Gold Dome Report - March 14, 2016
Lawmakers reconvened this morning for Legislative Day 36.
Prior to heading into Session, HB 751 Conferees met on the FY 2017 Budget. This was the first of these meetings; no actual differences had been ironed out and were reported at the early morning discussion.
It would appear that Governor Deal is also concerned about the "campus carry" legislation, HB 859, by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), which passed the Senate on Friday. He issued the following statement:
"As a lifetime defender and staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, Gov. Deal has signed every pro-gun bill to reach his desk. However, he believes legitimate points have been made in regards to certain aspects of the 'campus carry' bill and he calls on the General Assembly to address these concerns in related legislation before Sine Die. Specifically, these areas of concern include dually enrolled k-12 students who leave school to attend classes at a university or technical college campus, as well as daycare centers on these same campuses. Deal also believes the governing boards of universities and technical colleges should have the discretion to set reasonable rules regarding disciplinary hearings and faculty and administrative offices. Addressing these issues is an important step in ensuring the safety and freedoms of students, faculty and staff in our institutions of higher learning throughout our state."
The Senate did a number of privileged resolutions. Among those included a Resolution honoring Stephanie Moody, the wife of former State Sen. Dan Moody. Mrs. Moody has been the chair of the Fulton County Library, and Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) presented SR 1146 for her service to the libraries. Also, the St. Patrick's Day Committee from Savannah was honored by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) and Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah).
The Senate Rules Calendar focused on the following pieces of legislation:
HB 768, by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), seeks to establish a qualified "ABLE" program in Georgia, allowing families to assist their disabled children through tax-exempt accounts to pay for "qualified expenses" to these "eligible individuals with disabilities." ABLE is "Achieving a Better Life Experience" and would be established in a new Chapter 9 of Title 30. Only one ABLE account may be established for an eligible individual (an individual as defined in Section 529A of the Internal Revenue Code). Contributions up to $14,000 annually may be provided to these accounts without being subject to taxation. Distributions are then tax free if paying for qualified expenses. No changes were made in the Senate Finance Committee, where the legislation was assigned, to the proposal as it reached the Floor. Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) carried this legislation to the Senate Floor. This legislation passed with a Floor Amendment offered by Sen. Millar by a vote of 53-0.
HB 871, by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella), addresses "Georgia's Lemon Law" at O.C.G.A. § 10-1-791(a) and the current $3.00 fee collected by a new motor vehicle dealer from the consumer as a part of the sale or lease of a new motor vehicle. Currently, that fee is paid by the dealer quarterly to the Office of Planning and Budget. This change requires the fee to be paid quarterly to the Department of Law in the new motor vehicle arbitration account which is within the State Treasury. Sen. Mike Duggan (R-Carrollton) carried this legislation in the Senate. It was described as a clean up to SB 148 passed in 2015. This legislation passed 52-2.
HB 725, by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), addresses child abuse and deprivation records which are kept by "child advocacy centers" and the release of those records by those centers. The legislation sets up a definition for the term "child advocacy center" in O.C.G.A. § 49-5-40(a)(4). It requires that these records on child abuse and child controlled substance or marijuana abuse be confidential and access is prohibited except as provided in O.C.G.A. § 49-5-41 and O.C.G.A. § 49-5-41.1. Child abuse will include sexual exploitation (including trafficking of a child for labor or sexual servitude), prostitution, obscene depiction of a minor, nude or sexually explicit electronic transmission or sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual or print medium depicting such conduct. It permits in O.C.G.A. § 49-5-40 who and which agencies may access these reports of child abuse. Courts may do in camera reviews before releasing records. This legislation went through a number of revisions in the House; no changes were made prior to the legislation reaching the Senate Floor. Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) presented the proposal on the Floor of the Senate which was passed 54-0.
HB 555, by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson), was presented in the Senate by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White). This legislation adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 15-11-64(b) to require that the clerks of each juvenile court report to the Administrative Office of the Courts the total number of petitions or motions which are filed for the prior calendar year and the number in which a court appointed a guardian ad litem, the number in which the court appointed counsel, the number in which the judge issued an order authorizing an abortion without notification to the parents or guardian, the number in which the judge denied such an order and the number of denials from which an appeal was filed, the number of appeals resulting in denials being affirmed and the number of appeals which resulted in reversals of such denials. There are no names to be captured in this information. The legislation came through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee which revised the proposal by adjusting the date by which the reports were to be made, moving it from February 28 to March 15 of each year. Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) inquired about the need for this legislation, expressing concerns about the invasion of privacy. Sen. Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta) questioned if this legislation was seeking to get even more information about abortions and whether the State should be focusing more on providing sex education. Sen. Orrock stated that Georgia underfunded sex education and will not expand access to health insurance. Further, she argued that one half of pregnancies occurring annually are unintended and this is a further attempt to shut down a legal option, currently a right guaranteed by the Supreme Court. There was an Amendment that also requires physician offices to report these procedures; the Amendment passed 31-17. The bill passed with the amendment, 37-17.
HB 965, by Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus), was presented by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton). This initiative creates "The Honorable Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Access Act" which is to be added at O.C.G.A. § 33-24-59.20. It would require a health plan which covers the treatment of stage four advanced, metastatic cancer not to limit or exclude coverage for a drug approved by the FDA by mandating that the insured first be required to fail to successfully respond to a different drug or drugs or prove a history of failure of such drug or drugs – unless that the use of such drug or drugs is consistent with best practices for the treatment of stage four advanced, metastatic cancer and is supported by peer reviewed medical literature. No changes were made to this legislation as it reached the Senate Floor. There were no questions, and the bill passed 53-1.
HB 887, by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), was carried in the Senate by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) as she had also tacked onto this legislation her "Supporting and Strengthening Families Act" (SB3). The version of the legislation leaving her Senate Health and Human Services Committee was an older version of SB 3 and not the language which had been negotiated and vetted in the House Judiciary Committee's Fleming Subcommittee. HB 887 was originally to require the Division of Family and Children Services to give preference for the placement of a child to an adult who is a relative or fictive kin over a non-related caregiver as long as that relative or fictive kin met all the requirements for a "DFCS" relative or fictive kin placement and that placement was in the best interest of the child. (See O.C.G.A. § 15-11-135(e) relating to dependency hearings and O.C.G.A. § 15-11-321(a) for termination of parental rights or surrender of parental rights.) DFCS is also to prioritize temporary placements with an adult relative or fictive kin as well in O.C.G.A. § 15-11-146(b)(3). The legislation passed as presented by Sen. Unterman with a vote of 54-0.
HB 421, by Rep. Chad Nimmer (R-Blackshear) and Floor Leader to Governor Deal, was carried in the Senate by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) and another Floor Leader. This legislation addresses disability allowances which are payable to personnel for disabilities which arise in the line of duty – allowing community supervision officers who are employed by the Department of Supervision to also be permitted such allowances in O.C.G.A. § 47-2-221(b). This language was inadvertently left out last year when the Department of Community Supervision was created. No changes were made to this proposal by the Senate Public Safety Committee as it reached the Senate Floor. It passed 52-0.
HB 508, by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), addresses retirement benefits for appellate court judges in O.C.G.A. § 47-2-244(m). Under current law, no benefit is payable to an appellate court judge until the judge reaches 65 years of age, except for incapacity. This moves the age to 60 years of age. Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta) carried this legislation in the Senate; no changes were made to the proposal by the Senate Retirement Committee. HB 508 was tabled on the Floor.
HB 509, by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), was carried to the Senate Floor by Sen. Ben Watson, MD (R-Savannah) but he was not on the Floor when the legislation was called. Thus, Sen. Dean Burke, MD (R-Bainbridge) presented the legislation which seeks to create the Georgia Palliative Care and Quality of Life Advisory Council in a new Article 10 of Chapter 7 of Title 31. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee made several changes to the proposal including the appointments of these Council members (originally, the Commissioner of the Department of Community Health was to make the appointments and now the appointments of the nine-member Council are to be made by the Speaker of the House who gets two appointments; President of the Senate who gets two appointments; the Governor who gets three appointments; and the chairs of the House Committee on Health and Human Services and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee or their designees) and also revisions on how these Council members are to be compensated, following along lines of other councils created in the Code. The Senate considered the Senate Health and Human Services Committee's Substitute. There were no questions and HB 509 went on to be passed 46-7.
HB 635, by Rep. Bubber Epps (R-Dry Branch), was carried also to the Senate Floor by Sen. Black. It was another retirement-related proposal and came to the Senate as it passed the House. It amends the current law on Chapter 11 of Title 47 on how the Judges of the Probate Courts Retirement Fund are addressed and increases the number of years of mandatory contribution to such fund from 20 to 30 years and provides in O.C.G.A. § 47-11-43 that a member who is active on July 1, 2016 may obtain creditable service for any service in excess of 20 years as judge of the probate court, employee of the board, or secretary-treasurer, but not more than the actual number of years of service or 30 years, whichever is less. There were no changes to this legislation and it passed 52-0.
HB 676 came to the Senate Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute from the Senate Committee on Science and Technology. It was carried in the Senate by Sen. P.K. Martin, IV (R-Lawrenceville) but authored in the House by Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville). It is to be known as the "Accountability, Change Management and Process Improvement Act of 2016" and would be added at O.C.G.A. § 50-29-3. The underlying legislation seeks to require that all State agencies, boards, authorities, and commissions of the executive branch of State government provide a written business case for every information technology project exceeding $1 million in value and such business cases are to be provided to the Georgia Technology Authority at least 30 days prior the request for any procurement. The Senate's Committee eliminated a prohibition which the House version had regarding the use of an independent consultant – the House had stated that consultant could not provide both change management services and implementation services. The Senate's Committee stated that the change management consultant may be independent of project implementation. Sen. Martin said that the bill will provide greater transparency. There were no questions before HB 676 passed 54-0.
HB 747, by Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville), addresses motor vehicle safety and was carried in the Senate by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla). The Senate Public Safety Committee made no changes to the legislation as it left the House which amends O.C.G.A. § 40-1-8(a), updating the reference date to federal regulations regarding the safe operation of motor carriers and commercial motor vehicles from January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2016. There were no questions, and the bill passed 52-1.
Meanwhile, across the hall, the House considered its own rules calendar, consisting of eight pieces of legislation. Baseball fans should also take note that Braves legend Hank Aaron was in attendance today.
SB 274, by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), came to the House Floor as it passed the Senate and was presented by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs). SB 274 seeks to repeal population requirements for counties as approved by an Act dated March 2, 1953. Chairman Willard indicated that this bill passed the House last year; however, it did not make it to a vote in the Senate. SB 274 was passed 171-0.
SB 302 came to the House in the version as it passed from the House Insurance Committee. SB 302, by Sen. P.K. Martin, IV (R-Lawrenceville), was carried in the House by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville). It creates a new Chapter 20C in Title 33 and requires that health insurers maintain accurate, electronic provider directories which may be easily accessible in a standardized, downloadable, searchable and machine readable format. These directories must be updated no less than every 30 days and print copies are to be made available when requested. Insurers are to investigate any reports from the public of inaccurate information listed in the provider director and no later than 30 days following receipt of such either verify the accuracy of the information or update the information. Insurers are to also take steps to ensure the accuracy of the information – they have a one-time "audit" of sorts to be made by January 1, 2017 to review and update their entire provider directory for each network plan. There are exclusions from these requirements for health care services which are pursuant to contract by an insurer and the Department of Community Health for recipients of Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids and the State Health Benefit Plan at O.C.G.A § 33-20C-6. There were no questions for Rep. Taylor before SB 302 was passed by a vote of 174-0.
SR 876, by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), was carried in the House by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville). It seeks to establish a Joint High-Speed Broadband Communications Access for All Georgians Study Committee. No changes were made in the House Special Rules Committee where this Resolution had been assigned. This resolution passed 166-0.
SR 955 addresses State-owned property conveyances in 12 counties across the State. Originally, there were conveyances in only eight counties. The House Committee on State Properties passed a Committee Substitute considered on the House Floor and carried by Rep. Emory Dunahoo (R-Gainesville). SR 955 was originally authored by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough). It passed 168-1.
SB 262 was presented in the House by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough) and was authored by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). Rep. Welch presented the House Judiciary Committee's Substitute addressing disqualification of a judge, judicial officer, grand juror or trial juror due to being related by consanguinity or affinity to a party. As it is currently written, such disqualification is to occur when such consanguinity or affinity is within the sixth degree computed according to the civil law; the Senate's version moved it to the fourth degree. The House changed it to the third degree. The House also added some changes for filing of documents in superior and state courts by electronic means at O.C.G.A. § 15-6-11 and O.C.G.A. § 15-7-5 (this was similar to the language in HB 1027 by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) which had passed the House Judiciary Committee but had stalled in the House Rules Committee before crossover). SB 262 was passed 162-11.
SB 278, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), was carried in the House by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula). No changes were made in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee from the Senate version which seeks to increase the penalties for pimping and pandering and defines a "dangerous sexual offense" which an individual is convicted of and is required to register with the State Sexual Offender Registry for convictions of crimes occurring after June 30, 2016. SB 278 was recommitted to the House Rules Committee after a motion was made by Rep. Efstration.
SB 316, by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), was presented by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell). The legislation addresses bingo games and prizes awarded in such games. The legislation came to the House Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute from the House Committee on Regulated Industries. The House's version, considered on the Floor, eliminates the $1,500 current daily cap of these prizes, leaving the $3,000 weekly cap in place in O.C.G.A. § 16-12-60(f). The House Committee added a new subsection (j), addressing video poker:
Nothing in this chapter or any other provision of law, shall be construed to allow a bingo game or any game of pure chance to be played by the public for consideration on an electronic machine, device, or computer for cash or anything of value, if any number or other item chosen by lot is not chosen by a natural person.
There was a floor amendment by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) which was adopted. The amendment makes three changes. First, It adds new language to the end of Line 17 that requires numbers to be chosen by a natural person "who is physically located on the premises or property described in Code Section 16-12-57 on which the game is operated." The amendment also deletes lines 32-35, which stated that this chapter shall not be construed to allow for electronic bingo machines. The amendment was adopted and then the full SB 316 went on to be passed by a vote of 161-9.
SB 350 was presented by Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville) for his Senate colleague who authored this legislation, Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga). The legislation before the House was a Committee Substitute from the House Ways and Means Committee, amending the law in O.C.G.A. § 48-13-131 on taxing of consumer fireworks so as to dedicate moneys collected from the sales of such fireworks to be used as follows:
(1) 55 percent to be provided to the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission;
(2) 40 percent to be provided to the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council to be exclusively used for the implementation of a grant program to improve the equipping and training of firefighters and to improve the rating of fire departments in this State by the Insurance Services Office; and
(3) 5 percent to be provided to the local governments to be used solely for public safety purposes consisting of the operation of the 9-1-1 systems under Part 4 of Article 2 of Chapter 5 of Title 46. The commissioner is to include such amount as a part of the 9-1-1 distribution made on or before October 15 of each year to local governments.
The House changes were to tighten the uses of these moneys although the Senate version had the same intent. The Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council receive an actual appropriation; this funding would be added funding through the grants program. Local governments already collect 9-1-1 funds which are distributed to the local governments and this adds to that distribution. SB 350 is the enabling legislation for the Constitutional Amendment, SR 558, for this dedicated taxation. SB 350 went on to be passed by a vote of 165-5.
HR 1718, by Rep. Dewey McClain (D-Lawrenceville), seeks to request Georgia's Congressional Delegation to oppose the extension of disastrous trade policies.
SR 1175, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), proposes to create the Senate Georgia Abuser Registry Study Committee. This Study will look at the issues involving abuse of Georgia's elderly and disabled.
House Education Subcommittee on Academic Achievement
Chairman Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) called the meeting to order for the purpose of considering one bill. SB 310, by Sen. William Ligon, Jr. (R-Brunswick) is known as the "Transparency in Education Act." It requires written notice to the House and Senate Education committees whenever a grant in the amount of $20 million or more is requested. Such notice is to include an analysis of how the requesting agency plans to use the requested funding. It received a do-pass from the subcommittee.
Senate Education Committee
Chairman Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) called the meeting to order. Three bills were considered by the Committee: HB 959, HB 868, and HB 100.
Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) presented HB 959 which was passed by the House earlier in the session. It incorporates parts of SB 329 and SB 348 into its language. SB 329 aimed to make high school diplomas for students at postsecondary institutions count towards eligibility for the HOPE scholarship. SB 348 provided for college and career academies as charter schools or as schools within a strategic waiver system. Section 8 is a new section added to the House substitute which provides that children in military families be given personal identifier numbers. DOE Deputy Superintendent Garry McGiboney indicated that the department is on board with the changes. HB 959 received a do-pass and moves on to the House Rules Committee.
HB 868 was presented by Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville) and would eliminate the Georgia State Games Commission. Many of the Committee members wondered why this bill was assigned to the Education Committee, since it has little to do with Education. Despite that, Rep. Rogers presented the bill, which was brought on behalf of the Governor. He stated that eliminating the Commission will promote efficiency in state government. The State Games Commission was created in the 1980s to prepare Atlanta to host the 1996 Olympic Games. It has seen no additional State funding since 2008. Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) expressed his concern over eliminating the commission because there may be games that require the commission to function. The director of the State Games Commission said their mission is to provide education on sports physical fitness and health. Sen. Millar motioned to table HB 868, since the Committee did not have enough information to make a decision. It was tabled.
Much of the language that was previous in HB 100 has been replaced. Chairman Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta) indicated that the new language provides that 90 percent of funds earned by a local school system for students taking virtual courses within that system shall be spent for costs of such virtual instruction. This does not apply to instruction received through the Georgia Virtual School or through virtual instruction offered by a state charter school. This bill is intended to discourage local systems from using online courses as a quick way to make money off of students from other systems. HB 100 received a do-pass recommendation from the Committee.
Chairman Tippins indicated that although HB 868 was tabled, he is willing to schedule another meeting by Wednesday to consider it again. 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday is the deadline for legislation to be submitted in the Clerk's office. The meeting was adjourned.
House Judiciary Committee
Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) and his Committee met to take up two measures. The first was the overhaul of Georgia's garnishment statute, SB 255. Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) attempted several amendments which were not changes that the Chairman wished to entertain as the bill had been heard in Subcommittee. Thus, after some back and forth between Chairman Willard and Rep. Fleming, the legislation was held.
Next, the Committee heard a new Substitute on Sen. Renee Unterman's SB 3, the legislation which will permit a parent to use a power of attorney to turn the care of their children over when there are extenuating circumstances. The amendment corrected references to the federal law, "No Child Left Behind," moving it to the newer federal law, "Every Student Succeeds Act." The permissions allowed in SB 3 will permit the caregiver of the child to enroll the child in school and make health decisions. Sen. Unterman explained that she had worked with numerous individuals on the legislation, including Superior Court Judges and the Division of Family and Children Services. No other changes were made and the legislation passed out of the Committee. Sen. Unterman remarked that SB 3's language had been attached to several moving pieces of legislation but she would use this language, developed in the House Judiciary Committee, as a starting point when the bill ended up in Conference Committee.
Senate Insurance and Labor Committee
HB 216 generated additional emotional testimony in the afternoon. Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville) presented this legislation which will allow changes in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280, permitting that firefighters who may contract cancer can access workers' compensation benefits if it is shown that they contracted that disease through clear and convincing evidence through their line of work. There was a lot of testimony that the standard of proof should be a preponderance of the evidence as 37 other states permit. Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) asked for passage of the legislation as he too is a volunteer firefighter and EMT. Rep. Gravley asked that the legislation clear as it passed the House; the Senate Committee refused and passed the proposal forward using the clear and convincing evidence standard with an Amendment which was offered by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) and also adds a limit based on risk factor for the disease (the House version did not address risk factor language). Sen. Bethel, who chairs the Committee, indicated that he thought that if the State were to pass such legislation it should cover all employees and not limit to one disease. Counties and cities do not want to buy the firefighters' cancer insurance policies due to the expense involved with such coverage.
HB 537 was to be heard in Committee but it was held. HB 537, by Rep. Carl Rogers (R-Gainesville), would have allowed a separate dental services administrator for the State's Medicaid program and has long been requested by the dentists. Meanwhile, the CMOs under contract with the Department of Community Health overseeing the State's Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids programs have opposed such change.
HB 838, the bill by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Perry), ended up not receiving action in the Committee. HB 838 would establish in Title 33 a "floor" for health insurance commissions on policies sold to small groups and individuals. Small group commissions would be 5 percent and individual policies' commissions would be 4 percent (except when policies are sold during special enrollment periods). There was discussion that Humana pays 6 percent commissions currently and that Blue Cross Blue Shield pays 5 percent. This legislation has been pushed by the House Rules Committee Chairman John Meadows (R-Calhoun) who is also an insurance agent. There were a number of members of the Senate Insurance Committee who recused themselves from the vote as they work in the insurance industry (Sens. Walker, Harbin, Shafer, and Jones). There was no motion made to move the legislation forward or take other action.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee
Sen. Renee Unterman hosted a Committee meeting. HB 926, presented by Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), cleared out of the Committee in the form of a new Committee Substitute. This legislation addresses issues which arose and required a new federal law on compounding of drugs. It addresses licensure of third-party logistics for pharmacies and "outsourcing" of drugs which are compounded. It also includes language requested by oncologists. There was no testimony and it passed. Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) will carry the bill on the Senate Floor.
Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) presented his legislation, HB 762, on the prohibition of selling fetuses in O.C.G.A. § 16-12-160(b). Selling such would be a felony with a fine of $25,000 and/or imprisonment of not less than one nor more than five years. There were several questions on selling organs, which is still allowed. Rep. Willard was asked if this selling of fetuses was not already prohibited; he said that after research it was found not to be illegal and that was the reason for the legislation. There was no public testimony and the legislation passed with a vote of 6-4. Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) will carry the legislation now in the Senate.
Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell) presented HB 897, which are revisions to the "Drug Repository Act." It repeals the current program in Title 26 and moves it under the purview of the Department of Public Health in Chapter 8 of Title 31 so that drugs may be recycled and used. It will not permit the recycling of narcotics but will allow prescription and over-the-counter products. Specifically, it will benefit indigent patients. The Committee passed this legislation with a unanimous do-pass vote. Sen. Ben Watson, MD (R-Savannah) will carry this legislation to the Senate Floor.
Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming) presented HB 919, the tax credit proposal for rural hospitals. While a new Substitute was presented (which expanded the types of hospitals which could benefit including some critical access hospitals), it was shot down in the Committee despite the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals and Georgia Hospital Association testifying in favor of the proposal. Senators argued that there were current mechanisms in the law allowing for individuals and corporations to donate to nonprofits, as this legislation would help nonprofit rural facilities. Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) also offered an Amendment in the Committee which would have benefited "charity care clinics" but it too failed adoption prior to the legislation being voted down in a 4-7 vote.
Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee
Chairman Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) and his Committee passed HB 874 by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) which substantially overhauls the laws concerning the prosecution of gang crimes. The Committee also moved forward HB 905 by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) which moved out of the Committee in the form of a new Substitute incorporating the changes to the child abuse reporting requirements and language from Rep. Andy Welch's (R-McDonough) bill, HB 915, regarding inspections of child welfare entities and creation of a scorecard of the facilities by the Division of Family and Children Services.
The bill, which received the most discussion, was HB 941 by Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna). This legislation proposes to change the requirements for grand jury proceedings and procedures for investigations of police officer's use of deadly force. There was emotional testimony by one parent who lost a son in a police shooting but there was no grand jury investigation of that case. Some argued for the use of the appointment of a special prosecutor to review these cases; however, there were many who argued against that idea. The NAACP, for instance, asked for the appointment of a special prosecutor. Many questioned the "accountability" and "transparency" which might be afforded in the proposed Substitute before the Committee. However, all seemed to agree that more transparency in the process was needed for citizens to feel safe. The Prosecuting Attorneys' Council liked the legislation as it apparently cleared the House; it was not favoring a special prosecutor. The GBI, who are fact finders but do not take positions in these instances, also spoke to the legislation – noting that there is already a recusal statute for prosecutors, but it supported the legislation as it passed the House (not the version with the special prosecutor being appointed to investigate these deadly force shootings). There was concern that a special prosecutor will add additional time for investigation and resources. The Sheriff's Association noted that one thing was clearly needed and that was a transcript of the proceeding by a certified court reporter. In the end, there was no vote taken on HB 941. It appears that the issue may be headed for a "study" over the summer.
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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.