Gold Dome Report - February 28, 2017
Lawmakers convened for Legislative Day 26 today, while facing a time crunch to get bills passed in their respective chambers by Crossover Day (Friday). Tempers are beginning to fray in certain areas due to the intense crush of moving bills from one chamber to the other. The halls were packed again this morning as numerous advocates were on hand to lobby their issues.
Youth Villages, a nonprofit entity serving Georgia's children in the State's foster care system and which is located in Douglas County, was one of the many entities to make its presence known to lawmakers. Representatives from Youth Villages were welcomed to the Senate Floor by Sens. Mike Dugan (R-Douglasville) and Donzella James (D-Atlanta).
Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) made a motion to engross SR 104, which was approved.
SB 5, by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), would amend O.C.G.A. § 50-27-13 relating to the Georgia Lottery, to provide that, for Fiscal Year 2018, net lottery proceeds shall equal at least 26 percent of the lottery proceeds. For Fiscal Year 2019, net proceeds shall equal at least 28 percent of lottery proceeds. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2020, net proceeds shall equal 30 percent of lottery proceeds for each consecutive year. The bill further states that if net ticket sales revenue in FY 2018 is 5 percent less than in FY 17, the net proceeds shall be at least 26 percent of the lottery proceeds for each consecutive fiscal year. If such revenue in FY 2019 is 5 percent less than in FY 18, the net proceeds shall be at least 30 percent of the lottery proceeds for FY 2020. While presenting the bill, Sen. Cowsert indicated that this bill is an attempt to increase the lottery funding available for HOPE scholarship programs and to set forth parameters for expectations of lottery performance. At least 45% of proceeds for tickets would be paid out for prize money. He indicated that out of every $1 we should profit by 3 cents to make it worthwhile to the State. The profitability has gone down to around 29.5%. It requires an increase in profitability by 1% per year, which is expected to lead to increased funds available for the HOPE and pre-k program by $126 million over 3 years. Concerns have been raised that 1% would lead to less participation in the lottery. The bill went on to pass by a vote of 53-0.
SB 166, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), establishes the "Nurse Licensure Compact." Under this bill, a multi-state licensed nurse is authorized to practice nursing in all "party states," states that have adopted this Compact, after the state has verified that the nurse is in good standing and meets all licensure and other qualifications. The bill outlines the application process for multi-state licenses, the authority of Party State Licensing Boards, and the information disclosure requirements of all party states. Further, the bill establishes the Interstate Commission of Nurse Compact Administrators, a joint entity comprising of one administrator from each party state that has rulemaking authority and is tasked with the oversight of the party states. It passed 52-0.
SB 168, by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), allows the Department of Human Services, counties, and other agencies to share reported child abuse records with licensed adoption agencies, local and state law enforcement agencies, the Department of Community Supervision, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Juvenile Justice. Further, this bill grants any federal, state, or local government entity that is investigating a report of possible child abuse or conducting background checks on prospective foster parents access to the state's child abuse registry. Sen. Miller indicated that this bill is directly related to the child welfare reform bill passed a few years ago. It went on to pass 53-0.
SB 103, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), deals with the regulation of pharmacy benefits managers and it passed by a vote of 51-0.
SB 130, by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) presented his bill which seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 15-11-103(g), concerning the right to an attorney, in an effort to clarify provisions to the waiver of the right to counsel. It requires that a party other than a child shall be informed of his or her right to an attorney prior to any hearing. A party other than a child shall also be given an opportunity to: 1) Obtain and employ an attorney of such party's own choice; 2) Obtain a court appointed attorney if the court determines that such party is an indigent person; or 3) Waive the right to an attorney, provided that such waiver is made knowingly, voluntarily, and on the record.
This was Sen. Tillery's first bill in front of the Senate and he did very well under the 'extensive' questioning by the Senators. The bill passed 52-0.
SB 183, by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), would allow for indefinite collection of tolls. It passed by a vote of 50-1.
SB 202, by Sen. Michael 'Doc' Rhett (D-Marietta), proposes to address Georgia's Medicaid program so as to provide for an increase in the personal needs allowance to be deducted from a nursing home resident's income at O.C.G.A. § 49-4-142(d). It would require that the Department of Community Health, no later than July 1, 2017, implement a modification to the State Plan for Medicaid or any affected rules or regulations so that there shall be deducted a personal needs allowance of not less than $70.00 per month which shall include the minimum amount required by 42 U.S.C. Section 1396a(q)(2). It went on to pass 50-1.
SR 104, by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen), proposed a Constitutional Amendment at Article VII, Section I, Paragraph II at subparagraph (a). It prohibits the levy of State ad valorem taxes on or after January 1, 2019. The constitutional amendment was adopted by a vote of 34-16.
HB 87, by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), addresses annual registrations of businesses with the Secretary of State. This legislation will allow businesses to opt to make multi-year renewals of those registrations. The National Federation of Independent Businesses supported the bill. It passed 167-3.
HB 234, by Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens), passed with a vote of 165-0.
HB 322, by Rep. Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon), passed with a vote of 170-0.
HB 382, by Rep. Jimmy Pruett (R-Eastman), moves the Georgia Commission on Women under the oversight of the Department of Public Health. It passed with a vote of 159-0.
HB 422, by Rep. Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon), authorizes the creation of a nonprofit corporation by the Department of Veterans Services so as create a public foundation. It passed with a vote of 150-0.
HB 71, by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), was postponed until the next legislative day. This is Chairman Smith's "balanced billing" initiative so that Georgians do not receive surprise bills when getting healthcare services.
HB 260, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), creates a Georgia lineman's special license plate with the proceeds going to the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation. The legislation was presented by Rep. Powell and cleared in the form of a Committee Substitute with a vote of 172-0.
HB 276, by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 172-0. This legislation is the Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act.
HB 287, by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), passed out of the House with a vote of 166-0. It is another specialty license plate proposal, honoring service members who are killed in action. The plates are to be provided at no cost to eligible family members.
HB 319, by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), passed out of the House with a vote of 169-0.
HB 323, by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell (R-Thomaston), is the annual Code Revision bill which is the work of the Code Revision Commission. It eliminates, revises, modernizes, corrects, and eliminates obsolete provisions in the Code. It passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 167-0.
HB 204, by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Lawrenceville), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 111-61. The legislation proposes that no non-tax related fees may be included in property tax bills. Minority Leader Stacey Abrams delivered the Minority Report. She told her colleagues that this tax code proposal would not cause individuals to lose their homes by combining the billing. It does address special interests – like collection companies. She also claimed that the legislation will help lawyers so that they may file more lawsuits. She has dubbed the legislation, the "Moocher Protection Act."
HB 217, by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), addresses changes to the student scholarship program and seeks to increase the aggregate cap on contributions from $58 million to $65 million. Rep. Carson explained that the average amount of such scholarship is $3,100.00-$3,200.00. Rep. Carson indicated that there has been more demand for the scholarships as parents demand school choice alternatives for their children. Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) took the Well indicating that he had received calls from individuals in his district – they are small business owners who are trying to educate their children in public school but they have one child who was bullied in public school and needed another alternative. He urged his colleagues to vote for the bill as they have a moral imperative to give children a great education – sometimes where the student is zoned to attend does not work for that particular child. Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Forest Park) also asked her colleagues to vote for the bill – noting that her two children were products of public school but parents sometimes need options. Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), who has his own private school, also asked for the House to consider the legislation – while his school only has a few students who utilize the scholarships those funds are important to those 14 low-income families. Chairman Jay Powell (R-Camilla) said this program was adopted in 2008 and since that time it has become "fully subscribed" and in the most recent years, the scholarships have been exhausted on January 1. It passed 111-62.
HB 124, by Rep. David Clark (R-Buford), was presented and passed with a vote of 131-39. This is a clean up to the legislation passed in 2016 addressing fraud violations involving public assistance. It moves such crimes of fraud to Title 16.
HB 360, by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), is the Expedited Partner Therapy bill, allowing a physician or prescribing practitioner to provide medications to an individual and their sexual partner when the individual is diagnosed and treated for a sexually transmitted disease. There were no questions and it passed 132-36.
HB 505, by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), amends O.C.G.A. § 9-16-15 to require courts to temporarily discontinue civil forfeiture proceedings during the pendency of criminal proceedings resulting from a related indictment or accusation unless the owner or interest holder of the property waives the right to discontinuation.
HB 506, by Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody), amends the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Act of 1965 (Ga. L. 1965) to allow the board to vote on whether to award a contract totaling $200,000 or more for concessions. Further, the bill requires that all concessions or contracts for the sale or lease of real property granted by the Authority are done so through a competitive bidding process.
HB 509, by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Powder Springs), amends Chapter 1 of Title 10 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, by adding a new Article 35 that is officially titled the "Human Trafficking Prevention Act." This bill prohibits retailers from selling or leasing products that make Internet content accessible unless the product contains a digital blocking capability. The digital blocking capability would block access to obscene material, child pornography, revenge pornography, and websites known to facilitate prostitution. Further, retailers are generally prohibited from supplying consumers with methods that would deactivate the product's digital blocking capability. However, a retailer may deactivate a product's digital blocking capabilities if the consumer is at least 18 years old, makes a written request with the acknowledgment that he or she understands the potential danger of such an action, and pays a one-time fee of $20. The fees collected from deactivation must be remitted to the comptroller general and then deposited into the Georgia Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Fund. The bill also contains an accompanying amendment to Article III, Section IX, Paragraph VI(q) of the Georgia Constitution that would allow for remitted fees to be allocated to the Georgia Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Fund.
HB 510, by Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), repeals subsection (d) of O.C.G.A. § 3-3-21, relating to the sale of alcoholic beverages near churches, school buildings, or other sites. This subsection applies to counties with populations between 175,000 to 195,000 and states how such counties should measure the distance between alcoholic retailers and churches or school buildings.
HB 513, by Rep. Pam Dickerson (D-Conyers), adds a new Code section (O.C.G.A. § 19-10A-8) which requires the Department of Community Health to develop signs to post at medical facilities that inform the public that such facility is an authorized location to leave a newborn child.
HB 517, by Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody), proposes to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 31-7-22 to require that diagnostic imaging equipment be registered when being used or operated in the State on and after July 1, 2017. It would provide that the Department of Community Health oversee such registration. It would provide that no registration and no right to use or operate diagnostic imaging equipment granted by any registration shall be assigned or disposed of without prior notification to the Department. There are requirements to be met for such registration: 1) if the equipment is purchased or leased on or after July 1, 2017 and not be greater than five years old; 2) the equipment is required to have the most recent version of the original equipment manufacturer's software, as evidenced by a signed and notarized statement from the original equipment manufacturer; 3) the equipment is to be accredited by an accrediting entity approved by the Department; 4) the equipment is approved by or meets all requirements of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for purposes of Medicare reimbursement; 5) if computed tomography (CT) scanning equipment, then that equipment is to have the original equipment manufacturer's most recent radiation dose management software as evidenced by a signed and notarized statement from the seller; 6) if computed tomography (CT) scanning equipment, that equipment is to have a radiation survey conducted by a licensed professional approved by the Department; 7) the diagnostic equipment is to be covered by a continuous maintenance service agreement; 8) the diagnostic imaging equipment is to have a complete stamped architectural drawing for the installation of the equipment; and 9) there should be a certificate of occupancy from the governing authority of the county/municipality in which the equipment is to be installed (prior to that installation). It makes it unlawful for any person to use or operate such equipment unless it is registered – subjecting such to a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000.00 per violation – if a violation is a continuing one, then each day of such violation shall constitute a separate violation for the purpose of computing the applicable civil penalty. If penalties are to be imposed, the Department is to notify that person in writing, stating the date, facts and nature of each act or omission and specifying the provision(s) of the Code Section or rule, regulation, order or registration involved in the violation. Such penalties are to be collected by the Attorney General.
HB 519, by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), proposes to require health benefit plans to utilize certain clinical review criteria to establish step therapy protocols in a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 33-24-59.21. It would apply to commercial insurance as well as health plans under State Health Benefit Plan as well the State's Medicaid program. It defines "step therapy protocol" as "a protocol or program that establishes the specific sequence in which prescription drugs for a specified medical condition are medically appropriate as determined by a prescribing practitioner for a particular patient, including self-administered and physician administered drugs, and are covered by an insurer or health benefit plan." It outlines the clinical review criteria to be used to establish a step therapy protocol (based on clinical practice guidelines). It states at (c), that "when coverage of a prescription drug for the treatment of any medical condition is restricted for use by a health benefit plan or private review agent through the use of a step therapy protocol, the patient and prescribing practitioner shall have access to a clear and convenient process to request a step therapy override determination. A health benefit plan or private review agent may use its existing medical exceptions process to satisfy this requirement. The process shall be made easily accessible on the health benefit plan's or private review agent's website." It states also in (d) that a step therapy override determination shall be granted by a health benefit plan or private review agent if certain conditions are met (such as if the patient is stable on a prescription drug selected by his/her practitioner for the medical condition under consideration). It requires in (e) that the health benefit plan or private review agent deny or grant step therapy override determination request or appeal of a step therapy override determination within 1) 24 hours in an urgent healthcare situation; and 2) 72 hours in a non-urgent health care situation. It permits the Commissioner of Insurance the ability to determine the criteria for when a healthcare situation is "urgent" or "non urgent." At (f), upon granting the step therapy override determination, the health benefit plan or private review agent is to authorize coverage for the prescription drug prescribed by the patient's practitioner provided that the drug is a covered medication under the patient's health benefit plan. The legislation outlines that the new Code Section is not to be construed to prevent (1) a health benefit plan or private review agent from requiring the patient to try an AB-rated generic equivalent prior to providing coverage for the equivalent branded product; 2) a health benefit plan or private review agent from requiring a patient to try an interchangeable biological product prior to providing coverage for the biological product; or 3) a practitioner from prescribing a medication that is determined by the practitioner to be "medically appropriate." This Code Section is not intended to impact the plan's ability to substitute a generic drug for a brand name drug.
HB 520, by Rep. Craig Gordon (D-Savannah), seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 21-2-381 to provide that electors can request that the Board of Registrars or the absentee ballot clerk annually send an absentee ballot request form to the address the elector indicates. Such request shall continue so long as the elector remains registered to vote in his or her county.
HB 521, by Rep. Erica Thomas (D-Austell), would amend O.C.G.A. § 34-4-3 to provide for an increase in the minimum wage to not less than $10.10, up from the current level of $5.15.
HB 522, by Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon) addresses continuing education requirements for barbers and cosmetologists by amending O.C.G.A. § 43-10-10 to require instruction on domestic violence and sexual abuse awareness. The curriculum for such instruction shall be developed by the respective boards and shall be developed in consultation with the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and other organizations knowledgeable about such issues. The curriculum is to include sections relating to how to recognize signs of domestic violence and it must provide a list of resources for victims of domestic violence, as well as a disclaimer indicating that individuals are under no obligation to report a suspected incidence of domestic violence. The Board shall also make training and resource information available to each applicant for a certificate of registration.
HB 523, by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 7-3-9 to prohibit the issuance of any industrial loan within three miles of any U.S. military base or facility. It amends O.C.G.A. § 7-3-13 to prohibit any licensee from providing a payment instrument to any person other than a borrower that has previously entered into a contract. The term 'payment instrument' refers to any check, money order, draft, or negotiable demand instrument which, once redeemed, results in a contract with the issuer. It would lastly amend O.C.G.A. § 7-3-14 to require a licensee to disclose on the loan agreement the exact dollar amount of the commission to be received as a result of any insurance product sold on any loan at a licensed location where the percentage of borrowers that accepted such insurance product in the prior calendar year exceeded 50 percent and shall continue to disclose until the percentage of borrowers accepting such products falls below 50 percent.
HB 524, by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) provides for an income tax credit for taxpayers who make donations to certain qualified organizations acting in support of public education. It creates a new code section at O.C.G.A. § 48-7-29.21 to create a 'digital learning' tax credit. Taxpayers who donate to eligible non-profit organizations shall receive an income tax credit equal to 50 percent of the amount donated provided that such credit is not allowed to reduce any estimated payment of the tax levied before October 1, 2017. It allows taxpayers to carry forward unused credits for three years. The total amount of tax credits are not to exceed $10 million in the first year and the credit cap shall increase by 15 percent for each year the total amount of credits is equal to or greater than 90 percent of the program cap. No more than three eligible nonprofits can be certified to participate in this program at one time. Eligible nonprofits are to make grants for the purpose of 1) Purchasing new technology products; 2) Creating digital content and interactive textbooks; 3) Training teachers in the use of technology; or 4) Improving instructional practices with such technology. These funds will only be granted if counties or school systems provide matching funds equal to 50 percent of the grant amount. The Department of Education would require quarterly reports on the usage of these funds. The Department shall then compile a report to be submitted to the Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Governor by October 1 of each year. In order to maintain designation as an eligible nonprofit, such organizations would need to 1) Submit reports as required by the bill and 2) Expend at least 95 percent of the funds on grants.
HB 525, by Rep. Debbie Buckner (R-Junction City) clarifies that buffer areas along waterways are to be considered in a tax assessor's assessment of the fair market value of a property. This includes buffers along waters established through the 'Erosion and Sedimentation Act of 1975'.
HB 526, by Rep. Stephens (R-Savannah) amends O.C.G.A. § 48-13-50.2 and O.C.G.A. § 48-13-50.3 to change the definition of 'Innkeeper' to include the owner of a private residence where such residence does not constitute the residence of the owner for purposes of voter registration or qualifying for elective office.
HR 432, by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Powder Springs), is a companion resolution to HB 509 (summarized above) to amend Article III, Section IX, Paragraph VI of the Georgia Constitution to allow for fees collected from the deactivation of the digital blocking capability on certain products to be allocated to the Georgia Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Trust Fund.
HR 446, by Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point), would create the Johnny Tolbert III House Study Committee on Heatstroke, which would explore measures that would protect both youth and high school athletes from serious or even catastrophic injuries or illnesses that can be the consequences of a blinkered focus on competitiveness.
SB 256, by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), adds a new Code section (O.C.G.A. § 50-16-39.1) to allow the State Properties Commission to enter into a lease to provide broadband or wireless services to rural technology lease-eligible counties without first obtaining approval by the General Assembly. Any person interested in a lease must submit a project proposal to the commission, and the commission must use a competitive bidding process to award leases.
SB 257, by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen), adds a new Code section (O.C.G.A. § 4-1-7) that requires law enforcement officers to consult veterinarians before filing criminal charges for a violation under O.C.G.A. § 16-12-4 relating to conduct involving animal husbandry to confirm that such conduct is otherwise permitted under state or federal laws.
SB 258, by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), amends O.C.G.A. § 45-2-1 to state that any holder or receiver of public money in any municipality in this state who has failed to account for and pay over the same to the proper officer is ineligible to hold civil office in this state.
SB 260, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-2-984.3 to allow the Professional Standards Commission to initiate an investigation into any alleged violation by an educator upon receipt of a written request from another educator who is employed by a local school system in Georgia regardless of whether that educator is a Georgia resident or from the parent of a public school student regardless of whether that parent is a Georgia resident.
SR 318, by Sen. Harold Jones II (D-Augusta), creates the Senate Cyber Challenge Study Committee for the purpose of establishing a cyber challenge program in Georgia that would allow for students and job-seekers to participate in online competitions relating to cyber security.
SR 329, by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), creates the Joint Study Committee on Professional Employer Organizations to examine the need for the licensing and regulation of representatives of professional employer organizations who provide employees with benefits and insurance plans.
There were fewer Committee meetings today but several of those which met held lengthy meetings.
House Education Committee
Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) presented a substitute to HB 273, which would require K-5 schools to provide students with an average of 30 minutes per day of recess time. This bill was heard yesterday, however it was held because there was concern that it would mandate many more hours of recess than is already required, without taking into consideration P.E. programs that schools already provide. To address these concerns, the bill now states that "recess shall not be required on the day when students have instructional PE time". The Committee was satisfied with the changes and voted to give a do pass recommendation.
Chairman Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) presented her bill, HB 463. This allows for donation transparency and provides a tax benefit for donors to allow for the Department of Education to put aside funds to facilitate a quicker relief effort during state emergencies. Currently such funds lapse back into the budget and this would seek to preserve those dollars for the Department. HB 463 received a do pass. Additionally, Rep. Dempsey has pulled her other bill, HB 494, from the calendar and it will now be considered during the interim.
HR 405, by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), would allow citizens of Georgia to elect state school board members as opposed to having them appointed, which is currently the case. Such members would be elected by congressional delegation under this bill, which is a similar system to how the Department of Transportation's Board does appointments. Jay Robins with American Principals Project was supportive of the bill. It received a do pass from the committee.
HB 430, by Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger), was heard in subcommittee yesterday and it received a do pass recommendation. Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville) presented this bill today. It takes a few of the recommendations for charter schools that were in the Education Reform Commission's recommendations. It asks the state charter school commission to adopt rules to standardize their rules. Section 3 deals with federal title funds. The last section addresses facilities, recommending a grant be awarded to charter schools to help with day-to-day operations. This bill received a do pass by the group.
Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Atlanta) presented her bill HB 423, which allows for state charters to be able to utilize unused facilities at no cost. Andrew Lewis with Georgia Charter Schools Association said they did a study that determined that facilities must use operating revenue towards operations. Angela Palm with GSBA said they oppose this bill because state charter schools are a separate school district. Each one is its own LEA. It would be the same as Cobb County owning one of Fulton County's buildings. John Zonner with the Georgia Superintendent Association (GSA) said that it does not make sense for charters to sell other schools their facilities for $1. He indicated that fair market value would be more reasonable and this takes away the schools' ability to negotiate. Rep. Stovall defended the measure, making the case that taxpayer money goes towards these facilities, so it would be improper for school systems to have to purchase unused buildings from other schools at fair market price. The Committee voted on the passage of HB 423, which failed by a vote of 4-5. The bill was tabled and Chairman Coleman indicated that it could be brought back up at the next meeting at his discretion.
House Judiciary Committee
The Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), met today and considered the following bills:
- HB 50, authored by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn), expands the liability limitation provided in O.C.G.A. § 4-12-1 to participants in "livestock activities." The code section currently provides for limitation of liability for individuals who participate in equine and llama activities. The Committee recommended the bill do pass by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 192, authored by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta), relates to the business judgment rule in Georgia. The legislation statutorily creates a gross negligence standard of care for business decisions made by officers and directors of banks, trust companies, and corporations and clarifies the burden of proof. The Committee recommended the bill do pass by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 356, authored by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), is the Supporting and Strengthening Georgia Families Act. The legislation allows for a parent to temporarily delegate caregiving responsibilities and legal decision-making authority for their child. The Committee recommended the bill do pass by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 433, authored by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), provides for automatic expiration of writs of possession issued by courts after 30 days. The legislation is intended to prevent landlords from obtaining writs and holding them to apply undue pressure on tenants during their tenancy. The Committee recommended that the bill do pass by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 497, authored by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), revises the juvenile code to provide for the consideration of de facto custodians in child custody proceedings. The legislation also provides for delay to juvenile delinquency proceedings when the child is participating in a diversionary program. The Committee recommended that the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 278, authored by Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta), amends the Georgia Business Corporation Code to provide for benefit corporations. Benefit corporations are organized for the purposes of bestowing a public benefit rather than returning a profit to shareholders. The Committee recommended that the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee
The Committee considered one bill today. HB 32, by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson), seeks to impose penalties for teachers or school staff who engages in sexual contact with students, while in a supervisory role at that school. When presenting the bill, Rep. Chandler indicated that her aim was to focus on individuals who have supervisory authority over students at a school, rather than including every school employee. For example, a person in a custodian role may not have supervisory authority over a student. Most of the committee's concerns focused on this supervisory authority. In some instances, schools do delegate some supervisory authority to custodians, secretaries and other types of staff members. Those individuals would be included under this bill, but some members are concerned about how to distinguish between a 'supervisory' role and any other type of role. Rep. Chandler indicated that this bill would also include substitute teachers since they are paid by the school and have supervisory authority over students. The bill received a do pass with a vote of 6-4.
House Health and Human Services Committee
Kiah Williams made a presentation on the State's new program to allow a process for unused recycled medications. Her company, Sirum, a San Jose-based nonprofit which is the largest drug redistribution entity in the United States, will open a location in Norcross. At the present time, the entity is working on its required licensing with the State's Board of Pharmacy. Rules have already been prepared by the Department of Public Health regarding the donation and receipt of unused medications. These medications may then be redistributed to Georgians who are the most vulnerable and have low-incomes. The plan for this entity is to utilize mail-order pharmacy in order to get the medications to the intended user. Rep. Jimmy Pruett (R-Eastman) inquired about whether any opioids or narcotics would be dispensed; those will not be dispensed because of the laws on mailing of those medications. Further, Sirum is focused on helping patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
The first bill the Committee heard was SB 102 by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville). SB 102 came about due to a Senate Study Committee on the issues of Emergency Cardiac Care Centers (the Report from this Study Committee may be found here http://www.senate.ga.gov/sro/en-US/CommitteeReports.aspx ). Sen. Miller explained that the legislation intends to provide for the designation of cardiac care centers (using three levels) and establish the Office of Cardiac Care within the Department of Public Health. One goal is for the State to collect better data on cardiac care. An executive, Deb Bailey, R.N. with Northeast Georgia Medical Center, testified and explained the legislation along with Sen. Miller. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death – last year alone, more than 23,000 Georgians died. There is a very small survival rate when heart attacks occur outside of a hospital. To become a "cardiac care center" the hospital elects for such designation – SB 102 does not mandate that hospitals are required to obtain such designation. Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) spoke in support of the legislation but asked about costs to the State with the implementation. Sen. Miller indicated that there had been no fiscal note on the proposal; the Department of Public Health would establish this office like it did with trauma and stroke. Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans) and Rep. Mark Newton (R-Augusta), both healthcare providers, inquired about the "assessment tool" used in the proposal. Sen. Miller and Ms. Bailey indicated that such tool was already in existence; the legislation was vague about the tool on purpose as technology will evolve over time. There were other inquiries about whether such Level I, II or III designation was to enhance trauma center designation; these are totally separate. Rep. Newton (a physician) inquired about whether STEMI was addressed and what would occur with hospital transfer agreements. The legislation before the Committee is similar to what the State of Washington considered on this matter. Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) made a motion to do pass; his motion carried.
Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville) presented HB 473. After lengthy debate on this legislation, the Committee tabled the proposal upon a motion by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper). HB 473 proposed changes to Chapter 4 of Title 30 to address individuals with disabilities and their service animals. There are two questions, according to Rep. Kirby, which a business, such as a restaurant, may ask of an individual with a service animal (to assist a physically or mentally impaired individual, do work or perform tasks with one or more life activities) - is the service animal for a life activity and if so, what life activity? The problem is that individuals have taken advantage of use of service animals, bringing them into public spaces when the animal is not trained as a service animal to assist an individual with a life activity. Rep. Kirby explained he was trying to provide clarification. Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) indicated that this had been an issue in the hospitality industry. Rep. Kirby's legislation is not intended to require the certification of the animal. It proposed that the Department of Human Services authorize private service organizations that provide assistance to the physically or mentally impaired persons to create and issue information cards containing the department's seal to briefly detail the rights of that individual and the penalty for denial of, or interference with, such rights. Rep. Kirby indicated that the Lions Club would be one such organization considered for this work. However, as the Committee delved further into the bill, it learned that the Department of Human Services had no experience in such work and did not actually want to be required to oversee such a program. There were other questions from the Committee on individuals who had dogs for "comfort" such as individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress or some other trauma. There were also questions on how the individual could prove that the animal was a service animal – either having a letter from the physician or proof of the animal's training.
Freshman legislator Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) presented her Substitute on HB 454 which would create a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 31-17A-4 to address the proliferation of HIV cases in the State and in particular in Atlanta/Fulton County. Rep. Cannon wrote this measure with bipartisan support from Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) and others. It proposed definitions for public healthcare facilities; addressed the standards of care; addressed the standards of care for individuals who test positive for the disease; and provided for information to be provided to the individual including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) as approved by the FDA and CDC. It further allowed that the Department of Public Health could address the rules on this matter and proposed that the legislature could come back later and review and address any changes and further CDC recommendations. Rep. Cannon noted that the federally qualified health centers and Association County Commissioners of Georgia supported the proposal in addition to the Department of Public Health. The Committee raised numerous questions on the need for the bill as there were already laws on the books addressing HIV and AIDS and education and information to be provided to individuals. Rep. Cannon indicated that this legislation was addressing those individuals who may not test positive initially but are at risk. She further explained that the State of California has already passed such legislation. Rep. Matt Hatchett moved to table the proposal after the numerous questions. Chairman Cooper (R-Marietta) indicated that the issue was important to her and she was committed to making the Department of Public Health address the issue of PREP and PEP in Rules; she asked for the Department of Public Health's lobbyist to address the Commission and carry her message back to the Department – he indicated that the Department could begin on rules almost immediately even if no law was passed. Chairman Cooper told Rep. Cannon that should the legislation fail to pass, it might actually be better as rules could be promulgated more quickly - before the legislation became passed and signed into law. Rep. Hatchett's motion to table failed; when asked if an alternative motion was possible, Chairman Cooper said she would not entertain such. Thus, no action was taken on the bill. Chairman Cooper told Rep. Cannon that she would follow up with the Department of Public Health on getting rules on the education about PREP and PEP. Rep. Dexter Sharper (D-Valdosta) encouraged Rep. Cannon to present a Resolution with the information contained in the legislation to raise awareness of the issue of negative testing.
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.