Gold Dome Report for January 26, 2011
Both the House and the Senate adjourned before 11am today as preliminary committee meetings took precedence throughout the day. An adjournment resolution, HR 56, passed through the House 156-0 and now awaits confirmation by the Senate. The proposed schedule is as follows:
Thursday, January 27…………………………………….in session for legislative day 6
Friday, January 28 through Sunday, January 30…….in adjournment
Monday, January 31………………………………………in session for legislative day 7
Tuesday, February 1………………………………………in session for legislative day 8
Wednesday, February 2…………………………………..in session for legislative day 9
Thursday, February 3……………………………………..in session for legislative day 10
Friday, February 4 through Sunday, February 6…….in adjournment
Monday, February 7………………………………………in session for legislative day 11
Pastor Jerry Walls of Southside Baptist Church in Warner Robbins opened today's House session with a soulful message. Morning orders brought attention to the fact that today was Economic Development Day in Georgia and that the biotech industry in the State is leading the charge. In the gallery, guests from Columbia County were recognized for their attendance. Condolences were extended to the family of former House Representative James Moore after his death.
HB 69 – Rep. Williams (R-Dalton) offered this initiative on "Sunday sales" of alcohol in O.C.G.A. § 3-3-7 so as to provide that in each county or municipality in which package sales of only malt beverages and wine by retailers is lawful, the governing authority of the county or municipality, as appropriate, may authorize package sales by a retailer of malt beverages and wine on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. if approved by referendum. Additionally, it would allow that in each county or municipality in which package sales of malt beverages, wine, and distilled spirits by retailers are all lawful, the governing authority of the county or municipality, as appropriate, may authorize package sales by a retailer of malt beverages, wine, and distilled spirits on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m.
HB 70 – Rep. Williams (D-Midway) proposed an amendment to O.C.G.A. § 43-7-12 to allow for the operation of a barbershop in a mobile practice as long as the barber can show that it provides and maintains such physical and sanitary facilities and equipment as required by rules and regulations promulgated by the Board. Only barbering can be conducted from a mobile barbershop.
HB 72 – Rep. Mills (R-Gainesville) proposed changes in Chapter 5 of Title 40 to provide that examinations for drivers' licenses shall be administered only in the English language. Examinations for temporary licenses, however, may be administered in a language other than English.
HB 73 – Rep. Stephens (R-Savannah) authored this proposal for Article 6 of Chapter 8 of Title 48 to provide for a local option sales and use tax for local community support of economic development and quality of life. The idea is to create some local economic development initiatives which will be able to support local cultural and community specific assets. It outlines what a "qualified local cultural organization" is (private not for profit arts and cultural organization or a separate cultural institution within a college or the University System of Georgia that have certain parameters). The rate imposed in this local option sales and use tax is up to one percent (and would be imposed in rates of one-tenth of one percent).
HB 75 – Rep. Kidd (I-Milledgeville) authored this new Code Section proposal for O.C.G.A. § 3-7-3 to authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages by nonprofit organizations without the need for a license for a single function (an individually scheduled event which lasts not longer than 24 hours and where the sale of alcohol does not occur more than once a month at the same location).
HB 76 – Rep. Kidd (I-Milledgeville) introduced this idea to create the Georgia Certified Retirement Community Program through the Department of Economic Development in O.C.G.A. § 50-7-90. It would have the fundamental goal of promoting Georgia as a retirement destination for retirees and those persons and families who are planning retirement both in and outside of Georgia. The Department of Economic Development would undertake to establish criteria for qualifying to be a Georgia certified retirement community; if accepted, the community would receive assistance from the Department of Economic Development (training of local program staff/volunteers; ongoing oversight and guidance in marketing and updating on national retirement trends; and etc. The Department would first implement a pilot program on this initiative with the City of Milledgeville and Baldwin County serving as the pilot community.
HB 81 – Rep. Casas (R-Lilburn) introduced this initiative amending O.C.G.A. § 28-5-42 to require the submission of a bill for a fiscal note when such bill has a significant impact upon anticipated revenues or expenditures of a local school system. "Significant impact" on the system would be significant impact on the operations or programs of a local school or local school system. Further, the language adds that the Department of Education and the State School Superintendent are directed and authorized to cooperate fully with the Director of the Office of Planning and Budget and the State auditor in providing any necessary information or assistance in preparing of this fiscal note.
HB 86 - Rep. Williams (R-Dalton) offered the proposal to amend O.C.G.A. § 48-83-3 to provide for an exemption regarding the sale or use of energy for manufacturing. It strips out paragraph (70.1) of this Code Section and inserts new language.
HB 88 – Rep. Kidd (I-Milledgeville) proposed this initiative in O.C.G.A. § 21-5-73 to provide that lobbyist expenditures for the benefit of elected State officials and members of the General Assembly would not be subject to lobbyist reporting. It would require that elected State officials and members of the General Assembly be required to report lobbyist expenditures for their benefit.
SB 11 – Sen. Seay (D-Riverdale) authored this Bill which extends the effective period of continuing garnishments from 179 to 539 days and replaces the time period 195 days with 559 days when that period appears in the continuing garnishment statutes.
SB 13 – Sen. L. Jackson (D-Savannah) proposed this initiative relating to the crimes of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For the offense of driving under the influence with a minor in the car, the age of the minor is raised from 16 to 17 and the offense is increased to a felony with a fine between $1000 and $5000 or a prison term of one to three years or both.
SB 14 – Sen. L. Jackson (D-Savannah) offered this Bill increase the age for mandatory school attendance from 16 to 17. It also increases the minimum age to qualify for adult literacy, postsecondary education and technical education from 16 to 17 years old.
SB 17 - Sen. Golden (R-Valdosta) offered this initiative to create a Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Benefits before February 1, 2012. The Commission will have 11 members appointed by the Governor who represent specified providers, small and large business, medical ethics, health insurance and the general public. The Speaker of the House and the new Senate Committee on Assignments will each appoint two other members of the Commission, with the Members in each Chamber appointed from the Health and Insurances Committees. The Commissioner of the Department of Community Health and the Insurance Commissioner shall serve ex officio. The Commission is authorized to conduct studies of the impact of mandated benefits or providers, including costs to employers and providers, effect on treatment, costs savings to the health care system and impact on the number of health care providers. The Commission shall develop a system for data collection for such impact analysis and shall advise the Department of Insurance as well as the Committees of the General Assembly. It is given up to six months, or until the next Session of the General Assembly, to provide advice on new health insurance mandate bills and the Committees are required to submit proposed new mandates to the Commission, effectively requiring two sessions to pass a bill. The Commission will study the social and financial impact and the medical efficacy of mandates in effect on January 1, 2012, propose a schedule for such study by May 1, 2012 and then complete such studies and report to the standing committees of the General Assembly by December 31, 2012.
SB 19 – Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) introduced this initiative creating a new felony crime of medical identity fraud, punishable by a prison term of two to ten years, a fine of $100,000 or both. The second or multiple convictions carry a fine of $250,000 and/or a sentence of three to 16 years. The Bill also establishes a private cause of action for anyone injured by the medical identity fraud with actual and punitive damages and a right to attorney’s fees. The crime includes fraudulently using defined identifying information in general, of a person under 18 over whom one has custody, the identity of a deceased or fictitious person to obtain medical care, prescriptions or other heath care resources. All forms of health insurance or governmental health care reimbursement are covered by the Bill.
SB 20 – Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) dropped this Bill amending Title 50 relating to State government to find that the federal health care reform act infringes on states, the rights of citizens, and Georgia’s progress on health reform. It then prohibits the State and any of its agencies from implementing any part of health reform unless the agency submits a report to the General Assembly on the costs and consequences of adopting the provision of health reform and the General Assembly specifically authorizes the act of implementation.
SB 21 – Sen. Ligon (R-Brunswick) offered this measure relating to audits of sales and use tax returns and provides that they may not be audited more than three years after filing the return except pursuant to the filing of a subpoena for such return and records from the court of record. The three-year time period essentially runs from the last day that any sales and use tax return is due, even if it is flied before the due date.
SB 22- Senators Hill (R-Marietta), Butterworth (R-Cornelia), Rogers (R-Woodstock) and Heath (R- Bremen) proposed to amend Article 2 of Chapter 12 of Title 45 of the O.C.G.A. This Bill authorizes and directs the Governor to apply for a federal waiver of the medical loss ratio requirements in the State of Georgia; provided for under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
SB 23 – Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) also offered this proposal relating to federal health reform and prohibits any rule making by a State agency relating to the reform legislation until the General Assembly specifically authorizes such rule making. It includes proposed rule making as well as adoption of rules.
SB 24 - Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) proposed this Bill concerning the mandatory continuing education requirements for dentists (40 hours every two years). For renewals of licenses after the current renewal cycle for 2010-2011, a dentist may receive a waiver of five hours of the required hours if the dentist has worked more than 20 hours of voluntary dental practice for a public agency, or nonprofit free dental clinics for indigent persons.
SB 25- Senators Hill (R- Marietta), Heath (R- Bremen), Rogers (R-Woodstock) and Schafer (R-Duluth) amends Chapter 1 of Title 50 of the O.C.G.A. to provide that no department or agency may implement any provision of federal health care reform legislation before reporting to and being authorized by statute by the Georgia General Assembly. SB 25 states that "a department or agency of the state shall not implement any part of any federal health care reform passed by the United States Congress on or after March 1, 2010" which includes the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. SB 25 will become effective upon its approval by the Governor, or upon its becoming law without such approval.
SB 26 – Sen. Shafer (R-Duluth) introduced this initiative which essentially prohibits the State and local agencies from seizing or requiring registration of firearms during the declaration of an emergency for any reason that exceeds the current authority to do so. A person whose firearms may have been seized illegally under such emergency declaration has a right of action against the entity that conducted such seizure.
SR 54 – Sen. Hill (R-Marietta) offered this Resolution which calls for the creation of a Senate Study Committee on Health Care Transformation. It would examine the issues surrounding the availability and affordability of health care insurance, access to health care services, and the federal requirements for the States to implement the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
SR 55 – Sen. Hill (R-Marietta), Sen. Butterworth (R-Cornelia), Sen. Rogers (R-Woodstock), and Sen. Heath (R-Bremen) authored this Constitutional Amendment to provide that no law or rule can force any person or employer to participate in any health care system. It authorizes persons and employers to pay directly for lawful health care services without penalties or fines. This Resolution is otherwise known as the Health Care Freedom of Choice Constitutional Amendment.
The Women's Caucus met for the first time this year and decided on a strategy for electing its new board members. Easter Seals had an opportunity to tell the group about their program, Champions for Children, and brought lunch to the ladies. Several Republican women voiced their desire to bring more of their party's members into the fold. There was an also an appeal by several women to assist each other with an upcoming protest aimed at eliminating child prostitution.
House Appropriations Committee - Department of Labor Subcommittee
Commissioner Mark Butler was questioned by board members regarding budgetary revisions. Several issues were raised by board members in regard to how cutting funding will affect the availability of federal dollars in the future. There was quite a bit of discussion about the Workforce Investment Act and how it will affect the overall budget. Questions were posed to Commissioner Butler specifically about the backlog of safety inspections.
House Appropriations Committee - Department of Human Resources Subcommittee
Incoming Department of Human Resources Commissioner Clyde Reese explained the proposed budget changes for 2011 by comparison to what the Governor's Office had recommended. The major concerns discussed revolved around shortfalls in areas such as Child Welfare Services, Aging Services, and Family Violence Services. Several board members were extremely concerned about how TANF funds were utilized in the past and how they should be used in the future in the most effective manner. Discussions about the roles of Division of Family and Children's Services and Family Connections prompted lively debate.
House Appropriations Committee – Education Subcommittee
This Subcommittee under the direction of Rep. Tom Dickson (R-Cohutta) also met this afternoon for a second day of testimony from its assigned agencies. The Professional Standards Commission and Department of Early Care and Learning were among the Subcommittee's agenda items. The Professional Standards Commission highlighted some changes made in their Budget concerning the Race to the Top funding. Bobby Cagle, the new Commissioner with the Department of Early Care and Learning, explained more about the federal nutrition program that it oversees with the provision of summer foods to children. No additional pre-k slots have been proposed in the Amended FY 2011 Budget. There are currently 9,983 children on that pre-k waiting list.
Also, public testimony was taken again. Georgia Association of Educators testified at the hearing, noting that his association was pleased that there were no changes to QBE funding but they are concerned about funding for school nurses and aware of the challenges to pupil transportation (suggesting bus monitors to be added possibly in 2012). Representatives from Multi-Agency Alliance for Children and Youth Villages were present to shed light on the concerns to the proposed reductions for the Non-Quality Basic Education Formula Grants and how those moneys were used.
Please contact Stanley S. Jones, Jr. or Helen Sloat 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.