, marking Day 22 of the legislative session. Both chambers took up a large number of bills today, pushing some committees until later in the day and canceling some others.
U.S. Senator David Perdue was in attendance in the House Chamber this morning. He thanked all the members for the work that they do. The House took up a substantial calendar today with twelve bills voted on. HB 224 and HB 268 were postponed until the next legislative day. The following pieces of legislation were considered:
HB 41, by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) allows certain architectural students to take examinations. It passed by a vote of 170-1.
HB 168, by Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) abolishes the Upper Oconee Resource Management Commission. It passed by a vote of 170-0.
HB 238, by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) provides an exception to a breach of covenants with regards to the use of property for solar power generation. It passed by a vote of 170-0.
HB 243, by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville) relates to minimum wage laws and requires additional pay for employees based on their schedule changes. It further preempts local government mandates regarding this issue. It passed by a vote of 115-55.
HB 262, by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee) provides for an exemption from the requirement of printed directories for standalone dental plans. The bill passed by a vote of 172-0.
At this time, the House recessed for lunch and then reconvened to tackle the remaining legislation.
HB 303, by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), relates to the State Commission on Family Violence and proposes to change provisions relating to the terms of the Commission members and their qualifications. It passed by a vote of 157-0.
HB 247, by Rep. Dominic LaRiccia (R-Douglas), creates a sales and use tax exemption for machinery used to mix or transport concrete. It passed by a vote of 158-4.
HB 290, by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), provides for an exemption from ad valorem property taxes for agricultural equipment. It passed by a vote of 163-1
HB 150, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), provides for a setoff of debt owed on unpaid toll violations from tax refunds by the Department of Revenue. It passed by a vote of 143-21
HB 40, by Rep. Scott Turner (R-Holly Springs), requires veterinarians to disclose the rabies vaccination history of any animal within such veterinarian's care within 24 hours of receipt of a written request by a physician of any person bitten by such animal. It passed by a vote of 165-0.
HB 37, by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), would amend O.C.G.A § 20-3-10 to prohibit postsecondary institutions from adopting sanctuary policies. The punishment for institutions that do not comply shall be the withholding of state funding or state administered federal funding, except for those services specified in 50-36-1. This withholding of funds extends to funding for scholarships, loans, and grants. This bill passed by a vote of 112-57.
HB 86, by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), expands the definition of sexual abuse to include acts involving trafficking a person for sexual servitude. It passed by a vote of 168-0.
The Senate also heard some comments from Sen. David Perdue and Congressman Sanford Bishop who were in attendance today. Additionally, the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Georgia Restaurant Association were recognized. The Senate took up the following legislation today:
A number of Senators attempted to engross SB 233, which is the new 'Religious Freedom" bill, prior to first reading. If successful, engrossment would have prohibited Committee members from making any changes to the legislation throughout the committee process, so the bill would need to be passed as it currently reads. Many Democrats spoke in opposition to the motion to engross, as well as Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), who argued that engrossing a bill before first reading would limit the power of committee chairpersons and would start a bad precedent. The motion to engross failed by a vote of 18-34 and SB 233 was assigned to the Rules Committee.
SB 102, by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), creates the Office of Cardiac Care within the Department of Public Health and it establishes the designation of Emergency Cardiac Care Centers. It passed 48-0.
HB 42 was presented by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), which provides an additional method for correcting errors on election ballots as well as indicating dates for special elections and run-offs. The bill passed 46-0 and was transmitted back over to the House. Once approved there, it can be sent to the Governor.
SB 73 was presented by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) and was the next bill on deck. It creates a new position of Court Administrator and establishes a new process for appointing a Chief Judge of the Recorder's Court in Chatham County. It passed by a vote of 34-16.
SB 47, by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), was heard next which allows athletic medical staff licensed in another state to treat members of visiting sports teams without being subject to Georgia's licensure requirements. The bill passed 47-0 without debate.
SB 6, which creates the Georgia Regional Transit Council, passed by substitute by a vote of 48-0.
The Senate was adjourned.
HB 464, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), seeks to decrease the percentage of out-of-state patients required to compose the patient base for destination cancer hospitals. The decrease will occur over a five year period, starting December 31, 2017 and ending December 31, 2021. Currently, the required minimum for the out-of-state patient base is 65%; by December 31, 2021 it will drop to 10%. Destination cancer hospitals must meet the required minimum percent of out-of-state patients to apply for a certificate of need (CON). Thus, the decrease in the minimum percentage arguably makes it easier for these cancer hospitals to meet CON requirements.
HB 465, by John Pezold (R-Columbus), establishes the Industrial Hemp Commission for the purpose of promulgating rules and regulations necessary to administer the industrial hemp research program and to license persons to grow industrial hemp. The commission will be administratively attached to the Department of Agriculture and composed of members according to the guidelines in O.C.G.A. § 2-23-4. The main purpose of the commission is to work with colleges and universities to research and promote the development of industrial hemp and commercial markets in Georgia in an effort to move the state to the forefront of industrial hemp production. Licensure and application guidelines are provided under O.C.G.A. § 2-23-6; two separate licenses, an industrial hemp research program grower license and an industrial hemp grower license, will be offered. Finally, the bill details the requirements for licensees under both types of licenses, and the obligations of the commission with respect to assisting the licensees.
HB 471, by Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), prohibits public higher education institutions from restricting a student’s right to freedom of speech and expression and establishes the outdoor areas of campuses as traditional public forums for expression by members of the university community. Further, these institutions are prohibited from discriminating against a student organization based on the expression of the organization. Finally, the bill eliminates the requirement for students to pay mandatory student activity fees as a condition of admission and requires any activity fees collected to be disseminated to student organizations in a “viewpoint-neutral” and “content-neutral” manner. Student organizations that are aggrieved by a violation of this Code section may bring a cause of action against the institution.
HB 466, by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), amends O.C.G.A. § 35-3-34 to allow the Georgia Crime Information Center to electronically disseminate, upon request, a database extract file to private persons or businesses without fingerprint comparisons or consent of the person whose records are requested.
HB 467, by Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus), requires the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia to establish a program that allows students from a foster home situation to attend a unit of the Technical College System without payment of fees, except supplies and lab or shop fees. A student from a foster home situation is a student that has a diploma or GED and has been placed in foster care, an independent living program, or placed for adoption by the Division of Family and Children Services.
HB 463, by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), authorizes the Department of Early Care and Learning to incorporate a Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation to aid the department in carrying out any of its powers and in the accomplishment of any of its purposes. Further, DECAL may designate a nonprofit corporation as the Georgia Foundation for Early Care and Learning to Promote Public-Private Partnerships, and the General Assembly may appropriate funds to DECAL for this foundation.
HB 470, by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), authorizes the Department of Economic Development to administer a grant program, subject to appropriations by the General Assembly, for the purposes of assisting military communities and protecting Georgia’s investments in military installations. The department is required to develop a set of criteria that ensures the credibility of communities applying for these grants and submit pending grant awards to the Governor’s Defense Initiative for final review.
HB 473, by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), would give physically or mentally impaired persons the right to be accompanied by a service animal in public places without being required to pay an extra charge. However, that individual is liable for any damages caused by the service animal. The same applies to individuals training service animals. Further, physically or mentally impaired persons must have access to housing accommodations without being required to pay extra. A physically or mentally impaired person is defined by the bill as any person, regardless of age, who is unable or substantially limited in his or her ability to perform one or more major life activities, including ambulating, seeing, hearing, learning, working, or socializing. Finally, this bill allows the Department of Human Services to authorize private service organizations to provide physically and mentally impaired persons with an information card that outlines the rights granted by this Code section.
HR 363, by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), establishes the House Study Committee on the Qualified Education Expense Credit to evaluate the criteria for the eligibility and awarding of scholarships.
HR 364, by Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), recognizes that pornography is creating a public health crisis in Georgia and acknowledges the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level.
HR 388, by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), establishes the House Study Committee on Meeting the Demand for Nursing Care in Georgia for the purpose of examining whether there is a need for higher levels of education for nurses, whether nurses need to be allowed to practice to the full extent of their education, and how to address shortages in any area of skilled nursing personnel.
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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