Gold Dome Report - February 26, 2016
Legislative Day 29! Lawmakers worked in earnest today in an effort to move bills from one chamber to the other.
Governor Deal announced new appointments to various Boards:
- Wendy Johnson, a retail pharmacist with Rite Aid Corporation who holds a doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Georgia and resides in Atlanta, has been appointed to the Board of Dentistry.
- Dale Mayfield, Chief Dental Officer of Kool Smiles, who has a dental degree from the Medical College of Georgia and lives in Fayetteville, has been named to the Board of Dentistry.
- Lisa Colbert, a juvenile court judge from Chatham County who has a law degree from the University of Georgia and resides in Savannah, has been appointed to the Board of Juvenile Justice.
- Kathy Cooper, who currently is a Hall County Commissioner and lives in Flowery Branch, has been appointed to the Division of Family and Children's Services State Advisory Board.
- Toni Oliver, the president of the National Association of Black Social Workers and holds a master's degree in social work from Temple University and lives in College Park, has been appointed to the Division of Family and Children's State Advisory Board.
- Michelle Zeanah, MD, a partner with Bulloch Pediatrics Group and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia and who lives in Statesboro, has been appointed to the Division of Family and Children's Services State Advisory Board.
- Tracey Blalock, the chief nursing executive of Navicent Health and chief nursing officer for the Navicent Health Medical Center and who also lives in Warner Robins, has been named to the Georgia Board of Nursing.
- Emily Myers, president and CEO of Myers McRae Executive Search and Consulting and who lives in Macon, has been reappointed to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Authority.
- Jeff Van Note, a retired Atlanta Falcon's team member and also a trustee on the NFL Pension Board and lives in Roswell, has been named to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Authority.
- Earl Wright, an Augusta pharmacist and former owner of Surrey Center Pharmacy, has been named to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Authority.
- Rafael Salazar, an occupational therapist with the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta, has been named to the State Board of Occupational Therapists.
The House, by midday, had already addressed thirteen proposals. However, after a lunch recess, the House came back with a supplemental calendar. The following outlines action from the House Floor:
HB 1084, by Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville), addresses the State Soil and Water Conservation Commission. The legislation passed with a vote of 150-5. This amends the powers and duties of this Commission and eliminates its ability to adopt rules and regulations in O.C.G.A. § 2-6-27(7.2). Further, it provides that the State Forestry Commission is to oversee a program of farm uses of water as well as purchase, install, operate and maintain water measuring devices for farms in O.C.G.A. § 12-5-31. It further addresses the Flint River protection efforts – which again will be overseen not by the State Soil and Water Conservation Commission and Department of Agriculture but by the State Forestry Commission and Department of Agriculture.
HB 654, by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), lost on the House Floor 76-78. Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) served notice for reconsideration. The legislation came to the Floor as a Committee Substitute from the House Regulated Industries Committee. The proposal seeks to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 31-40-11 requiring a tattoo studio to display a warning to its patrons – notifying them that they could be disqualified from joining the military if they have a tattoo on their face, neck, forearm, hand, wrist, or lower leg. There are also proposed fines for tattoo studios which fail to provide this warning.
HB 749, by Rep. Brad Werkheiser (R-Johns Creek), passed the House easily with a vote of 152-0. It amends O.C.G.A. § 50-8-34 adding a new subsection (g) to allow regional commissions to meet via teleconference.
HB 962, by Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), came to the Floor as a result of House Study Committee conducted last year. It amends O.C.G.A. § 49-2-1(c) and adds definitions into law, including 'kinship caregiver' and 'fictive kin.' Georgia is leading the nation in the Southeast for family members caring for relative children. Georgia has 15,000 children in foster care; there are 100,000-300,000 children, though, who are being raised by individuals who are not their parents. Rep. Abrams explained that her legislation creates within the Department of Human Services a "kinship care enforcement administrator." She told her House colleagues that there will be an increase of kinship navigators from 15 to 25. (The increase has no impact on HB 751, the Budget for FY 2017). Division of Family and Children's Services Director Bobby Cagle has indicated that his Division would reorganize and find the funds to pay for the additional navigators with existing funding. Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) also spoke to the merits of HB 962, especially as her District has the largest number of foster children and the largest number of children placed outside the county. Children, per Rep. Dempsey, are better served if they can be raised by family. It is important to help these families with challenges including financial, educational and medical needs of those children. Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold) expressed to his fellow House Members that this legislation had cleared his House Juvenile Justice Committee. The House passed the legislation 160-0.
HB 1085, by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), also passed with a vote of 158-0. This legislation transfers the Division of Aging within the Department of Human Services to the Department of Community Health.
HB 498, by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) was presented as a Committee Substitute from the House Regulated Industries Committee. HB 498 passed with a vote of 150-4. Rep. Hawkins explained that the legislation does two things: it adds the permission to "diagnose" in the licensed professional counselors' scope of practice (in O.C.G.A. § 43-10A-3(10)) and it defines "psychological testing (in O.C.G.A. § 43-39-1)." Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta) asked if the legislation was an agreed upon document by the licensed professional counselors and the psychologists; Rep. Hawkins stated that yes it was. Rep. Hawkins further acknowledged the help of Rep. Dickson in finding a solution. He also stated that licensed professional counselors could still do essentially the tests which most have been using. Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson) took a moment as well and reminded her colleagues that she is a licensed professional counselor and she supports the legislation and she also supports the psychologists because of their education and training.
HB 508, by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), stated that this legislation addressed Georgia's Judicial Retirement System at O.C.G.A. § 47-2-244. It permits all judges to become eligible at 60 rather than at 65. Rep. Fleming explained that Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) had committed that funding would be placed in HB 751 for this purpose for these optional benefits. This legislation passed with a vote of 141-12.
HB 736, by Rep. Alex Atwood (R-St. Simons Island), passed the comprehensive annual "tag bill" for a number of specialty license plates in Chapter 2 of Title 40. These include one for marine habitat conservation; one for female veterans of United States Armed Services; one for Omega Psi Phi fraternity; and permission for spouses of veterans to receive a free tag as long as they do not remarry. A Floor Amendment was made and adopted to add a specialty license plate for Hampton University. Rep. Sheri Gilligan (R-Cumming) applauded the idea of recognition for female veterans; however, as a female veteran herself she does not wish to be considered second class. The legislation passed with the Floor Amendment by a vote of 158-1.
HB 887, by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), prioritizes placement of children, in Chapter 11 of Title 15, with the children's relatives or fictive kin. It is in keeping with the Division of Family and Children's Services' (DFCS) rules and regulations and it is in the best interest of each child. Rep. Efstration thanked Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) and Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) for their work on this legislation, which DFCS also supports. HB 887 passed with a vote of 160-0.
HB 926 passed by Committee Substitute and was explained by Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), who is also a pharmacist. This legislation addresses definitions as a result of new laws passed by the FDA concerning new distributors of prescription drugs. It is to create a "safe distribution system" according to Rep. Broadrick. It creates regulation of third-party logistics providers in O.C.G.A. § 26-4-28(a)(13). It also addresses the length of time for a temporary pharmacy license to be valid in O.C.G.A. § 26-4-43. Compounding of drugs is also addressed in O.C.G.A. § 26-4-48. The initiative passed with a vote of 128-33.
HB 954, by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), is to enact the "Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act." The legislation passed the House as a Committee Substitute with a vote of 156-0. It permits courts in Georgia to communicate with courts in other states when a proceeding arises under this Chapter 11 of Title 29. Further, the courts may allow the parties to participate in communications.
HB 959, by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta), is the annual Education Law revisions in Title 20. Rep. Beskin explained that it addresses activities of board members; the Move On When Ready permission so that if a child receives an A, B or C grade then there will be no required end of course assessment in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-281; it permits sharing of data to evaluate programs; and eliminates a prohibition to allow the Office of Student Achievement's foundation to receive a donation of real property in O.C.G.A. § 20-14-26.1. The bill passed 157-0.
HB 979, by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell (R-Thomson), explained the genesis of this legislation addressing assault offenses against emergency room/emergency department and EMTs and EMS personnel. There was a 2014 Study Committee on hospital workers. 70 percent of all emergency department personnel are attacked by the people who are brought to the emergency room or by individuals who are either friends or family of those brought for care. This legislation addresses penalties for these assaults, bringing them in line with other assaults (like police officers). These crimes will be considered "aggravated assault" and will carry a punishment of not less than five nor more than 20 years when the person "knowingly commits" the offense. A judge, however, is permitted discretion in sentencing and may reduce the time or utilize probation in O.C.G.A. § 16-5-21 and O.C.G.A. § 16-5-24. Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough) inquired about the definitions of the terms "simple assault" and "aggravated assault." The bill passed 147-6.
HB 1053, by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), was postponed. The proposal addresses changes to the Grady County Board of Education.
HB 893, by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla), cleared with a vote of 155-0. It amends O.C.G.A. § 48-2-32(f) to lower the threshold of paying electronically sales taxes. Current law has the threshold at $1,000.00; this lowers that amount to $250.00.
HB 899, by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) addresses those tobacco companies who were not a part of the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement which was signed in 1998. Georgia and 47 other states participated in that Agreement; there were "settling" companies which signed the Agreement. Other companies who were producers of tobacco products were to pay funds into an escrow account. This legislation provides some collection and enforcement powers by the Department of Revenue on these non-settling entities paying into escrow so as to level the playing field. If Georgia does not enforce this, it stands to lose, perhaps in litigation, about half of the moneys which are part of the Agreement (Georgia receives about $150 million; the reduction could be a $75 million loss in revenue). The changes are made in Chapters 13 and 13A of Title 10. The bill passed 159-0.
HB 781, by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), passed with a vote of 93-50 with an Amendment attached (actually the combination of two Amendments by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Atlanta) and Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs). [Another Amendment was offered by Chairman Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) but his Amendment was lost with a vote of 49-93.] Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) questioned Rep. Raffensperger about the impact for individuals who were in the country legally and why they should be excluded from service. Rep. Ehrhart indicated that the Majority Caucus had spent a great deal of time on this legislation before it was brought to the House Floor. The legislation addresses O.C.G.A. § 36-80-1 (laws pertaining to counties, municipal corporations and other governmental entities); O.C.G.A. §45-2-10 (eligibility and disqualifications for public office); and O.C.G.A. § 50-1-10 (general provisions concerning State government) – stating that except for ex officio, nonvoting members, in addition to all other qualifications to be appointed to serve on a State authority, board, council, local authority, school district, local commission or local council, board for a local governing body or commission the individual is required to be a citizen or national of the United States or a lawful permanent resident and a legal resident of the State of Georgia – there is an exception that if the individual resides in another state in a county of a state which abuts the State of Georgia and who is an owner (owns 50 percent or more of the assets or stock) of a Georgia business in which that individual exercises day-to-day executive or operational control will be eligible.
HB 795, by Rep. Bubber Epps (R-Dry Branch), also ran into trouble on the House Floor. This legislation proposed to transfer the Georgia Driver's Education Commission from the Department of Driver Services to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. This Commission was enacted with the passage of Joshua's Law. It too was amended and finally passed with a vote of 148-4. A House Floor Amendment by Reps. Tom McCall (R-Elberton) and John Meadows (R-Calhoun) passed 144-8, which moved the Commission back to the Department of Driver's Services and would repeal the Code Section on June 30, 2019 (rather than as currently scheduled on June 30, 2016). The portion of the legislation which caused the House some angst, and was later stripped with McCall-Meadows Amendment, was O.C.G.A. § 15-21-178. That language proposed that the Commission provide funds for the promotion of driver's education programs in areas of the State where such services are not available by a private company. It went further and prohibited any disbursement to be made to a secondary school receiving State moneys and providing driver education programs when such services are provided by a private company within the geographic jurisdiction of the school district. House members felt that Technical Schools, for instance, should be able to provide those services as they do now.
HB 952, by Rep. Chad Nimmer (R-Blackshear), came to the House Floor after hearings in the House Small Business Development Committee to enact a new Chapter 1C in Title 43. The end result was a Committee Substitute which was considered on the Floor, enacting the "Georgia Professional Regulation Reform Act." This legislation is the result of a United States Supreme Court Case, N.C. State Bd. Of Dental Exam'rs v. FTC, 135 S. Ct. 1101 (2015), which requires a new standard in determining whether State professional licensing boards and board members are entitled to immunity for federal antitrust violations – they are only entitled to such immunity if "their anticompetitive conduct is consistent with 'clearly articulated' State policies; and the State provides 'active supervision' of their conduct." Rep. Nimmer stated that the Secretary of State was given direct oversight of the professional boards as well as over any board rules or appeals which may be filed. The legislation passed 145-3.
HB 1064, by Rep. Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon), expressed that this legislation was good for officers as well as the public. It revises current requirements for the off-duty use of motor vehicles by members of the Uniform Division of the Department of Public Safety – the Commissioner may approve such off-duty use of those vehicles by those officers (the Commissioner will also determine any reimbursement for the use of the vehicle) in Chapter 2 of Title 35. He received no questions before the legislation passed easily with a vote of 158-0.
HB 1072, by Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville), also passed with a vote of 144-0.
HB 499, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), was changed from its earlier introduction. After lots of questions and comments, HB 499 passed with a vote of 122-27. This legislation amends Chapter 14 of Title 40 and permits local governments the ability to use "automated traffic enforcement safety devices" in school zones. This is not a mandate for such equipment. If used by law enforcement, there must be a log maintained on such device attesting to its performance which must be tested every 30 days for accuracy and must undergo an independent calibration test once every twelve months. Further, if these "cameras" are used to catch speeders in school zones, there must be warning signs posted within 500 feet prior to the warning sign announcing the reduction of the speed limit for the school speed zone. Rep. Powell said that the best approach would be not to speed. Rep. Powell did acknowledge that legislators had not liked the traffic light cameras – they found them aggravating. However, he also said that if the General Assembly found these school zone devices problematic and just being used by the local jurisdiction as a "cash cow" then the General Assembly could revisit the law. Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) spoke in favor of the proposal indicating that his House District had numerous accidents around their schools. Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), on the other hand, took issue with this legislation stating it was a "huge policy" decision and possibly a slippery slope. Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) noted that individuals should just not speed, but did acknowledge the slippery slope concern which Rep. Setzler had mentioned. Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta) expressed that he would vote for this legislation as it was another tool for school districts to utilize to protect children. Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) stated that this legislation established civil penalties – it was not criminalizing the behavior.
HB 677 and HR 807, the enabling legislation and Constitutional Amendment to legalize casino gambling by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), were postponed. Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) indicated that with such important pieces of legislation to be considered, members of the House needed to hear from their constituents on the issue of gambling.
HB 920, by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), indicated that the legislation was a "compromise" and the House passed the legislation 137-14. This legislation enacts a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 31-7-3.3 to restrict civil actions against certain parties ("excluded party") involved in nursing homes and intermediate care homes. "Excluded party" is defined as a person or entity that neither performs, has the duty to perform, nor controls the performance of any of these functions at or on behalf of the nursing home or intermediate care home where alleged injuries are to have occurred: 1) providing management, operation, or administrative services to such home; 2) hiring or firing of the administrator, director of nursing or other staff working at such home; 3) setting or controlling the budget of such home; 4) staffing or determining the level of staff at such home; 5) providing direct care, treatment, or services to the residents of such home; 6) making decisions regarding the care, treatment, or services provided to residents at such home; or 7) adopting, implementing or enforcing the policies and procedures for such home. Further, it adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 31-7-3.4, defining "nursing home claim," and requiring that as a condition prior to obtaining or maintaining a permit to operate a nursing home or intermediate care home that the licensee is to be covered by liability insurance coverage or have a self-insurance trust for such claim(s).
HB 973, by Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville), also passed the House with a vote of 130-30 with a Floor Amendment also by the author of the Bill. The legislation proposes the regulation of towing service providers in O.C.G.A. § 40-1-9. It requires that these towing service providers obtain a permit which shall be not more than $85.00 per towing service provider operator. The Code Section does have a repealer; it will be repealed on January 1, 2021 unless reenacted. This issue was brought to Rep. Coomer's attention by a constituent.
HB 951, by Rep. Chad Nimmer (R-Blackshear), caused debate on the issue of sale tax exemptions, especially one which might entice the NFL to permit Atlanta the ability to host a Super Bowl. The section of the legislation causing more discussion is O.C.G.A. § 48-8-3(97), permitting a sales tax exemption on sales of admissions to nonrecurring major sporting events in Georgia which are expected to generate over $50 million in the host locality. This would mean that the event could not reoccur more than once every three years and "revenue" would include lodging, meals, vehicle rentals, and admissions to tourist attractions (which would be taxed). There is a sunset for this ticket exemption – December 31, 2022 (unless there is an application pending for such sporting event). The initiative adds at O.C.G.A. § 48-8-3(75)(A) the school tax holiday beginning 12:01 A.M. July 30, 2016 and concluding 12:00 Midnight on July 31, 2016; and at O.C.G.A. § 48-8-3(82) the sales tax holiday on the purchases of Energy Star Qualified Products or WaterSense Products with a sales price of $1,500.00 or less per product will occur on 12:01 A.M. September 30, 2016 and end 12:00 Midnight on October 2, 2016. The legislation, which was made more "palatable" by adding in a sales tax holiday for back to school supplies and Energy Star appliances, passed with a vote of 127-22.
HB 991, by Rep. Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon), passed 149-0. It will be known as the "Returning Heroes Act." This legislation provides a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 48-5-243 allowing returning taxpayers who have been serving on active military duty in an area designed by the President of the United States by executive order as a combat zone and who has not paid his or her property taxes due to gross or willful neglect or disregard of the law or of regulations or instructions the opportunity to pay those taxes due in full, not including penalties and interest, within 60 days of the taxpayer's return from that military service.
The Senate had a lengthy calendar today in anticipation of Crossover Day. The Senate moved quickly on some bills, but got hung up on a few others which had spurred debate. One thing to note is that SR 388, by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen), was tabled. It would have amended the Constitution and would have opened the door to religious organizations receiving public funding. This would have included private school vouchers. It could be brought back up on Monday. Additionally, SB 420 was tabled. It relates to MARTA and would have required a public referendum to approve funding for fixed guideway transit. This may also come back up on Monday.
SB 369, presented by Chairman Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), addresses the regulation of fireworks. Chairman Mullis spoke of the concerns raised by many Georgians after the July 4 celebrations this past year. Many legislators had interest in limiting the ability of people to use such fireworks on public roads and after very late hours. Chairman Mullis first indicated that the bill cuts down the loopholes that were previously in the bill so that everybody in the State pays the same for fireworks. The bill also restricts consumer fireworks from being shot off by anybody under the influence of drugs or alcohol (good luck with that come July 4). It adds additional criminal penalties as well and provides for greater local control of the regulation of such fireworks. Some Senate democrats agreed with the changes. SB 369 was then passed 50-1.
SB 364 was offered by Chairman Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), which addresses Georgia's mandated testing requirements. It seeks to bring the state mandated assessments more in line with federal guidelines and reduces the number of assessments overall. It also provides for benchmark testing for 1st and 2nd grade mathematics. Mainly, this bill would change the teacher evaluation process currently being used, by changing the way such evaluations are scored. Chairman Tippins believes that evaluations should not be used as a punitive measure and instead should be used as a way to improve teachers. Currently, student test scores count for 50% of a teacher's evaluation. That is reduced to 30% under this legislation. The bill further provides for a tiered evaluation system. It allows districts to continue using a metric system if it meets the evaluation requirements of the State. Chairman Tippins concluded by saying this bill will make the process more effective in the future for teachers. There were no questions and SB 374 passed 45-0.
SB 347, by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) was presented. This bill authorizes the operation and regulation of captive insurance companies in Georgia. There was little discussion and it passed 46-0.
SB 366, by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) was up next. It gives the Department of Transportation another option for contracting with professional service providers, by getting QBS qualified firms to each submit their lowest price for transportation projects. The Department would then be able to choose from the lowest bidder. Sen. Gooch said that it will save Georgia taxpayers millions. It passed 47-3.
SB 333 was offered by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon). It allows more foreign nonprofit corporations to become domestic corporations. It passed 49-0.
SB 374, by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) offers more flexibility and increases the effectiveness of the State's education system by authorizing the Department of Education to establish a year-long pilot program for local school systems where they can consolidate federal, state and local funds to support a school-wide program. This bill passed 50-0.
After breaking for lunch, the Senate reconvened to take up SB 383, by Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville), which would permit the removal of trees that obstruct the view of billboards on roadways throughout the State. This bill sought to address a specific billboard on I-16 for the Mayfield Dairy Company that is being obstructed by trees, but would apply to all other billboards. Because the obstructing trees were planted by the State, Sen. Ginn argued that it is the State's responsibility to trim the trees to provide for visibility. Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) was very opposed to this bill, claiming that it would allow for the advertisement of prostitution-based massage parlors that she fought against for years. She also reminded Sen. Ginn that the State's Garden Clubs are against this measure. After a lengthy debate between the two senators, the bill was amended by Sen. Unterman, amended again by Sen. Ginn, and then that amendment was amended even further by Sen. Unterman. The debate took around an hour, but the bill went on to pass 38-13.
Sen. Judson Hill presented SB 327, which prohibits the State from entering into contracts with individuals or companies that boycott Israel or products from Israel. Being an election year in a majority-republican State, this bill had a lot of support. It passed 45-6.
SB 378 got a rather lengthy floor discussion. Senator Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) presented the bill and stated that he had asked anybody who had an interest in this bill to come to him and discuss it. He said he was not approached by anyone; however, he faced opposition from the DeKalb Delegation, who accused Sen. Millar of trying to redraw the commission lines in the County for political reasons. The bill would eliminate the CEO Position in DeKalb County; adds an additional county commissioner; and removes two 'super districts' in the County. The delegation claimed it would combine three African-American commissioner positions into one position, which would not be racially representative of the county. Sen. Millar was accused of having no regard for communities of interest or the actual boundaries of DeKalb County. The delegation did not understand why the entire legislature should be able to vote on something that is specific to DeKalb County. They also expressed frustration that Sen. Millar was unwilling to take questions from the well on this issue. An amendment was offered by Sen. Steve Henson (D-) that would have removed the newly drawn maps that were attached to the bill by striking lines 34-56 and lines 1261-1536. That amendment failed. SB 378 passed 36-15, despite the objections from the DeKalb delegation.
SB 335, by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) was up next. It allows State retirement systems to invest in commingled funds and collective investment funds that are being maintained by state-chartered banks and trust companies. It went on to pass 45-1.
SB 345 was authored by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta) and would have the State adopt a rule of strict religious neutrality when determining the property rights of religious organizations. He referred to the U.S. Supreme Court case Jones v. Wolf (1979) as how the courts should revolve cases, by offering a neutral examination of all relevant factors when determining such property rights. This bill passed 46-0.
SB 274 was up next and was authored by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell). It essentially repeals an act that requires counties with a population over 200,000 to begin their fiscal year on January 1. It passed 48-0.
SB 332, by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) passed 48-0. It provides for a State-issued identification card for judges so they may be able to get through security quicker and be identified when traveling for certain cases. This bill passed 47-0.
SB 379, also by Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) creates a sales tax exemption for sales to fire districts that have an elected governing body supported by ad valorem taxes. It passed 46-0 without discussion.
SR 809 was introduced by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta). It amends the Constitution to prohibit local governments from contracting with private parking enforcement companies starting on Jan 1, 2017. This seeks to address the unfair parking practices of certain companies, like Park Atlanta. Both sides of the aisle were in relative agreement on this issue. Sen. Fort believes it is good and necessary consumer protection. The amendment passed by a vote of 42-4.
HR 1541, by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), proposes to create the Joint Music Economic Development Study Committee in order to examine various aspects of the music industry in the State (including current mix of music content creators and ways to retain and attract talent; looking at music tourism including live music and performance, music festivals, and music attractions, etc.).
HR 1542, by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), proposes the creation of a House Study Committee on Music Economic Development. This mirrors the Study proposed above by Rep. Hawkins but would be conducted solely by members of the House.
SR 1078, by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta), recognizes and commends CHRIS Kids for its leadership in the promotion of trauma informed best practices in Georgia and its commitment to helping children, young adults, and families with behavioral health challenges.
SR 1079, by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa), recognizes October 3-7, 2016 as Georgia Pre-K Week at the State's capitol.
Our 2016 Georgia Capitol team consists of Stan Jones, Chuck Clay, Helen Sloat, 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.