Gold Dome Report - February 24, 2017
Today, legislators convened early for Day 24 of the Session in an effort to make their day a bit shorter so they could enjoy some of the pretty spring-like weather. However, this afternoon, many committees were meeting late to tackle several bills in the pipeline waiting to cross over from their originating chambers on Crossover Day, which is on next Friday, March 3.
The House convened at 9:30 this morning to take up 11 pieces of legislation:
HB 136, by Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) allows individuals who are obtaining or renewing their driver's license to keep their old identification card after it has been surrendered to the Department of Driver Services and then returned to the individual with a note on the old card indicating it is no longer valid. This addresses a new policy by the Department of Homeland Security whereby it will no longer accept temporary identification cards at their security checkpoints. The bill also provides that blind parents no longer have to show proof of a previous license in order for their children to issue a blind parent permit. It also raises the fee for an eight-year commercial license from $20 to $32. It passed by a vote of 159-5.
HB 148, by Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro) authorizes the Department of Education to provide students of military families with a unique identifier in order to ensure the student's teachers and school staff members are aware of the students' situation and that such student may require additional services. It passed 168-0.
HB 157, by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) prohibits physicians from advertising themselves as being 'certified' unless they meet a number of conditions. Such conditions include members having completed adequate training programs and passed written or oral examinations determining such physician's knowledge and skill in his or her field. This bill was passed by a vote of 167-1.
HB 159, by Rep. Albert Reeves (R-Marietta) makes various changes to the State's laws relating to adoption by updating and modernizing certain language. It also provides for a non-resident of Georgia to allow an adoption of his or her child and it makes further changes to adoption requirements. It eliminates the six-month residency requirement and reduces the age for a single petitioner from 25 to 21 as long as such petitioner is 10 years older than the child being adopted in relative adoptions. This bill passed 165-0.
HB 199, by Rep. Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) seeks to reduce the annual total aggregate payroll for employees who work in Georgia for a qualified interactive entertainment production company to qualify for tax credits from $500,000 to $250,000 if such company has a base investment of at least $500,00 over two years. It also adds 'pre-released' interactive games to the list of projects considered to be qualified production activities. It further creates the 'Georgia Entertainment Industry Postproduction Investment Act' which provides a 20 percent tax credit for certain post-production companies. If the production was created exclusively in Georgia, the credit increases to 30 percent. If it was created exclusively in a Tier 1 or Tier 2 County, the credit increases to 40 percent. This bill passed 158-3.
HB 203, by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) allows condominium associations to vote to expand their association by a two-thirds majority. It passed 166-0.
HB 224, by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead) allows students who are children of military service members who live on a military base to attend schools within their school system. It also requires local boards of education to create a streamlined process to accommodate such students. It passed 167-0.
HB 237, by Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) establishes the 'Public Education Innovation Fund Foundation" and provides that the Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) may incorporate non-profit corporations as public foundations. The foundation can receive donations to provide grants to public schools for the implementation of new academic innovations meant to improve student achievement. The bill requires this foundation to submit a report to the Department of Revenue by January 12 of each year and it provides that taxpayers are to be allowed a credit of $1,000/year for single individuals and $2,500/year for married couples. The aggregate amount of credits is capped at $7 million per year through 2025 and $10 million per year for 2026 through 2033. The sunset is set for 2033. HB 237 passed by a vote of 165-1.
HB 241, by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) includes 'Krabbe Disease' on the list of conditions for which newborn screening may be conducted by the Department of Public Health, at the option of the parent or parents. The fee for such screening will be paid directly by the parents to the Department's laboratory. It passed 163-0.
HB 283, by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) conforms Georgia's Revenue Code to recent legislative changes by the U.S. Congress. It passed 165-0.
HB 312, by Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas) authorizes the Board of Trustees of the Employees' Retirement System of Georgia to allow members to participate in a Roth contribution program. It passed 167-0.
The Senate had seven proposals on their Rules Calendar – which it had dubbed as Law Enforcement Day in the Senate:
SB 160, by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), passed his Committee Substitute of the "Back the Badge Act of 2017" with a vote of 40-12. Sen. Harper presented his legislation which in part adds to the superior court's original jurisdiction the trial of any child 13 years of age to 17 years of age who is alleged to have committed the offense of aggravated assault upon a public safety officer involving the use of a firearm and aggravated battery of a public safety officer. The superior court does have discretion to transfer such case to the juvenile court. A "public safety officer" is defined at O.C.G.A. § 16-5-19(6) as peace officer, correctional officer, emergency health worker, firefighter, highway emergency response operator, or officer of the court. It also adds at O.C.G.A. § 16-5-24(c), that if a person is convicted of aggravated battery upon a public safety officer when that officer is engaged in his or her duties as a public safety officer then he or she is to serve a term of imprisonment of not less than ten years nor more than twenty years – and that prison term is not to be suspended, stayed, probated, deferred or otherwise withheld by the judge. Some of the concerns from Senators while the bill was in debate was around the changes to this mandatory minimum issue as well as penalties for an individual who was obstructing a sidewalk or blocking a highway (for instance during a protest). Sen. Ed Harbison (D-Columbus) asked various questions regarding the differences in the charges for obstructing a roadway – although he was told by Sen. Harper that the legislation was really contemplating an increase in fine for that offense. Sen. David Lucas (D-Macon) inquired about judicial discretion – Sen. Harper explained that the mandatory minimum will apply in cases where a weapon is involved. Sen. Steve Henson (D-Tucker) reminded his colleagues that he had been in the Senate when the laws were passed regarding mandatory minimum sentencing requirements; he now feels differently as he believes that judges should be permitted discretion as they take cases seriously when they involve law enforcement officers. No Floor amendments were made prior to the bill's passage.
SB 154 was presented by Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus). It too makes changes in O.C.G.A. §16-5-19, adding a definition for "public safety officer" which includes emergency health worker – which captures the emergency room nurse – and is defined as SB 160 defines the term. Other changes in SB 154 add in O.C.G.A. § 16-5-21, relating to aggravated assault, It adds, for instance, when a person knowingly commits such crime, that the punishment is not less than five years and not more than twenty years and a fine of $5,000.00. This fine is to be paid in fifty percent increments to the Georgia State Indemnification Fund (for death or disability of the public safety officer) and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council of Georgia (for highly visible projects and public service announcements). SB 154 passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 47-7.
SB 155, by Sen. Kirk, also passed this morning by Committee Substitute. It creates the Local Law Enforcement Officer Compensation Commission so that Georgia can undertake a national review of local salaries paid to officers in an effort to better attract and retain local law enforcement.
SB 169 passed by Committee Substitute quickly with a vote of 54-0. This legislation creates a specialty license plate in O.C.G.A. § 40-2-86, which will honor law enforcement and proceeds from the sales of these specialty plates are to be placed in the Peace Officers Annuity and Benefit Fund.
SB 109 was presented by Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming). The measure passed with a vote of 54-0. It proposes to adopt the "Recognition of Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact." It would be known as "REPLICA." Eight states have adopted this Compact thus far; the states of Tennessee and Georgia are considering such measure. If ten states adopt the Compact it actually becomes a Compact. This Compact will allow EMS services personnel to work across state lines as all states license those types of personnel. There were no questions to its author.
SB 8, one of the bigger topics thus far this Session, was presented by its author Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford). It is known as the "Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act." Sen. Unterman described her legislation as an effort which had been underway for two years. It first came to her attention because of the State Health Benefit Plan's retirees who were receiving "balanced" bills after undergoing some sort of surgical procedure. The hospital may have a contract with an insurance plan, however, the physicians who are treating patients and providing care for those in the hospital are not always in the insurance plan's network These physicians are then out-of-network and are often emergency room physicians, anesthesiologists, radiologists, pathologists, and neonatologists. She also noted for her colleagues that many were threatened with bankruptcies due to these bills. In Gwinnett County, Sen. Unterman explained that many folks who work for the Gwinnett Board of Education are encountering instances where they receive treatment at the local hospitals but the emergency room physicians are out-of-network. This legislation takes the patient out of the middle of this equation. It makes several requirements on hospitals, including that they are to educate the patients about who is in network – it also requires the providers to post on their websites which health plans that the provider has an affiliation. Likewise, there are requirements placed on insurers so that they also must inform enrollees of certain information. The insurer is to provide to enrollees estimates for out-of-pocket charges for out-of-network services by geographical area or zip code between what the insurer will reimburse for out-of-network healthcare services and the usual cost for out-of-network healthcare services. The Department of Community Health is to use a benchmark database (such as Fair Health) to establish usual and customary charges – which means the eightieth percentile of cost of a particular healthcare service. There is an independent dispute resolution process in the proposal. There were no questions posed to Sen. Unterman. However, two Floor Amendments were proposed and adopted. The first was by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) which addressed the dispute resolution and "Fair Health" database portion of the proposal – it was described as a technical cleanup. The second amendment was by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) which clarified the membership of the General Assembly's oversight committee of this process which was included in the legislation. After adoption of the amendments, the Substitute passed with a vote of 52-0.
The final bill was by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), SB 96. This legislation, which revisits a bill which failed in 2016 to be passed on the final day of the Session, HB 944 clarifies in O.C.G.A. § 31-7-176.1 when a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner, and physician's assistant may pronounce the death of a hospice patient when that patient is an organ donor. The current law only allows a physician to make such pronouncement for such patients– this legislation expands who may make such pronouncements. Sen. Watson explained this will allow for patients, who may have donated their corneas, to allow for such donation to be done more quickly.
HB 475, by Rep. Buddy Harden (R-Cordele), proposes to amend O.C.G.A. § 43-17-8.1 to implement added requirements for the use of collection receptacles for donations to charitable entities. It requires in (e), in part, that a "person placing and operating any collection receptacle on property in which such person has no ownership or leasehold interest shall, prior to such placement and operation, obtain notarized, written permission from all owners of such property or all holders of a leasehold interest in such property to place and operate such collection receptacle on such property." Also, persons with an existing receptacle located on property in which such person has no ownership or leasehold has until December 31, 2017 to comply with the written permission requirements. It permits in (f) that an owner may demand removal (which is required to be in writing and sent via United States mail, return receipt requested or statutory overnight delivery, to the address listed on the collection receptacle if there is no permission. The person placing the collection receptacle is to remove the collection receptacle as well as any contents left in and around the receptacle within 30 days of the demand for removal. Failure to make removal after the demand allows that the owner/leaseholder to take possession and dispose of the property. There are also added requirements for the person who is placing and operating such collection receptacle so that it is "structurally sound, clean, and sanitary" and regularly empty the receptacle every two weeks. Violations constitute a misdemeanor. It also amends O.C.G.A. § 43-17-13(1), regarding requirements for use of collection receptacles for donations, so that the Secretary of State may impose sanctions for any willful act, practice or transaction and issue an order imposing a civil penalty up to a maximum of $2,500.00 against any person for a single violation or $25,000.00 for multiple violations in a single proceeding or a series of related proceedings.
HB 478, by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), proposes an amendment to O.C.G.A. § 35-1-19(c) so as to revise the requirements which are to be met before an arresting law enforcement agency may provide or make available a copy of a booking photograph to a person - currently the law enforcement agency is not to provide or make available a copy of a booking photograph in any format to a person requesting a photograph IF:
Such booking photograph may be placed in a publication or posted to a website or transferred to a person to be placed in a publication or posted to a website; and
Removal or deletion of such booking photograph from such publication or website requires the payment of a fee or other consideration.
This legislation proposes to add (3) and (4):
Such booking photograph is of an individual who has not been convicted of an offense or who has been convicted of a misdemeanor and
Such person does not retrieve the copy from the law enforcement agency in person and does not present a current driver's license or identification card issued by this state pursuant to Chapter 5 of Title 40 when retrieving such copy in person, where such law enforcement agency shall maintain a record that such copy was provided or made available to such person.
The changes are not to be construed as precluding an arresting law enforcement agency from providing or making available a copy of a booking photograph to the individual depicted in such booking photograph.
HB 482, by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), proposes to create a new Chapter 2B in title 20 to be known as the "Georgia Educational Scholarship Act." These would be consumer directed accounts composed of State funds deposited on behalf of a participating student and which could be used for "qualified education expenses." The moneys would not be taxable income of the parent of the participating student. Parents are not required to spend the entire sum of the account funds each year; however, no more than 50 percent of a student's annual total account funds are to roll to the following year. These funds are to be available to the participating student until he or she reaches the age of 22 and at that point all unused funds are to be returned to the State's general fund. (These include tuition, fees, and textbooks; services from a physician or licensed therapist for such things as occupational, behavioral, physical, or speech-language therapies; no more than $500.00 annually for fee-for-service transportation; tutoring; etc.) At O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-3, it outlines how a student may qualify (the student will be required to have spent the prior school year in attendance in a Georgia public school system or school systems for funding purposes during the preceding October and March full-time equivalent (FTE) program counts in accordance with Code Section 20-2-160; has been adopted from foster care; has a parent on active military service duty stationed in Georgia within the previous year; zoned for a school in his or her resident school system that has received an unacceptable rating (determined by Office of Student Achievement) for three or more consecutive years; or has one or more of the following disabilities and an Individualized Education Program (IEP) written in accordance with federal and state laws/regulations: autism; deaf/blind; deaf/hard of hearing; emotional and behavior disorder; intellectual disability; orthopedic impairment; other health impairment; specific learning disability; speech-language impairment; traumatic brain injury; or visual impairment. O.C.G.A. § 2B-4 outlines what is required of a participating school. O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-5 requires that the account funds granted are to be for students with an IEP and for all students other than those with an IEP an amount equal to 100 percent of the systemwide average per student amount of State funds for the student's resident school system. The Office of the State Treasurer will set up a system and make quarterly payments to the account of the participating student. The funds received are not taxable income of the parent of the participating student. At O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-6, it establishes the "Parent Review Committee" for the determination of what is considered a "qualified education expense." O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-7 provides that the Office of the State Treasurer adopt rules and regulations to administer this program. O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-8 establishes how parents and taxpayers may determine the program's success and does require that the Office of the State Treasurer approve no fewer than three nationally norm-referenced tests to measure the student's progress in math and language arts. In O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-9, it requires that the Office of the State Treasurer provide reports to the General Assembly by December 1 of each year on the program (including numbers and demographics of students, participation in norm-referenced tests, etc.).
HB 483, by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), seeks to add a new Chapter 2B in Title 20 to provide for the establishment of educational scholarship accounts. These would be consumer directed accounts composed of State funds deposited on behalf of a participating student and which could be used for "qualified education expenses." The moneys would not be taxable income of the parent of the participating student. Parents are not required to spend the entire sum of the account funds each year; however, no more than 50 percent of a student's annual total account funds are to roll to the following year. These funds are to be available to the participating student until he or she reaches the age of 22 and at that point all unused funds are to be returned to the State's general fund. (These include tuition, fees, and textbooks; services from a physician or licensed therapist for such things as occupational, behavioral, physical, or speech-language therapies; no more than $500.00 annually for fee-for-service transportation; tutoring; etc.) At O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-3, it outlines the student's qualifications for an account (which are very different than those outlined in HB 482 above) (e.g. parent resides within Georgia; student is zoned for a school in his or her resident school system that has received an unacceptable rating for three or more consecutive years; student's parent signs an agreement; and parent submits application for an account to the Office of the Treasury no later than the deadline established by that Office. It does exclude students enrolled in a school operated by the Department of Juvenile Justice from eligibility. There are limitations on numbers of participating students in the first year – so that such would be equivalent to one-half of one percent of the statewide total public school enrollment in the 2016-2017 school year. Subsequent years would be limited to an increase of an additional one-half of one percent of the prior year statewide total public school enrollment. If the Office of treasurer receives more applications than is permitted, then it is to admit students into the program through the use of a random selection process. O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-4 outlines the requirements for a participating school to enroll a participating student (such as have a physical location in the State where students attend classes and have direct contact with the school's teachers; employ/contract with teachers who hold a bachelor's degree or higher degree or have at least three years experience in education and annually provide to the parents the relevant credentials of the teachers who will be teaching their students; etc.). Schools which apply to be providers are to be provided either approval or denial of their application within 60 days by the Office of the Treasurer. At O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-5, it requires that account funds granted to a participating student are to be in the amount of 100 percent of the systemwide average per student amount of State funds for the student's resident school system. It does establish in O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-6 a "Parent Review Committee" to determine if certain expenses meet the requirements to be "qualified education expenses." At O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-7, it requires that the Office of the Treasurer adopt rules and regulations for administering this program; this Office may deduct up to four percent annually for the program's oversight and it can contract with a qualified nonprofit entity to administer the program or specific functions of the program. To allow parents and taxpayers the ability to measure the achievements of this program, it requires that the Office of the Treasurer annually approve no fewer than three nationally norm-referenced tests to measure students' academic progress in math and language arts – and private school enrolling participating students shall ensure that all participating students are annually administered a nationally norm-referenced test identified by the Office of the Treasurer. At O.C.G.A. § 20-2B-9, it requires that the Office of the Treasurer provide annual reports to the General Assembly on the program's participation, parent satisfaction; percentage of funds used for each type of qualified education expense; and fiscal impact to the State and resident school systems of the program.
HB 484, by Rep. Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick), proposes to clarify and provide for persons who may obtain certain licenses, permits or cards in Chapter 5 of Title 40. In part, it adds in O.C.G.A. § 40-5-20(a), that no person except those expressly exempted in Chapter 5 of Chapter 6 of Title 40 are to drive any motor vehicle upon a highway in the State unless that person has a valid driver's license – this legislation adds OR a driving safety card. At (a.1) in this Code Section, it requires that any person who is a current recipient of a grant of deferred action on deportation from the United States Department of Homeland Security is required to obtain a Georgia driving safety card before operating a motor vehicle in the State. These driving safety cards will only be valid for the time of the applicant's grant of deferred action on deportation or five years, whichever occurs first. These cards are not valid for identification purposes and the proposal makes it a misdemeanor if these cards are used for identification purposes. To obtain such card requires that the Department obtain the fingerprints of the individual.
HB 485, by Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro), addresses Georgia's laws on alcohol to remove the requirement that a referendum election be held prior to the issuance of licenses for the manufacture of distilled spirits at O.C.G.A. § 3-4-41. At O.C.G.A. § 3-4-40, it proposes to rewrite such Code Section so that it would read: "Licenses for the package sale of distilled spirits shall be authorized only in those counties and municipalities in which the issuance of such licenses is approved by a referendum election as provided in this article. Other licenses for the manufacture, distribution, and sale of distilled spirits at wholesale or retail shall be authorized if such licenses are permitted and issued by the local governing authority of the county or municipality.
HB 486, by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), proposes to address the Georgia Registered Professional Nurse Practice Act in O.C.G.A. § 43-26-12 and the burden of proof in performance of health maintenance activities by a proxy caregiver in a written plan of care for disabled individual. In this proposal, the current law requires that the Department of Behavioral health and Developmental Disabilities or the Department of Community Health promulgate rules, regulations and policies regarding the training for proxy caregivers. This legislation specifies that such rules include selection by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities approval of training curricula specifically designed for the purpose of implementing the health maintenance activity of medication administration to be implemented by these proxy caregivers who are employed or contracted to providers of home and community based services, community residential alternative services or community living services. The rules may permit providers to train proxy caregivers in accordance with the selected curriculum or otherwise as provided for in rules, regulations and policies. It further adds that "good faith efforts by an attending physician, advanced practice registered nurse, physician assistant, registered professional nurse, or providers of home and community based services and other persons approved by the department to provide training to a proxy caregiver to perform health maintenance activities shall not be construed to be professional delegation."
HB 487, by Rep. Josh Bonner (R-Peachtree City), proposes to add at O.C.G.A. § 38-3-93(b) that an employee of a State agency who is a certified disaster service volunteer of the Civil Air Patrol United States Air Force Auxiliary may be granted leave from his/her work with pay for no more than 15 workdays in any 12 month period to participate in specialized emergency services' operations for the Civil Air Patrol United States Air Force Auxiliary upon the request of the Civil Air Patrol after being activated by a county emergency management agency, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, or a comparable federal agency for the services of that employee and upon the approval of the employee's agency and coordinated through the director of the emergency management without loss of seniority, pay, vacation time, compensatory time, sick time, or earned overtime accumulation. It applies only to service on a "numbered mission" and it requires the State agency to compensate the employee granted leave for such work. Leave is only to be granted for the services related to a disaster occurring within Georgia or a contiguous state which has a reciprocal statutory provision).
HB 488, by Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna), seeks to provide for comprehensive State civil rights laws protecting individuals from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment as it regards to their sexual orientation, gender identity as well as race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin. These changes are proposed in Titles 8, 10, 34 and 45.
HB 489, by Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton), seeks to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 36-80-26 to provide that the Georgia Procurement Registry is to be used in addition to the official legal organ and other media outlets for advertisement of certain bid opportunities for goods and services and public works construction contracts (valued at more than $10,000.00 or more and if relating to public works at $100,000.00 or more) by a county, municipal corporation or local board of education.
HB 490, by Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger), proposes changes to laws concerning motorcycles at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-312 to allow that an operator of a motorcycle may overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken IF the vehicle being overtaken is stationary in traffic awaiting the change of a traffic-control signal; the motorcycle is not traveling more than ten miles per hour; and the motorcycle is being maneuvered to be placed in front of stationary traffic or to gain access to an adjacent turning lane. It also strips out the prohibition that a motorcycle cannot be operated BETWEEN lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.
HB 491, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), addresses O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j), regarding the review of individual's criminal history record information, definitions, privacy considerations, written application requesting review, and inspection. It revises condition under which an individual may petition the superior court to restrict access to criminal record history information for certain misdemeanor offenses – currently, in (4)(A) of subsection (j), it states that "when an individual was convicted in this state of a misdemeanor or a series of misdemeanors arising from a single incident, and at the time of such conviction such individual was a youthful offender; provided that such individual successfully completed the terms of his or sentence and, since completing the terms of his or sentence has not been arrested for at least five years, excluding any arrest for a nonserious traffic offense, and provided, further, that he or she was not convicted in this state of a misdemeanor violation or under any other state's law with similar provisions of one or more of the offenses listed in subparagraph (C) of this paragraph, he or she may petition the superior court in the county where the conviction occurred to restrict access to criminal history record information." The proposal eliminates the phrase "and at the time of the conviction such individual was a youthful offender" so that such qualifier would no longer be required. It also would permit individuals to request a restriction to access to criminal history record information if the individual was convicted in Georgia of felony punishable by imprisonment for ten years or less and that individual had completed the terms of his or her sentence and has not been arrested for at least five years, excluding any arrest for a nonserious traffic offense and that he or she has not been convicted of a felony violation.
HB 492, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), proposes changes in Titles 16 and 17, regarding crimes and offenses and sentencing and imposition of punishment. It seeks to increase penalties in cases where a victim is victim of the offenses of aggravated assault, aggravated battery, criminal damage to property in the second degree, terroristic acts and threats, and serious violent offenses because of the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. It also repeals three Code Sections: O.C.G.A. § 17-10-17 (concerning sentencing of defendants guilty of crimes involving bias or prejudice, circumstances and parole); O.C.G.A. § 17-10-18 (relating to notification to seek enhanced penalty); and O.C.G.A. § 17-10-19 (relating to determination of defendant's guilt, object of the offense, and enhancement of sentence) – each of these repealed sections would be marked reserved.
HB 493, by Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Forest Park), addresses Georgia's open meetings laws at O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(e)(2)(B) and meetings to be open to public, limitation on action to contest agency action, recording, notice of time and place, access to minutes, and telecommunications conferences in order to require that public commentary be included in the agency minutes and online videos – including the name of every person providing such comment.
HB 494, by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), proposes to address issues regarding emergency placement of monitors, emergency closure upon a minor's death in early care and learning facilities and would specifically amend the requirements and procedures in O.C.G.A. § 20-1A-13(h). Under current law, if a hearing is requested, the hearing is to consist of a review of all oral and written evidence introduced. This legislation requires that the hearing is admissible in a preliminary hearing in determining the issues relevant to emergency closure of a program or the emergency placement of a monitor(s). It also adds more to the "crime" definition for the background checks in O.C.G.A. § 20-1A-30(2), so as to include additional crimes which must be reviewed in those checks (battery of an unborn child; reckless conduct causing harm to or endangering the bodily safety of another; conduct by HIV infected persons; assault by HIV infected persons or hepatitis infected persons (when the victim is a minor); cruelty to children; child, family, or group-care facility operators prohibited from employing or allowing to reside or be domiciled persons with certain past criminal violations; sexual exploitation of children; reporting violation; civil forfeiture; penalties; electronically furnishing obscene material to minors; computer or electronic pornography and child exploitation prevention; obscene telephone contact; conviction; penalties; and driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances; penalties; publication of notice of conviction for persons convicted for second time; endangering a child). It also adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 20-1A-45: "A satisfactory fingerprint records check determination shall be no longer valid for an individual who has been separated from employment for more than 180 consecutive days from an early care and education program that receives, either directly or indirectly, federal funds through the department for the care of children."
HB 497, by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), addresses delinquency actions in Titles 15 and 19. In part, it addresses timing for the petition in O.C.G.A. § 15-11-472(c)(1) – now it requires that any petition alleging delinquency is to be filed within 30 days of the filing of the complaint or within 30 days after the child is released from pre-adjudication custody. This adds that when informal adjustment or other nonadjudicatory procedures are being utilized, in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 15-11-515, then such 30 day period is not to commence until such informal adjustment or nonadjudicatory procedure has failed. The same language is added to O.C.G.A. § 15-11-510(d); O.C.G.A. § 15-11-521(); and O.C.G.A. § 15-11-560(d). It also allows that the court may have discretion, addressing where parental power lies, if it is found that joint custody is in the best interest of the child's health or welfare with the parent and a "de facto custodian" (which is defined in O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3 (a person who has accepted full and permanent responsibilities of the child without expectation of financial compensation; and the child has resided with the individual for a period of six months or more if the child is under three years of age; has resided with the individual for a period of one or more years, if the child is three years of age or older; and has developed a bonded and dependent relationship with such individual).
HB 498, by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), addresses Georgia's laws on torts. It proposes to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 51-1-55 to give a right of action against any broadcaster who broadcasts the depiction of an accident or trauma scene in such a manner what would give "personally identifiable visual information or identification of a victim at such scene."
HB 499, by Rep. Sheri Gilligan (R-Cumming), seeks to enact the "Georgia Personal Data Security Act" in a new Part 1 of Chapter 1 of Title 10. Her legislation proposes to improve the systems and procedures for providing and regulating notifications of data breaches that affect Georgians. In part, it requires in O.C.G.A. § 10-1-912 that when there is a breach in the security of a system maintained by a third-party for a covered entity, then the third-party agent is required to notify the covered entity of that breach as "expeditiously as practicable" but no later than 72 hours after the determination of such breach or reason to believe such breach has taken place. It also adds in O.C.G.A. § 10-1-912.1 what a "notice of data breach" to an individual is to include. At O.C.G.A. § 10-1-912.2, it requires when such notice is required that the covered entity is to provide a written notice to the Attorney General and Governor. The Attorney General is given the power to enforce the provisions of this new Part 1 at O.C.G.A. § 10-1-912.4.
HB 500, by Rep. Patty Bentley (D-Butler), proposes to amend O.C.G.A. § 20-2-51(c)(4) regarding the election of local board of education members – addressing nepotism. The bill would add that in the event that a local board of education member has an immediate family member that is a member of the local board of education or that is named as the local school superintendent or a principal, assistant principal, or system administrative staff in the local school system, such person is to cease his or her role as a member of the local board of education and a vacancy is to occur. The secretary of the local board of education or the chairperson, if such member in violation is serving as the secretary, is to provide such notice of the vacancy to the election superintendent within ten (10) days of the occurrence. It requires that the vacancy be filled pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-54.1.
HB 501, by Rep. Jan Tankersley (R-Brooklet), seeks to add a new Chapter 40A in Title 43 so as to license "recreational therapists" and create the Georgia Board of Recreational Therapy. At O.C.G.A. § 43-40A-1 it defines "recreational therapy" as a "treatment service designed to restore, remediate, and rehabilitate a person's level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness, and reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition. Such treatment services shall include but shall not be limited to things such as remediating or restoring an individual's participation levels that are limited due to impairment in physical, cognitive, social or emotional abilities; analyzing and evaluating recreational and psychosocial activities to determine the physical, social and programmatic elements necessary for involvement and modifiny those elements to promote full participation and maximization of functional independence; using recreational modalities in designed intervention strategies to maximize physical, cognitive, social, or emotional abilities; etc.). This new profession would be overseen by a newly created Board consisting of five members.
HR 389, by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), proposes to create the House Rural Development Council. It is to look at several challenges facing rural areas including loss of population; a deficiency in the access to healthcare; poor infrastructure; diminished quality of educational opportunity; scarcity of employment opportunities; and overall lack of economic growth. This Council would be composed of 15 members from the House of Representatives.
HR 394, by Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), recognizes February 23, 2017 as Georgia Association of Educators Day at the Capitol.
HR 403, by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Powder Springs), seeks to recognize the "Compact for a Balanced Budget Commisson." Georgia adopted the Compact for a Balanced Budget Commission in 2014 (HB 794) so as to unite the States behind the first-ever state-initiated amendment to the Constitution.
HR 404, by Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna), proposes to create the Joint Study Committee on Comprehensive Civil Rights Legislation. There would be ten members of this Committee with five appointed by the Speaker of the House (with at least two of which are required to be attorneys who serve on the House Committee on Judiciary) and five appointed by the President of the Senate (with at least two members who are attorneys and serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee).
HR 405, by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), proposes an amendment to the Constitution at Article VIII, Section II at paragraph I so as to provide for the election of members of the State Board of Education where each member of the Board would be a resident of the congressional district which he or she represents. In the event any person who is an officer, agent, official, or employee of the State or of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision thereof or who is a member of the General Assembly is elected as a member of this Board, then that person is required to resign as such officer, agent, official, employee or member prior to taking office as a member of the Board. The member of the Board is to be elected by a majority vote of the members of the House of Representatives and Senate whose respective districts are embraced or partly embraced within such congressional district, meeting in caucus at the regular session of the General Assembly immediately preceding the expiration of the term of office of such Board member. The Resolution outlines the notice requirements for such elections as well as process for vacancies.
SB 237, by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), seeks to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 30-1-7. It requires that every motorized wheelchair and scooter which is operated on a sidewalk and public ways of the State are to be equipped with reflectors as approved (like those approved by the Department of Public Safety for bicycles). The reflector must be visible in darkness from a distance of 200 feet. It further requires such motorized wheelchair and scooter sold on and after December 31, 2017 be equipped with these reflectors.
SB 238, by Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), proposes to create a new Chapter 9C in Title 31 regarding protections of a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion. This new Chapter would be known as the "Whole Women's Health Act." In part, it adds in O.C.G.A. § 31-9C-2: "Every woman has the fundamental right to choose to obtain a safe and legal abortion. This state shall not prohibit a woman from obtaining an abortion before viability. This state shall also not prohibit a woman from obtaining an abortion at any time throughout her pregnancy if the termination is necessary, in the professional judgment of a physician, to protect her life or health." It repeals the current Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 31-9A-3, concerning voluntary and informed consent to abortion and availability of ultrasound. Rather, it requires that any law or regulation, addressing abortion, that places a burden on a woman's access to an abortion is unenforceable if the law or regulation does not confer any legitimate health benefit (expands women's access to health care services or increases patient safety according to evidence based research). It also provides that any State or local official charged with enforcing or enforces a law or regulation that places a burden on a woman's access to an abortion once such law would become effective would be subject to an action in federal or state court for injunctive relief and damages.
SB 239, by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), also proposes changes in Chapter 9A of Title 31, relating to the "Woman's Right to Know Act." It amends O.C.G.A. § 31-9A-3, concerning the voluntary and informed consent to abortion and availability of ultrasound, so that "for all cases in which a chemical abortion is to be performed, the female is informed, by telephone or in person, by the physician who is to perform the abortion by a qualified agent of the physician who is to perform the abortion by a qualified agent of a referring physician, or by a referring physician, at least 24 hours before the abortion that: (A) it may be possible to reverse the effects of a chemical abortion if the woman changes her mind but that time is of the essence; and information on reversing the effects of a chemical abortion is available on the website and in the materials described in Code Section 31-9A-4." At O.C.G.A. § 31-9A-4(a)(1.2), it adds that the Department of Public Health is post information which is "geographically indexed" concerning public and private facilities which are willing to perform procedures and treatment to reverse the effects of a chemical abortion should the female change her mind.
SB 240, by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), seeks address the Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center at Article 4 of Chapter 7 of Title 50. It would reconstitute the Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority and would authorize the Department of Economic Development to contract with this Authority for certain projects.
SB 241, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), is another version of prescription drug monitoring program legislation for controlled substances. It, in part, would transfer responsibilities for the electronic database of prescription information of the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency to the Department of Public Health in Chapter 13 of Title 16. As originally proposed, it also addresses liability at O.C.G.A. § 16-13-63 so that a prescriber or his or her delegate is required to seek and review information from the electronic database established pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-13-57 whenever he or she is prescribing a Schedule II, III, IV, or V controlled substance to a patient for the first time and at least once every 90 days thereafter if such prescriber continues to prescribe a controlled substance to such patient. It dies outline instances when a prescriber or his/her delegate is exempt from the duty to seek and review information from the electronic database – e.g. if the patient is terminally ill and under supervised care of a hospice program; if the patient is in a long-term care facility that has an on-site pharmacy or the controlled substances are dispensed by a hospital pharmacy; etc.
SB 242, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), proposes changes to O.C.G.A. § 43-34-25(g) and adds a (g.1), regarding the delegation of certain medical acts to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). It provides an exception to the number of APRNs with which a delegating physician can enter into a protocol agreement at any one time for nurses in certain locations and under certain conditions so that such would not apply in any emergency medical services system operated by or on behalf of any county or municipality with a full-time medical director. At (g.1), it adds that the delegating physician may not enter into a nurse protocol agreement with more than ten APRNs at any one time, may not supervise more than four APRNs at any one time pursuant to nurse protocol agreements, and not be required to conduct any meetings, observations, or review of medical records except as otherwise provided in this subsection if the APRN practices at a location that: 1) maintains evidence-based clinical practice guidelines; 2) is accredited by an accrediting body, approved by the board; 3) requires the delegating physician to document and maintain a record of review of at least 10 percent of the APRN's medical records to monitor quality of care being provided to patients which may be conducted electronically or onsite; and 4) requires the delegating physician and APRN to participate in and maintain documentation of quarterly clinical collaboration meetings either by telephone, in person, or onsite for purposes of monitoring care being provided to patients.
SB 243, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), seeks to make changes to Georgia's "Quality Basic Education Act" and enact the "Green Agricultural Education Act." It proposes a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-154.2 which requires that the agricultural education program in Georgia be based on the nationally recognized three-component model of school-based agricultural education: "daily instruction in an organized classroom and lab environment; hands-on, real-world learning opportunities through the supervised agriculture experience (SAE) program; and leadership and learning opportunities through participation in the Future Farmers of America." At O.C.G.A. § 20-2-154.3, it authorizes the Department of Education to establish a pilot program, beginning in the 2018-2019 school year to provide for agricultural education in elementary schools – the pilot would six public elementary schools. At O.C.G.A. § 20-2-200(b)(6), it requires that the Professional Standards Commission extend, no later than July 1, 2017, in-field certification for agricultural education to include kindergarten through grade five.
SB 244, by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), seeks changes to O.C.G.A. § 46-5-30, regarding the telephone system for the physically impaired (in particular those with hearing and speech impairments), to change the provisions relating to the establishment, administration and operation of the statewide dual party relay service and audible universal information access service. It would also provide that wireless devices and applications may be distributed as part of the telecommunications equipment distribution program.
SB 245, by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), addresses Georgia's competencies and core curriculum in elementary and secondary education in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-149.1 which would name this Code Section as the "Cory Joseph Wilson Act", relating to the cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use of automated external defibrillators in schools.
SB 247, by Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming), seeks to add a new subsection (b) at O.C.G.A. § 36-30-1, regarding municipal corporations, so that "any allowance made to a municipality related to its membership or participation in an intergovernmental agreement related to sewer operation shall apply and be allowed to all municipalities participating in the same intergovernmental agreement related to any metropolitan sewer operation."
SB 248, by Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone), proposes a new Code Section in the Insurance Code at O.C.G.A. § 33-25-16 to provide for life insurers' requirement to review the National Association of Insurance Commissioners life insurance policy locator for policyholder matches in a manner prescribed by the Insurance Commissioner. It also adds that the Commissioner has the authority to enforce this Code Section.
SB 250, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), is a piece of legislation addressing the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board. At O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12(a), it amends the current definition of "dangerous sexual offense," changing it to be with respect to convictions occurring between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2017 (rather than after June 30, 2015) and adding a new definition for the term, "dangerous sexual offense." It would also require that a nonresident who changes residence from another state or territory of the United States or any other place to Georgia who is required to register as a sexual offender under federal law, military law, tribal law or the laws of another state or territory register –and now adds that such would also apply to individuals who are required to register when they are from another country. There are other amendments proposed to O.C.G.A. § 42-1-14, regarding the risk assessment classification, classification as a "sexually dangerous predator," and electronic monitoring and provides the sentencing superior court judge to make the risk assessment classification as a part of sentencing for sexual offenders convicted in the State.
SB 251, by Sen. Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), seeks to provide for the levy of a retail sales and use tax by DeKalb County so that such proceeds may be used to provide public transportation of passengers for hire though MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) in O.C.G.A. § 32-9-13.1. The proposal is allow DeKalb County to levy such sales and use tax at a rate of .50 percent which would be in addition to any tax authorized by the MARTA Act (the 1965 law) which would run concurrently as to duration of the levy with the current one percent tax currently levied pursuant to the MARTA Act. The County would be allowed to hold a referendum in 2017 – based on a resolution or ordinance adopted by DeKalb's governing body on or prior to June 30, 2017. This tax is not to count towards any local sales tax limitation as provided in O.C.G.A. § 48-8-6. It does require that a "list" be prepared of transit projects. Also, before the additional tax is authorized, it must be approved by a majority of qualified voters in the county.
SB 252, by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), proposes to address and create the "Compact Among the States to Prohibit Public Financing of Professional Stadiums" in a new Chapter 39 of Title 50. It outlines the "purpose" of this Compact which states that it is "to promote effective use of taxpayer funds by limiting taxpayer subsidy of athletic stadiums and barring any taxpayer subsidy of athletic stadiums for any for-profit athletic franchise that attempts to relocate from a ratified state to another ratified state." The Compact would only become effective once three-quarters of the states and districts as follows have ratified such: Arizona; California; Colorado; District of Columbia; Florida; Illinois; Indiana; Louisiana; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Missouri; New York; North Carolina; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Washington; and Wisconsin.
SB 253, by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson), proposes to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-319.5, in Georgia's "Quality Basic Education Act." It would require a local school system to allow home study students to participate in extracurricular and interscholastic activities – special interest groups and clubs, interscholastic and intramural athletics, academic competitions, exhibitions, and fine arts programs conducted outside of the regular school day. It would not include co-curricular activities requiring enrollment in a corresponding class. It would require that the home study student be required to "comply with and shall be subject to the same rules and requirements for participation that apply to any public school student's participation in extracurricular and interscholastic activities and shall be subject to the same code of conduct as would apply to other students participating in the same activity." The State Board of Education would be required to adopt rules and regulations to facilitate such participation.
SB 254, by Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming), seeks to address salary concerns of sheriffs and their deputies. The legislation proposes at O.C.G.A. § 15-16-23(b) that the annual salary of each deputy appointed by each Georgia sheriff is not to be less than the minimum annual salary of a State trooper who is employed by the Georgia State Patrol. It also requires that the Commissioner of Public Safety is to publish the minimum annual salary for troopers to be paid in the next fiscal year beginning on July 1 of the same year. Sheriffs are to use such to determine the salary to be paid. State employees who receive a cost-of-living increase or general performance based increase then such deputy is to receive the same percentage – if in different percentages based or different amounts as to certain categories of employees, then the annual salary of each deputy appointed is to be increased by a percentage amount not to exceed the average percentage or average amount of the general increase in salary granted to the State employees. It requires the Office of Planning and Budget to calculate the average percentage increase or average amount increase when necessary. It provides for the effective dates of such increases. The legislation also adds a new Chapter 25 in Title 45 to create the "Local Law Enforcement Officer Compensation Commission," which is tasked to provide an onging review of the salaries and benefits of local law enforcement officers using data provided by the governing authorities of counties and municipalities.
SR 307, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), seeks to create the Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Joint Task Force which will look not only at the laws passed in 2011 and 2015 on this issue but also review and examine alternative approaches or models used in other states insofar as sentencing provisions, expungement of convictions, sexual offender registry requirements, and terms and definitions for criminal offenses such as pandering or pimping. This Task Force would be composed of 14 members – two from the Senate; two from the House of Representatives; and ten appointments from the Governor.
SR 312, by Sen. Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), recognizes February 28, 2017 as "Sex Trafficking Awareness Day" at the capitol.
House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee – Reeves Subcommittee
The Reeves Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), considered two provisions today:
HB 261, authored by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), seeks to clarify the retroactive petition provision in Georgia’s “First Offender” statute adopted in 2015. This bill clarifies that any individual sentenced since the inception of First Offender in 1968 may petition for discharge as well as individuals sentenced to a split sentence including probation and a term of incarceration of one year or less between 1968 and 1982. The bill is supported by the Georgia Justice Project and Prosecuting Attorney’s Council. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the full Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
HB 288, authored by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), increases punishments for offenses against service animals. There were significant concerns among subcommittee members that the bill could provide more protection to service animals than that provided to humans. Chairman Reeves and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council suggested that the bill be re-worked using the existing statute for offenses against police animals. The Subcommittee HELD the bill pending such reworking.
House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee – Setzler Subcommittee
The Setzler Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), considered two provisions today:
HB 32, authored by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Dacula), relates to sexual assaults committed by school employees. This bill has been before the Subcommittee previously, and Rep. Chandler presented a new version that expressly covers employees with the ability to enforce school rules or policy and gives direction to students but does not cover an employee who is enrolled at the school due to concerns over student workers. There was significant discussion and concern over whether the legislation should mandate registration on the sex offender registry for every offender or whether a judge should have discretion in requiring registration. The Subcommittee will work with the author over the weekend to resolve concerns and refer the bill to the full Judiciary Non-Civil Committee without recommendation (or with a do pass recommendation if substitute language is satisfactory to Reps. Gravley, Setzler, and Trammell).
HB 274, authored by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), criminalizes smoking in a vehicle when a child under 13 is present. There was concern among the committee about whether 13 is the correct age, whether the provision should be codified along with the existing seat belt law, and whether the offense should be a misdemeanor or civil penalty that should live in the motor vehicle code. The Subcommittee HELD the bill pending resolution of these concerns.
House Judiciary -- Fleming Subcommittee
The Committee tackled four bills. HB 359 by Rep. Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) establishes the details for a parent to grant a power of attorney to another person for up to one year to care for his or her child. This bill repeats a 2016 version which failed to pass when it was signed before another child measure that was signed later in time and repealed this private guardianship. The private appointment of a guardian has been limited to enumerated family relationships or an individual affiliated with a child placing agency or any non profit entity in good standing with the IRS. The substitute bill omitted "fictive kin" from eligibility for the appointment (persons with whom the child may have an established relationship). The appointee must certify that he or she is not on a sexual register and the appointing parent may require a criminal background check at its option. At the urging of Voices for Georgia's Children and Together Georgia, the subcommittee included listing on the child abuse registry as well as the sexual offender registries as disqualifying events for appointment of the agent for the parents. Parental rights are not forfeited by the temporary guardian appointment but the agent may enroll the child in school and seek medical care. There is no compensation paid for the appointment. The subcommittee discussed whether "individual associated" with the child in question was too vague, but the authors sought language to permit people associated with churches to qualify for the appointment. Subcommittee Chair Barry Fleming (R- Harlem) invited the audience to suggest ways to tighten this language before full Committee consideration on Tuesday, February 28.
The Subcommittee also passed HB 370 by Rep. David Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners) to permit Judges of the Magistrate Courts to establish deferred compensation savings plans; HB 433, also by Rep. Hilton, providing that dispossessory writs of execution for lease defaults have a 30 day time limit; and HB 453 by Rep. David Dreyer (D-Atlanta) appointing the Chief Judge of the Magistrate Court to the county law library Board of Trustees.
House Health and Human Services Committee
Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) held a hearing on a new proposal regarding optometrists' pursuit to provide injections in the eyes of their patients. Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) and Rep. John Meadows (R-Calhoun) both presented HB 416. While there was a great deal of testimony from optometrists who were in favor of the expansion of the scope of practice, there was also testimony from the Georgia Society of Ophthalmologists opposing the legislation despite many changes made in HB 416 which the earlier proposal did not contain. Rep. Betty Price, M.D. (R-Roswell) and Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans) both offered amendments which were adopted by the Committee in attempts to tighten what procedures could be done. There were concerns about optometrists using these medications, such as local anesthetics and other drugs. There was 30 hours of training required to be done by optometrists before they could provide patients injections. The authors explained that physician's assistants and dermatologists inject drugs around the eye and even tattoo artists are injecting substances around the eye. They claimed that their changes in the legislation would not satisfy everyone but eight states allow optometrists to give patients injections. The Medical Association of Georgia also rose in opposition to the proposal. In the end, after much back and forth, the bill FAILED to pass with a vote of 13-14.
House Insurance Committee
Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) presented his Substitute on HB 276, the Pharmacy Patient's Fair Practices Act in Title 33. Rep. Knight told the Committee that the legislation had been fully "vetted." There was good discussion with all parties. Rep. Knight reminded his colleagues that Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) also has a Senate bill which mirrors HB 276. The Substitute before the Committee was LC 28 8398 ERS. It was described as a "patient focused bill" which prohibits an insurer or pharmacy benefits manager from requiring patients to use mail order pharmacy. It also prohibits any copay for the drug which is higher than the cost of the medication. It provides a carve out from the requirements for Kaiser Permanente as it has its own system (including pharmacy) for its patients – such carve out was also done in the MAC pricing and Audit Bill of Rights initiatives. The initiative carves out the Care Management Organizations (CMOs), which oversee Low-Income Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, and State Health Benefit Plan from being required to comply with the provisions. Patients, per Rep. Knight, deserve the right to know if cheaper generic products are available. It also allows a local pharmacy to provide delivery and prohibits any contract from being rescinded if such is done. It also prohibits any add-on fees for claims processing. It requires an audit to be done before any recoupment of payments and pharmacy benefit managers may not retaliate. Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) applauded the legislation as he was the author of the bills in 2007-2008 which required pharmacy benefit managers to be licensed under the Department of Insurance. Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus) inquired why the state programs were excluded as she wants them to have the same compliance. Rep. Knight indicated that there would be light shed on the State's plans. Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville) made the do pass motion for this Substitute which carried. The bill moves to the House Rules Committee.
Chairman Richard Smith announced that there might not be any additional meetings prior to cross over on March 3 of his Committee.
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.