Gold Dome Report - March 24, 2016
The gavels in the House and Senate were hammered down around 12:30 a.m. on the morning of March 25. SINE DIE! Papers flew and lawmakers cheered, marking the closure of the 2016 legislative session. It was a long day and it took an extra half hour for the last "agrees" to be passed in both houses. The Governor's education and criminal justice reform bills passed on the last day.
Governor Deal now has until May 3, 2016 to consider the passed legislation. The key items of interest are the Governor's decisions on whether to sign the religious freedom bill and the campus gun carry legislation. There was a flurry of advocacy activity on both bills, and the Governor announced Monday morning, March 28, that he will veto the religious freedom bill. A final Gold Dome Report will be issued after final action is completed by the Governor on May 3.
Below are some of the noteworthy bills followed this Session and the final action on those bills. Final printed versions of bills and amendments will not be available for a few more days.
HB 751, the State's FY 2017 Budget, contains many positives and was finalized on March 22 and now rests on Governor Deal's desk. The budget was the largest in Georgia history, spending over $23 billion in state funds and another $26 billion in federal dollars. You may locate more information on the State's budget in our March 22 Gold Dome report.
HB 59, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), was agreed upon by the Senate after the House passed an amendment on the Senate Substitute. It addresses in O.C.G.A. § 50-21-50 sovereign immunity for anti slap lawsuits when a declaratory judgment or injunction has been won. The bill passed 52-0.
HB 100, by Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta), addresses virtual schools being used by out-of-district students for purposes of increasing local district funding. It is indicated that there is a $6.5 million reduction in FY 17 state QBE funding as a result. The bill passed 44-6.
HB 402, by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), permits a reduction in workers' compensation insurance for employees who are engaged in work-based learning programs. The bill passed 49-0.
HB 555, by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson), addresses juvenile courts' reporting of numbers of actions filed with courts for teens seeking abortions without parental consent. The bill passed 50-3.
HB 614, by Valencia Stovall (D-Lake City), creates the "Landon Dunson Act" permitting local boards of education to permit cameras in the classrooms where children with disabilities are being taught. This legislation is not a mandate for these cameras. The bill passed 165-1.
HB 659, by Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), provides for greater transparency in the reporting of financial information for local school systems. This bill also includes SB 374, which provides for a pilot program addressing reporting requirements for Title 1 funds. SB 310, which is known as the "Transparency in Education Act" was also included in this bill. It requires State agencies to notify the House and Senate Education Committees whenever they apply for a grant in excess of $20 million. The bill passed 50-0.
HB 727, by Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville), is the 2016 revision to Georgia's fireworks' laws passed in 2015. In part, the revisions change the times that fireworks may be exploded and also addresses additional locations where fireworks are prohibited (such as near water works and hospitals). The bill passed 49-3.
HB 768, by Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), the legislation creating Georgia's ABLE law, passed. This legislation permits parents of disabled children to establish tax-free accounts much like a 529 education account so those monies may be used for future needs including healthcare, education, and housing. The bill passed 49-0.
HB 779, by Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), is known as the "Drone bill" and the Senate agreed to the House Substitute as Amended on this legislation. The legislation prohibits entry upon private property without a warrant. It also prohibits the use of drones equipped with weapons. The bill passed 49-2.
HB 783, by Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), the annual dangerous drug update in Title 16, was finally passed. There was a Floor Amendment offered by the House to the Senate Substitute (which had clarified the definition of Low THC oil). The Floor Amendment offered by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) makes it unlawful for a manufacturer of low THC oil to ship directly to a person registered with the Department of Public Health; his amendment also addressed the expanded conditions by which the low THC oil could be used. The bill passed 167-4.
HB 792, by Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), provides that anyone over the age of 18 may carry electroshock weapons (stun guns/tasers) on college campuses. This includes postsecondary students. The bill passed 119-50.
HB 801, by Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton), makes select changes to the HOPE Scholarship to provide that computer science courses in high school count toward the required grade point average for a high school student, to weight certain science and math courses in college to count toward the necessary grad point average to maintain the HOPE scholarship, and to provide that the Scholarship covers tuition costs (changing the existing formula that includes other expenses and has different weighting factors). The bill passed 169-0.
HB 808, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), addresses a new Judicial Qualification Commission and its membership. The Senate had amended the proposal and when the legislation went back to the House, it made further changes. Late Thursday night, the Senate agreed to the changes made by the House. It is a seven-member Commission. The State Bar of Georgia nominates a pool of candidates to select from for the Speaker, President of the Senate and Governor. The bill passed 30-25.
HB 879, by Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody), provides for a seal of bi-literacy to be attached to a diploma for purposes of identifying students who have attained a high level of literacy in a second language. The bill passed 47-1.
HB 882, by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), addresses reserve deposit requirements for out of state insurance companies in order to conform Georgia's provisions to those of the NAIC. The bill passed 46-4.
HB 883, by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), also conforms Georgia insurance law relating to out of state liquidators of insurers with NAIC provisions so that the same liquidator may act in Georgia and other states. The bill passed 163-0.
HB 887, by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), added SB 3, the "Supporting and Strengthening Families Act" by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford).The legislation allows parents to appoint an attorney in fact to accept a child and care for him or her for a period of one year, with certain rights reserved to the parents. It is a type of private, temporary adoption. The bill also requires the Division of Families and Children's Services to prioritize a placement of a child with the child's relatives or fictive kin. The bill passed 45-0.
HB 895, by Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur), requires finance and accounting training for chief financial officers and principals of charter schools. Such training shall be provided by the State Department of Education. The bill passed 44-1.
HB 900, by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), creates an electronic database for prescription information so that information is kept for two years. It also allows a prescriber's or dispenser's staff to access the information and establishes penalties for violations in Chapter 13 of Title 16. The bill passed 51-0.
HB 905, by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), updates Georgia's child abuse mandated reporting laws. This legislation also was amended in the Senate adding HB 915, by Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough), which addresses the annual inspections of child welfare agencies by various state departments and the establishment by DHS of a scorecard on the web for those agencies. The bill passed 160-0.
HB 910, by Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens), concerning copying fees for hospital records so that mental health and psychiatric records are treated like other hospital records, was finalized. The legislation stripped out Sen. Bill Cowsert's (R-Athens) language concerning producing electronic records, functionally reducing the costs of records. The bill passed 48-3.
HB 916, by Dustin Hightower (R-Carrollton), the Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights, passed. This legislation requires this audit also to be conducted for plans covered by Medicaid and prohibits recoupment of amounts due as a result of scrivener errors. The bill passed 52-1.
HB 926, by Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), regulates third-party logistics providers in Title 26 and also incorporates federal provisions regarding the compounding of medications. The bill passed 133-35.
HB 941, by Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna), updates Georgia's processes for grand juries when there is an officer-involved shooting resulting in death or bodily injury. It now requires that the officer cannot be present in the grand jury proceedings except when he or she is presenting testimony. Currently, Georgia is the only state which allows an officer to be present during the entire grand jury proceeding. The bill passed 156-0.
HB 952, by Rep. Chad Nimmer (R-Blackshear), provides for supervision of the state professional licensing boards by the Secretary of State to review proposed regulations to assure compliance with federal antitrust laws and relevant state law. The law is necessary because of a recent Supreme Court case in which active state regulation of professional boards is required for antitrust immunity. The bill passed 147-17.
HB 959, by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta), is the annual Title 20 clean up bill and also incorporates SB 329 which expands dual credit courses and SB 348 authorizing charter school systems and strategic waiver systems to include career academies if they have a decision- making governing board. Finally, it included HB 814, the "Educating Children of Military Families Act," which requires the Department of Education to create a unique identifier for these children so that their data may be tracked if they move between systems. The bill passed 159-1.
HB 1043, by Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), received final passage, to exempt activities conducted by a hospital or health system with respect to influenza vaccines from certain requirements. HB 1043 also included board specialty requirements for physicians and how those must be supported by legitimate board entities. The bill passed 158-0.
HB 1060, by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), is the campus weapons' carry bill. The bill passed 101-60.
HB 1085, by Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), removes the community care services program from within the Department of Human Services and transfers that initiative to the Department of Community Health. The bill passed 51-0.
SB 158, by Sen. Dean Burke, MD (R-Bainbridge), regulating insurance rental networks of providers received final authorization. The bill passed 43-0.
SB 258, by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), incorporated the concepts of HB 919 to help rural hospitals by permitting companies and individuals state income tax credit for donations to the rural hospital. It provides a 70 percent tax credit. As many as 52 hospitals may benefit with this program. The bill passed 31-18.
SB 270, by Sen. P.K. Martin, IV (R-Lawrenceville), one of the firearm bills, permits retired law enforcement officers to carry their weapons. The bill passed 112-46.
SB 255, by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), is the update to Georgia's garnishment laws. The bill passed 45-2.
SB 302, legislation by Sen. P.K. Martin, IV (R-Lawrenceville), creates requirements for health insurers to provide electronic provider directories which are to be updated at least every 30 days. The bill passed 50-2.
SB 304, by Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), incorporated Rep. Scott Holcomb's (D-Atlanta) language to address rape kits that have not been delivered to police by the treating facilities. The bill passed 167-0.
SB 308, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), creates the Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program. The initiative promotes families and does not include education or information for women seeking abortion alternatives. The bill passed 31-16.
SB 319, by Sen. Lester Jackson (D- Savannah), and amended by Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Dalton), authorizes professional counselors who treat mental health patients to perform diagnoses of selected conditions and incorporates a definition into state law of psychological testing. The bill passed 47-5.
SB 350, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), is the enabling legislation to support funding for trauma centers by imposing an excise tax on the sales of fireworks. The bill passed 47-0.
SB 355, by Sen. William Ligon, Jr. (R-Brunswick), is the Student-Teacher Protection Act and addresses testing requirements, permitting opt-out provisions for students with disabilities or terminal illnesses. It also provides that students may opt to use pencil and paper to take such assessments. The bill passed 162-0.
SB 364, by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), the Governor's education reform legislation for 2016, was agreed upon by the Senate after the House made some changes. This legislation addresses teacher and principal evaluations and the portion of test scores that may be used in teacher evaluations, limiting that use to 30% of an overall evaluation. It also requires t that growth in student achievement shall not include test scores of a student unless that student has been present for 90 percent of the instructional days for each course. The bill passed 47-2.
SB 367, by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), is the Criminal Justice Reform Council's recommendations for changes in juvenile and adult procedures. It strengthens the requirements for first offender status so that a defendant is told of this option and can seek retroactive application of the status. It also provides for a certificate of sentence completion and enacts other reforms relating to diversion courts. The bill passed 46-0.
SB 369, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), contained the MARTA proposal designed by Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton). It authorizes separate TSPLOST referenda for the City of Atlanta and the remainder of Fulton County. The governing authorities can develop a list of transportation projects to be funded by an additional 1/2 cent for the City of Atlanta and 3/4 cent for Fulton County. The projects may include transit projects, in addition to roads and bridges. The bill passed 43-5.
A few that failed:
SR 604, the Constitutional amendment by Sens. Bill Heath (R-Bremen) and Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), failed to get to the House floor. This initiative would have prohibited the State from imposing ad valorem taxes on and after January 1, 2017. Currently, the State does not collect such.
HB 722, the medical cannabis proposal by Rep. Alan Peake (R-Macon), was assigned to Committee in the Senate but never actually passed and therefore died. The bill would have extended conditions for the use of medical marijuana.
HB 838, by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), sought to create minimum commissions to be paid to health insurance agents for health insurance policies sold to small groups and individuals. There was to be a five percent commission on policies for small groups and a four percent commission on individual policies sold. It also had an exclusion for health insurance policies sold, during special enrollment periods, to individuals.
Our 2016 Georgia Capitol team consists of Stan Jones, Chuck Clay, Helen Sloat, 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.