Gold Dome Report - March 16, 2017
Lawmakers convened today for Legislative Day 35.
Lawmakers considered HB 44, the State's Fiscal Year 2017 State Budget, which had been amended in the Senate Appropriations Committee and sent to the House for approval. The House disagreed with the Senate's substitute and transmitted their disagreement to the Senate. The Senate and the House both insisted on their positions, which resulted in the appointment of a Conference Committee that will consider HB 44 further.
Apart from considering the State Budget, the House considered seven senate bills this morning. They first looked at two proposed study committee resolutions, both authored by Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville). SR 152 was discussed first and it would create the Joint Study Committee on Stream Buffers in Georgia. It passed unanimously by a vote of 165-0. SR 224 was also proposed, which would create the Joint Study Committee on Storm-Water Management Fees. It passed as well, by a vote of 162-4.
SB 169 was presented by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn) and was originally authored by Rep. Greg Kirk (R-Americus). It creates a special license plate to honor the State's law enforcement officers. Funds raised are to be disbursed to the Peace Officers' Annuity and Benefit Fund of Georgia. SB 169 passed 165-1.
SB 109, by Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming), was presented by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners) and it enacts the "Recognition of Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact" (REPLICA). This bill addresses the movement of EMS personnel across state lines by recognizing that states have a vested interest in protecting the public's health and safety through shared licensing. An amendment (AM 34 0754) was proposed that ____________________________. The amendment was adopted and then SB 109 passed by a vote of 161-9.
SB 103 is known as the 'Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act' and was presented by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) and originally authored by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga). The bill prohibits pharmacy benefit managers from requiring the use of mail order pharmacies or from penalizing pharmacists for disclosing cheaper, generic versions of drugs. SB 103 does not apply to any managed care organization, the Department of Community Health, the State Health Benefit Plan, or group health maintenance organizations with an exclusive medical group contract. The House's version of this bill was also placed on the rules calendar in the Senate today. SB 103 passed unanimously by a vote of 170-0.
The House also agreed to the Senate's substitute to HB 146, by Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville) which requires fire departments to provide insurance coverage for cancer for firefighters. The Senate had amended the bill at line 39 by inserting the word "and" between "tissue" and "that". It did not change the intent of the bill. The motion-to-agree passed by a vote of 166-1.
The Senate considered five pieces of legislation today. Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) motioned that the Senate engross HB 268, which was described as a housekeeping bill for the Secretary of State's Election Division Office.
The first bill presented was HB 1, by Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), and it was carried by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White). It limits the liability for operators of space flight activities for tort actions, except in cases of gross negligence or intentional conduct. It passed by a vote of 44-6 with no amendments.
HB 276 was authored by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) and carried by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga). It seeks to prohibit pharmacy benefit managers from penalizing pharmacists for notifying consumers of a cheaper, generic brand of medication. It also prohibits pharmacy benefit managers from charging more than the actual cost of a drug. It passed unanimously 50-0.
HB 49 was presented by Sen. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn). Originally authored by Rep. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), HB 49 aims to update the license and surety requirements of livestock dealers and livestock market operators. It passed by a vote of 50-0.
HB 44, by Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), is the State's Fiscal Year 18 Budget, which went back and forth between chambers today. Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) made a motion that the Senate insist on its position on HB 44, after the House had disagreed to the Senate's version. The motion passed, so the Senate's position was insisted upon. The house insisted as well and both chambers agreed to form a conference committee to consider the budget further.
HB 268, by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), deals with the Georgia Elections Advisory Council and it addresses the recommendations provided by the Georgia Elections Advisory Council. Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) presented the bill. It provides that counties would not be able to change precincts within 90 days of an election. It also gives poll managers the authority to manage "traffic" inside voting precincts. The bill had narrowly passed the House by a vote of 133-35. It was engrossed prior to voting on the Senate floor. It passed by a vote of 32-18.
House Judiciary Non-Civil – Setzler Subcommittee
The Setzler Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), heard five propositions today:
SB 15, authored by Sen. Michael Rhett (D-Marietta), allows certain retired law enforcement officers to obtain a free weapons carry license. Officers must have retired in good standing and served at least ten years to be eligible. The Subcommittee recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the full Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
SB 99, authored by Sen. Elena Parent (D-Decatur), provides a judicial procedure for a person who has previously been involuntarily hospitalized and deemed mentally disabled to petition to have his or her gun rights restored. The Subcommittee recommended that the bill do pass and be sent to the full Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
SB 125, authored by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), allows physician assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe a limited supply of hydrocodone compound products subject to certain restrictions, including day-supply limitations and limits based on pediatric versus adult patients. The legislation was revised by a working group of House members after passage by the Senate and is offered as a committee substitute. The bill is supported by the Medical Association of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants, but it remains opposed by the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Subcommittee recommended the bill do pass by committee substitute and be sent to the full Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
SB 250, authored by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), amends Georgia law so that a sex offender registered in another state but present in Georgia is treated the same as a sex offender registered in Georgia. The Subcommittee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the full Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
HR 340, authored by Rep. Heath Clark (R-Warner Robins), is a resolution urging Congress to allow states to set their own policies regarding marijuana and hemp. Chairman Setzler noted that the goal of the resolution should be to encourage changing marijuana to a schedule 2 substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act and the current language did not express that sufficiently. The Chairman pushed the proposition to the full Judiciary Non-Civil Committee so that the concern could be addressed without holding up the legislation.
House Judiciary Committee
The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), heard 3 bills today:
SB 95, authored by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), seeks to correct challenges related to compilation of the statewide jury list by providing that the Department of Driver Services assign each individual a unique numerical identifier prior to submitting data to the Council of Superior Court Clerks to prevent duplicates. This system will help eliminate duplicates in the statewide jury list and improve the accuracy of the list. The Committee recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
SB 126, authored by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), clarifies venue as to tort actions brought against the state. The bill provides that tort claims may only be brought in the county where the tort occurred, except that claims for wrongful death may be brought in the county where the tort or death occurred. Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) offered an amendment to clarify that the venue provision would only apply to causes of action arising after July 1, 2017, and the Committee adopted the amendment. The Committee recommended the bill do pass by committee substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
SB 132, authored by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), removes the case initiation and disposition forms from the Georgia Civil Practice Act and allows the Judicial Council of Georgia to promulgate new forms with approval of the Supreme Court of Georgia. These forms are used by the Administrative Office of the Courts to track court workloads, and the proposition also provides that this data be transmitted directly to the AOC for these purposes. The Committee adopted three amendments purportedly administrative and clean-up in scope. The Committee recommended the bill do pass by committee substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
Senate Judiciary Committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), heard 20 propositions today:
HB 15, authored by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), mandates that Georgia state and superior courts participate in and require electronic filing of civil actions and pleadings by January 1, 2018. Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) offered an amendment to add language precluding any portion of an e-filing fee be used as a kickback to any court clerk or state employee, and the Committee adopted the amendment. Sen. William Ligon Jr. (R-Brunswick) offered a housekeeping amendment that was adopted. The Committee recommended the bill do pass by committee substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 67, authored by William Boddie (D-East Point), increases the punishment for entering auto crimes for repeat offenders, requiring a second or subsequent offense be punished as a felony and increasing the maximum sentence from five to ten years for third and subsequent offenses. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 76, authored by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), seeks to correct concerns raised by surveyors relating to electronic filing of plats with the clerks of superior courts. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 126, authored by Rep. Wendall Willard (R-Sandy Springs), is the Judicial Qualification Commission Improvement Act of 2017. A motion to recommend the bill do pass was made but FAILED by a 5-4 vote. A motion to reconsider was made by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), and the Committee reconsidered the motion to recommend the bill do pass with a vote of 6-6, a tie created by Chairman Stone.
HB 138, authored by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), adds a fifth judge to the Northeastern Judicial Circuit. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 159, authored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), is a comprehensive revision of the adoption code in Georgia law. 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. The Committee offered a substitute that added two additional sections, including one that would allow private agencies receiving state funds to refuse placements with certain families. The amendment was adopted despite opposition by the Department of Family and Children Services, MAAC, and others. The Committee recommended the bill do pass by committee substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 162, authored by Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell), makes clean-up revisions to Georgia's Tax Refund Intercept Program that allows courts to recoup unpaid fines by withholding them from tax refunds. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 221, authored by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), codifies portions of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. This bill sets forth the authority of an agent, provides a model power of attorney form, and provides that using a power of attorney to effectuate a crime is not a defense to the crime. The Committee recommended the bill do pass by committee substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 231, authored by Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), is the annual update to the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. The legislation adds fentanyl and the derivatives and analogs that are developed along the fentanyl backbone and also includes U-47700. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 261, authored by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), seeks to clarify the retroactive petition provision in Georgia's "First Offender" statute adopted in 2015. This bill clarifies that any individual sentenced since the inception of First Offender in 1968 may petition for discharge as well as individuals sentenced to a split sentence including probation and a term of incarceration of one year or less between 1968 and 1982. The bill is supported by the Georgia Justice Project and Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 279, authored by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), allows for a name change to be filed under seal where the petitioner is a victim of domestic violence. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 280, authored by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), allows the concealed carry of firearms on college campuses subject to certain restrictions and proper licensure. Dr. Steve Wrigley, Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, as well as others, spoke in opposition to the measure. The Committee recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 292, authored by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), amends Title 16 and makes several "housekeeping" changes in the statute relating to firearms and the carry and possession of firearms. The Committee adopted an amendment requested by law enforcement regarding display of badge and other credentials. The Committee recommended the bill do pass by committee substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 319, authored by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), raised the maximum reimbursement by the state to local district attorneys who defend habeas corpus petitions. The current maximum is $10,000, and the legislation will raise the maximum to $30,000. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 323, authored by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell (R-Thomaston), is the annual Code Revision Committee bill that cleans up grammatical errors in the Code. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 341, authored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), amends Georgia's human trafficking statute in relation to sexual servitude offenses by addressing demand-side drivers of trafficking. The Committee recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 343, authored by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), updates the Georgia Code to replace references to "mental retardation" to "intellectual disability." The Committee recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 434, authored by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), allows blighted property to be acquired through eminent domain for economic development purposes. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
HB 406, authored by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), provides for reciprocity in Georgia for concealed weapons permits issued by other states. The Committee, without discussion, recommended the bill do pass and be sent to the Rules Committee.
House Education Committee
The Committee was called to order by Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Buford). They considered four resolutions today and took action on two. HR 354 was presented by Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia). It urges local board of education to provide a list of training materials meant to increase awareness of mental health issues and disabilities. The legislation had previously included a mandate to provide such materials, however it has since been changed to an “encouraging resolution”. The bill received a do-pass by the Committee.
SR 192, by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) was called next. This is a constitutional amendment that would provide for the election of local school board members by grand juries and the election of local school superintendents by voters. Currently, local school board members are elected by voters and local superintendents are elected by the local boards. This resolution has generated pushback from local boards and superintendents. After providing a lengthy presentation of the resolution, Sen. Wilkinson took questions. A few of the Committee members indicated they were opposed to the legislation. Rep Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas) made a motion that the Committee ‘do not pass’ the bill, which was seconded by Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta). The motion failed to pass by a vote of 17-1. Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) made a motion to reconsider the bill so that it could be tabled. The motion failed and the resolution was not taken off the table, meaning that it fails.
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.