Gold Dome Report - February 8, 2016
Lawmakers convened today for the 17th legislative day of the 2016 Session. Among the various entities and individuals honored, it was also Rome Day at the Georgia Capitol.
Governor Deal released the revenue numbers for January 2016. In all, the revenues were $2.05 billion, which is an increase of $119.3 million or 6.4 percent over what the State had in January 2015. Our year-to-date collections are $12.49 billion (an increase of more than one billion or 8.9 percent as compared to January 2015).
The Senate had the following pieces of legislation on its Rules Calendar:
SB 278, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), addresses the penalties associated with pimping and pandering and also the State's Sexual Offender Registry. It proposes that violating O.C.G.A. § 16-6-11 (pimping) is a felony and shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one or more than ten years. A violation of O.C.G.A. § 16-6-12 (pandering), for a first offense, will be punishable as a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature; a second or subsequent offense shall be a felony and punishable by imprisonment of not less than one or more than ten years. It also defines what is a "dangerous sexual offense," for convictions occurring after June 30, 2016 in the Sexual Offender Registry, in O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12(a)(10(B.2). The legislation passed by committee substitute with a vote of 53-0.
SB 283, by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), addresses Chapter 8 of Title 45 regarding accounting for public funds. It provides for the multibank pooling of depositories for the acceptance of deposits of public funds from public bodies. This 'pool' would consist of the Top 10 banks in the State. Sen. Kennedy stressed that those top 10 banks have all agreed and have thrown their support behind this bill. SB 283 was passed without any amendments by a vote of 51-3.
The House Rules Calendar included six pieces of legislation.
HB 593, which came up on Thursday, failed to pass. The House was asked to reconsider the proposal. Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) made a motion for the House to reconsider. His motion passed. It will go to the House General Calendar to be reconsidered later.
Congressman Tom Price, MD (R-Roswell) made an appearance this morning in the House. He thanked members for welcoming his bride to this chamber – he is married to Betty Price who now holds a House seat representing Roswell. Rep. Betty Price is also a physician. Congressman Rick Allen was also on hand and spoke to the Senate and House – he commended Tom Price for balancing the Budget in the House there. Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton) and a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, also made an appearance and spoke to his former colleagues, thanking them on "training him on the way he should go."
HB 649, by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), proposes to enact the "Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act." Statistics show that breast feeding helps babies by reducing a number of problems such as asthma, childhood obesity, SIDs, and other health issues. It permits mothers an option to a clinically trained specialist to work with them on breast feeding. If passed, this group will fall under the Composite Board of Medicine. Rep. Gloria Frazier (D-Hephzibah) asked about individuals who work in hospitals now – mostly those individuals are nurses. The issue is that mothers go home and actually need help from individuals there. Rep. Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta) also spoke to the legislation. The legislation passed 129-27.
HB 759, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), addresses certain activities which financial entities perform so as to clarify that those actions are not the unauthorized practice of law. It cleared the House with a vote of 156-0.
HB 775, by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), limits the sale and dispensing of spectacles and contact lenses in Title 43. Rep. Ehrhart expressed that the legislation would in no way restrict telemedicine. Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville) asked a clarification about examinations and whether they actually catch diseases that a computer would not catch. Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) rose in support of the legislation. It passed by a vote of 155-0.
HB 780, by Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans), clarifies that certain laboratories are not subject to State licensure and regulation. After a bit of ribbing from colleagues since it was her first piece of legislation, it passed quickly 160-0.
HB 737, by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell, Jr. (R-Thomaston), is the annual update to Georgia's Code and the work of the Code Revision Commission. Debate on this legislation was postponed.
HB 767, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), proposes to include utility service vehicles in "Spencer Pass Law" so that motorists are to move over a lane or slow down when passing a utility contracting vehicle and workers. HB 767 passed by a vote of 158-0.
HB 934, by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), authorizes, in O. C.G.A. § 49-1-8, the Department of Human Services to provide a separate link or portal on its website to provide kinship caregivers (e.g., grandparent, aunt, uncle, great aunt, great uncle, cousin, sibling, or close family friend of a child who "has assumed responsibility for raising such child in an informal, noncustodial, or guardianship capacity upon the parents of such child losing or abdicating the ability to care for or provide basic necessities for such child") with information and access necessary to apply for public assistance benefits for children in their care (under the ages of 18).
HB 935, by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Lawrenceville), addresses exemptions from ad valorem tax and adds certain fulfillment centers (stock in trade of a fulfillment centers) to properties which are eligible for a Freeport exemption in O.C.G.A. § 45-5-48.2 (it defines which entities are eligible for applications for level 1 freeport exemption in O.C.G.A. § 45-48.1).
HB 936, by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Lawrenceville), is another Tax Code proposal and this clarifies terms concerning wages necessary to qualify for a jobs tax credit. It amends O.C.G.A. § 48-7-40(e)(1) so the wage (rather than average wage) of each new job created must be above the average wage of the county that has the lowest average wage of any county in the State to qualify as reported in the most recently available annual issue of the Georgia Employment and Wages Averages Report of the Department of Labor. It also addresses tax credits for business enterprises in less developed areas in O.C.G.A. § 48-7-40.1(a)(3) and defines "new full-time employee job" as a "newly created position of employment that was not previously located in this State, requires a minimum of 35 hours a week, and pays at or above the average wage earned in the county with the lowest average wage earned in this State, as reported in the most recently available annual issue of the Georgia Employment and Wages Averages Report of the Department of Labor."
HB 937, by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Lawrenceville), amends O.C.G.A. § 48-8-3, regarding exemptions from State sales and use tax, and changes the current sunset provision for the exemption for projects of "regional significance." The current exemption is to expire on June 30, 2016; this extends the exemption until June 30, 2019.
HB 938, by Rep. Brian Prince (D-Augusta), seeks also to address Georgia's Tax Code to specifically address tax sales. It adds a new Code Section in O.C.G.A. § 48-4-8 and requires that a purchaser of a property at a tax sale is to be responsible for maintaining the property in accordance to the local laws and ordinances and in a state of "good repair" during the period from the sale through the foreclosure of the right of redemption pursuant to provisions of Article 3 of Chapter 4 of Title 48. If the property is redeemed by the owner, the reasonable costs incurred by the purchaser of a property at a tax sale shall be paid by the owner to the purchaser at a tax sale as a part of the costs of redemption as provided in O.C.G.A. § 48-4-42. The legislation also amends O.C.G.A. § 48-4-42 to address amounts payable for redemption.
HB 939, by Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell), addresses setoff debt collection in Article 7 of Chapter 7 of Title 48. It revises the procedures for the transfer of setoffs by the Administrative Office of the Courts to the court to whom the debt is owed.
HB 941, by Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna), is legislation which provides procedures for review of incidents involving a peace officer's use of deadly force that results in death or serious bodily injury.
- It adds new language to O.C.G.A. § 15-12-71(b), regarding duties of the grand jury, and defines the term, "serious bodily injury," and requires the grand jury, whenever deemed necessary by 12 or more of its members, or at the request of a district attorney, to conduct a review of any incident where a peace officer's use of deadly force resulted in death or serious bodily injury to another person. It outlines when such investigation is to occur and how the chief executive officer of the law enforcement agency and the peace officer are to be notified of the meeting of the grand jury. If the grand jury does not request that the district attorney create a bill of indictment or special presentment, the grand jury is to prepare a report or issue a general presentment (which is to include a summary of the evidence considered) based upon its inspection which will then be subject to publication. It also outlines how such reports are to be released to the public and fees for any copying of such reports or evidence used.
- It amends O.C.G.A. § 15-12-73, regarding exclusion of admissions and communications among grand jurors, to require that a grand juror, prosecuting attorney, court reporter, interpreter, or any other person appearing before the grand jury not disclose the testimony of a witness examined or other matters which occurred before the grand jury with certain exceptions.
- Adds subsection (b) in O.C.G.A. § 15-12-74, regarding grand jury presentment of offenses, and what is to occur with a "true bill."
- Adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 15-12-83 regarding the attendance of a stenographer at a grand jury proceeding and the use of a recording device which will be permitted at the request of the district attorney or accused peace officer. It also requires the court reporter to take an oath (which is outlined).
- It changes current law in O.C.G.A. § 15-12-100(a), concerning the procedure for impaneling special grand jury – now only the chief judge of the superior court of any county can submit such motion or it can be by petition of any public official of the county or of a municipality within that county so that they may request the judges to impanel a special grand jury for investigational purposes. This adds that the district attorney may also file a motion or petition for such.
- Adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 15-12-102, concerning the applicability of special purpose grand juries – this applies only to all counties and consolidated city-county governments in Georgia.
- Amends O.C.G.A. § 17-7-52 and the procedures for indictment of a peace officer for a crime in the performance of duties, notification, and the rights of the officer. It in part requires that the notice and copy of the proposed bill of indictment or special presentment be given to the officer not less than 20 days prior to the date upon which the grand jury will begin hearing evidence. It does allow that the officer may appear as a witness but requires that the officer notify the district attorney prior to the date the grand jury will begin hearing testimony in the investigation.
- Amends O.C.G.A. § 17-7-70.1(e) regarding trial upon accusations in certain felony and misdemeanor cases.
- Strikes parts of current law in O.C.G.A. § 45-11-4 regarding "unprofessional conduct and indictment."
HB 942, by Rep. Dexter Sharper (D-Valdosta), seeks to amend current law relating to compulsory attendance in elementary and secondary education and provide for provisional enrollment in school. Specifically, it adds a new subsection (b.1) in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-690.1 which relates to mandatory education for children between the ages of six and 16 so as to read:
A local school system shall allow a student to enroll and attend school for 90 calendar days on a provisional basis while awaiting evidence of enrollment eligibility. If such evidence is not provided within 90 days from enrollment, the school may withdraw the student; provided, however, that the school shall provide at least ten calendar days' notice to the parent, guardian, or other person who registered the student for enrollment prior to the withdrawal.
Further, this bill seeks to require in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-690.3 that the Department of Education require school administrators, who have responsibility for enrolling students, have periodic training on the rights of a grandparent to enroll a grandchild pursuant to a power of attorney; and the requirement of a local school system to provisionally enroll students for 90 calendar days while awaiting evidence of enrollment eligibility. Each school is also required to post a notice of these rights.
HB 943, by Rep. Carl Rogers (R-Gainesville), addresses Chapter 8 of Title 13, pertaining to illegal and void contracts. His proposal is to address O.C.G.A. § 13-8-2 and contracts contravening public policy generally and adds a new subsection (c) so that a "covenant, promise, agreement, or understanding in or in connection with or collateral to a contract or agreement for engineering or architectural services purporting to require that one party to such contract or agreement shall indemnify, hold harmless, insure, or defend the other party to the contract or other named indemnitee, including its, his, or her officers, agents, or employees against liability or claims for damages, losses, or expenses, including attorney fees, is against public policy and void and unenforceable" except for certain instances.
HB 944, by Rep. Sheri Gilligan (R-Cumming), seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 31-7-16, regarding determination or pronouncement of death of a patient who died in a nursing home facility, so as to not require that if that patient is a registered organ donor, then only a physician may make that determination or pronouncement of death. It also amends O.C.G.A. § 31-7-176.1, regarding determination or pronouncement of death of patients in hospice care, so that they no longer must be pronounced dead by a physician if the hospice patient is a registered organ donor. It also amends O.C.G.A. § 31-10-16(a) to address criteria for determining death and immunity from liability and makes conforming changes so that a physician assistant and registered professional nurse may pronounce individuals deaths.
SB 344, by Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming), amends Georgia law regarding development impact fees. It adds school systems to the legislative findings on using the equitable program for planning and financing public facilities with these fees in O.C.G.A. § 36-71-1. It also creates a new Article 3 in Chapter 71 of Title 36 to include "educational development impact fees" and how those are to be imposed and used in "high growth school systems." It permits in O.C.G.A. § 36-71-21 that each local board of education which is a high growth school system may by resolution impose, levy, and collect development impact fees within any area of its school system which has experienced enrollment growth of at least 15 percent over the preceding five-year period. Before imposing this "fee," the local board of education has to adopt a public resolution and create an educational development impact fee advisory committee.
SB 345, by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), addresses Georgia's Corporate Code and seeks to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 14-5-46.1 with regard to determining the property rights of religious organizations and states that the "State of Georgia shall not favor or give preferential treatment to any particular ecclesiastical rule or ecclesiastical form of government with regard to determining the property rights of religious organizations." The State is to adopt the "neutral principles analysis."
SB 346, by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), addresses the "Environmental Policy Act" in O.C.G.A. § 12-16-3 and exempts projects for the construction or improvement of public roads from "environmental effects reports" if the project does not exceed $100 million and the project obtains no contribution from federal funds.
SB 347, by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton), addresses a number of changes in Title 33 to alter current laws on captive insurance companies. The changes take place throughout Chapter 41, the "Georgia Captive Insurance Company Act."
SB 348, by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), addresses Title 20 and provides for college and career academies as charter schools or as schools within a strategic waivers school system or charter system when it formalizes a partnership that demonstrates a collaboration between business, industry, and community stakeholders to advance work force development between one or more local boards of education, a private individual, a private organization, or a State or local public entity in cooperation with one or more postsecondary institutions in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-326(4) ("Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia's Economy Act"). Additional changes are incorporated into O.C.G.A. § 20-4-37, relating to the Office of College and Career Transitions.
SB 350, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), addresses consumer fireworks and imposes a new excise tax on the sales of consumer fireworks in O.C.G.A. § 48-13-131 so that moneys collected from the excise tax on these fireworks will be used as follows:
(1) 55 percent goes towards the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission;
(2) 40 percent goes toward funding the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council for improving the equipment and training of firefighters and improving the rating of fire departments in Georgia; and
(3) 5 percent goes towards local governments within whose boundaries where the sale of consumer fireworks was made and can be used only for public safety purposes.
House Appropriations Committee – Education Subcommittee
Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta) and members of his Subcommittee heard from the public today on the Governor's proposals for the FY 2017 Budget. There was testimony provided by residential treatment facilities (which take children in State custody and provide them mental health services and education while on their campuses) asking that the Subcommittee support the Governor's proposed $1.5 million in added funding in the Non-Quality Basic Education Formula Grants program for increases in enrollment. Matthew Gambill asked for the Subcommittee to help fund laboratories for school systems as they currently do not have adequate funding. Communities in School asked for $750,000. There was a request for fee waivers for AP stem exams. There was also support for the Governor's inclusion of $300 million for austerity cuts – GAE representatives testified about salary increases and making those increases part of the salary scale and the Georgia School Board Association also discussed the added $300 million; however, that group stated that the local school systems needed flexibility for determining how to use those funds. Rep. Dickson indicated that he believed that there was some direction in the Governor's language on this issue so that funding could be used for furloughs, days of instruction and salary adjustments. Representatives from the Georgia Child Care Association asked for additional help to centers providing education to children from ages zero to five – asking specifically for money for project directors which are currently not funded but mandated to be in each center. Teach for America also appeared before the Subcommittee, supporting the additional funds for training in the Budget. Georgia Early Education Alliance also talked about pre-k funding and the need for additional moneys for salary increases because of their teacher turnover rates. American Association for Adaptive Sports asked the Subcommittee to support this program (which previously had an allocation of $1 million but is now at $75,000) and provide an added $175,000 in funding – it was noted that these funds are matched by the Georgia High School Association and the State has an obligation to provide these programs for disabled children and youth.
House Regulated Industries Committee
This Committee had two measures on its agenda:
Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex) had HB 654 on the agenda which seeks to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 31-40-11 so that each tattoo studio is to be required to display, in a prominent place, a printed warning that any tattoo on the face, neck, forearm, hand or lower leg may automatically disqualify an individual wearing such a tattoo from military service in the United States armed forces.
Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville) presented HB 727 which is a series of changes to the laws passed in 2015 regarding the regulation of "consumer fireworks." It addresses new definitions as well as where and what times these fireworks may be detonated/exploded. In part, these revisions come about due to constituents making complaints after last year's law went into effect. It also allows for a "local excise tax" to be imposed at a rate of one percent per item sold which the seller of the fireworks is to pay to the local governing authority overseeing those sales in that jurisdiction.
House Insurance Committee – Life and Health Subcommittee
The Subcommittee took up HB 306. Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) authored this initiative. It seeks to provide for the conversion of life insurance policies for the funding of long-term care services so as to delay individuals from seeking to become eligible for Medicaid in O.C.G.A. § 49-4-156. His legislation as filed permits the owner of a policy with a face amount greater than $10,000.00 the ability to enter into a life-settlement care contract for the benefit of the recipient of long-term care services in exchange for direct payments to a provider of such long-term care services. It also seeks to address the costs of funeral expenses as well.
House Judiciary Civil Committee – Caldwell Subcommittee
Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) presented HB 849 to the Subcommittee for its consideration. It is the "Georgia Civil Rights in Public Accommodations Act." This law will create a new Chapter 16 in Title 10 and would establish a State process for individuals who have been aggrieved or injured by a discriminatory public accommodations practice. Public accommodation are inns, motels, lodging, restaurants, cafeterias, lunchrooms, soda fountains, gas stations, motion picture houses, theatres, concert halls, sports arenas, etc. The legislation requires that the Commission on Equal Opportunity have a Public Accommodations Division to help the administrator carry out the new requirements including investigating alleged discriminations involving public accommodations. An amendment was offered by Rep. Taylor Bennett (D-Brookhaven), a newcomer to the House, to broaden classes of individuals who might benefit by HB 849 to also include women, aged, military veterans, and gays and lesbians and transgender individuals. There was a lot of discussion around his amendment and how federal law defined these classes. Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta) asked why this legislation was coming about, 60 years after the civil rights movement. Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) supported Rep. Bennett's amendment. In the end, Rep. Bennett's amendment was voted down and the legislation moved forward with ex officio members of the House Judiciary Committee appearing to vote the legislation forward. HB 849 will be heard by the full Committee on Tuesday, February 9.
Senate Insurance Committee
Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) and members of this Committee addressed these measures:
- SB 265, by Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), proposes a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 33-7-2.1 to provide for "physician agreements" between an individual physician and individual patient. This is "concierge medicine" and limits the agreement to $6,000.00 of care on an annual basis. Such written, signed agreements are not to be considered as an insurance arrangement/agreement.
- SB 291, also by Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), is, if passed, to be cited as the "Georgia Affordable Free Market Health Care Act." In addition to incorporating essentially language from SB 265 for concierge medicine, it also seeks to exempt insurers in Georgia from applicable premium taxes on premiums paid by Georgia residents for health savings account eligible health plans as defined by Section 223 of the Internal Revenue Code sold or maintained under applicable provisions of Georgia law that do not otherwise have premium subsidies under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in O.C.G.A. § 33-8-4(c). It also seeks to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 33-24-9.1, outlining additional powers for the Commissioner of Insurance on coverage and approval of health savings account eligible comprehensive medical plans. It adds in O.C.G.A. § 33-30-25(b) that every healthcare provider in Georgia covered under any health benefit plan offered by a health insurer is to have the right to become a "preferred provider" if he or she complies with certain provisions; however insurers are not required to admit healthcare providers as preferred providers in geographical areas where the healthcare insurer does not operate and a health insurer is not required to admit a healthcare provider as a preferred provider if they can demonstrate and file proof with the Commissioner of Insurance that the inclusion of such provider is "adverse to the quality of services or to the premiums that would be charged to its members." It adds language in O.C.G.A. § 33-30-40 for the "Exclusive Provider Arrangements Act." SB 265, described above, was added to SB 291 by substitute, but the bill was held.
- SB 302, by Sen. P.K. Martin, IV (R-Snellville), seeks to require healthcare insurers to maintain accurate provider directories and post such on the health plan's website. These directories are to be updated every 30 days and a health insurance carrier is to provide a print copy of a current directory upon request. It also requires the health insurance carrier to provide annual notice to the providers so as to update their information.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee
Chairwoman Renee Unterman (R-Buford) had a healthy agenda this afternoon. She first announced that SB 337 by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry) relating to eligibility for medical assistance and disability services under certain circumstances would be referred to the Health Care Infrastructure subcommittee and the Chairman requested it meet before Wednesday, Feb. 10. She also announced that SB 319 by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) granting licensed professional counselors the right to diagnose mental health problems would be heard in full Committee on Wednesday as well. The following bills were taken up.
- SB 115, by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), addresses the delegation of authority by a physician to a physician's assistant so as to authorize broader permission to the physician assistant to prescribe certain pain medications in O.C.G.A. § 43-34-103(e.1). The time period for a prescription was reduced from 30 days to 15 days and the bill passed unanimously.
- SB 248, by Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale), provides for the licensure, in Article 5 of Chapter 11 of Title 43, of a new category of professionals to be known as "dental hygiene therapists." It would require these individuals to have completed a dental hygiene therapy education program; have a BS degree in dental hygiene; passed a comprehensive clinical examination approved by the board and administered independently of an institution providing dental hygiene therapy education and has passed a jurisprudence examination on the laws of Georgia and rules and regulations concerning the practice of dental hygiene therapy established or approved by the board; completed 2,000 hours of supervised clinical practice under the supervision of a licensed dentist; a dentist has submitted an application to obtain approval for the utilization of such individual as dental hygiene therapist and has paid applicable application fees. The bill passed by committee substitute on a voice vote in which 3 of 12 Senators present voted no. The bill limited the number of hygienists who could be remotely supervised by a licensed dentist to 8. Sen. Lester Jackson abstained from voting.
- SB 271, by Sen. Dean Burke, MD (R-Bainbridge), addresses the examination and treatment for mental illness and the provision of notice to patients and their representatives of their rights once the patient has been admitted to an emergency receiving facility and on extension of civil commitment. The period permitted to DBHDD to determine whether an extension will be sought was shortened from 60 to 40 days prior to the end of a current commitment period. The substitute had changed the word patient to person with mental illness. Sen. Hufstetler (R-Rome) commented that a fuller rewrite of the commitment laws might be in order. The bill passed unanimously by committee substitute.
- SB 242, by Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming), seeks to allow employees to use sick leave for the care of immediate family members in O.C.G.A. § 34-1-8. This applies to situations where the employer offers such sick leave; it does not require an employer to offer sick leave or to require an employer to allow an employee to use more than five days of earned sick leave for care of an immediate family member. The bill passed on a voice vote with two no votes of the 10 Senators in attendance.
- SB 305, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), amends current laws relating to "Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment forms" (POLST) in O.C.G.A. § 31-1-14(b). It requires that on and after July 1, 2015 that the Department notify the chairpersons and each member of the House Committee on Health and Human Services and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee at least 60 days prior to implementing any modification of the POLST form. This legislation passed out of the Committee. Sen. Unterman did provide assurances that she would not entertain a substitute or amendments and would withdraw the legislation if such were proposed. The bill passed unanimously in full Committee.
- SB 314, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), is a series of changes proposed to Georgia's laws on nurses and particularly to revise current law on "advanced nursing" practices. It adds a new definition of an "advanced practice registered nurse" in O.C.G.A. § 43-26-3(1.1) and adds requirements for licensure as an "advanced practice registered nurse" in O.C.G.A. § 43-26-7.1. This legislation is the Board of Nursing's legislation. It does add that the Board may conduct criminal background checks for renewals of licenses, which it currently does not have the authority to do. The legislation passed.
- SB 308, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), is to create a new Article 2 in Chapter 2A of Title 31 to establish the "Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program" to be administered and overseen by the Department of Public Health. The article is proposed to be placed on the ballot as a Constitutional Amendment. The purpose is to promote healthy pregnancies and childbirth by awarding "grants to nonprofit organizations that provide pregnancy support services." There were a number of questions concerning this bill which is supported by the pro-life community. Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) applauded Sen. Unterman for bringing the bill. Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) requested some amendments which were adopted and the bill passed by voice vote with one no vote. Sen. Unterman intends to insert funding in the State budget for these centers (there are 70 of the pregnancy centers around the State) and her goal is to provide $2 million in State funds.
House Economic Development & Tourism Committee
This was a hearing on HB 879, which would allow high school graduates to achieve a 'seal of biliteracy' for achieving a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in at least one language in addition to English. Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) presented this piece of legislation to the Committee. It seeks to address the growing number of international companies in the State and their need for bilingual students.
There was concern among members of the Committee about this creating a two-tiered system. Some schools do not offer a full 4 years of foreign language courses. This would only benefit students in those schools that offer the full four years. Georgia Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Gary McGiboney addressed this and recommended some changes to the bill. The first change is to eliminate the 4-year foreign language course requirement. The Department's data indicates that students who take 4 years of foreign language courses do not necessarily do well on the proficiency exam. This could indicate some shortcomings in the courses themselves. The second change is to lines 30-31 and would raise the required advanced placement exam score to 4 (up from 3) and raise the required international baccalaureate exam score to 5 (up from 4). Additionally, he recommended removing any further reference to the 4 year requirement. Mr. McGiboney's final recommendation was to remove the SAT 2 exam requirement because it doesn't incorporate a speaking component.
Rep Paulette Rakestraw (R-Hiram) also voiced some concern that requiring students to pay between $30 and $50 dollars for an assessment could seem unnecessary. She asked why the same material couldn't be integrated into the courses that students are already taking. It was indicated that these are more rigorous assessment exams and are not mandated for each student.
Chairman Taylor asked if the Department of Education would have any concerns about passing this bill out of committee under the condition that it will be amended later. Mr. McGiboney was agreeable. The Committee voted to give HB 879 a 'do pass' recommendation.
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