Gold Dome Report - March 24, 2017
Day 38! Only two more days are left for any work to be done this Session. The Rules Committee meetings were long yesterday as lawmakers scrambled to get their bills on the Rules Calendars for both chambers.
We have included notes from committee meetings held on March 23, covered by our team, in the Report below.
The initial Rules Calendar for the House contained the following proposals:
- HR 462, by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), is a commitment to strengthening military installations located in the State. This Resolution comes about due to the base realignment going on nationally. The Resolution passed 164-0.
- SB 8, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), is her Title 33 attempt to address "surprise" billing by providers to consumers for healthcare treatment received by providers who are not in-network with their insurance carrier. It requires, in part, that certain disclosures are to be made to be made to patients by insurers, hospitals and providers. This legislation, if enacted, would be known as the "Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act." It was carried in the House by Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus). This bill was recommitted to the House Rules Committee by Chairman Smith.
- SB 117, by Sen. P.K. Martin, IV (R-Snellville), addresses the Georgia Technology Authority and policies and standards used by all agencies. In part, the legislation includes a new definition for "agency" at O.C.G.A. 50-25-1(b)(1) which means:
every state department, agency, board, bureau, commission, and authority but shall not include any agency within the judicial or legislative branch of state government, the Georgia Department of Defense, departments headed by elected constitutional officers of the state, or the University System of Georgia and shall also not include any authority statutorily required to effectuate the provisions of Part 4 of Article 9 of Title 11.
It was carried in the House by Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville). Rep. Rogers explained that this legislation was necessary in order to address Georgia's cyber security needs. The initiative cleared the House 164-0.
- SR 229, by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson), is a Resolution addressing the granting of non-exclusive easements for the construction, operation and maintenance of facilities, utilities, and roads in several counties across the State. It was carried in the House by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn). This legislation passed with a vote of 166-0.
- SB 153, by Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan), originally proposed the sales of over-the-counter hearing aids as it left the Senate. In the version before the House (which came from the House Regulated Industries Committee), it has been gutted and replaced in O.C.G.A. § 43-30-1(2) with language which solely addresses optometrists' ability to provide injections around the eyes of their patients. Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) carried the legislation in the House as his earlier proposal, HB 36, also addressing the scope of practice for optometrists, failed to make it out of the House Health and Human Services Committee. [Likewise, the Senate version of this effort, SB 221 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), also remained in the House Health and Human Services Committee and did not receive a hearing.] Debate on this legislation was limited to one hour. Rep. Ehrhart presented the legislation, outlining that other states permit optometrists to perform these injections and no large numbers of malpractice suits have occurred. Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans) took issue with the legislation and enumerated the things which could not be done and explained to her colleagues that there had been work done on the education requirements, adding in thirty additional hours, in addition to the required training in optometric school. Rep. Lott stressed that Georgia needed to allow its professionals to perform at the highest level of their understanding and training. Rep. John Meadows (R-Calhoun) supported the proposal – stressing that dermatologists, physician's assistants and tattoo artists can perform injections and so should optometrists. Rep. John Deffenbaugh (R-Lookout Mountain) opposed the legislation, noting he had asked his ophthalmologist in Chattanooga – who told Rep. Deffenbaugh that he previously had not had an issue with the idea when Tennessee had considered it but now was seeing many patients who needed to have repairs made because of work done by optometrists. Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) also opposed the legislation noting he had safety concerns – it was not about a turf battle. Rep. Betty Price, MD (R-Roswell) also opposed the bill, expressing that she had "fierce" opposition. She told her colleagues that the House had no business dealing with this issue and it was ignoring what physicians have said on this subject in two prior Committee meetings. This legislation, per Rep. Price, is the wrong direction to take with patient care. Further, she said that 42 states do not allow this practice. Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas) took the well but yielded his time to Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon) who is also a practicing optometrist. Rep. Beverly supported the legislation. A Floor Amendment was proposed AM 36 0594, addressing the educational requirements for the optometrist, and it was adopted. The legislation then passed with the Floor Amendment with a vote of 121-36. It now heads to the Senate for its consideration on the changes made in the House.
- SB 219, by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), addresses automated driving systems in the operation of motor vehicles on Georgia roads in Title 40. It came to the House Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute from the House Committee on Transportation and was carried in the House by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown). The legislation passed 151-17. However, there was some disagreement to the legislation. Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead) took issue, outlining his concerns were about the liability involved. Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) told his colleagues that this legislation had been a compromise between Lyft, Uber, Ford, General Motors, the insurance industry and others – all had their legal counsel engaged on the issue with liability. It was explained by Rep. Kelley, who noted that the House's special subcommittee on this bill looked at it closely, that this legislation was about safety and could potentially allow some elderly or disabled Georgians greater mobility.
Supplemental House Rules Calendars:
- SB 108, by Sen. Larry Walker, III (R-Perry), was presented by Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville). It adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 38-4-13 to create within the Department of Veterans Services a women veterans' office. Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), who is also a veteran, spoke of the need for this legislation and these services. She also thanked the Governor for providing funding in the State's Budget for this office. The legislation passed 163-0.
- SR 130 was presented to the House by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome). The Resolution was originally authored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome). It creates a Joint Transparency and Open Access in Government Study Committee so as to look at data integration and analytics. Other states (Virginia, South Carolina and Michigan) have moved to this methodology and have achieved savings and reduced fraud. The University of Pennsylvania will provide a grant to fund this work. This resolution passed 153-0.
- SB 186, by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), was presented by Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange). The legislation passed 155-0 with a floor Amendment by Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), adding HB 331. Rep. Nix explained that the underlying proposal addresses last year's SB 2, Move On When Ready legislation and students who receive a high school diploma while also attending technical college. This legislation will allow students who want to pursue their education after receiving a certificate or diploma from a technical college to obtain the rigorous classes needed in order to be HOPE eligible. This permits the extension of the HOPE grant for 30 hours - and will only impact 20-30 students. HB 331 addresses O.C.G.A. § 20-1-14 et seq. to provide for a kinship caregiver the ability to give legal consent in the form of an affidavit for a child residing with such kinship caregiver so that the child can receive educational services and medical services directly related to academic enrollment and to participate in curricular or extracurricular activities for which parental consent is usually required.
- SB 174, by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), was presented by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) and is a part of the Governor's package. This legislation is a part of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform's recommendations and includes several changes in Titles 15 and 17. It amend addresses the functions of a county or district department of family and children services to require veterans court divisions to adhere to the same policies, procedures, and standards as other accountability courts; changes provisions relating to family treatment court divisions; provides for protocols involving family treatment court divisions; amends current law relating to the procedure for sentencing and the imposition of punishment, penal institutions, and the Program and Treatment Completion Certificate, respectively, so as to provide for a behavioral incentive date under certain circumstances; changes provisions relating to active probation supervision; provides for the use of updated evaluation tools; provides for matters related to probation; to provide for the Board of Community Supervision to issue Program and Treatment Completion Certificates; creates certain rebuttable presumptions pertinent to individuals issued such certificates; modifies provisions relating to the confidentiality of records and information held by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles under certain circumstances; allows community supervision officers to provide supervision to defendants in certain accountability courts under certain circumstances; provides for definitions; allows the prosecuting attorney and victim of a crime to submit information to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles relative to its consideration of the parole or conditional release of an inmate; requires that conditions of probation be imposed as conditions of parole when a defendant is serving a split sentence; provides for notice of certain hearings; and clarifies provisions relating to commutation. This bill passed by Substitute unanimously with a vote of 156-0.
- SB 175, a second bill from the Governor's package and also by Sen. Kennedy and carried by Rep. Efstration, passed with a vote of 155-2. It was also a series of recommendations from the Council on Criminal Justice Reform. It makes changes in Chapter 11 of Title 15 to enact reforms relating to juvenile court proceedings. It allows juvenile courts to impose certain conditions on parents, guardians, and legal custodians of children who are in need of services, delinquent, or involved in a court's community based risk reduction program; provides for a procedure; changes provisions relating to the detention of a delinquent child who has been determined to be incompetent to proceed in juvenile court proceedings; and provides for professional input as to the detention of a child who has been determined to be incompetent to proceed in court.
- SB 176, the third proposal from the Governor on Criminal Justice Reform and also authored by Sen. Kennedy and carried by Rep. Efstration, passed by Substitute with a vote of 154-1. It contains changes in Titles 17 and 40. In particular, it changes the process for individuals who fail to appear and warrants that are issued. It will have a postcard generated to be mailed to individuals who fail to appear for court for a minor traffic offense; the bench warrant will not be in effect for 30 days. This will be less expensive than housing individuals in jail. It also addresses limited driving permits for DUIs and those who are habitual violators.
- SB 149, by Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), was carried in the House by Rep. Alan Powell. It came to the Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute. It addresses training requirements for school resource officers in O.C.G.A. § 35-8-7(a) so that "it is the best practice for any person assigned or appointed as a school resource officer to successfully complete a training course for school resource officers approved by the council." It also amends O.C.G.A. § 35-8-13.1, relating to training and certification of municipal probation officers, so that "any person employed or appointed as a municipal probation officer on or after July 1, 2017, shall not be authorized to exercise the power of arrest as a municipal probation officer unless such person has successfully completed a training course and received certification for municipal probation officers approved by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council; provided, however, that such person shall only exercise the power of arrest upon individuals whom he or she is supervising under Article 6 of Chapter 8 of Title 42, unless such person is certified as a peace officer by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council." It also makes changes in Title 42 so as to allow the Department of Corrections additional tools in an effort to address gang violence in Georgia's prisons and prohibits any person from obtaining for, procuring for, or giving to an inmate tobacco or any product containing tobacco without the authorization of the warden or superintendent or his or her designee. It also prohibits an inmate from possessing tobacco or a product containing tobacco. SB 149 passed by Substitute with a vote of 148-7.
- SB 4, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), was carried to the Floor of the House by Rep. Katie Dempsey. It creates the "Enhancing Mental Health Treatment in Georgia Act." It passed the House in the form of a new Substitute with a vote of 138-5. The legislation establishes the Georgia Mental Health Treatment Task Force composed of members from the House, Senate and Governor's picks. Additionally, it creates a 21-member Advisory Council composed of Departments/Agencies who interact with those who are mentally ill as well as various mental health professionals. It requires this Task Force to develop applications for a Medicaid waiver and block grant funding and prohibits the federal submission of a mental health Medicaid waiver application without legislative approval.
- SB 121, the "Jeffrey Dallas Gay, Jr. Act," was passed by Substitute with a vote of 163-0. It exempts the drug Naloxone from Georgia's dangerous drug list in O.C.G.A. § 16-13-71(b). It also codifies the Governor's executive order issued last year on Naloxone so that the State Health Officer can issue a standing order for the dispensing of this medication to prevent unnecessary drug overdoses. It provides an immunity from liability for the State Health Officer under certain conditions.
- SB 226, by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), was presented by Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas). It passed by with a vote of 155-5. It changes provisions relating to certain annual production requirements for Georgia farm wineries.
- SR 228, by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson), was presented by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn). SR 228 had a Floor changes with an amendment offered by Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville). The Amendment was adopted and the legislation passed by Substitute. It addresses several Georgia counties' conveyances of property, including CSX property of 137 miles which has been leased since 1890. The Resolution passed with a vote of 161-0.
- SB 258, presented by Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) and originally authored by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), passed with a vote of 151-1. The legislation addresses Georgia's election laws in Title 21. It adds to current law that municipal office and board of education candidates cannot owe money to the State or local government to qualify to run for office. Under current law, that is also required for candidates for State and county elected officials.
- SB 168, by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) and carried in the House by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), seeks to address child abuse records kept by the Division of Family and Children's Services. It passed by Substitute with a vote of 151-0. It amends O.C.G.A. § 49-5-41(c), relating to persons and agencies permitted access to records (adding at (13) that: "Local and state law enforcement agencies of this state, the Department of Community Supervision, probation officers serving pursuant to Article 6 of Chapter 8 of Title 42, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Juvenile Justice when such entities, officers, or departments are providing supervision or services to individuals and families to whom the department is also providing services. Such access or release of records shall not be provided when prohibited by federal law or regulation. Access to such records may be provided electronically." It further permits access to information in the child abuse registry to certain governmental entities investigating allegations of child abuse and permits access to the child abuse registry to certain child-placing entities conducting foster and adoptive parent background checks.
- SB 15, authored by Sen. Doc Rhett (D-Marietta), was presented to the House by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta). SB 15 amends O.C.G.A. § 16-11-129 so as to add to the category of former law enforcement officers who are entitled to be issued a weapons carry license without the payment of certain fees those who have ten years of law enforcement experience and who left the force due to a disability arising in the line of duty or left such employment in good standing and receives benefits from the Peace Officers Annuity and Benefit Fund. The legislation passed 149-2.
- SB 160, by Sen. Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), was presented by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) with a number of Title 15 and 16 revisions. It is known as the "Back the Badge" bill and now includes HB 116 and HB 258. It contains stronger penalties for crimes which are against a police officer. It also increases the indemnification fund payment from $100,000 to $150,000. Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) noted that the newest version of this legislation has taken out the right of free assembly concerns. Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) noted his support for the proposal. The Minority Report was delivered by Rep. Bob Trammel (D-Luthersville) who stated that the legislation is taking away discretion from Georgia's superior court judges and will increase litigation. It has widened the numbers of offenses for mandatory minimum sentences and is a step back from the criminal justice reforms made in recent years. The legislation passed by Substitute with a vote of 102-44.
The House had other pieces of legislation on a Supplemental Rules Calendar. The following proposals were postponed until the next legislative day:
- SB 3, which is by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Macon), creates the CONNECT Act (Creating Opportunities Needed Now to Expand Credentialed Training).
- SB 88, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), provides in Chapter 5 of Title 26 for the regulation of narcotic drug treatment centers.
- SB 141, by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 25-15-85 to require the owner of a carnival ride to submit an engineering evaluation with a carnival ride permit application.
- SB 211, by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 20-2-281, relating to student assessments. It would provide for consideration of local reading programs when establishing a research based formative assessment with a summative component for grades one and two; pursue maximum flexibility under federal law for state and local assessments; and provide for a comparability study to determine and establish the concordance of nationally recognized academic assessments with content standards and assessments in grades nine through 12.
Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) made a motion for the House to Agree to the Senate Substitute on HB 238 which addresses ad valorem taxes and in particular Georgia's laws on conservation use property and in particular it expands the definition of family farm and provides for an exception or limitation to a breach of the covenants for use of the property for solar power generation or for farm labor housing in O.C.G.A. § 48-5-7.7(q). The House agreed to the Senate changes with a vote of 146-0.
Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) moved that the House Agree to the Senate Substitute on HB 268 as Amended by the House. It addresses elections and the time period on certifications and independents who qualify for the office of the President; permitting a tribal card to be used with voter identification and control by the polling manager of a voting place. The Amendment was adopted and the House agreed to Rep. Fleming's motion with a vote of 102-48.
The Senate set an aggressive calendar for its day. The following items were on the Senate Rules Calendar:
- HB 67, by Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point) and carried in the Senate by Sen. Mike Dugan (R-Douglasville), seeks to designate the existing crime of hijacking a motor vehicle as being a crime in first degree and creates a new crime of hijacking a motor vehicle in the second degree. It further outlines in Title 16 the penalties and also changes the current law relating to burglary in the second degree involving a vehicle, eliminating such offense. This legislation was not taken up in the Senate and moved to the foot of the calendar.
- HB 88, originally authored by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), was carried in the Senate by Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro). This legislation addresses qualifications for superior court judges and requires that they be members in good standing of the State Bar of Georgia in O.C.G.A. § 15-6-4(a) and also addresses what is to occur when a judge has been disbarred or suspended from the practice of law, whether such is voluntary or not, in (b) of that Code Section – the judge is required to vacate such position as a superior court judge. It also addresses qualifications of state court judges in O.C.G.A. § 15-7-21 and again requires that individual to be a member in good standing of the State Bar of Georgia. It also adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 15-6-37, addressing election of the position of chief judge for superior courts where there are more than two superior court judges in a judicial circuit. An Amendment was proposed and adopted, relating to the effective date, and the legislation passed as amended with a vote of 54-0.
- HB 117, by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), is a sales and use tax proposal, excluding from the definition of retail sales voluntary contributions to places of amusement, sports, or entertainment in O.C.G.A. § 48-8-2 (31)(C). The legislation was carried in the Senate by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell). This legislation was moved to the foot of the calendar and not heard on Friday.
- HB 134, by Rep. Bubber Epps (R-Dry Branch), was carried in the Senate by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta). The initiative came to the Floor as a Senate Finance Committee Substitute and amends O.C.G.A. § 48-8-260, et seq., relating to general provisions regarding the special district mass transportation sales and use tax. It changes the definition of transportation purposes regarding such tax; changes provisions relating to special districts and the imposition of such tax; changes certain provisions relating to notice, intergovernmental agreements, and resolutions regarding such tax; provides that a referendum on a regional transportation sales and use tax cannot be held at the same time as a referendum on a special district mass transportation sales and use tax; changes provisions relating to the commencement of imposition and the timing of cessation of such tax; allows two taxes to be levied concurrently; clarifies the ability of counties and qualified municipalities to issue general obligation bonds as necessary. The legislation passed 50-2.
- HB 153, by Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville), was carried in the Senate by Sen. Larry Walker, III (R-Perry). It attaches the Council on American Indian Concerns to the Department of Natural Resources for administrative purposes in O.C.G.A. § 44-12-280. The bill passed 50-0.
- HB 154 is the House version of the dental hygienists' scope of practice legislation. This initiative was authored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) and carried in the Senate by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) in an effort to broaden access to dental care in rural areas of the State as well as to more vulnerable populations. It arrived on the Senate Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and addresses Chapter 11 of Title 43 so as to authorize licensed dental hygienists to perform certain functions under general supervision of dentists in certain settings. It defines both "general" and "direct" supervision by dentists of these dental hygienists. This legislation was moved to the foot of the calendar and not heard on Friday.
- HB 192, by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta), was carried in the Senate by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon). The legislation addresses Chapter 1 of Title 7 relating to the management of bank and trust companies and directors and officers of corporations, respectively, so as to change provisions relating to the responsibilities and standard of care of directors and officers of banks, trust companies, and corporations. Further, it seeks to clarify the ability of directors and officers to rely on other individuals in the performance of their duties and provides for a rebuttable presumption when directors and officers are acting in good faith. The legislation passed 41-10.
- HB 202 was originally authored by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) and carried to the Senate Floor by Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville). The legislation seeks to increase the Governor's salary in the Code from the base presently at $60,000 (which is now around $139,000 with the inflation factors) to a base of $175,000 in O.C.G.A. § 45-7-4(a). It would not go into effect until the next Governor takes office in January 2019. Further, it also addresses the costs of the performance of duties for other State officials. It amends the law on the State Commission on Compensation in Chapter 7 of Title 45. The proposal came to the Senate Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute from the Senate Appropriations Committee. The legislation passed 48-3.
- HB 205, by Rep. John Meadows (R-Calhoun), is the "fracking" bill addressing oil and gas pipelines in Chapter 4 of Title 12. It came to the Senate Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute from the Senate Regulated Industries and Public Utilities Committee and was carried by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome). The legislation, among the last bills heard on Friday evening, passed 52-0.
- HB 210 was originally authored by Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans) and carried in the Senate by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough). The initiative amends O.C.G.A. § 31-22-1(2) relating to clinical laboratories, so as to provide that certain specimen collection stations and blood banks are not considered clinical laboratories for the purpose of regulation under Chapter 22 of Title 31. The legislation passed with a vote of 46-0.
- HB 221 came to the Senate Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute from the Senate Judiciary Committee. It seeks to enact the Uniform Power of Attorney Act in Title 10. The legislation was originally authored by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) and carried in the Senate by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon). The bill passed 52-0.
- HB 222, by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), addresses the HOPE scholarship program and came to the Senate Floor in a Substitute from the Senate Education and Youth Committee. The initiative, in part, provides in O.C.G.A. § 20-3-519.1(a) that members of the Georgia National Guard and reservists meet residency requirements for the HOPE scholarship. The legislation passed 54-0.
- HB 224, by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), was carried to the Senate Floor by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta). The legislation adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-295 so that a military student may attend any school in the local school system. Two amendments were offered but failed. The legislation passed with a vote of 51-1.
- HB 234, by Rep. Spencer Frye (R-Woodbine), was carried to the Floor by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa). The legislation amends O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1 to require drivers of motor vehicles to stop at crosswalks with user activated rectangular rapid-flash beacons. It also makes it unlawful to activate such devices when there is no intent to cross a roadway and requires that drivers of motor vehicles stop at crosswalks for bicycle riders. This legislation was moved to the foot of the calendar and not heard on Friday.
- HB 241, by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), seeks to enact Cove's Law by amending O.C.G.A. § 31-12-6 so as to require that Krabbe disease be included in the diseases to be screened for in newborns' metabolic and newborn screening tests. The legislation was carried in the Senate by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega). This bill passed swiftly with a vote of 54-0.
- HB 253, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), addresses specialty license plates for vehicles in Title 40. The legislation came to the Senate Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute from the Senate Committee on Public Safety. It revises the definition of authentic historical Georgia license plates and the use of such plates; and it increases the proportion of moneys derived from the sale of specialty license plates promoting the dog and cat reproductive sterilization support program which are to be dedicated to such program. The legislation was carried to the Floor of the Senate by Sen. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton). This legislation was moved to the foot of the calendar and not heard on Friday.
- HB 257, by Rep. Jan Tankersley (R-Brooklet), amends, in part, O.C.G.A. § 36-80-16 (f) and (j) to require that local government authorities register with the Department of Community Affairs in order to be eligible for State funds and changes from the current deadline of January 1 for local government authorities to register with the Department to requiring that they register by the date corresponding to the due date of the authority's report. Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) presented the legislation in the Senate. This legislation was moved to the foot of the calendar and not heard on Friday.
- HB 261, by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), was carried in the Senate by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon). The initiative relates to petitions for exoneration and discharge as a first offender, hearings, and retroactive grant of first offender status. It will allow certain individuals sentenced to a term of incarceration between March 18, 1968, and October 31, 1982 the ability to petition the court for a retroactive grant of first offender status if he or she would have otherwise qualified for sentencing pursuant to this article. It does require the consent of the prosecuting attorney. The legislation passed 54-1.
- HB 290, by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), was carried in the Senate by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla). The legislation relates to ad valorem tax exemptions and redefines "agricultural equipment" in O.C.G.A. 48-5-41.1, relating to the exemption of qualified farm products and harvested agricultural products from such taxation. The initiative cleared the Senate with a vote of 51-0.
- HB 338, by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), is the 2017 version of how to address Georgia's failing or poor performing schools after the Opportunity School Districts proposal died in November. HB 338 was carried in the Senate by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) and Chairman of the Senate Education and Youth Committee. It came to the Senate Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute from Chairman Tippins' Committee. It would enact the "First Priority Act – Helping Turnaround Schools Put Students First" in Title 20. In part, the legislation would provide:
- for a Chief Turnaround Officer
- for turnaround coaches
- consultation with the State School Superintendent
- for a definition for "turnaround eligible schools"
- for the identification of the schools in the greatest need of assistance
- for contract amendments and interventions
- for third-party specialists
- for a comprehensive on-site evaluation and recommendations
- for the development of an intensive school improvement plan
- for supports for low-performing students
- for grants by the Office of Student Achievement
- for implementation of an intensive school improvement plan
- for interventions if the school does not improve
- for an Education Turnaround Advisory Council
- for biannual reports
- for the creation of the Joint Study Committee on the Establishment of a State Accreditation Process and for that Committee's membership and duties
- for the creation of the Joint Study Committee on the Establishment of a Leadership Academy and its membership and duties
- for removal of members of a local board of education if one-half or more of the schools in the local school system are turnaround eligible schools for five or more consecutive years
- for temporary replacement members and for petitions for reinstatement and hearing process
- for the revision to provisions relating to contracts for strategic waiver school systems
- for revisions to provisions relating to charters for charter systems and
- for annual reports
Three amendments were offered and each failed. The first addressed granting the State School Superintendent the authority to appoint and delegate authority to the CTO; the second addressed school vouchers (individual education accounts); and the third Amendment allowed turnaround coaches to file suits in superior courts to compel a parent to take advantages of services when a child has consistently failed to attend or get services. The second amendment caused a stir among the education community. Many, including Sen. Tippins, were concerned that the amendment interjected a controversial amendment into a major piece of legislation that had been worked on vigorously by both the House and Senate Education Committees. A number of Senators spoke against the amendment on the floor, on the basis that it should go through the normal committee process. The legislation passed with a vote of 37-18.
- HB 340, by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), was carried in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome). The legislation came to the Senate in the form of a Committee Substitute from the Senate Committee on Finance. It revises the Chapter 5 of Title 48 provisions concerning the ad valorem taxes to be paid on used motor vehicles. The legislation passed 49-5.
- HB 341, by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), was carried to the Floor by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) in the form of a Committee Substitute from the Senate Judiciary Committee. It revises crimes of trafficking of individuals for sexual servitude in Title 16 and 17. It makes it a felony offense for someone to traffic an individual who has a mental disability or if the person is under the age of 18 years and that individual was coerced or deceived into such violation. The bill passed 52-0.
- HB 437, by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella), was carried to the Senate Floor by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa). The initiative addresses education accountability assessment programs and recreates the former Agricultural Education Advisory Commission which had been abolished by operation of law on December 31, 2016 in O.C.G.A. § 20-14-90. The bill passed 53-0.
- HB 452, by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), was brought to the Floor by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta). The legislation was in the form of a Committee Substitute from the Senate Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. It adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 35-3-14, regarding the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, to require the GBI to publicly post and share certain information from the Law Enforcement Notification System of the Enforcement Integrated Database of the United States Department of Homeland Security to the extent permitted by federal law. The Senate invoked Senate Rule 7-1.6(b) on this legislation.
- HB 453 was carried in the Senate by Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta). Its original author was Rep. David Dryer (D-Atlanta). The bill amends O.C.G.A. § 36-15-1 and adds the chief judge of the magistrate court to the board of trustees of the county law library in each county. This was the last bill heard on Friday evening. It passed 50-2.
- HB 481 was presented by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta). The legislation was originally authored by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) and adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 6-1-4 for provision of a preemption for unmanned aircraft systems from any ordinance, resolution, regulation, or policy of any county, municipality or consolidated government regulating the testing or operation of these unmanned aircraft systems. This legislation was not taken up on the Senate Floor on Friday.
- HB 506, by Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody), was carried to the Floor of the Senate by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta). The bill addresses current law governing MARTA and provides for a competitive and responsible process for the award of contracts for concessions and the sale, lease, or other disposition of real property owned by the Authority (in the Act authorized in 1965). This legislation was moved to the foot of the calendar and not heard on Friday.
- HB 510, by Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), addresses the sales of alcoholic beverages in O.C.G.A. § 3-3-21, repealing certain provisions relating to population and the measurement of certain distances for such sales to be made near churches, schools and other entities. Sen. Ed Harbison (D-Columbus) presented this legislation. The legislation passed with a vote of 48-5.
March 23, 2017 meetings
House Regulated Industries Committee
The House Regulated Industries Committee, under the direction and leadership of Chairman Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas), met to take up a new Committee Substitute on HB 158 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah). This legislation is the gambling proposal (casino bill) entitled the "Destination Resort Act" in Chapter 39 of Title 50. This initiative sets up a licensure process for these "destination resorts" based on the county population where the resort would be located and investment thresholds. There are three types of licenses in the new Substitute which was discussed: 1) county populations where the population exceeds 900,000 and which would require the company to have such resort make a $2 billion investment in the State and would require that such resort have a minimum of 1,000 hotel rooms; 2) county populations of 250,000 and which would require an investment of $450 million in the State; and 3) tertiary licenses in counties with less than 250,000 population and which would invest $150 million in the State. There would be one license in each of the first two categories and two licenses in the third category. A gambling company, or company owning such destination resort, is prohibited from holding more than one license. The legislation also requires that over 60 percent of the revenue come from "non-gaming" sources (such as food sold, hotel rooms, entertainment, etc.). These entities are to have an entertainment component so each has a requirement to have a venue which has a maximum capacity of 3,500 folks. The legislation also contains language regarding training for residents, including low-income individuals. An applicant is required to submit a non-refundable $1 million "fee" with the application (to be used for such things as background checks, etc.). License fees are one-time fees and based on the category of license: 1) $50 million for the one in counties of more than 900,000 population; 2) $20 million for the one in counties of more than 250,000 population; and 3) $10 million for the ones in counties with less than 250,000 population. There is also another fee for the annual non-refundable renewal of $5 million. Proceeds would go towards funding the HOPE scholarship. 70 percent would be transferred to the Student Finance Commission directly for HOPE and 30 percent would be transferred to the Student Finance Commission for needs-based scholarships. Another thing the legislation establishes is a grant program, overseen by the Georgia Gaming Commission (which is established in the legislation to be composed of five members who are knowledgeable about the casino business). This $250,000 grant program is to assist individuals who have compulsive and addictive problems. The legislation does require an annual report on revenue and depreciation be prepared by the Commission.
There were numerous questions raised in this hearing on HB 158. Some of the questions, such as those posed by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Powder Springs) concerned the use of the grants which in the proposal are limited to be used on individuals who have compulsive and addictive problems – not the greater problems around mental health and substance abuse. She asked that the author consider making this broader to capture addiction treatment as if the problems were addressed there would be fewer suicides, less criminal activity, etc. Some of the Committee was concerned about where the visitors to this destination resort would come from – many individuals who enjoy gambling now go to the states of North Carolina, Alabama, etc. There were also questions concerning the game machines which are found in many convenience stores around the State – some feel like current law is not stringent enough concerning these machines which are not really regulated now. Rep. Stephens argued that this legislation would address those machines. Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) indicated that federal employee retirees in her district indicated that the machines were an issue and were not paying appropriate taxes. She also took issue with the numbers of licenses that the legislation proposed to issue – her comment was that perhaps they should start with a lower number to see how such gambling worked (the Constitutional Amendment to accompany this bill has a total of six such destination resorts which Rep. Stephens noted would allow the State to "grow" based on its population). Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) asked for more information on the revenues subject to the taxes to be paid; Rep. Rakestraw also inquired about the types of taxes to be paid (such as hotel/motel taxes, transportation fees, etc.). Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) told his colleagues at this meeting that only he and his fellow House member, Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), were in the House when the lottery legislation was passed. He asked Rep. Stephens why horse racing was not included; Rep. Stephens indicated he was not opposed to horse racing to be added but it is by itself not profitable and would require a casino. He did acknowledge that horse racing would be a benefit to Georgia's agricultural business. Rep. Powell also asked about the "parity" issue – there are only four such licenses to be issued and yet all voters are being asked to vote on this without seeing a direct benefit in all 159 counties. Rep. Stephens countered that students from all 159 counties, though, participate in the HOPE program. This led to Rep. Powell stating that he would like for the revenues to go for something other than HOPE, like healthcare. He noted that healthcare costs are the reason for the largest funding hole in the State's budget and a driver in our State's economic "train." Further, Rep. Powell noted that using the funds for healthcare would benefit all Georgians. Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson) inquired as to whether studies had been conducted to look at the costs of this gaming on human lives in comparison with the financial gains which the State may realize.
This legislation is to be reviewed further over the summer. Chairman Maxwell urged his Committee members to get suggested amendments to Rep. Stephens.
House Health and Human Services Committee
Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) and her Committee met in a very crowded room in the afternoon to deal with several bills left in the Committee. These included:
- HR 446, by Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point), originally proposed a House Study Committee on Heatstroke. Since the prior meeting, Committee members worked on the Resolution to broaden its reach so that more than football-related heatstroke injuries or deaths could be reviewed for prevention and best practices. The newer version looks at all youth sports and related injuries. The Committee passed out this new Substitute on this Resolution so that it moves to the House Rules Committee.
- SB 193, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), will be carried in the House by Chairman Cooper. This legislation allows for the Department of Public Health to address the grants which are funded in the amount of $2 million for positive alternatives to pregnancy. The legislation was described as a "clean up" from the legislation passed in 2016. The Department partners with 70 entities statewide. Chairman Cooper also tacked on in the most recent version of SB 193 her language for the expedited partner therapy (HB 360) which allows a licensed practitioner in O.C.G.A. § 31-17-7.1 to write a prescription for partner therapy medications when a person is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (Chlamydia or gonorrhea) so that both partners may be treated at the same time for the disease(s). Chairman Cooper stressed that both measures would help Georgia with its ongoing maternal mortality problem. Rep. Mark Newton, MD (R-Augusta) noted that many physicians were already issuing these prescriptions for the medications without protection that the legislation provides. He made the motion to do pass on this Committee Substitute; his motion carried. The legislation moves to the House Rules Committee.
- SB 41, also by Sen. Unterman, was next on the agenda. This legislation addresses the licensure of durable medical equipment in Chapter 4 of Title 26. A new Committee Substitute was before the Committee. In part, it defines "durable medical equipment" like the Medicare definition. There are certain exemptions in the proposal, essentially as the author did not want to prohibit entities such as Wal-Mart from being prohibited in making sales of these items. Now, the legislation, per Sen. Unterman, is really about beds and portable potties. Rep. Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain) raised issues regarding insurance coverage for these items; Sen. Unterman indicated that this legislation was not about those questions and that she would work with Rep. Henson on those questions next Session. Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) indicated that the legislation was an attempt to track these providers and help eliminate fraud. The legislation received a do pass recommendation to the Committee Substitute; it moves to the House Rules Committee.
- HR 431, by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Canton), creates the House Study Committee on the Ramifications of Changes to Federal Health Care Policy. The resolution was considered; however, the Committee took no action today. HR 431 remains in the Committee.
March 24, 2017 meetings
Senate Judiciary Committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), heard 11 propositions today:
- HB 5, authored by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell (R-Thomaston), raises the state funding for juvenile court judges from $85,000 per full-time judge to $100,000 per full-time judge. Subcommittee B amended the bill yesterday to increase from 30 to 40 the number of days a non-metro judge may claim a per diem for travel to the State Capitol per term of court. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by committee substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 9, authored by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), seeks to criminalize surreptitious filming or photography under another's clothes where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This bill is similar to SB 45, authored by Larry Walker III (R-Perry). The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by committee substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 51, authored by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), requires Georgia postsecondary institutions to report felony crimes committed by an enrolled student, or felony crimes committed in or on properties overseen by the institution, to law enforcement officials. The legislation also precludes institutions from conducting their own investigations, which are arguably required under federal administrative guidance. Numerous individuals spoke in opposition to the legislation with concerns that the bill would squelch the reporting and investigation of sexual assaults on campuses. Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus) moved to table the bill. The Committee TABLED the bill.
- HB 137, authored by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), eliminates a workaround related to compensation of special assistant district attorneys and attorneys general who are retained to prosecute civil asset forfeiture proceedings. The legislation bars de facto contingency fee arrangements and requires that contracts with attorneys retained to handle forfeiture proceedings be in writing and filed with the Clerk of Court. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by committee substitute 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 previously adopted a committee substitute that added two additional sections, including one that would allow private agencies receiving state funds to refuse placements with certain families, prompting concerns of potential discrimination. Sen. William Ligon Jr. (R-Brunswick) proposed an amendment to clarify that the bill's provisions should not be construed to allow any conflict with federal law relating to subsidies. Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus) proposed an additional amendment relating to the cooling-off period before a birth mother may surrender her parental rights. Several individuals spoke in support of the bill as passed by the House and without the Senate Judiciary amendments. The Committee HELD the bill for further consideration.
- 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 carry a conspicuous marking that it is a solicitation and not a government document. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 203, authored by Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), allows homeowners associations to petition a court for ownership of common areas retained by defunct developers in subdivisions and planned developments. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 293, authored by Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs), provides an effective date for the evidence statute adopted in 2013 relating to the admissibility of hearsay from a child who is a victim of physical or sexual abuse. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 308, authored by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta), revises portions of Georgia's child support law. In addition to language cleanup, the statute makes two substantive changes by allowing for separate child support worksheets when multiple children are involved and removing work-related child care expenses from the worksheet. These changes are intended to eliminate the need for parents to return to court for revised child support orders when children age out of certain types of support. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 344, authored by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), is paternity testing clean-up legislation. It changes the term "movant" in the law to "party" to allow the Department of Human Services to implement the full intent of the legislation. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 497, authored by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), revises the juvenile code to provide for the consideration of de facto custodians in child custody proceedings. The legislation also provides for delay to juvenile delinquency proceedings when the child is participating in a diversionary program. Rep. Efstration presented a substitute bill in an attempt to address concerns raised in yesterday's subcommittee hearing. Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) spoke against the bill, again with concerns for the definition of "de facto custodian" and issues relating to terminating parental rights. The Judiciary Committee HELD the bill for further consideration.
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.