Gold Dome Report - February 8, 2017
Greetings from the Gold Dome! Glimpses of spring are in the air so lawmakers made relatively short work of their day in chambers, spending most of the time working through their committee work. There is also good news for South Georgia – Governor Deal received word from the White House that help is on the way for 11 south Georgia counties impacted by the recent tornadoes. FEMA grants have been approved for the following counties:
The full press release from the Governor on these FEMA grants is found in this link:
Individuals from Georgia CORE and the American Cancer Society were at the Capitol today. Their goal was to educate members about cancer care in the State.
The FY 2017 Amended Budget, HB 43, will be on the Senate Floor on February 9.
The House passed these bills today:
HB 92, by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), passed the House with a vote of 164 to zero. This legislation, amending O.C.G.A. § 33-24-45(b)(1), addresses cancellation or the nonrenewal of automobile/motorcycle policies. It expands the definition of "policy" to include policies issued by the same insurer.
HB 76, by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), also passed the House with a vote of 166 to zero. This initiative adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 15-6-67 requiring all plats and condominium plans be filed electronically with the superior court. It also outlines the requirements for these plats and condominium plans, including requirements for the land surveyor who prepares and signs such.
HB 74, by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), passed easily with a vote of 166 to zero. This legislation was a part of the Department of Insurance's legislative package this year. It addresses risk-based capital requirements for insurers so as to comply with the NAIC accreditation standards.
HB 39, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), also passed out of the House with a vote of 163 to zero. His measure addresses the conduct of applicants for real estate appraiser licenses and real estate sales agents and real estate brokers in Chapter 39A of Title 43. It amends provisions relating to disciplinary actions and sanctions permitted to be taken for the failure of these individuals to provide notification to the board of real estate of convictions of offenses (outlined in O.C.G.A. § 43-39A-14 and O.C.G.A. § 43-40-15(b)) within ten days of such convictions.
HB 127, by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), passed with a vote of 162 to zero. Rep. Smith's legislation eliminates Chapters 18 and 19 in Title 33 relating to Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Both chapters are obsolete and have not been utilized in 50 years.
Today was veterinary medicine day at the Capitol. Georgia CORE was recognized on the Senate Floor by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) who is also a physician.
Bills on the Senate Floor were:
SB 78, by newcomer Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown), passed 53 to zero. This legislation was requested by the Department of Agriculture. It permits the Commissioner of Agriculture to issue a waiver or variance of certain rules and regulations regarding to the misbranding and adulteration of foods.
SB 69, by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa), amends O.C.G.A. § 2-21-4(e), eliminating the requirements for persons to register with the Department of Agriculture if producing, processing, distributing or handling in Georgia any advertised, promoted, identified, tagged, stamped, packaged, or labeled organic food or feed ingredient, article, commodity, or product. SB 69 passed with a vote of 53 to zero.
SB 129, by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta), amends O.C.G.A. § 47-2-95 to allow retired military members to obtain up to 60 months of creditable service toward his or her retirement benefits. The bill outlines the application and approval process, along with the requirements that must be met to receive such creditable service.
SB 137, by Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus), relates to the "Child Support Recovery Act." It proposes to amend O.C.G.A. § 19-11-6 and O.C.G.A. § 9-11-8(e), requiring the obligor to pay the full fee required by the federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 – this is a fee of $25.00 for each case. Such would apply in the enforcement of child support payments and alimony for public assistance recipients and in enforcements of support of abandoned minor public assistance recipients.
SB 138, by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), seeks to establish the "Patient Compensation Act" in Title 51. This effort has been attempted by Sen. Beach in prior years. It seeks to create an alternative to medical practice litigation whereby patients are compensated for medical injuries. It would establish the Patient Compensation System and Patient Compensation Board.
SB 139, by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), proposes to amend O.C.G.A. § 20-2-159.1 regarding "focused programs of study" so as to require that the Department of Education develop and that the State Board of Education approve a pathway to leadership along with necessary models and content standards.
SB 140, by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), seeks to authorize that the Division of Low Voltage Contractors require continuing education of not more than four hours annually for individuals who are seeking to renew their licenses in O.C.G.A. § 43-14-6(h). There are waivers for this under certain instances (such as hardship, disability, or illness).
SB 141, by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), proposes to address the safety of carnival rides. It amends O.C.G.A. § 25-15-85 to require that an owner of a carnival ride submit an engineering evaluation with a carnival ride permit beginning on January 1, 2018. Such documentation would be submitted to the Safety Fire Commissioner.
SR 185, by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), recognizes January 18, 2017 as Together Georgia Day at the State Capitol. Together Georgia is a nonprofit alliance of numerous service providers offering support to Georgia's most vulnerable children and their families.
SR 188, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), proposed this Resolution to create the Senate Committee on Barriers to Georgians' Access to Adequate Healthcare. It looks at specific rankings of the State as it relates to certain diseases – including diabetes, heart disease and HIV – as Georgia's death rates are higher than national rankings. Georgia also has the highest rate of pregnancy-related maternal deaths in the nation and higher than average infant mortality rates. This Resolution will explore both primary healthcare needs and mental health needs of Georgians. It also intends to look at the full practice authority for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses – Georgia is one of 12 states with restrictive laws for these "APRNs."
HB 285, by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin), proposes to amend O.C.G.A. § 48-5-2(B) regarding ad valorem taxation so as to revise the criteria used by tax assessors in determining the fair market value of real property. It would require that income tax credits provided to a property owner may be considered in determining the fair market value of the property provided that the tax assessor uses the market approach to value the property using comparable sales of property which, at the time of the comparable sale, had unused income tax credits that were transferred to an arm's length buyer of the comparable property.
HB 286, by Rep. Heath Clark (R-Warner Robins), would allow individuals who are eligible for a weapons carry license, but have not yet obtained such license, to lawfully possess and carry a handgun or long gun on his or her person and private property, in his or her motor vehicle, and in parks, historic sites, or recreational areas. Essentially, someone who meets all the requirements for a weapons carry license and would likely receive such license if he or she applied for one would be treated under Georgia law as an individual who does possess a weapons carry license.
HB 288, by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), would give physically or mentally impaired persons the right to be accompanied by a service animal in public places without being required to pay an extra charge. However, that individual is liable for any damages caused by the service animal. The same applies to individuals training service animals. Further, physically or mentally impaired persons must have access to housing accommodations without being required to pay extra. A physically or mentally impaired person is defined by the bill as any person, regardless of age, who is unable or substantially limited in his or her ability to perform one or more major life activities, including ambulating, seeing, hearing, learning, working, or socializing. Finally, this bill allows the Department of Human Services to authorize private service organizations to provide physically and mentally impaired persons with an information card that outlines the rights granted by this Code section.
HB 291, by Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon), revises O.C.G.A. § 43-10-10 to require licensed barbers, hair designers, and cosmetologists to complete one hour of continuing education per year in domestic violence and sexual assault awareness. Officially titled the “Domestic Violence Helping Hands Act,” this bill sets forth certain minimum requirements that should be met by the continuing education curriculum, such as how to recognize signs of domestic violence and resources for victims. The bill does not impose a mandatory requirement to report suspected cases of domestic violence or sexual assault.
HB 292, by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), would allow a person who holds a weapons carry license in another state to carry a weapon in Georgia for 90 days after becoming a resident. This individual must comply with the weapons carry laws of Georgia and submit a weapons carry license application as soon as practicable. Additionally, this bill allows persons with valid hunting or fishing licenses to carry a knife while hunting or fishing without a weapons carry license. HB 292 also revises O.C.G.A. § 16-11-29 relating to gun safety information so as to authorize probate judges to provide weapons carry license applicants with printed information on gun safety. Further, the Department of Natural Resources is required to maintain hunter education and gun safety information on their website. Finally, this bill provides exemptions for retired law enforcement officers in good standing from certain licensing requirements.
HB 293, by Rep. Deborah Silcox (R- Sandy Springs), amends O.C.G.A. § 24-8-820, relating to testimony of a child’s description of sexual contact or physical abuse, by adding an effective date for the Code section.
HR 217, by Rep. Timothy Barr (R-Canton), requests that the United States Congress call a convention under Article V of the Constitution of the United States limited to proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to set a limit on the number of terms that a person may be elected as a member of the United States House of Representatives and to set a limit on the number of terms that a person may be elected as a member of the United States Senate.
House Appropriations Committee
The full House Appropriations Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Terry England (R-Auburn), met to take up the Governor's bill regarding the hospital provider fee. Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) presented SB 70 to his colleagues. SB 70, originally authored by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), is the renewal of the hospital provider fee which will expire on June 30, 2017. This legislation seeks to extend that fee by three years, or until June 30, 2020. The fee generates $311 million in State funds which is then matched with $600 million in federal money for a total of $911 million. This money is placed in a segregated account and used for the State's Medicaid program. The Department of Community Health Board is allowed to set the rate imposed and it is also allowed to discontinue the fee if it no longer is eligible for federal matching funds. 49 of 50 states use a similar financing scheme. SB 70 received a do pass recommendation and passed easily from the Committee and now heads to the House Rules Committee.
House Ways and Means Committee – Income Tax Subcommittee
The House Ways and Means Committee's Income Tax Subcommittee met this afternoon and took up HB 54, by Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming). Rep. Duncan's bill revises the 2016 law creating the Rural Hospital Tax Credit. In HB 54, it increases the tax credit percentage from 70 percent for individuals and corporations to 90 percent. Further, the initiative standardizes the aggregate amount of tax credits allowed from 2017 through 2019 to $60 million per year. In the Subcommittee, an amendment was proposed and added to ensure that individual donors will continue to receive the tax credit from the Department of Revenue. It now moves to the full House Ways and Means Committee for its review.
House Judiciary Committee – Fleming Subcommittee
The Fleming Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), heard presentations on three bills today:
- HB 159, authored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), is a comprehensive revision of the adoption code in Georgia law, which has not been revised since its initial adoption 20 years ago. The bill modernizes the code’s provisions, including easing the domestication of foreign adoptions and related processes, and codifies case law that has developed in the field, and the legislation has the support of all stakeholders, including the Georgia Council of Adoption Lawyers, adoption counselors, and Superior Court judges. The Subcommittee had concerns regarding the statute of repose for fraud on biological, non-legal fathers and effects related to adoption annulments. Rep. Fleming also expressed interest and offered proposed language to ensure local boards of education offer the same leave for birth and adoptive parents, and Reps. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) and David Dreyer (D-Atlanta) suggested extending this policy to all state entities and subdivisions. The Subcommittee HELD the bill pending additional information on these issues.
- HB 185, authored by Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville), amends Georgia law to allow an attorney serving as a judge advocate general in the National Guard or Reserves to also serve as an associate probate judge. Current law precludes an associate probate judge from practicing law outside of his or her work as probate judge. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the full Judiciary Committee.
- HB 197, authored by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), adds a provision to Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act to require solicitations for services to obtain copies of deeds or other property conveyance documents to carry a conspicuous marking that it is a solicitation and not a government document. This bill passed the House last year but was not reconciled and adopted by the Senate. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the full Judiciary Committee.
Medical Cannabis Work Group
This House Work Group on Medical Cannabis met in the afternoon, discussing various recommendations that have been proposed. Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) chairs this Work Group, which is not an official Subcommittee or Committee of the House. However, the Work Group agreed to a set of four recommendations which it had developed which will be submitted to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee for HB 65. The Work Group did not take up the constitutional amendment proposal which would address cultivation of cannabis, HR 36. The recommendations essentially address: providing reciprocal agreements with other states if an individual has a card permitting him or her to have medical cannabis; addressing intractable pain in an effort to eliminate use of opioids; requiring card holders to provide information to the Department of Public Health on their experiences/side effects (rather than physicians making such reports); and allowing a card for medical cannabis when a patient is admitted to a hospice program. HB 65 amends O.C.G.A. § 31-2A-16 regarding the Low THC Oil Patient Registry and the conditions and eligibility for such.
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.