Gold Dome Report - March 14, 2017
Lawmakers convened for Legislative Day 33 today.
The House considered only two pieces of legislation today.
The House had a relatively light calendar set for this morning. SR 95 was presented by Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange) and was originally authored by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta). In counties with one or more independent school districts, this bill authorizes the school district or a combination of districts with a majority of students in that County to call for a referendum vote to impose a sales tax for educational purposes. It seeks to address situations when a single school can hold hostage the entire County's education funding. It was amended in the Senate to make sure that nothing in the legislation applies if the boundaries of the independent school system in question cross county lines. Once this amendment was adopted, it had passed the House by a large margin. However, SR 95 did not receive enough votes to pass in the Senate, failing by a vote of 101-74.
SB 96 was presented by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) and it authorizes registered professional nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to pronounce a patient's death when such patient is an organ donor. Under current law, only licensed physicians have the authority to do so. The bill had passed out of the Senate with a vote of 52-1. The House voted to pass SB 96 unanimously, with a vote of 174-0.
Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) presented SR 389 which recognizes Georgia's Hospital Community for its response to Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Prior to voting on bills from the Rules Calendar, Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) motioned to engross HB 265. The motion was approved, so the bill would not be up for debate.
The Senate first considered HB 58, authored by Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville) and carried in the Senate by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla). It updates a reference date within the code regarding federal regulations on the safe operation of motor vehicles. It had passed the House unanimously with a vote of 160-0. The Senate also voted unanimously to pass HB 58 by a vote of 50-0.
HB 86, by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), was presented by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and it expands the types of offenses for mandatory reporters of child abuse to now include suspicion of a child being involved in sex trafficking for the purposes of sexual servitude. It had received a unanimous vote in the House and passed unanimously by the Senate by a vote of 50-0.
Next up was HB 157, by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), which deals with advertising of medical specialties. Sen. Unterman presented the legislation. It addresses problems which have emerged regarding HB 1043, which passed at the end of last session on the 40th day. This bill would repeal a major part of HB 1043. Sen. Unterman indicated that the bill has disrupted current doctors' practices and asked that the senate support this measure. It passed by a vote of 48-1.
HB 174 was presented by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White) and authored by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee). It expands the methods insurers can use to pay an insurance claim. Insurers, under this legislation, could use various methods to address those claims, including wire transfer, check, electronic transfer, gift card, or other methods approved by the Insurance Commissioner. It passed unanimously 50-0.
HB 265 was offered next by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville). The bill was originally authored by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula). It creates a seven-year window for employers to benefit from tax credits for creating jobs in Georgia. It also grants a sales tax exemption for the renovation or expansion of theaters owned by non-profit organizations. Minority Leader Steve Henson (R-Stone Mountain) expressed his concerns that this bill is just another tax break catered to a specific individual that could end up limiting the State's ability to fund areas such as education and transportation. Sen. Miller indicated that this would help all theaters around the State and this legislation was not targeting a specific venue. Despite the minority leader's objections, HB 265 passed by a vote of 34-18
HB 583, by Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna), seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 34-7-6 to provide that the rights, powers, and responsibilities of professional employer organizations are not to be construed to exempt any person from provisions and licensure requirements of Chapter 23 of Title 33.
HB 584, by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), would amend O.C.G.A. § 47-6-60 by changing the required contributions for members of the Legislative Retirement System. It would raise the required contribution from 7 ½ percent to 9 ½ percent of the individual's monthly salary. It would also increase the monthly benefit payable to retired members of the system to $40 (up from $28) multiplied by the number of years of creditable service.
HR 608, by Rep. Stephens (R-Savannah), would create the Joint Study Committee on the Georgia Public Schools Calendar, which would study the issue of early school start dates in order to determine its social, growth, and economic impact.
SB 282, by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta), provides that members of the Employees' Retirement System of Georgia on or after July 1, 2018 would not be eligible to obtain credible services unless they contribute to the system the full actuarial cost of the service granted.
SR 414, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), seeks to create the Senate Study Committee on the Utilization and Modernization of the State Capitol and Other Buildings. This study committee would evaluate the Georgia State Capitol, the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, parking facilities, and the surrounding grounds to determine whether such spaces are being utilized effectively. They would also consider how available technologies could be utilized to improve the experience of visitors and staff within the Capitol grounds.
House Education Subcommittee on Early Learning & K-12 Education
This subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson). They took action on two pieces of legislation today. The first, SB 211, by Chairman Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), dealt with summative assessments, ensuring that such assessments are attached to formative assessments in the future. Chairman Tippins indicated that it passed on the Senate Floor by a vote of 51-0. He believes that passing this bill will encourage better academic practice across the board. He believes that the time this legislation will free up could be used for instruction. The second part of the bill deals with the flexibility agreement with the federal government. Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Buford) called on Melissa Fincher to report on the ESSA working group. She indicated that the working group has recommended providing students and local districts the maximum possible flexibility, with the goal of having districts engage in conversation to determine the best way forward. She indicated that the working group had not yet determined a solution and they are still receiving feedback from districts. Mrs. Fincher believes they currently have enough funding to run the actual programs, even after addressing the recent changes to science and social studies standards, which requires additional funding. However they lack the adequate financial support to hire additional staff members, as is required for them to facilitate the programs mentioned previously. SB 211 went on to receive a do-pass recommendation and it moves on to the full House Education Committee.
Rep. Dar'Shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) presented HR 354, which used to be HB 357. This is now an urging resolution that encourages state agencies to provide lists of training materials for students who have behavioral health and mental health issues in schools. The Mental Health Association of Georgia supported this bill last year. Dr. Gary McGiboney, on behalf of the Department of Education, said the department supports this bill. Rep. Kendrick worked on this legislation with the Department of Education (DOE) and it has their support, as well as the support of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD). HB 357 also received a do-pass recommendation and the Committee was adjourned.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee
The Senate Committee considered four pieces of legislation. It was indicated that all bills would receive a 'hearing only' today, thus no action was taken. Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) chaired the Committee in the place of Chairman Renee Unterman (R-Buford) so that she could present one of her bills in a House Committee. Sen. Millar first called HB 165, by Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell), for consideration. The bill addresses the definition of 'maintenance of certification' to practice medicine in the State of Georgia. Under this legislation, 'maintenance of certification' would be defined as a continuous professional development program under which physicians would be certified by a board that specializes in a specific area of medicine.
HB 486, by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) was called up next. It provides that the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) and the Department of Community Health (DCH) can determine the training curricula for proxy caregivers who provide community-based services around the State. The bill had passed the House by a vote of 166-1 and received only one amendment which extended the effective date to January 1, 2018. It also has the support of both DBHDD and DCH.
HB 427 was called by the chairman. The bill seeks to amend the "Physicians for Rural Areas Assistance Act" by adding dentists, physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to the list of professions that are eligible to receive service cancelable loans in return for choosing to work in rural areas of the State. The purpose of this change is to encourage more dentists and other professionals to locate in areas that are currently underserved. The location is currently determined by the Georgia Board of Physician Workforce and that would not change under this legislation.
The final bill considered by the Committee was HB 241, by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville). It adds Krabbe Disease to the list of genetic conditions for which newborn screening may be conducted by the Department of Public Health. Screening for Krabbe disease could be done separately from newborn screening, if requested by the parent. It also provides that screening can be done outside of the State, if approved by the Board of Public Health.
The Committee had no further business today, so they adjourned.
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