Gold Dome Report for January 27, 2011
Lawmakers returned this morning to the Capitol and made a relatively short day of their work. Both Chambers adjourned before noon and will not reconvene until Monday, January 31. Today was also Savannah-Chatham Day at the State's Capitol.
Minority Leader Stacey Abram introduced the Doctor of the Day, Kathy Allan, M.D. Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) introduced business leaders to his colleagues from Laurens County. Rep. Howard Mosby (D-Atlanta), along with Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) and Rep. Tom Rice (R-Norcross), introduced a group of individuals from Life South and recognized their work on Sickle Cell Disease. In a touching gesture, Rep. Steve Davis (R-McDonough) introduced his son who has been elected to the Henry County School Board and is the youngest elected official in the State. Several Members were recognized for their upcoming birthdays including Rep. Virgil Fludd (D-Fayetteville), Rep. Jan Jones (R-Alpharetta), and Rep. Amos Amerson (R-Dahlonega). Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta) was also congratulated on the birth of her granddaughter.
The Senate spent some time discussing the proposed override of Governor Perdue's veto of SB 1 (Veto Number 20). Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) explained that the Senate and House had passed this legislation on several occasions. The Bill proposed to implement "zero-based budgeting" so that at least one-fourth of the State's Budget be zero-based each year. Departments would also be required to disclose all expenditures for the year.
Several Members of the Democratic Caucus also supported Sen. Shafer's proposal to override this Veto on SB 1. Those supporters included Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta), Sen. George Hooks (D-Americus), and Sen. Robert Brown (D-Macon). Minority Members did express that overrides should not be done as a routine matter but should be taken very seriously.
This override passed unanimously by a vote of 52 to zero.
Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) took the Well for a few moments, indicating that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Community Health would meet on February 4, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. and that the Subcommittee on Human Services would meet on February 4, 2011 at 11:00 a.m.
Sen. Unterman also reminded her colleagues that it was "Be There for Seniors" Day at the Capitol and she urged her fellow Senators to take the time to speak with the numerous seniors about their concerns including funding for Meals on Wheels, respite care and in-home services.
Life South was recognized for its work providing a community blood bank and for its taking umbilical cord blood donations.
On February 1, 2011, it is expected that 500-1,000 individuals will be participating in a rally to stop commercial sexual exploitation of minors. Sen. Unterman noted a documentary which will be aired on public television this Sunday on this issue.
Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) moved to withdraw SB 4, his proposal dealing with abortion, and his motion carried without objection.
HB 89 – Rep. Peake (R-Macon) authored this initiative to enact the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act." It adds in O.C.G.A. § at (b.1) (of where abortion is legal) that "no abortion is authorized or shall be performed in violation of the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," Chapter 9B of Title 31." The new Chapter 9B added in Title 31 it adds findings addressing that "at least by 20 weeks after fertilization there is substantial evidence that an unborn child has the physical structures necessary to experience." In O.C.G.A. § 31-9B-4, it states that no abortion is permitted, unless in the case of a medical emergency, to be performed or induced or be attempted to be performed or induced unless the physician performing or inducing the abortion has first made a determination of the probable gestational age of the unborn child or relied upon such a determination from another physician. The physician is also under a duty to make inquiries of the woman to determine an accurate diagnosis with respect to gestational age. If a physician fails to make this determination, that would be considered unprofessional conduct (as outlined in O.C.G.A. § 43-34-8). Thus, no abortion may be performed or induced if the woman's unborn child is 20 or more weeks unless:
1) She has a condition which so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function; or
(2) It is necessary to preserve the life of an unborn child. No such condition shall be deemed to exist if it is based on a claim or diagnosis that the woman will engage in conduct which would result in her death or in substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.
There are also reporting requirements for the physician so that he or she who performs or induces an abortion to the Department of Community Health. The Department would then report the statistics annually. Failure of the physician to make this report 30 days following its due date would be subject to sanctions. It further establishes both a damages action and an injunctive action for violations of these new provisions.
HB 90 – Rep. Bearden (R-Villa Rica) authored this change in O.C.G.A. § 12-3-76, authorizing the State to transfer its interests in heritage preserve properties to a county or local government within the Heritage Trust Program. This would be done upon the creation of a covenant running with the land that the property will be maintained in keeping with the purpose of the heritage preserve. The county or local government is also under obligation to adhere to the conditions and uses outlined by the Governor's executive order designating the property as a heritage preserve.
HB 91 – Rep. Bearden (R-Villa Rica) offered this Bill amending Titles 17 and 40 to provide that any person who is convicted of a felony offense will be have such conviction demarcated on his or her driver's license for the length of his or sentence. This "demarcation" must be done within 20 days of the date that the court imposes the sentence, requiring that individual to submit his or her driver's license to the Department of Driver Services so that a new driver's license may be issued noting that he or she is a convicted felon. Failure to submit the driver's license shall result in a license suspension. The person who is the convicted felon must pay for the issued replacement for a fee of $25.00. The demarcation will remain on the license as long as the length of the defendant's sentence.
HB 92 – Rep. Hamilton (R-Cumming) proposed this Bill so as to amend the law regarding the limitations on when in-person absentee balloting may be conducted. This proposal allows for a period of advance voting that shall commence on the fourth Monday immediately prior to each primary or election.
HB 93 – Rep. Taylor (R- Dunwoody) proposed this Amendment to O.C.G.A § 2-74-36 changing the title of a "code inspector" to a "code enforcement officer," and redefining the duties of a "code enforcement officer."
HB 94 – Rep. Brooks (D-Atlanta) offered this Bill which would prohibit law enforcement officers from impermissibly using race or ethnicity in determining whether to stop a motorist. It would also require law enforcement officers to attend annual training sessions on race and ethnicity.
HB 95 – Rep. Roberts (R-Ocilla) authored this amendment concerning ad valorem taxation in O.C.G.A. § 48-5-7.7 concerning specifically forest land conservation use property. It establishes a definition of "contiguous" property and addresses covenants permitted and breached with property transfers.
HB 96 – Rep. Amerson (R- Dahlonega) presented this amendment to O.C.G.A. § 3-4-41 calling for a ballot referendum concerning the manufacture, distribution, and package sales of alcohol. This referendum would take place if a petition is presented in the municipality or county containing at least 5% of the signatures of all registered and qualified voters in said municipalities or counties.
HB 97 – Rep. Brooks (D-Atlanta) proposed an amendment to the O.C.G.A. § 34-4-3 which would raise the minimum wage in Georgia from $5.15 to $6.20 per hour. The current minimum wage is insufficient to cover the needs of many full-time working Georgia families; and the authors of this proposal argue that the "real value" of Georgia's minimum wage has fallen to a "50 year low" and has not kept up with inflation.
HB 98 – Rep. Peake (R-Macon) collaborated on this Bill unifying the governments of the city of Macon and Bibb County. The Bill would result in the creation and establishment of a single county-wide government that would have new boundaries, tax districts, and ways of management.
HB 99 – Rep. Clark (R-Lawrenceville) proposed this amendment to Chapter 26 of Title 43 which would require all practical nurses to undergo a fingerprint check before applying for their nursing license.
HB 100 – Rep. Peake (R-Bibb) proposed this initiative which would create an independent trial court in Georgia that would handle tax disputes involving the Department of Revenue. It would seek to increase the uniformity of decision-making in tax cases and increase public confidence in the fairness of the State tax system.
HB 101 – Rep. McKillip (D-Athens) offered this initiative which would change traffic laws applicable to bicyclists in order to encourage a higher level of both motor vehicle and bicycle safety. This Bill would put new restrictions on the ability to transport children under the age of one on a bicycle and would change provisions related to riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
HB 102 – Rep. McKilip (D-Athens) proposed this piece of Legislation which would require a limitation period to go into effect with respect to actions for title by prescription or private way by prescription to real property that is subject to a recorded conservation easement.
HR 72 – Rep. Taylor (D-Fulton) proposed this amendment to the Constitution which would allow persons who have been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude to be able to register to vote again upon release from confinement or probation.
HR 74 – Rep. Geisinger (R-Roswell) proposed this initiative which declares February 3, 2011 as Hemophilia of Georgia Day at the State Capitol. Hemophilia of Georgia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing services to Georgians who have hemophilia or other inherited bleeding disorders. They have served Georgia for more than 35 years.
HR 76 – Rep. Geisinger (R-Roswell) offered this Resolution which recognizes Wednesday, February 23, 2011 as Skin Cancer Awareness Day at the State Capitol.
HR 79 – Rep. Drenner (D-DeKalb) proposed this Resolution which expresses the House of Representatives sympathy and condolences to the victims of the Arizona shooting that killed or injured more than a dozen people at the public constituents' event in Tucson on Saturday, January 8, 2011.
SB 27 – Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) offered amendments to Article 3 of Chapter 10 of Title 13, the Georgia Public Works and Contractor Protection Act. The Bill address the verification of "employee eligibility" and requires public employers who contract for services must participate in the federal work authorization program for all newly hired employees or subcontractors. It also adds that on and after January 1, 2013, only corporations which are approved under the IMAGE program of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be allowed to bid on any public works contracts in Georgia.
SB 28 – Sen. Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg) proposed a new Article 10 in Chapter 6 of Title 44 in an effort to provide for "tenancy in the entirety." Under his proposal, which is encompassed in O.C.G.A. § 44-6-220 it would add that on and after July 1, 2011, when a "devise, conveyance, assignment or other transfer of real property to both husband and wife together shall be made and the instrument of devise, conveyance, assignment, or transfer expressly declares that the devise or conveyance is made to tenants by the entirety, the estate created shall be deemed to be in tenancy by the entirety." It would exist, unless written expressly otherwise, if, and as long as, the tenants are and remain married to one another. Upon one of their deaths the survivor will become the retainer of the entire estate. The Bill addresses instances of divorce as well – where the estate becomes a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship (until and unless a court directs otherwise).
SB 29 – Sen. Hill (R-Marietta) proposed changes to the O.C.G.A § 1-24-33 which would prohibit exchange-participating health insurance plans from receiving federal funds to provide abortion coverage. Public funds will only be permitted for funding abortions to only those outlined under the Hyde Amendment, a long-standing policy of the State of Georgia.
SB 30 – Sen. Hamrick (R-Carrollton) proposed this Bill so as to require municipal court judges to be attorneys and to repeal any conflicting laws.
SR 66 - Sen. Grant (R- Milledgeville) offered this Resolution to honor and commend the firefighters of Georgia, recognizing the 39th annual Firefighter's Recognition Day on February 1st, 2011.
SR.67 - Sen. Bulloch (R- Ochlocknee) proposes to recognize March 17th, 2011 as "Peanut Butter and Jelly Day" at the Capitol, as well as commend the Georgia Peanut Industry. Georgia supplies nearly 50 percent of the nation's peanuts and 50 percent of the United State's peanut exports, contributing over $160 million to the national trade balance.
SR 68 - Sen. Loudermilk (R- Cassville) introduced this resolution to create the "Science and Technology Strategic Initiative Joint Study Commission" dedicated to studying the best and most efficient path towards growing Georgia's science and technology fields.
SR 75 – Sen. Unterman (R- Buford) proposed this Resolution to recognize February 23rd as "Skin Cancer Awareness Day" at the Capitol.
SR 76 – Sen. Unterman (R-Buford) introduced this Resolution naming February 1, 2011 "End the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Day" at the Capitol. This Resolution promotes awareness of the campaign to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and recognizes organizations such as Street GRACE and Wellspring Living which actively work with grassroots organizers to end CSEC.
Senate Education and Youth Committee
The Senate Education and Youth Committee met in the afternoon. The Committee is now being chaired by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody). At the meeting, the Committee adopted its Rules of governance. It is the intention of the Committee to utilize Subcommittees to hear all legislation. There will be essentially no testimony permitted in full Committee meetings; thus, legislation will need to be perfected at the Subcommittee level. Of course, Sen. Millar agreed that there may be occasions when this Rule will be bent, so to speak, if there is a need to hear from experts on a piece of legislation.
House Appropriations Committee – Subcommittee on Human Services
Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville) hosted a meeting to hear more specifically from the Department of Veteran's Affairs and Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Some of the issues garnering the most discussion dealt with the nursing home services in Milledgeville. An additional hearing for these issues will be held next week.
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.