Gold Dome Report: "Crossover Day"
- March 3, 2017
Lawmakers convened today for Day 28 of the Legislative Session, also known as Crossover Day. While typically falling on Day 30 of the session, Crossover Day was reset this year to take place on the 28th Legislative Day. Thus, today was the last day that bills can cross over from their originating chamber to the opposite chamber for consideration. Any bills which do not cross are considered “dead” as they will not be taken up again until next session. However, the language in many pieces of legislation which did not cross can, and will, emerge in moving bills.
In other news, Governor Deal named Natalie Spires Paine as the new District Attorney for the Augusta Judicial Circuit as R. Ashley Wright was named to the Superior Court for the Augusta Judicial Circuit. See the press release on this announcement: http://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2017-03-03/deal-announces-appointment-district-attorney
Governor Deal has also nominated Lynn Dempsey, the husband of Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), as the Commissioner for the Georgia Real Estate Commission. Commissioner Dempsey was confirmed to this position by the Georgia Real Estate Commission. http://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2017-03-03/deal-nominates-georgia-real-estate-commissioner
The House Rules Committee had three Rules calendars – we are reporting on those which we have followed or have been significant thus far this Session:
Modified Open Rule
HB 403, by Rep. Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville), which clarifies that the Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee and House Committee on Interstate Cooperation are to be composed of at least five members from each Chamber, was recommitted to the House Rules Committee and was not voted upon.
HB 413, by Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta), passed with a vote of 167-5. The legislation in part allows in O.C.G.A. § 44-12-236.1 that patronage dividends or capital credits held by a telephone cooperative that are "presumed abandoned" in a given calendar year may in lieu of payment or delivery to the commissioner be donated to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports education or economic development in the area if that telephone cooperative has maintained for at least six months on the telephone cooperative's website or on a public posting in the telephone cooperative's main office, a list of the names and last known addresses of all owners of the property held by the telephone cooperative that have been presumed abandoned together with instructions on how one is to claim such property and publish in the legal organ of the county in which the telephone cooperative's main office is located notice of the last date to claim property that has been presumed abandoned. That notice is required to be published within three to six months prior to the last date to claim the property and is to state the names of the owners may be found on the telephone cooperative's website or main office.
Modified Structured Rule
HB 15, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 168-5. This legislation addresses requirements for the filing of certain pleadings to be filed electronically in superior and state courts. At O.C.G.A. § 15-6-11(b), it states that on and after January 1, 2018, pleadings and other documents related thereto filed by an attorney to initiate a civil action or in a civil case in a superior court are required to be filed via electronic means through the court's "electronic filing service provider." There are some exceptions as to when electronic filing will not apply (e.g., a pauper's affidavit, pleadings or documents filed under seal, or presented to the court in camera or ex parte, or pleadings or documents in which access is otherwise restricted by law or court order; documents made physically by an attorney or his or her designee at the courthouse under certain conditions; made in a court located in an area that the Governor has declared to be in a state of emergency). In (c), it permits the superior court by court rule or standing order that the superior court shall not require but may allow for the filing of pleadings in civil actions by individuals who are not attorneys and any other document related thereto and for the acceptance of payments and remittances by electronic means. Fees are addressed for such filings – transaction fees for electronically filed pleadings or documents in a civil action and the electronic service of pleadings are not to exceed $7.00 per transaction – regardless of the numbers of parties served – and a convenience fee for credit card and bank drafting services is not to exceed 3.5 percent plus $.30 per transaction. "Per transaction" is defined as a single upload to a court's electronic filing service provider for filing: a pleading or document within an individual case or multiple pleadings or documents within an individual case as long as they are filed concurrently. There are also other changes, including a revision at O.C.G.A. § 9-11-5(f)(4) so as to clarify that when an attorney files a pleading in a case via an electronic filing service provider, then he or she is deemed to have consented to be served electronically with future pleadings for such case unless he or she files a rescission of consent.
HB 249, by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), passed by Committee Substitute and a Floor Amendment with a vote of 167-1. This legislation has been part of the bills offered this year to address Georgia's growing epidemic with the use of opioids. In part the legislation moves the responsibilities of the State's prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency to the Department of Public Health and gives that Department the authority for ongoing maintenance and development of the electronic database of prescription drug information. At O.C.G.A. § 16-13-57(c), it requires that each prescriber enroll to become a user of the PDMP as soon as possible but not later than January 1, 2018 – it does require that prescribers who obtain their DEA registration number after that date are allowed 30 days to enroll after they obtain such credentials. If a prescriber violates this, they will be held administratively accountable to the State's regulatory board governing that prescriber. It also requires that the Department of Public Health randomly test the PDMP between January 1, 2018 and May 31, 2018 to see if it is accessible and operational 99.5 percent of the time – if so, then the Department, between June 1, 2018 and June 20, 2018, is to certify in writing to each board which governs the prescribers that it is operational – the boards are then to publish such information on each of their websites. At O.C.G.A. 16-13-60(c)(5), it addresses the ability for the prescriber or dispenser to have "delegates" (these are other licensed individuals under Chapters 11, 30, 34, or 35 of Title 43; registered under Title 26; or licensed under Chapter 26 of Title 43) for the purpose of retrieving and reviewing information on the PDMP in order to provide medical or pharmaceutical care to a specific patient or to inform the prescriber or dispenser of a patient's potential use, misuse, abuse, or underutilization of a prescribed medication. The delegates are limited to two per shift who are employed or contracted by the healthcare facility in which the prescriber is practicing as long as the medical director has authorized the particular individuals for such access. In a hospital, providing emergency services, each prescriber may designate two individuals per shift who are employed or contracted by such hospital as long as the medical director of such hospital has authorized the particular individuals for such access. In O.C.G.A. § 16-13-63(a), it outlines that on and after July 1, 2018, when a prescriber is prescribing a controlled substance (outlined in O.C.G.A. § 16-13-26(1) or (2) or benzodiazepines, including only diazepam, alprazolam, or lorazepam, then he or she is to seek and review information from the PDMP unless the (1) prescription is for no more than a three-day supply of such substance and no more than 26 pills; (2) patient is in a hospital or healthcare facility, including but not limited to a nursing home, an intermediate care home, a personal care home, or a hospice program, which provides patient care and prescriptions to be administered and used by a patient on the premises of the facility; (3) patient has had outpatient surgery at a hospital or ambulatory surgery center and the prescription is for no more than a ten-day supply of such substance and no more than 40 pills; (4) patient is an outpatient hospice program; or (5) patient is receiving treatment for cancer. Prescribers are to make a notation in the patient's medical record stating the date and time upon which an inquiry to the PDMP is made, identifying the name of the person who made the search and the review.
HB 253, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), passed with a vote of 167-0. This legislation establishes another specialty tag in O.C.G.A. § 40-2-86 to allow for a tag promoting dog and cat sterilization, a support program of the Department of Agriculture.
HB 258, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 120-51. It outlines in O.C.G.A. § 16-5-21(d) minimum sentencing requirements for an individual who is at least 17 years of age when that individual is convicted of aggravated assault with the discharge of a firearm – that sentence would be a minimum of ten years of imprisonment.
HB 261, by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 173-0. The legislation clarifies the process for petitioning for retroactive exoneration and discharge of a criminal offense under Georgia’s First Offender statute, specifically providing that the petition provision is available for anyone convicted since the adoption of the First Offender statute in 1968, including individuals originally sentenced to split sentences of probation and incarceration. HB 261 is supported by the Georgia Justice Project and Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia, both of which have worked with the author to perfect the bill.
HB 280, by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 108-63. This bill has been dubbed "campus carry" – it amends O.C.G.A. § 16-11-127.1(c), relating to the carrying of weapons within school safety zones, at school functions, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by a school. It authorizes the carrying and possession of handguns when a weapons' carry license holder is in any building or on real property owned by or leased to any public technical school, vocational school, college, or university or other public institution of postsecondary education – such will not apply to buildings or property used for athletic sporting events or student housing (including, but not limited to, sorority and fraternity houses); preschool space if at such entrance to the preschool space it is advertised that such preschool space is designated for operations licensed or regulated under Article 1 of Chapter 1A of Title 20 (but will not apply if such public institution of postsecondary education has more than three buildings on the campus housing preschool space); would apply to handguns which the licensee is licensed to carry; and only apply to the carrying of handguns which are concealed.
HB 292, by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 127-48. This was another part of the weapons' carry revisions this year, clarifying the reciprocity of recognizing and giving effect to licenses to carry from other states. In part the legislation amends current law in O.C.G.A. § 16-11-126(e) so that such licensees licensed to carry a weapon in any other state is to carry the weapon in compliance with the laws of Georgia and no other state is to be required to recognize and give effect to a license issued pursuant to Part 3 of Article 4 of Chapter 11 of Title 16 that is held by a person who is younger than 21 years of age. It does require that the Georgia Attorney General create and maintain on the Department of Law's website a listing of states whose laws recognize and give effect to a license issued under this Part 3of Article 4 of Chapter 11 of Title 16. I also adds in (f)(2) of this Code Section that a person with a valid hunting or fishing license on his or her person or any person not required by law to have such license who is otherwise engaged in legal hunting, fishing or sport shooting on recreational or wildlife management areas owned by the State may have or carry on his or her person a knife without a valid weapons carry license while they are engaged in such hunting, fishing or sport shooting.
HB 309, by Rep. Timothy Barr (R-Lawrenceville), passed with a vote of 168-2 by Committee Substitute. It amends O.C.G.A. § 50-21-24(12) to provide that the State shall have no liability for activities of the organized militia when engaged in State or federal training or duty – there is an exception for vehicular accidents.
HB 428, by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), passed easily 171-0. It amends O.C.G.A. § 36-42-17, relating to downtown development authorities and priority liens and how those are collected. It does require a written contract and the recording of the notice of assessment in property records.
HB 470, by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), passed by Committee Substitute with a Floor Amendment with a vote of 169-1. It establishes in O.C.G.A. § 50-7-120 et seq. that the Department of Economic Development is to create a grant program to support counties and municipalities that are military communities.
HB 54, by Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming), was withdrawn from the Rules Calendar and recommitted to the House Rules Committee. Thus, this legislation addressing Georgia's rural hospital organization tax credits is dead for the Session.
HB 59, by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), passed by Committee Substitute 139-27. It amends O.C.G.A. § 48-7-29.8 regarding the procedures to follow in obtaining tax credits for the rehabilitation of historic structures. An individual is required to submit an application to the Department of Community Affairs for the preapproval of such tax credit. Such credits are capped at $50 million annually. It then repeals and adds a new O.C.G.A. § 48-7-29.8 where it outlines credits for qualified rehabilitation expenditures and certified rehabilitations. It caps credits for an historic home at $100,000 in any 120 month period and it caps credits for certified structures at $300,000 in any 120 month period. In this portion, it requires that the Department of Natural Resources provide certification that the improvements are consistent with their Standards for Rehabilitation.
HB 181, by Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 161-1. This legislation repeals 1(d) of O.C.G.A. § 48-2-15 and adds a new (d.1), relating to confidential information secured in the administration of taxes. It changes the provisions regarding the furnishing of sales and use tax information to municipalities and counties
HB 285, by Rep. Knight (R-Griffin), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 168-2. This initiative amends O.C.G.A. § 48-5-2(3)(B), concerning ad valorem taxation, to revise criteria used by tax assessors to determine the fair market value of real property.
HB 302, by Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange), was withdrawn from the House Rules Calendar and recommitted to the House Rules Committee. The bill proposed to change requirements in advertising and providing notice concerning millage rate adoption in O.C.G.A. § 48-5-32.1.
HB 342, by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 149-19. This initiative addresses urban redevelopment zones which may be designated as "enterprise zones" in O.C.G.A. § 36-88-3 et seq. It also allows for certain tax exemptions in such enterprise zones.
These bills had been previously postponed from the previous legislative day and addressed today:
HB 67, by Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point), passed by Committee Substitute by a vote of 151-18. It addresses the crimes of hijacking a motor vehicle of the first and second degree in Title 16.
HB 71, by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), was tabled. This Title 33 proposal has been dubbed "balance billing" or "surprise billing" by healthcare providers. A similar bill was moved in the Senate by Sen. Renee Unterman (SB 8).
HB 197, by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), passed easily with a vote of 170-0. It adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 10-1-393.15, in the Fair Business Practices Act, addressing mailing a solicitation for services to obtain a copy of an instrument conveying real estate.
HB 271, by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), passed with a Floor Amendment by a vote of 174-0. It addresses Georgia's shore protection in Chapter 5 of Title 12.
HB 354, by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), passed 157-11. It reconstitutes the Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority at O.C.G.A. § 50-7-50 et seq.
HB 375, by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), passed easily with a vote of 173-0. It repeals O.C.G.A. § 48-5-163 regarding the fee imposed for the issuance of tax executions.
HB 391, by Rep. David Clark (R-Buford), cleared quickly with a vote of 173-0. This legislation amends the current law for the Safe Place for Newborns Act as passed in 2002. It expands such safe places, in addition to medical facilities where a baby who is 30 days old or less may be left, to also include that babies may be left at police stations or fire stations. See O.C.G.A. § 19-10A-4. Current law limits such age of the baby to one week old or less. It still allows the mother immunity from any criminal action if such baby is left at one of these places.
HB 448, by Rep. Chuck Williams (R-Watkinsville), passed easily with a vote of 172-0. The legislation concerns the Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission and it in part changes the membership of such Commission in O.C.G.A. § 20-3-250.4. This Commission is currently composed of 15 members – this changes the Commission's membership so that one such member is to represent a degree-granting nonpublic postsecondary institution; at least one member is to be from a nonpublic postsecondary institution which grants only certificates; and at least one member is to be appointed to represent exempt education and postsecondary educational institutions as provided in O.C.G.A. § 20-3-250.3(a).
Some additional pieces of legislation from supplemental Rules Calendars:
HB 189, by Rep. Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta), passed 156-13. It adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 36-80-26 that any service contract with a political subdivision entered into or renewed on or after July 1, 2017 is required to contain specific performance and cost parameters. It also requires quarterly reports to be submitted to the political subdivision on the compliance with the performance requirements and costs. It is also to contain language in the contract that the political subdivision can contract at any time if the contractor fails to comply with all local, state and federal regulations; provided, however, "that the contract shall be subject to termination on the grounds whether or not the contract so specifies."
HB 425, by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 151-18. It amends O.C.G.A. § 20-2-281(t), regarding student assessments, to allow that parents may request a pencil and paper format for any such assessment and that the State Board of Education or local boards of education are encouraged to allow such administration. This would also apply to students who are 18 years of age and older.
HB 453, by Rep. David Dreyer (D-Atlanta), passed with a vote of 165-4. This legislation amends O.C.G.A. § 36-15-1, adding the chief judge of the magistrate court to the board of trustees for the county law library.
HB 475, by Rep. Buddy Harden (R-Cordele), passed 162-3 by Committee Substitute. It amends current law in Chapter 17 of Title 43, relating to charitable solicitations. It adds additional requirements for those entities' uses of collection receptacles for donations so that they may be emptied more timely.
HB 192, by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta), passed 128-40. It amends Titles 7 and 14 and addresses a court decision rendered in FDIC v. Loudermilk. The legislation adds enhanced liability protection for bank and corporate board members in their decision-making process. In most states, the business judgment rule protects the decision-making process and directors' decisions which are made in good faith from any second guessing by courts and juries - except where directors are guilty of gross negligence, fraud or bad faith. In the Loudermilk decision, the Georgia Supreme Court held that directors of Georgia banks and corporations could be liable for ordinary negligence committed in the decision-making process. By allowing ordinary negligence claims to be brought against directors of Georgia banks and corporations, the Court has severely undercut the business judgment rule. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Bankers Association, and defense lawyers supported this legislation. The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association had worked against this proposal.
HB 221, by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 170-0. It enacts the "Uniform Power of Attorney Act" in Chapter 6B of Title 10. The new Chapter would apply to all powers of attorney except: "1) a power to extent it is coupled with an interest in the subject of the power, including a power given to or for the benefit of a creditor in connection with a credit transaction; 2) a power to make health care decisions; 3) a proxy or other delegation to exercise voting rights or management rights with respect to an entity; and 4) a power created on a form prescribed by a government or governmental subdivision, agency, or instrumentality for a governmental purpose." These powers under this new Chapter are durable – unless it expressly provides that it is terminated by the incapacity of the principal.
HB 269, by Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna), was withdrawn from the House Rules Calendar and recommitted to the House Rules Committee. It proposed to amend O.C.G.A. § 20-3-519 so as to provide that members of the Georgia National Guard and reservists are eligible for the Zell Miller Grant Scholars program.
HB 273, by Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 147-17. It adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-323 so that beginning in the school year 2017-2018 all Georgia schools are to schedule on average a 30-minute recess daily for students in kindergarten and grades one through five.
HB 359, by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), passed by Committee Substitute and a Floor Amendment by its author with a vote of 124-39. It enacts the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act in O.C.G.A. § 19-9-120 et seq. – this legislation has been attempted for the last few years and has not previously passed. Chairman Wendell Willard has expressed concerns regarding the process proposed. In this year's legislation, it allows the parent of a child to delegate caregiving authority to another individual (relative or someone who is approved by a licensed child placing agency (under Chapter 4 of Title 49) or other non-profit entity that is in good standing with the IRS, as long as that individual undergoes, and obtains, a successful criminal background check). This authority over the child is for one year and allows that agent the ability to enroll the child in school; get appropriate healthcare such as immunizations; and sign authorization for the child to participate in extracurricular school activities. The bill was amended on the floor to require a criminal background check for all appointed agents and to limit the eligible non profits which may designate an agent to those focused on child or family services.
HB 406, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), addresses weapons' carry requirements and allows for reciprocity of other states' licenses to carry weapons in Georgia in O.C.G.A. § 16-11-126. The initiative passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 164-7.
HB 452, by Rep. Jesse Perea (R-Savannah), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 144-26. It adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 35-3-14 to require that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation publicly post and share information from the Law Enforcement Notification System of the Enforcement Integrated Database of the United States Department of Homeland Security to the extent such information is permitted by federal law. This posting is to be done within 12 hours of receipt and is also to be shared with the sheriffs.
HB 155, by Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta), enacts the Georgia Musical Investment Act allowing certain income tax credits for certain expenditures by a production company related to State-certified musical or theatrical productions or recorded musical performances in O.C.G.A. § 48-7-40.32. There are "spending thresholds" in the bill for such credit to apply as well as graduated caps on these credits. The legislation passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 97-65.
HB 196, by Rep. Matt Dollar (R-Marietta), cleared the House in the form of a Committee Substitute with a Floor Amendment by a vote of 97-65 after it initially failed to get the requisite number of votes to pass a motion for reconsideration (sending the bill back to the House Rules Committee before it emerged again and passed). It amends O.C.G.A. § 48-7-27(a)(16) to permit an exemption from income taxes for royalties paid to a musical artist in their lifetime.
HB 225, by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla), ran into some difficulties after failing to get the required number of votes to pass. Eventually, the legislation passed with a vote of 106-60. It addresses the taxation of ride share networks in O.C.G.A. § 48-8-2. Powell explained that there is a transportation sales tax applied now for taxi cabs – this will apply to ride share networks. It also permits apparently the taxation of digital downloads with a new definition for "facilitates" in (15.1) of this Code Section.
HB 353, by Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville), was recommitted to the House Rules Committee. Among the changes proposed in this legislation address O.C.G.A. § 44-12-130, so that fixed term pawn transaction is defined (which involves the pledge of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle certificate of title for an agreed upon number of months or 30 day periods).
HB 446, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), proposes to enact the "Local Government 9-1-1 Authority Act" in a new Chapter 93 of Title 36. It would require that local governments which operate or contract for the operation of a public safety answering point as of July 1, 2017 to be members of this Authority. Any additional local governments become members upon their adoption of a resolution or ordinance to impose the monthly 9-1-1 charge. This Authority would administer, collect, audit and remit 9-1-1 revenue for the benefit of local governments. The legislation was withdrawn and recommitted to the House Rules Committee.
HB 515, by Rep. Johnnie Caldwell, Jr. (R-Thomson), was one of the more controversial proposals, and received a good bit of debate. It seeks to revise State House boundaries in a "redistricting" which did not occur after the census took place, as required under the State's Constitution (the last such overall redistricting was after the 2010 census). A 2005 Resolution, adopted by the House, is in effect that permits redistricting in between censuses. This particular legislation impacts the districts of Reps. Bert Reeves, Ed Setzler and Earl Ehrhart; districts of Reps. Jan Jones and Chuck Martin; Reps. Karen Matiak and Brian Strickland; and Reps. Rick Golick and Shelia Jones. Caldwell noted he had tried to be "open and forthcoming" with this legislation and had sent the proposed bill to Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) prior to its introduction and had also shared with her the maps of each of these individual representatives' districts. Rep. Winfred Dukes (D-Albany) asked many questions – including when the proposal first came to Rep. Caldwell's attention (which was about two weeks ago). Rep. Jones argued that she did not know anything about the proposed changes; there had been no public comment; and had served in the House for 12 years and had not seen anything like this – which would negatively impact her Democratic district. Rep. David Dryer (D-Atlanta) delivered the Minority Report, noting that the voters got to pick their elected officials – not that the elected officials got to pick their voters. He argued that it was partisan and racial gerrymandering of districts. HB 515 passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 108-59.
HB 432, by Rep. Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville) passed the House with a vote of 117-48. It amends O.C.G.A. § 20-3-411 regarding tuition equalization grants at private colleges and universities. The legislation impacts one entity, Herzing University, which is located in Atlanta. Under the current law, it requires such entities to be SACS accredited; this legislation allows the accreditation from another body.
HB 142, by Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 100-64. It is a Department of Revenue bill and addresses tax return scams. It provides penalties for such. It amends O.C.G.A. § 48-7-105 and requires that not later than January 31 of each year, each person required to withhold taxes as provided in the Article 5 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 and is required to furnish to each employee for whom taxes have been withheld or to whom remuneration has been paid during the preceding calendar year a statement of wages paid and taxes withheld during the preceding calendar year. This also applies to Form 1099s. If such statement is not furnished to an employee by January 31, the person is then assessed a penalty - $10 per statement furnished up to 30 calendar days from the date such statement is due provided that the total amount imposed on such person is not to exceed $50,000. It also makes changes in O.C.G.A. § 48-7-106(c) concerning the annual and final returns, time, extensions, return to be filed upon sale of business, withholding unpaid withholding taxes from purchase prices and penalties – again, requiring the employer be assessed late penalties when statements are not filed as required.
HB 463, by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), passed with a vote of 168-0. It authorizes in O.C.G.A. § 20-1A-4.1 the Department of Early Care and Learning the ability to set up through a 501(c) nonprofit entity for the purpose of creating a public foundation so as to allow for public-private partnerships.
HB 419, by Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs), passed her first piece of legislation with a vote of 147-17 in the form of a Committee Substitute. HB 419 addresses the use or ignition of consumer fireworks in O.C.G.A. § 25-10-2, changing the times in which such fireworks can be exploded. It allows the detonation of these fireworks beginning at 10:00 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. if such ignition or use is lawful pursuant to any noise ordinance of the county or municipal corporation of the location where the ignition occurs – it still would allow the county or city to require a special use permit.
HB 497, by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 1561-2. It addresses delinquency proceedings in Chapter 11 of Title 15. In part, the proposal amends O.C.G.A. § 15-11-472(c)(1), concerning delinquency case time limitations – it requires that any petition alleging delinquency be filed within 30 days of the filing of the complaint or within 30 days after such child is released from preadjudication custody; provided, however, that when informal adjustment or other nonadjudicatory procedures are being utilized in accordance with Code Section 15-11-515, such 30 day period shall not commence until such informal adjustment or nonadjudicatory procedure has failed. Similar language is also added at O.C.G.A. § 15-11-521(b) in the time limitations for filing a delinquency petition. In actions for parental power in O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1, it allows a court to determine if an award of joint custody with a parent and a "de facto custodian" is in the best interest of the child or children and will best protect the child or children's health or welfare. "De facto custodian" is defined at O.C.G.A. § 19-9-6(1.1) to mean:
An individual who has shown by clear and convincing evidence to have accepted full and permanent responsibilities for a child as if he or she were a parent of the child without expectation of financial compensation and where the child:
(A) Has resided with such individual for a period of six months or more, if the child is under three years of age; or
(B) Has resided with such individual for a period of one year or more, if the child is three years of age or older; and
(C) Has developed a bonded and dependent relationship with such individual where such relationship has been fostered or supported by either parent of the child;
Provided however, that any period of time after a legal proceeding has been commenced by a parent seeking to regain custody of the child shall not be included in determining whether the child has resided with such individual for the required minimum period of time.
SB 211, by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), arrived on the Senate Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute which passed unanimously 51-0. It amends O.C.G.A. § 20-2-281, regarding student assessments, to allow local reading programs be used when a research based assessment is selected. This assessment is to provide for real-time data analysis for students, teachers, school leaders, and parents. It is to also allow flexibility grouping of students based on skill level and measure student progress toward grade level expectations throughout the school year. In subsection (t), it requires that the State Board of Education direct the existing assessment workgroup to pursue maximum flexibility for state and local assessments under federal law. It also requires that the State Board of Education conduct a "comparability study," which in part is to determine and establish the concordance of nationally recognized academic assessments, including, but not limited to, the SAT, ACT, and ACCUPLACER with alignment to state content standards in grades nine through 12.
SR 204, was presented by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), and proposes to designate several roads in honor of these Georgians: Kyle Gilbert; Horace Julian Bond; Samuel L. and LaTanya Jackson; Tyler Perry; and the Berrong Family. A Floor Amendment was offered, and adopted, which also addresses a parcel of property owned by the Department of Transportation which was transferred to the Division of Family and Children's Services in Ben Hill County. This Resolution passed 51-0.
SB 180, by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge), expands that the grants, permitted in O.C.G.A. § 31-7-94, may not only be granted to hospital authorities but also to rural hospital organizations. Further, it makes changes to O.C.G.A. § 31-7-94.1 concerning these rural hospital organizations and provides a definition for such entities, and outlines their eligibility for the grants – including that they provide healthcare services to indigent patients; provides both Medicare and Medicaid services; file a Form 990 with the IRS as a tax exempt entity; provide 24-hour emergency room services; have 10 percent of their annual net revenue categorized as indigent, charity or bad debt; operated by a county or authority or be a 501(c)(3) entity; and are current with all audits and reports. It caps the maximum award of any grant to a hospital authority or rural hospital organization in any given calendar year at $4 million. A Floor Amendment stripped out language in Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Committee Substitute which addressed the use of third-party solicitation entities for obtaining charitable contributions to the rural hospital organizations; the reconfiguration of the tax credits permitted (including increases in such credits to individuals and corporations); and the confidentiality provisions of these charitable donations. Sen. Burke indicated that the language from Sections 3, 4 and 5 would be included in another bill. The measure passed as a Committee Substitute with the Amendment 51-0.
SB 134, by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth), is known as the "Save, Earn, Win Act" and permits banks or credit unions to offer promotion savings raffles or cash prizes in lieu of interest payments in order to encourage Georgians to save money. The language is inserted at O.C.G.A. § 7-1-239.10. There were no questions and the legislation passed 48-2.
SB 250, by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), addresses Georgia's Sexual Offender Registry. It amends O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12(e) to require that individuals who are convicted of dangerous sexual offenses are to register with the Sexual Offender Registry. Further, it provides judicial discretion and has the sentencing superior court judge make a risk assessment classification as a part of sentencing for sexual offenders for such offenders convicted on and after July 1, 2017 in O.C.G.A. 42-1-14. The legislation passed 50-0.
SB 193, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), amends the 2016 law regarding the "Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program" to "refine" the Department of Public Health's grant program. The purpose of this grant program is to "develop a statewide effort that promotes healthy pregnancies and childbirth by awarding grants to nonprofit organizations that provide pregnancy support services". It passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 36-16. Three Floor Amendments were proposed; however, those failed. Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) attempted in the Floor Amendment to clarify that these nonprofit entities provide "medically accurate" information.
SB 153, by Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan), was the first piece of legislation carried by this new Senator. It proposes to allow for the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids which are currently not permitted in Georgia law. It defines such products, which could be sold in store fronts as well as on the internet. The legislation arrived on the Senate Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute and a Floor Amendment was offered by Sen. Steve Henson (D-Tucker) and the bill's author. The Floor Amendment was adopted which requires that this hearing aid be registered with the Food and Drug Administration. Sales can only be by licensed audiologists or hearing dispensers licensed in Georgia and be made to individuals 18 years of age and older and who must have an audiogram within six months from the date of purchase. It also requires that the marketing materials for the products clearly state that they are "over-the-counter" items which are preprogrammed and do have a volume control option. The bill passed as amended with a vote of 52-1. (Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) was the individual who voted no.)
SB 191, by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), brought this measure to the floor regarding petroleum pipeline regulation and permitting. Last year, there was a Senate Study Committee on this issue after a moratorium was issued on pipelines. This measure addresses eminent domain in constructing these pipelines. The legislation passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 40-13.
SB 241, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), was brought to the Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute. A Floor Amendment was proposed and adopted. In part, the legislation transfers responsibilities from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency to the Department of Public Health for the State's prescription drug monitoring program database in O.C.G.A. § 16-13-57. It also addresses in O.C.G.A. § 31-7-180 the disposal method for controlled substances which may be in the possession of a person who dies. SB 241 passed 45-0.
SB 126, by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), came to the Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute and was swiftly passed with a vote of 49-0. It amends O.C.G.A. § 50-21-28 which would now read:
All tort actions against the state under this article shall be brought in the state or superior court of the county wherein the tort giving rise to the loss occurred; provided, however, that wrongful death actions may be brought in the county wherein the tort giving rise to the loss occurred or the county wherein the decedent died, and provided, further, that in any case in which an officer or employee of the state may be included as a defendant in his or her individual capacity, the action may be brought in the county of residence of such officer or employee. All actions against the state for losses sustained in any other state shall be brought in the county of residence of any officer or employee residing in this state upon whose actions or omissions the claim against the state is based.
SB 226, by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), addresses Georgia's alcohol laws and production requirements for Georgia farm wineries in O.C.G.A. § 3-6-21.1. The legislation passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 50-2.
SR 228, by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson), is the State's annual property conveyance Resolution for numerous properties in several Georgia counties. This Resolution cleared with a vote of 49-1.
SR 229, also by Sen. Jones (R-Jackson), addresses public property non-exclusive easements for construction, operation and maintenance of facilities, utilities, and roads for several Georgia counties. This Resolution was adopted with a vote of 52-0.
SB 222, by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), proposes to establish the "Local Government 9-1-1 Authority Act" in Chapter 93 of Title 36. This initiative passed with a vote of 50-3.
SB 99, by Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), seeks to change current requirements relating to allowing individuals to obtain gun permits if those individuals have been inpatients in a hospital and were involuntarily hospitalized for drug or alcohol treatment. The proposal allows the person's second amendment rights to be restored if they petition the court and if they no longer have a disability in O.C.G.A. § 35-3-34(e). Under current law, there is no exception. Georgia Carry and the NRA approved of this legislation. A Floor Amendment was brought by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen) to add language concerning sharp edged instruments, i.e., knives. The Amendment was ruled germane and adopted and the Committee Substitute was adopted as amended and then passed 52-1.
SB 170, by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), seeks to create the "Georgia SERVES Act of 2017" in O.C.G.A. § 49-5-30 et seq. Sen. Hill explained that his proposal was an effort to help recruit and retain foster care parents as well as help "create an army" of volunteers. While the Division of Family and Children's Services, has voiced concerns about SB 170 as it will be costly for the Division to implement with a new database, the legislation passed in the form of a Substitute with a vote of 40-13. There have been questions relating to this proposed policy which may get in the way of the "reasonable and prudent parenting" standards now used. Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) raised several questions including whether the Governor was in favor of this legislation; Sen. Hill stated that he had talked to the Governor "man to man" about the legislation. Sen. Hill did note that this initiative was not a DFCS priority. Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) asked if this mandate would cost $1 million; he stressed that the State had made strides in providing safety and security to Georgia's children but acknowledged challenges remain in delivering volunteer services. Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) inquired if a fiscal note had been prepared; Sen. Hill stated no but it was estimated that the database of this group of volunteers would cost about $250,000 (initial). However, DFCS has estimated much higher costs.
SB 200, by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), passed quickly with a vote of 53-0. Sen. Hufstetler stated that 17 states already "synchronize" patients' chronic medications as proposed in O.C.G.A. § 33-24-59.21. There were no questions as the bill passed.
SB 258, by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Valdosta), amends O.C.G.A. § 45-2-1 so as to clarify that not only state or county officers but also municipal officers are ineligible to hold office if they refuse to pay over such funds to the proper office. Under current law, only state and county officials are ineligible. This legislation passed with a vote of 50-0.
SB 164, by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta), addresses copayments, coinsurance and office visit deductibles for insurance. It clarifies in O.C.G.A. § 33-24-59.21, as proposed, that no health benefit plan or policy may impose a different or additional copay, coinsurance or office visit deductible for physical therapy, occupational therapy or chiropractic services than those imposed and received by a primary care physician or licensed osteopath physician. Sen. Millar indicated that he would be willing to add speech-language pathology services on the House side if the bill passed. SB 164 passed 51-1 in the form of a Committee Substitute.
SB 219, by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), addresses autonomous vehicles and exempts individuals from using one of these autonomous vehicles with the driving system engaged from having to hold a driver's license in O.C.G.A. § 40-5-21(a). The legislation passed swiftly with a vote of 51-0.
SB 242, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), addresses Georgia's Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and the numbers of such nurses which can be under a physician protocol agreement at any one time. Her legislation, by Committee Substitute, cleared with a vote of 52-0. It changes the numbers of APRNs to physicians from a ratio of 4:1 to 10:1 in O.C.G.A. § 43-34-25.
SB 132, by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), addresses Georgia's Civil Practice Act eliminating the use of statutory civil case filing and disposition forms and allowing the Judicial Council of Georgia, with the approval of the Supreme Court, to promulgate those forms at O.C.G.A. § 9-11-133(a). It also addresses the duties of the Administrative Office of the Courts and changes the authority of the Georgia Courts Automation Commission. The legislation passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 48-1.
SR 146, by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), is a proposed Constitutional Amendment which caught the Senate in a flurry of discussion late into the day. The Constitutional Amendment would address victims' rights in our State's Constitution. The proposal came to the Floor in the form of a Committee Substitute. Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) opposed the legislation. Meanwhile, Sen. David Lucas (D-Macon) supported his fellow member of the Macon-Bibb Delegation. In the end, the Resolution cleared with a vote of 50-4 (those voting no were Sens. Beach, Unterman, Heath and Ligon).
SB 127, by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), is the companion legislation to SR 146. It moved much more swiftly than the Resolution and passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 51-1 (again, Sen. Unterman voted no). It would amend O.C.G.A. § 17-17-15 and provides that the victim be provided notice by the prosecuting attorney when that victim has requested such and wants to be informed about all proceedings where he or she could be heard. This legislation is being promoted across the country.
SB 173, by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson), addresses Captive Insurance Companies in Chapter 41 of Title 33 and is focused on trying to attract these companies to domicile in Georgia (rather than in other states such as South Carolina and Delaware). The proposal passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 51-0.
SR 192, by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa), is a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow that the election of a local school superintendent be made by grand juries. Sen. Wilkinson argued that there are some instances now where these elections are unfair. Also, some local boards of education may change and superintendents, who may be under three year contracts with those local boards, may all be receiving payment even though they are not on the job. Some argued that this election process would be really bad, as it is not transparent. Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen) asked if this initiative would not have been better if brought as a local bill; Sen. Wilkinson indicated that was not possible. The Resolution passed in the form of a Committee Substitute with a vote of 40-12.
SB 149, by Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), addresses POST certification requirements of school resource officers and their training. Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) offered a Floor Amendment which was adopted. The initiative passed as a Committee Substitute with the Amendment with a vote of 50-1 (Sen. Heath opposed).
SB 29, by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), proposes to require that drinking water for schools and child care centers be tested for lead contamination. The proposal passed 50-1.
SB 216, by Sen. Steve Henson (D-Stone Mountain), addresses the per capita share of sales tax to be paid to county authorities by certain municipalities, by clarifying that the newly formed City of Tucker can get its share of taxes. The legislation was engrossed so there were no Amendments; it passed 49-1 (again, Sen. Heath voted no).
SB 30, by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), proposes to be a solution for schools in poor neighborhoods. It creates the Sustainable Community School Operational Grants. It came to the Floor as a Committee Substitute; it had no Floor Amendments and passed 50-1.
SB 221, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), seeks to allow that optometrists may administer certain pharmaceutical agents by injection. There was a lot of testimony on this issue in Committee which caused the Committee to pass a Committee Substitute which was what was considered on the Floor. The proposal outlines the optometrists' training requirements to offer these injections – that training is not only 30 hours in school but also thirty hours post training which must be taught by an ophthalmologist. Some have argued this legislation would allow more access to eye healthcare. There were Amendments offered; numbers 1 and 3 were withdrawn. Amendment 2 was ruled germane, although it would have required that optometrists be required to follow the "Badge Bill" requirements passed in 2016 like other health professionals. However, Floor Amendment 2, pushed by the Medical Association of Georgia, failed – it was too long and if it had been adopted would have essentially killed the underlying proposal this year as it would have been sent back to the Senate Rules Committee. In the end, SB 221 passed with a vote of 34-17.
SB 206, by Sen. P.K. Martin IV (R-Lawrenceville), was the final legislation of the evening. This bill provides an insurance mandate at O.C.G.A. § 33-24-59.21 so that children under the age of 18 can have health insurance coverage for hearing aids when such are medically required. The legislation requires health insurance plans with more than ten employees to provide such coverage – allowing up to $6,000 for two hearing aids every 48 months. It does not address ERISA, Medicaid or State Health Benefit Plan. Sen. Martin argued that it would cost $.25 per person per year for this coverage – thus, it would be a negligible cost. He also stated that covering hearing aids for children with those needs would also lessen special education costs for children who were deaf or hard of hearing. Hearing aids are presently considered as "cosmetic devices." Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) and Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) spoke in favor of this legislation promoted by Let Georgia Hear (essentially two mothers of children who have hearing loss). The bill passed 47-6.
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.