Legislative Day 39 Georgia

ByMargie D. Moore

Apr 8, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The traditional hurry-up-and-wait of Legislative Day 40 started early on Friday, with legislators working in fits and starts on the next to last legislative day. Brinkmanship abounded as legislative leaders waited on their counterparts across the rotunda to act on certain bills before advancing others and worked behind the scenes to broker compromises (and some surprises) on contentious legislation. The workload appeared rather lopsided, with the House scheduled to hear only 10 measures to the Senate’s 90-item Rules Calendar. But you can expect both Chambers to empty the tanks in the run up to adjournment sine die on Monday.

Lawmakers and lobbyists delighted in April Fools Jokes that drew much paranoia among their colleagues, but there were poignant moments, as well. Retiring House Appropriations Chairman Terry England (R-Auburn) was feted in the State Senate chamber by University of Georgia legend Vince Dooley, and Representative Don Hogan (R-St. Simons Island) was among those House members giving their farewell speeches from the well. The Lieutenant Governor’s birthday was almost an afterthought, and his gift was even worse–a legislative day that continues even as this #GoldDomeReport hits your inbox.

In this Report:

  • Floor Action

  • Committee Reports

  • New Legislation

  • What’s Next

Floor Action

The House took up the following measures as of publication on Legislative Day 39:

  • SB 10 – “Jaye Mize Law”; promoting illegal drag racing and laying drags; provide for an offense – PASSED (155-0)

  • SB 96 – Notaries Public; identification of persons for whom notaries perform notarial acts shall be evidenced; valid Veterans Health Identification Card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs; provide – PASSED (158-0)

  • SB 116 – Children and Youth Services; registration of maternity supportive house residences to provide housing for pregnant women; provide – PASSED (103-57)

  • SB 333 – Education; agents and agent’s permits; to repeal definitions of such terms; provisions; remove – PASSED (155-0)

  • SB 352 – Professions; issuance of expedited licenses by endorsement for certain licenses to spouses of firefighters, healthcare providers, and law enforcement officers who relocate to the State of Georgia; provide – RECOMMITTED

  • SB 445 – National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974; civil penalties; revise – PASSED (158-0)

  • SB 539 – Wiretapping, Eavesdropping, Surveillance; use of any device to photograph or record patients in a health care facility shall be unlawful; provide – PASSED (154-9)

  • SB 576 – Grandparents or Family Members Visitation Rights; provisions regarding visitation actions brought by certain grandparents of minor children; revise – PASSED (164-0)

  • SB 610 – Department of Community Health; conduct a comprehensive review of provider reimbursement rates for home and community based services covered by the waiver programs; require – PASSED (154-0)

The Senate took up the following measures as of publication on Legislative Day 39:

  • HR 664 – Property; conveyance of certain state owned property; authorize – PASSED (51-0)

  • HB 469 – Income tax; rehabilitation of historic structures; revise tax credits – PASSED (48-4)

  • HB 508 – Commerce and trade; commercial recordings, musical performances, and audiovisual works; provide protections – PASSED (53-0)

  • HB 733 – Insurance; guaranteed asset protection waiver; revise definition – PASSED (50-0)

  • HB 899 – Contracts; legal effects of the discontinuance of LIBOR; provisions – TABLED

  • HB 918 – Georgia Rare Disease Advisory Council; provide establishment – PASSED (53-0)

  • HB 1009 – Motor vehicles; use of personal delivery devices to transport cargo; authorize – PASSED (39-10)

  • HB 1042 – OneGeorgia Authority Act; grant program to establish primary care medical facilities in health professional shortage areas; provide – PASSED (50-0)

  • HB 1044 – Local government; creation of regional development authorities; provide – PASSED (42-10)

  • HB 1055 – Motor vehicles; revise definition of all-terrain vehicle – PASSED (49-0)

  • HB 1056 – Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund; authority to make alternative investments; repeal certain restrictions – PASSED (47-2)

  • HB 1084 – Education; curricula or training programs which encourage certain concepts; prevent use of – PASSED (33-21)

  • HB 1103 – Motor vehicles; heavy-duty equipment motor vehicle; revise definition

  • HB 1150 – Freedom to Farm Act; enact – PASSED (31-23)

  • HB 1175 – Georgia Raw Dairy Act; enact – PASSED (42-10)

  • HB 1178 – Parents’ Bill of Rights; enact – PASSED (31-22)

  • HB 1291 – Sales and use tax; exemption for sale or lease of computer equipment of high-technology companies; revise spending threshold and extend sunset date – PASSED (48-8)

  • HB 1304 – Georgia Caregivers Act; create – PASSED (50-0)

  • HB 1324 – Health and insurance; clarify that the prudent layperson standard is not affected by the diagnoses given – PASSED (50-0)

  • HB 1335 – Holidays and observances; provide for Public Safety Week -PASSED (49-1)

  • HB 1350 – Wills, trusts, and administration of estates; executors to send notices to beneficiaries regarding filing of petitions to probate wills; require – PASSED (55-0)

  • HB 1385 – Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office; revise annexation reporting requirements – PASSED (52-0)

  • HB 1421 – Conservation and natural resources; Hazardous Waste Trust Fund; dedicate the proceeds of certain hazardous waste fees – PASSED (51-1)

  • HB 1428 – Code Revision Commission; revise, modernize, correct errors or omissions – PASSED (54-0)

  • HB 1437 – Income tax; revise rates of taxation on income – PASSED (51-4)

  • HB 1520 – Georgia Council on Addressing Health Care Workforce Challenges; create – TABLED

Committee Reports

House Education Committee

Chairman Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville) and the House Education Committee met on Thursday to take up these measures:

  • HR 1048, authored by Representative Ginny Ehrhart (R-Marietta), establishes a six-member House Study Committee on Education Accreditation.  This Study Committee is to look at accreditation for pre-k through post-secondary education for the 1.7 million students who attend schools.  There is no accountability presently to the General Assembly or the public on accreditation according to Representative Ehrhart.  The Resolution received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • SB 603, authored by Senator Sheikah Rahman (D-Lawrenceville), provides for an outdoor learning space pilot initiative beginning in the  2022-2023 school year in Chapter 2 of Title 20.  The Department of Education is charged with selecting the elementary and secondary schools for this effort. Chairman Dubnik expressed that these outdoor learning environments were fantastic.  Representative Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia) questioned the funding as no state dollars are allowed for use of this pilot.  She asked about areas in the state which might not be able to get funding through private funds or where a local district unable to fund such programs.  Chairman Dubnik stated he was not comfortable committing state dollars to fund the pilot.  This initiative received a DO PASS recommendation to the Committee Substitute.

  • SB 51, authored by Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White), amends O.C.G.A. 20-2-316 to address legislator concerns regarding the Georgia High School Association.  It seeks to  provide that no high school that receives QBE funds shall participate in, sponsor, or provide coaching staff for interscholastic sports events which are conducted under the authority of, conducted under the rules of, or scheduled by any athletic association unless such athletic association provides for an executive oversight committee.  The legislation does not address the mileage or transportation issue which was raised by many parents of students.  The Committee provided a DO PASS recommendation to a Committee Substitute which Representative Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) presented to the Committee.  This “oversight” will be done by a 10 member Committee.  Legislative Counsel clarified for the Committee that the legislation addresses athletic associations generally – not specifically GSHA. 

  • SB 498, authored by Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), addresses accreditation of schools in Chapter 14 of Title 20. The legislation provides: for the recognition of certain accrediting agencies as reliable authorities as to the quality of education offered in public schools in this state; for the accreditation of public  schools and local school systems by recognized accrediting agencies; for requirements for such accreditation;  the prohibition of recognition of certain accrediting agencies by the state; that the State Board of Education establish evaluation criteria, procedures, and other requirements for recognized accrediting agencies. Senator Tippins presented a new version of the legislation to the Committee, expressing that accreditation will take effect July 1, 2023 and procedures in place now will not be disrupted.  This legislation will work in conjunction with the Study Committee on Accreditation. Senator Tippins expressed that accreditation needs to focus on the core business of providing students quality education.  There were concerns raised by the Committee about passing this legislation in addition to the Study Committee.  Currently, there are two accrediting agencies in the state: 1) Cognia; and 2) Georgia Accreditation Commission. The Committee gave this substitute bill a DO PASS recommendation.

House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Representative J. Collins (R-Villa Rica), met on Thursday to consider the following measure:

  • HR 1126, authored by Representative Stacey Evans (D-Atlanta), creates the House Study Committee on Motor Vehicle Equipment and Public Safety. The study committee would examine what changes to Georgia law are needed to best aid police officers in enforcing excessive motor vehicle noise laws as well as neighboring states’ laws to determine the most appropriate noise levels by vehicle type. The study committee would also study the use of front and rear license plates.

    Representative Evans presented the resolution to the Committee, and Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman and Council Member Amir Farokhi appeared in support. The chairman complimented the work of the new City Council members and Mayor Andre Dickens on their initial work to address crime in Atlanta. Representative Jodi Lott (R-Evans) asked the City Council members about the Atlanta Police internal policy to not chase except in the case of violent felonies or suspected violent felonies. The Committee recommended the resolution DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 257, authored by Senator Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia), amends Titles 35 and 42 to provide minor cleanups to Georgia Code relating to restricting and sealing of certain criminal records.

    Senator Anderson presented the bill with Wade Askew of the Georgia Justice Project. The Committee considered a Substitute that incorporated feedback from agencies and stakeholders. The bill is supported by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Chairman Collins asked if changing “shall” to “may” would be a dealbreaker for advocates, but no motion to amend was made. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 259, authored by Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), amends Titles 16 and 17 to revise various laws pertaining to firearms and the carrying and possession of firearms and other weapons. Among other things, the bill changes the law to treat churches like private property for purposes of allowing concealed carry, provides for an online application process for a concealed carry license, and changes destruction requirements for seized weapons.

  • SB 277, authored by Representative J. Collins (R-Villa Rica), amends Title 16 to extend the exemptions from weapons carry laws for certain court officials to include carrying inside of a courthouse.

    Chairman Collins presented the bill to the Committee, which recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 504, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Title 17 to redefine “bail restricted offense” to include all felonies.

    Senator Robertson presented the bill to the Committee. Representative Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) expressed concern about the number of out-of-date felonies still on the books in Georgia and called for study committees during the upcoming offseason about “cleaning up” these offenses in Code. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 505, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Titles 35 and 46 to require that 911 communications officers receive training in the delivery of high-quality telephone cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The bill also provides training requirements, compliance reviews, and the establishment of continuing education units for communications officers.

    Senator Robertson presented the bill to the Committee, which recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

House Small Business Development Committee

Chairman Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) called the Small Business Development Committee to order to discuss the following resolution:

  • HR 1149, authored by Representative Dale Washburn (R-Macon), seeks to create a House Study Committee on housing regulation, affordability, and access. Representative Washburn noted that some communities restrict what types of housing are allowed, thus limiting who can live in different places. He added that some private property owners struggle with Home Rule and their rights. Representative Dominique LaRiccia (R-Douglas) asked for the manufactured housing stakeholders to be included in the conversation. Representatives Mack Jackson (D-Sandersville), Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta), Mary Robichaux (D-Roswell), Debra Bazemore (D-South Fulton), and Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) all expressed support and interest in the research. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

House Special Committee on Access to Quality Healthcare

Chairman Mark Newton (R-Augusta) and the Access to Quality Healthcare members reviewed these bills on Thursday:

  • SB 82, authored by Senator Michelle Au (D-Duluth), addresses Title 33 and specifically provider directories.  The legislation came to the Committee in a new Substitute to create a new definition for “public health emergency.”  It also seeks to prohibit insurers from unilaterally changing network participation contracts impacting coverage, access to, or costs of support services (language from HB 1519).  Further, the Substitute proposes to require in O.C.G.A. 45-18-6.2 that all contracts for healthcare coverage or services under the state health benefit plan contain a provision that ensures that every plan  member has access to laboratory services at in-network rates within 50 miles or one hour of a plan member’s place of business or residence.  State Health Benefit Plans’ contracts now have tighter mileage provisions than what is proposed.  Also, it was noted that lab services now are done by Lab Corp and Quest and those specimens are sent out-of-state. One argument for the change is that there are six in-state reference labs which could do this work – essentially any willing provider if this language is added and passed.  There are no lab services in 141 counties – meaning those are “underserved” according to Representative Rhodes. There was a lot of discussion around the changes for the laboratory services’ provisions  – that language was requested by Representative Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) for a reference laboratory located in Milledgeville. An attempt was made to eliminate the laboratory change proposed in Section 3 of the legislation; that motion failed to be adopted. There was testimony by the Georgia Hospital Association in support of Section 2 of the legislation around prohibiting unilateral plan amendments.  Weston Burlson, with the Department of Insurance, indicated that the Department of Insurance was not opposing the legislation but would work with parties on the “white bagging” issues that the legislation attempts addressing, and DOI has talked to the Georgia Hospital Association on the matter. Burlson indicated that the Department was not opposed to legislative involvement.  Jesse Wethington, with the Georgia Association of Health Plans, opposed the Substitute suggesting that HB 454 from 2021 addressed the “public health emergency” and urged the Committee not to pass the legislation for fear of ceding powers to the federal government. Otherwise, he indicated that the legislation was broad in scope and thought that consumers could be impacted by costs with the changes. Sometimes ancillary services are provided in cheaper locations than at a hospital.  He also urged that the legislation would abandon “evergreen contracts.” The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation to the new Substitute.

House Health and Human Services Committee

Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) and the Health and Human Services Committee took up bill for a hearing only:

  • SB 456, authored by Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White), seeks to enact the Women’s Health and Safety Act in Title 31.  It is about abortion-inducing medications and seeks to address how those medications are provided to women.  Senator Thompson indicated it was about a health and safety issue for women and was to put back into place the pre-pandemic rules and regulations for these medications which were repealed by the Biden administration. There were lots of questions around the proposal, particularly around elimination of use of telemedicine and its safety.  It would require a woman to have a physical examination and ultrasound prior to obtaining the medication. Several individuals testified to the legislation including Dr. Elizabeth Moseley who indicated that telemedicine protocol is more efficacious and safe and allows women to take the medication earlier – her concerns were around unintended consequences and she opposed the bill.  There was also testimony from the Feminist Women’s Health Center which also opposed the legislation; arguing that ultrasound is not always necessary – plus this agency already provides a great deal of education and consent materials to a woman. Front-Line Policy Action, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, and a mother-daughter duo supported the legislation.  Again, no vote was taken at this meeting.

New Legislation

The following legislation of interest has been introduced:

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 40 on Monday, April 4 at 10AM.

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National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 91