Gold Dome Report for February 10, 2011
Day 13 of the Legislative Session proved to be constructive with the House passing its version of the FY 2011 Amended Budget in HB 77. More details follow below on the House's version of this year's amended proposal for State funding.
The Senate session this afternoon began with a brief speech by U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss. He spoke about the economic hardships that both Federal and State governments are currently facing.
Pastor Richard Haynes was the Chaplain of the Day and he brought forth a message about faith.
February 10, 2011 was officially recognized as Georgia Young Farmer's Day and members of the group were in attendance wearing red jackets.
The Senators got down to business by voting on and passing the local consent calendar and SB 30, the bill determining the educational requirements of municipal court judges and requires these individuals must be members in good standing of the State Bar of Georgia. SB 30 sailed through the Senate with four dissenting votes and now makes its way to the House. The Senate is adjourned until next Tuesday at 10am.
The Chaplain of the day was Rev. Dr. Beth LaRocca-Pitts of St. Mark United Methodist Church in downtown Atlanta.
In honor of Black History Month, Rep. Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) recognized Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) on the floor and commended him for his service to the General Assembly as well as the critical role he played in the Civil Rights Movement.
A number of other recognitions were made: Rep. Roberts (R-Ocilla) recognized the Georgia Young Farmers Association, and Majority Whip Lindsey (R-Atlanta) introduced the 2011 Leadership Academy of the State Bar. Rep. Lindsey also informed the Chamber that Saturday, February 12 marks Georgia's 278th Birthday.
Today was Community Health Center Day at the Capitol, as well as United Methodist Day, and Toccoa-Stephens Co. Day.
U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss addressed the House briefly during its discussion on HB 77, commending them on their hard work on the budget; and sending greetings from fellow Senator Johnny Isakson. After a few words of encouragement and jokes; Senator Chambliss left the Chamber.
HB 77, concerning FY 2011 Amended Budget, was discussed in great detail. Chairman O'Neal (R-Bonaire) presided over the committee of the whole in the House while Chairman of Appropriations, Terry England (R-Auburn) presented the FY 2011 Amended Budget to the House. HB 77, per Chairman England, is being released from the House the earliest it has in recent memory. Chairman England acknowledged that FY 2012 Budget will require more hours of work. Roughly, it is a Budget containing slightly more than $18 billion in funding. Approximately $589 million was cut and the cuts to the budget will impact many services
A few highlights from the Budget include:
Department of Community Health
- Money was restored in Adult Essential Health Treatment Services for the Hemophilia of Georgia contract for individuals who are moving into the federal Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. Originally, the proposed cut was $47,864 and the House restored some of this money, permitting a cut of $33,517 to this initiative.
- Under the Aged, Blind and Disabled Program, more "savings" were reflected from drug company settlements. Originally, the Governor's Budget projected a savings of $5.4 million and the House believes that it will be $6.9 million.
- Under the Health Care Access and Improvement program, the House took a reduction of $6,760 in State dollars for the St. Joseph Mercy Care contract. No money had been proposed by the Governor to be cut from this area.
- The Indigent Care Trust Fund had previously shown only approximately $7.8 million in State funds to fund the private hospitals deemed eligible by federal standards for the Disproportionate Share Hospital Program. The House allocated an additional $13 million in State funds so that all private hospitals will be able to participate with roughly $21 million.
- The proposed $482,041 cut to reflect "savings" by moving Hemophilia clients into the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan in the Infant and Child Health Promotion Program was restored by the House.
Department of Education
- Under Agricultural Education, the House added $28,000 for equipment replacement at Camp John Hope in Fort Valley.
- The proposed $125,512 contract cut to the GALILEO contract was restored in the Curriculum Development Program.
- The proposed reduction in funds for supplemental grants provided to residential treatment centers of $154,804 was restored in the Non Quality Basic Education Formula Grants Program.
- $975,142 was added in the Quality Basic Education Equalization Program area.
- Under the Quality Basic Education Program, an additional $1.2 million was placed in the House version to provide for an adjustment for teacher training and experience for new charter commission schools opening in the 2010-2011 school year.
Department of Human Services
- In the Elder Community Living Services, the House restored some of the funds proposed to be cut. It added funding for Respite Services and Non-Medicaid Home Community Based Respite Services. Originally, a $1.6 million cut was proposed; the House took that cut to roughly $1.3 million.
Department of Public Safety
- The House proposed an addition of $215,000 for increased fuel costs for State Patrol vehicles in the Field Offices and Services Program area.
Board of Regents
- Under the Agricultural Experiment State Program area, the House restored $300,000. Governor Deal had proposed cutting $744,305 by elimination of staff and research faculty positions and through reduction of operating expenses.
- In the Regents Central Office, the House restored funding to the Southern Regional Education Board. Originally, a cut of $44,459 was proposed.
- Under the payments to the Georgia Cancer Coalition Program, the House cut more than $45,000 by eliminating the Chief Operating Officer Position effective April 1, 2011.
Lawmakers passed HB 77 with a vote of 136 to 29
HB 190 – Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) proposed this Bill revising O.C.G.A. § 48-12-1 and changing the term "federal filing date" which will mean the date by which the federal estate tax return must be filed as required by the Internal Revenue Code.
HB 191 – Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) authored this revision to O.C.G.A. § 48-4-1(a)(1)(A) concerning procedures for sales under tax levies and executions. It adds in "cases of executions issued by a county officer for ad valorem taxes, to the defendant's last known address as listed in the records of the tax commissioner of the county that issued the tax executions."
HB 192 – Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) authored this initiative adding a Part 17 to Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 to establish the "State Education Finance Study Commission" which will evaluate the Quality Basic Education Formula and education funding for public schools. This Commission will look at the funding system which has been in place for the last 25 years. There will be 25 members on this Commission with the Governor appointing the following persons: a local school superintendent; a teacher; a principal or other administrator; a member of a local board of education; a member of the State Board of Education; a representative from a college of education in the University System of Georgia; a representative from vocational-career academies within the Technical College System of Georgia; a parent and a representative from the Professional Standards Commission. Three more representatives are to be appointed from the business community: one will be appointed by the Governor; one by the Speaker; and one by the Lieutenant Governor. The State School Superintendent will be on this Commission along with six members of the House of Representatives (including the Chair of the House Committee on Education) and six members of the Senate (including the chair of the Senate Education and Youth Committee).
HB 197 – Rep. Barbara Sims (R-Augusta) authored this Bill adding a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 42-4-15 providing limitations on certain medical charges by hospitals for providing emergency medical care services to inmates confined in a municipal or county detention facility. It limits charges not to exceed the applicable Georgia Medicaid rate for any emergency health care service provided. Further, it states that emergency healthcare services must be provided in accordance with acceptable medical standards, ensuring that any reasonably apparent injuries associated with the condition are treated and a hospital cannot discharge an inmate with an emergency healthcare condition so as to require an immediate transfer to another medical provider for the same condition unless the reasonable standard of care requires the transfer.
HB 198 – Rep. Tom Rice (R-Norcross) offered this set of changes in Chapter 6 of Title 15 pertaining to clerks of superior courts. His Bill proposes to extend the date for fees to be collected in O.C.G.A. § 15-6-77(f) and (f.1) until July 1, 2016 (relating to the filing documents, instruments and other documents in real estate or personal property matters). It would also amend O.C.G.A. § 15-6-97(c) concerning repeal of that Code section (which is presently to be repealed on July 1, 2014 and this would extend the date of repeal until July 1, 2016.
HB 200 – Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta) authored this Bill which would amend Titles 16, 17 and 35. It is an effort to help discourage the trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude. It adds a new component to the definition of "coercion" in O.C.G.A. § 16-5-46(a) which would include the causing or threatening to cause financial harm to any person or using financial control over any person. It also adds definitions for "performance" and "sexually explicit conduct" and amends the definition of "sexual servitude." It further outlines that certain facts or conditions are prohibited from constituting a defense in a prosecution for violations of the offense of trafficking a person for labor servitude or sexual servitude (including the sexual history or history of commercial sexual activity of a person alleged to have been trafficked; a person alleged to have been trafficked has a connection by blood or marriage to the defendant in the case or to anyone involved in such person's trafficking; the age of consent for sexual activity; or the defendant's lack of knowledge of the age of the person being trafficked). Penalties are increased for persons guilty of the offense of trafficking a person for either labor or sexual servitude (current law has not less than one year and the minimum is raised to ten years, a fine not to exceed $100,000 (or both)). Real and personal property used or intended for use in the course of, derived from, or realized through a violation will subject to forefeiture. A new Code Section is proposed for O.C.G.A. § 16-3-26.1 to define the term "sexual crime" in (a) and it adds that a person will not be guilty of a "sexual crime if the conduct upon which the alleged criminal liability is based was committed while the accused was being trafficked for sexual servitude in violation" of O.C.G.A. § 16-4-46(c).
HB 201 – Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta) introduced this Bill following a recent wreck during the snow storm. This Bill adds a misdemeanor offense in O.C.G.A. § 40-8-7(b) for individuals who do not clear snow or ice from their vehicle such that it would obstruct the driver's view or such that the snow or ice falls off the vehicle on any street or highway and would endanger any person.
HB 203 – Rep. Mack Jackson (D-Sandersville) authored this Bill amending O.C.G.A. § 35-8-7.1(e) to provide that the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council will make certain notifications (to the head of the law enforcement agency which employs that officer; the district attorney of the judicial circuit in which the law enforcement agency by which the officer is employed and is located; and the solicitor of the state court, if any, of the county in which the law enforcement agency by which such officer is employed is located) when undertaking to investigate or discipline peace officers. If an investigation occurs, it will be considered as sufficient to identify the peace officer and state that a disciplinary investigation has been opened; if the investigation is completed without any further action, notice of the termination of the investigation must also be provided to the head of the employing agency, the DA and state court solicitor. It will be considered insufficient to identify the officer and state that the investigation has been completed without action taken. In the case of a disciplinary action, notice shall identify the officer and the nature of the disciplinary action taken and the notices will be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested or by statutory overnight delivery.
HB 205 – Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta) introduced this amendment to Georgia's Lemon Law found at O.C.G.A. § 10-1-782(5) to revise the definition of the term, "consumer." It adds that any "branch, department, agency, board, bureau, or commission of Georgia state government; any political subdivision of this state; or any state or local government authority in this state which purchases or leases a new motor vehicle for official use" is also a consumer.
HB 206 – Rep. Ralph Long (D-Atlanta) proposed this Bill amending Chapter 1 of Title 45 concerning public employees who make complaints or report information relating to fraud, waste, or abuse. It amends the definition of "retaliate" so that it not only would mean discharge, suspension or demotion by a public employer or supervisor of an employee but it would also include making threatening actions to take adverse employment action or creating a hostile work environment for the public employee. It further adds that for a "period of 24 months following the date that a complaint or disclosure protected by this Code section is made by a public employee, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that any adverse action taken by a public employer or supervisor relating to the terms or conditions of employment, including any threatens to take an adverse employment action or the creation of a hostile work environment, is done in retaliation against the public employee for making such complaint or disclosure."
HB 214 – Rep. Mickey Channell (R-Greensboro) authored this amendment to Title 31 adding a new Chapter 2A to establish a new Department of Public Health. This Bill would reassign functions of the Division of Public Health currently housed in the Department of Community Health and create a new department with a Board and Commissioner of Public Health. Within this new Department would be regulations of food service establishments; rules and regulations for nutritional screenings and eye, ear, and dental examinations of students; reporting of disabled newborns; and etc. It would also have attached to it an Office of Women's Health.
HB 215 – Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville) authored this initiative in hopes of prohibiting persons convicted of a criminal offense against a victim who is a minor from driving commercial motor vehicles designed to transport 16 or more persons.
HB 226 – Rep. Donna Sheldon (R-Dacula) authored this Bill in Chapter 8 of Title 30 and which also amends O.C.G.A. § 49-4-183. The purpose is to provide comprehensive regulation of the individual development accounts (contracts between an account holder and a fiduciary organization for the deposit of savings by an account holder at a financial institution and the deposit by the fiduciary organization of matching funds into a separate reserve account at a financial institution to allow the account holder to accumulate assets for use toward achieving any of the specific purposes found in O.C.G.A. § 30-8-22 (such as post-secondary education or job training, purchase of assistive technology, etc.)). A person whose income is the lesser of 80 percent of the median household income for the area or whose income is less than or equal to 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines may open such an account. A total of $60,000.00 can be paid to each of these individual development accounts, during its existence, which will be overseen by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. The Council can select a fiduciary entity through a competitive process for administration and implementation of this program. The Bill outlines the responsibilities of the fiduciary entity.
HB 227 – Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford) offered this amendment to Title 20 of the O.C.G.A. which would authorize a student to carry and self-administer auto-injectable epinephrine and would authorize school personnel to administer auto-injectable epinephrine to students who are having an anaphylactic adverse reaction.
HB 228 – Rep. Rick Austin (R-Demorest) brought this Bill to the House in order to repeal certain provisions regarding limitations on the State Revenue Commissioner's authority to make certain distributions.
HB 229 – Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Cobb) proposed this initiative which would make it so that the decision of the administrative law judge would be the final administrative decision of the Commissioner. This Bill relates to administrative hearings and appeals under Medicaid.
HB 230 – Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) offered this amendment to Title 20 seeking to establish a minimum course of study by the State Board of Education. It would also require annual instruction in criminal law for certain grades in Georgia.
HB 231 – Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) introduced this amendment to Title 37 which calls for community alternatives provided to institutionalized care for treatment of mental illness. This Bill would directly amend parts related to treatment of alcoholics and drug dependent persons.
HB 232 – Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Fulton) proposed this Bill in Title 21 which would make it so that bona fide commission salespersons would not be required to register as lobbyists or otherwise be considered lobbyists. Since the passage of SB 17 in 2010, there has been confusion surrounding whether these individuals would be required to register as lobbyists as they previously did not have to do so.
HB 233 – Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla) proposed this initiative which seeks to amend Chapter 3 of Title 48. The Bill would change certain provisions regarding the applicability of sales and use taxes to motor fuel sales. It also contains language that would exempt the sales and use tax on diesel fuel used to propel locomotives.
HB 235 – Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) offered this amendment to Title 36 in an effort to establish job creation and convention services in various parts of the State. The Bill would provide some taxation exemptions for convention and tourist attraction facilities both new and old.
HB 236 – Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas) introduced this Bill seeking to prevent new or returning tax commissioners, tax collectors, and tax receivers and all employees in their offices from being members of the Employees' Retirement System of Georgia on or after July 1, 2012.
HB 237 – Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) proposed this legislation which would revise the definition of "mortgage lending process" in Title 16 of the O.C.G.A. The Bill would give district attorneys the ability to investigate residential mortgage fraud.
HB 239 – Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) offered this Bill amending Chapter 1 of Title 7. It adds additional duties to the Department of Banking and Finance so that it can have the power to require dissolution of a financial institution. It would further require in O.C.G.A. § 7-1-482(a) that a bank or trust company which fails to maintain at least five directors at any times does not exculpate the remaining directors from their obligations and liabilities associated with the actions and decisions made as directors of the institution and such would not void any actions taken or decisions made by the board of directors during any such time that there were less than five directors. A number of other revisions are made in this Bill, including changes to requirements for boards of credit unions; definitions relating to multiple-party accounts; felony offenses of directors, officers, agents and employees of financial institutions (including false statements); licensing of mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers; licensing of mortgage loan originators; adding references to the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry; and etc.
HB 240 – Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) offered a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 48-8-123 to establish a procedure for modifying projects approved in a referendum that have become infeasible in connection with the county special purpose local option sales and use tax and the sales tax for educational purposes (which is authorized to be modified pursuant to another new Code Section found at O.C.G.A. § 48-8-145). "Infeasible" will mean that the "project has, in the judgment of the governing authority as expressed in the resolution or ordinance required by subsection (b) of this Code section, become impracticable, unserviceable, unrealistic, or otherwise not in the best interests of the citizens of the special district."
HB 241 – Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) proposed this initiative to add a new paragraph (9.1) at O.C.G.A. § 26-2-22 regarding how food is labeled. This proposal would prohibit the labeling of any seafood as "fresh" if it has been frozen, thawed, and then subsequently re-frozen.
HB 242 – Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) offered this Bill to be known as the "American Laws for Georgia Courts Act." It would add a new Article 7 in Chapter 12 of Title 9 in an effort to protect Georgians from the application of foreign laws when the application of a foreign law will result in the violation of a Constitutional right under Georgia's Constitution or of the United States. It would prohibit a court, administrative agency or other tribunal from enforcing a foreign law if doing so would violate a right guaranteed by the State's Constitution of the Constitution of the United States.
HB 243 – Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) authored an additional proposal for food found in O.C.G.A. § 26-2-22(9.1) prohibiting the labeling of any food as "fresh" if the food has been frozen
HB 245 – Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) authored a new Code Section proposal for O.C.G.A. § 10-7-1.1 regarding the contract of "suretyship" to provide that the surety or co-signer of a loan is entitled to notice of a default by the principal at the same time that notice is given to the principal identified on the loan.
HB 246 – Rep. Terry Johnson (D-Marietta) offered this Bill to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 46-1-16 to provide that no employee of the Employees' Retirement System of Georgia or the Teachers' Retirement System of Georgia will be able to receive an increase in compensation (salary and incentive bonuses) in any calendar year in excess of 50 percent of his or her salary.
HB 247 – Rep. Jay Neal (R-Lafayette) authored this Bill in Chapter 11 of Title 31, concerning emergency medical services personnel, to authorize the Department of Community Health to require fingerprinting and criminal background investigations of all applicants for licensure and currently licensed emergency medical services personnel. It authorizes the Department to obtain conviction data (defined as a "record of a finding or verdict of guilty or plea of guilty or plea of nolo contender with regard to any crime, regardless of whether an appeal of the conviction has been sought"). Further, the Department would establish by rule or regulation a process by which such persons would be required to submit fingerprint checks which would be obtained from the Georgia Crime Information Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Conviction data would be privileged and not be a public record or disclosed to any person and would be required to be maintained to laws concerning such records and the rules and regulations of the Georgia Crime Information Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
HB 248 – Rep. Jay Neal (R-Lafayette) introduced this Bill to be known as the "Health Care Sharing Ministries Freedom to Share Act." It would be added at O.C.G.A. § 33-1-19. It defines "health care sharing ministry" as a "faith-based, nonprofit organization that is tax exempt under the Internal Revenue Code which: 1) limits its participant to those who are of a similar faith; 2) acts as a facilitator among participants who have financial or medical needs and matches those participants with other participants with the present ability to assist those with financial or medical needs in accordance with criteria established by the health care sharing ministry; 3) provides for the financial or medical needs of a participant through contributions from one participant to another; 4) provides amounts that participants may contribute with no assumption of risk or promise to pay among the participants and no assumption of risk or promise to pay by the health care sharing ministry to the participants; 5) provides a written monthly statement to all participants that lists the total dollar amount of qualified needs submitted to the health care sharing ministry, as well as the amount actually published or assigned to participants for their contribution; and 6) provides a written disclaimer on or accompanying all applications and guideline materials distributed by or on behalf of the organization that reads:
Notice: The organization facilitating the sharing of medical expenses is not an insurance company, and neither its guidelines nor plan of operation is an insurance policy. Whether anyone chooses to assist you with your medical bills will be totally voluntary because no other participant will be compelled by law to contribute toward your medical bills. As such, participation in the organization or a subscription to any of its documents should never be considered to be insurance. Regardless of whether you receive any payment for medical expenses or whether this organization continues to operate, you are always personally responsible for the payment of your own medical bills.
These entities would not be considered as an insurance company, an HMO, or other type of health benefit plan.
HB 249 – Rep. Barbara Sims (R-Augusta) proposed this Bill adding a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 31-1-12 to provide for information on pertussis disease by hospitals to parents of newborn infants prior to the discharge from the hospital. The hospital must provide information on the vaccine to protect against the disease.
HR 81 – Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) proposed this Resolution for a Constitutional Amendment to Article VII, Section III by adding a new Paragraph IV to provide that the sale or use of food and food ingredients will be exempt from the State sales and use tax or any local sales and use tax.
HR 246 – Rep. Doug McKillip (R-Athens) introduced this legislation which recognizes and commends the band Widespread Panic. The band was formed 25 years ago in Athens, Georgia and has sold millions of albums.
HR 250 – Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta) proposed this Resolution which urges Georgia's district attorneys to invest resources in solving homicides, providing public safety programs, and focusing on violence prevention instead of seeking the death penalty.
HR 252 – Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) authored this Resolution to create a House Study Committee on Adult Mental Health and Disability Facilities. It would look at the consequences of closing adult mental health treatment facilities in Georgia in relation to a patient's mental health needs, a community's desire for safety and security, and the State's obligation to mental health patients and its citizens before additional action would be taken. This Study would be conducted by six members of the House of Representatives including a member from each of these Committees: House Committee on Appropriations; House Committee on Health and Human Services; and House Committee on State Institutions and Property.
HR 263 – Rep. Elly Dobbs (D-Atlanta) offered this Resolution recognizing February 15, 2011 as Girl Scout Day at the State Capitol. A similar Senate Resolution has also been offered by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), SR 144.
HR 267 – Rep. Larry O'Neal (R-Bonaire) authored this commendation Resolution for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators ("PAGE"), an association of 80,000 members statewide. PAGE Day will be held on February 22, 2011
HR 275 – Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) offered this Resolution commending our friend, Ms. Annette Bowling, and her tireless work on behalf of Georgians who have disabilities. Ms. Bowling is a resident of Albany and has served the Albany Advocacy Resource Center for 35 years. Congratulations Annette!
HR 276 – Rep. Alysia Morgan (D-Austell) authored this Resolution to recognize the month of October as "RSV" Awareness Month. RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a "common respiratory disease that affects approximately two-thirds of all infants during the first year of life and almost 100 percent of babies before the age of two."
HR 278 – Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague (D-Red Oak) introduced this Resolution commending "KIDDS Dance Project," which is Kids Influenced by self-Discipline, self-Determination, and positive Self image.
HR 279 – Rep. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) offered this Resolution to recognize February 16, 2011 as Lupus Awareness Day in Georgia. A Senate version of this Resolution, SR 142, was also proposed by Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah).
HR 280 – Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) introduced this Resolution to commend Delta Air Lines on its 70th anniversary as the hometown airline of Atlanta, Georgia. Delta now employs 25,000 individuals and supplies more than $25 billion into the local economy.
SB 62 – Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) authored this Bill which would make it so that no private property shall be alienated to any other state, territory, or nation or to the Federal government which would result in the extinguishment or diminution of the exercise of state sovereignty or jurisdiction without the consent of the General Assembly.
SB 63 – Sen. John Albers (R-Fulton) introduced this amendment to Title 49, which would enact the "Georgia Medical Assistance Fraud Prevention Program" and would be implemented by the Department of Community Health. The idea is to use "smart cards" for the Medicaid and PeachCare programs so that participants in those programs would utilize those cards when accessing services through one of the State's providers. Specifically, in O.C.G.A. § 49-4-202, it would require that the Department establish this initiative, and use a third-party vendor for implementation and maintenance of the program. Before rolling out the program statewide, a pilot initiative would be established for a minimum period of three months, and not to exceed a total of six months, within Glynn, Ware, Pierce, Wayne, Camden, and Brantley counties. The pilot program would involve the distribution of fingerprint scanners and card readers at each provider location within the designated counties. The Department would implement the pilot program before October 1, 2011. The idea would be to "authenticate" recipients at the beginning and completion of each point of transaction in order to prevent card sharing other fraud. The smart cards would include recipients' prescription history information in order to assist in prevention of drug overutilization and to mitigate costs and risks associated with prescription drugs. Sensitive information would be stored and split into multiple parts and encrypted, with one part being stored on the host data base. Biometric fingerprint scanners and card readers would be used for "real time" and be required to be used at each point of transaction with provider. These secure finger-imaging systems would be required to be compliant with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, P.L. 104-191.
SB 64 – Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) proposed this amendment to Title 14 which is aimed at increasing the amount of fees and penalties that are associated with the application for reinstatement for corporations, nonprofits, and limited liability companies. It would raise each from $100 to $250.
SB 65 – Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen) offered this amendment to Title 34 which would prevent noncitizens who are not employed legally from receiving benefits.
SB 66 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) authored this Bill which would revise continuing education requirements relative to clinical perfusionists.
SB 67 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) introduced this legislation seeking to prohibit the use of the title "nurse" unless licensed as a registered professional nurse or a licensed practical nurse.
SB 68 – Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) authored this Bill to enact the "Parent Trigger Act" in a new Article 36 of Chapter 2 of Title 20. The Bill would allow for petitions from parents for interventions for low-achieving schools, which would be defined in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2200 as:
(1) Fails to meet adequate yearly progress for two or more consecutive years in the same subject, in accordance with the accountability system established pursuant to Article 2 of Chapter 14 of this title; or
(2) Is a high school that has failed to graduate at least 60 percent of its students within four years of entering ninth grade for the past three years.
The process would require a petition by at least one-half of the parents or legal guardians of students attending the school.
SB 69 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) proposed this change to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-132 to provide for the nonpartisan elections of district attorneys, solicitors-general, sheriffs, tax commissioners, tax receivers, tax collectors, clerks of superior courts, and county commissioners.
SB 70 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) likewise proposed this change in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-132 to provide for the nonpartisan elections of tax receivers, tax collectors, and tax commissioners.
SB 71 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) offered this Bill for nonpartisan elections of solicitors-general in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-132.
SB 73 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) authored this proposal in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-132 to provide for the nonpartisan election of clerks of superior courts.
SB 74 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) introduced this change in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-132 to provide for the nonpartisan elections of sheriffs.
SB 75 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) proposed this Bill amending O.C.G.A. § 21-2-132 to provide for the nonpartisan elections of county commissioners.
SB 76 – Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) offered changes to O.C.G.A. § 31-11-102(2) which revise the duties and responsibilities of the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission and how they distribute funds according to priority needs. In the current law found at (B), "Emergency medical service uncompensated trauma care services provided to patients transported to designated trauma centers" is identified as a priority. This Bill rewrites (B) so it would read, "Emergency medical service uncompensated trauma care services provided to trauma patients."
SB 79 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) proposed this Bill amending § 20-2-52, providing that members of local boards of education will be required to serve terms of no less than four years in length. The Bill, if passed, would make this change effective on January 1, 2012 and would be phased-in.
SB 80 – Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) adds new subsections to O.C.G.A. § 24-4-60 requiring DNA analysis, by the Division of Forensic Sciences of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, of blood of persons convicted of certain sex offenses or convicted of a felony and incarcerated in a State correctional facility. This would apply to persons arrested for a felony offense on and after July 1, 2011
SB 81 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) introduced changes to Georgia's Pharmacy Code found in Chapter 4 of Title 26. One change relates to the powers, duties, and authority of the State Board of Pharmacy found in O.C.G.A. § 26-4-28(7) regarding the registration and regulation of pharmacy technicians. It would require them to submit to mental or physical examinations by licensed health care providers designated by the board of pharmacy. Those results would be admissible in any hearing before the board/
SR 140 – Sen. Greg Goggans (R-Douglas) proposed this initiative which seeks to take $10.00 from the amount collected per vehicle for license tag fees and annually dedicate it to the purpose of funding trauma care.
SR 141 – Sen. Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton) offered this Resolution which will recognize February 15, 2011 as Youth Villages Day at the State Capitol. Youth Villages is a non-profit organization that works with vulnerable children, youth, and their families.
SR 143 – Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) proposed commending the emergency medical services professionals in Georgia by recognizing February 16, 2011 as "Emergency Medical Services Recognition Day" at the Capitol.
SR 153 – Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Rome) authored this Constitutional Amendment to provide that the paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the moment of fertilization without regard to age, race, sex, health, function, or condition of dependency by adding a new Paragraph XXIX in Article I, Section I.
House Education Committee
Michelle Rhee, Founder and CEO of Students First, addressed the committee today in regards to her "students first" approach to reforming the education system. Ms. Rhee was formerly the Superintendent in the Washington D.C. school district, and placed them on a comprehensive path of reform. Students First advocates for opportunity scholarships and vouchers for students to go to charter schools, as well as promotes "school choice" practices. Ms. Rhee also spoke on several ways the Georgia Department of Education can end common ineffective hiring and firing practices (such as "Last In, First Out" or "LIFO") which only punish already disadvantaged schools. In addition to reforming bureaucratic practices in the Department of Education by promoting common standards nationwide, Ms. Rhee also recommended structuring a "sustainable model of growth" in which parents and teachers help make decisions.
Senate Education & Youth Committee
The Senate Education and Youth Committee signed SB 34 & 85, both granting charter students access to extracurricular activities at local schools, and passed them along to subcommittees for further review. Steve Dolinger and Susan Walker of Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education addressed the committee and presented their annual "Top 10 Issues to Watch" publication to committee members. SB 38, which would place the State Superintendent of Schools on the same level as a Constitutional Officer as well as increase their contract amounts allowable to increase from $50,000 to $250,000 was brought before a committee vote. The committee expressed a desire for contract amounts to be posted and publicly accessible; which Tom Wilson, the Director of Government Affairs for the Department of Education, guaranteed. SB 38 passed unanimously as amended.
House Judiciary Civil Committee
HB 30, regarding restrictive covenants in contracts, was brought back before the committee for a vote. Chairman Willard authored the bill, and sought to keep the language in the new legislation as similar to the previous legislation as possible so as to avoid confusion. The bill was amended in line 290; inserting the words "or after" so that the Bill now reads "In determining the reasonableness of a restrictive covenant that limits or restricts competition during or after the term of an employment or business relationship, …" HB 30 passed unanimously as amended.
Senate Insurance and Labor Committee
The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee passed out Sen. Tim Golden's (R-Valdosta) SB 17, the Bill which would establish the Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits. This Commission would be established with 16 members and become effective on February 1, 2012 with the purpose of advising the Governor and General Assembly on the social and financial impact of current and proposed mandated benefits and providers.
Senate Appropriations Committee
Sen. Jack Hill's (R-Reidsville) Committee reported out SB 33, which would apply zero-base budgeting to the State's budget process in O.C.G.A. § 45-12-75.1. This process would be applied to no more than one-third and not less than one-quarter of all programs in the most recently passed General Appropriations Act.
Senate Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee
HB 107, Speaker Ralston's Bill amending the State's law on healthcare coverage for State employees, cleared the Committee. It amends O.C.G.A. §45-18-9(e) providing that the surviving spouse and dependents of a State employee who is killed while acting in the scope of his or her employment will be entitled to continue coverage under the State's health insurance plan upon agreeing to pay contributions at the same rate as required for State employees and in compliance with the rules and regulations governing that coverage.
House Committee on Judiciary
A Committee Substitute was voted out of the Committee on HB 24, the evidence code rewrite in Title 24.
Please contact Stanley S. Jones, Jr., Helen Sloat, Taylor Janney, or Claire Cantrell at 404.322.6000 for further information on legislative happenings. Gold Dome Reports will be available daily during the Session at www.nelsonmullins.com.
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.