Gold Dome Report - February 2018 #4

by Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Legislative Day 17 was billed by some as “Health Day” under the Gold Dome. After the Georgia State Senate took up three health-related bills on its Rules Calendar, members of the House Appropriations Committee heard presentations from Georgia’s health agencies on their FY 2019 budget proposals. Education was also a hot topic, with a subcommittee of the House Education Committee hearing proposals to help schools identify impediments to student learning in grades preschool through three and increase funding and access to RESAs for state-sponsored charter schools. Legislators wrap up their week tomorrow as they convene for Legislative Day 18.

Inside this issue:

  • Senate Considers Three Health Bills
  • Committee Reports
  • New Legislation
  • Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 18

Senate Considers Three Health Bills

The Senate considered three propositions on its Rules Calendar today, each of which relate to health in the state of Georgia:

  • SB 118, authored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), addresses insurance coverage for children with autism spectrum disorders. The legislation came to the floor in the form of a Committee Substitute, amending O.C.G.A. § 33-24-59.10.  The original proposal would have expanded coverage for autism services for children from ages six to twenty-one years. The version that appeared on the floor proposed that insurers provide coverage for autism spectrum disorders for children ages six through twelve years of age. The policy may limit applied behavior analysis for these children to $30,000 per year. Sen. Unterman presented the bill, acknowledging that it is “Health Care Day,” thanked the Lt. Governor for his work on healthcare issues in Georgia and recognized the long fight that the Senate has gone through in order to improve healthcare, especially in regards to autism.  She continued on to note the savings that can be realized and the assistance to children that can be provided when autism is caught early and treated for longer periods of time. 47 states have passed autism insurance reform, and Georgia has the lowest cap in the nation at 6 years old. The Bill passed 50-3 and will proceed to the House for consideration.
  • SB 352, another proposal authored by Sen. Unterman, is an initiative aimed at Georgia’s opioid crisis. It is a series of changes in Chapter 1 of Title 31 that prohibits “patient brokering” and also establishes an executive director of substance abuse, addiction and related disorders. The legislation establishes a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery. In Title 33, the bill establishes a fraudulent insurance act for excessive, high-tech or fraudulent drug testing of certain individuals. Sen. Unterman recognized the work that has been completed in learning about this grave issue and the extensive travel to meetings across the state to better understand the opiod crisis and healthcare barriers. She wished for the Senate to know that these drugs can kill on the first try, and shared a story of two young men who passed away after their first “experience.” Sen. Unterman especially noted that Cobb County and GraceWay in Albany, GA have great programs. 20 letters of recommendation from major organizations were placed on the Senators desk as a sample of the overwhelming support for this bill.  The bill was also a Committee Substitute from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and passed 53-0.
  • SB 357, authored by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge), is an initiative borne out of the recommendations by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle’s Health Care Reform Task Force. It was brought to the floor in the form of a Committee Substitute from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The legislation creates the Health Coordination and Innovation Council and the Health System Innovation Center in Chapter 53 of Title 31. The Bill passed 53-1.

Committee Reports

House Insurance Committee

The House Insurance Committee, chaired by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), met today and considered three bills:

  • HB 592, authored by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), amends Title 33 to remove the sunset provision in the insurer self-evaluative privilege created by HB 162 in 2015. The original legislation included a sunset to allow the Insurance Commissioner to evaluate the self-evaluation process, which the Commissioner’s Office has now done and found to be favorable. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
  • HB 678, authored by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), attempts to address “surprise billing” by providing transparency for healthcare consumers and a procedure to resolve payment disputes. The bill allows a patient to ask a health care organization and be informed of the providers participating in a scheduled procedure, whether those providers are in the patient’s insurer’s network, and the associated fees and insurance payments expected. However, if an out-of-network provider becomes necessary in a procedure, the legislation requires the organization to bill the provider’s fees within 90 days and resolve any payment dispute within 90 days and allows for arbitration managed by the Department of Insurance to resolve the dispute. Chairman Smith noted that 22% of Georgians have medical debt in collections, and this legislation is aimed directly at addressing this issue. Rep. Carolyn Hughley (D-Columbus) inquired as to whether a health care organization is required to notify a patient of his or her right to request the information disclosure allowed in the bill. Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) noted that the language in the bill before the Committee had been updated to address his concerns about arbitration, the new version allowing alternative remedies if a party chooses. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
  • HB 734, authored by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), updates, modernizes, and corrects Georgia’s insurance code in Title 33. The legislation does not change the substance of the law and is a “bill about nothing”, according to Chairman Smith. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee without debate.

Senate Education Committee

The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), met and considered one proposition today. SB 362, authored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), amends Title 20 to provide for the establishment of an innovative assessment pilot program in several school districts. The bill, which is part of an effort led by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, exempts the participating districts from certain state-wide assessment requirements while the districts pilot other assessment models. The pilot program will include up to ten school systems who will apply to participate. State Superintendent Richard Woods spoke in support of the bill. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

House Education Committee – Academic Support Subcommittee

The Academic Support Subcommittee of the House Education Committee

  • HB 740, authored by Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange), bars the expulsion or suspension for five or more days of a student in preschool through third grade before that student receives a multi-tiered system of supports, such as Response to Intervention. If a student has an IEP or Section 504 plan, the bill also requires a school also convene an IEP or Section 504 meeting to review appropriate supports being provided as part of such plan prior to expulsion or suspension for five or more days. Rep. Nix noted that the bill is intended to help identify and assist students who act out because they need supports or assistance rather than casting them aside. The version of the legislation considered by the Subcommittee is simplified from the original version (which remains at the link above), removing requirements for specific types of testing and instead relying on the Response to Intervention program already in use in schools. Arianne Weldon, Get Georgia Reading Campaign Director, and Eric Thomas, Chief Turnaround Officer for the Georgia Department of Education, spoke in support of the legislation as a way to help keep students in the classroom and learning. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and move on the full Education Committee.
  • HB 787, authored by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), allows state charter schools to participate in RESAs, changes funding for state charter schools to the average of all public school systems (rather than bottom five), and provides for forward (advance) funding for expansion of a charter school that projects enrollment growth over 2% of the current enrollment. Dr. Bonnie Holliday, Executive Director of the State Charter Schools Commission, spoke in support of the legislation. Several other groups and individuals, including the Georgia Department of Education, spoke in support of the bill. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and move on the full Education Committee.
  • HB 788, authored by Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-Forest Park), amends Title 20 to provide that a parent or guardian may enroll a student in a school using the address of an individual residing in the school's attendance zone who has authorized such use. The Subcommittee took no action on the bill.
  • HB 718, authored by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), amends Title 20 to require primary and secondary schools to allow up to five excused absences for students with a parent actively serving in the armed forces for the purpose of allowing participation in individual or group therapy recommended by a physician or psychologist. The Subcommittee took no action on the bill.

House Insurance Committee – Admin/Licensing Subcommittee

The Admin/Licensing Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland), met and considered three bills today:

  • HB 754, authored by Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland), allows a domestic insurer to divide itself into two or more independent entities. The insurer must submit and follow a plan of division that is approved by the Insurance Commissioner. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the full Insurance Committee.
  • HB 760, authored by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), allows insurers to provide insureds a notice of reduction in coverage when  a change is made by the insurer which results in a removal of coverage, diminution in scope or less coverage, or the addition of an exclusion. Currently, the law requires an insurer to provide a notice of non-renewal in these situations. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the full Insurance Committee.
  • HB 818, authored by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), prohibits health insurers and its vendors from contractually requiring a provider accept payment in certain form(s). It also requires that a health insurer provide notice and the opportunity to opt out when it starts or changes the way it makes payments via electronic funds transfer, including virtual credit card payments. Rep. Hawkins asked the Subcommittee to strike certain lines of the legislation, specifically lines 12-36, 88-89, and 108-111 (the latter of which allows an insurer to charge a transaction fee). The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS as amended per the author’s request, and the bill moves on to the full Insurance Committee.

House Ways and Means Committee – Income Tax Subcommittee

The Income Tax Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), heard several propositions today, including:

  • HB 664, authored by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), relates to 529 savings plans in Georgia and proposes to increase the available deductions for single filers to $4,000 per year and married filing jointly filers to $8,000 per year. Currently, deductions are limited to $2,000 and $4,000. The Subcommittee took no action on the bill. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and move on to the full Committee.
  • HB 827, authored by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), revises a law passed in 2016 creating a qualified rural hospital organization and tax credit program. This legislation proposes to increase the value of the tax credit from 90 percent to 100 percent and remove limitations on total amounts allowed to individual taxpayers in O.C.G.A. § 48-7-29.20. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and move on to the full Committee.

House Human Relations and Aging Committee

The House Human Relations and Aging Committee, chaired by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), heard one proposition today. HB 635, authored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), is the “Disabled Adults and Elder Persons Protection Act” and provides protection from and investigation of abuse of at-risk adults.  It also provides for investigation processes and coordination of protection and law enforcement teams across the state.  The bill was originally introduced last year, but was held to ensure the involvement of all related groups, especially for GBI. Rep. Cooper brought the lawyer she consulted with on the language to answer questions.  It was noted that while the bill allows for coordination with other states (such as in cases in Columbus where the incident spills over into AL).   he numbers of elderly and cases of abuse are rising in Georgia, and this bill also allows for coordination with coroners and medical examiners in case of suspicious death and the collection of data to provide more in depth numbers going forward. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS.

New Legislation

The following legislation has been introduced and referred to committee in the House:

  • HB 841, by Rep. Jodie Lott (R-Evans),proposes to address O.C.G.A. § 48-8-3(7), regarding exemptions from sales and use tax, to exempt the sales of tangible personal property and services to organ procurement organizations from sales and use tax (as they are defined in O.C.G.A. § 44-5-141.  It would require that organ procurement organization to submit an annual report to the Department of Revenue on the number of transplants and number of Georgia residents who were donors and/or were recipients of a transplant facilitated by such organization. The bill was assigned to the Ways & Means Committee.
  • HB 844, by Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville), proposes to address the Georgia Commission on Hearing Impaired and Deaf Persons.  It seeks to expand the membership of the Commission; establish a task force; require use of existing assessments; monitor individual children’s language and literacy progress; develop a statewide coordinated longitudinal data management system for all children who are deaf or hard of hearing; require information sharing and collaboration among State agencies; provide for integrated and seamless services from birth through literacy; and require public reporting mechanisms.  The changes are addressed in Chapter 1 of Title 30. The bill was referred to the Health and Human Services Committee.
  • HB 847, by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson), is an interstate compact which would be known as the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact in Chapter 39 of Title 43.  It would allow the practice of telepsychology and provide for the temporary authorization for psychologists to practice by psychologists within and through states who enter this Compact.  It would address additional regulatory authority for the Georgia State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. The bill was referred to the Regulated Industries Committee.
  • HB 849, by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), offers amendments to Chapter 7 of Title 48, regarding income tax, so as to provide for reporting of federal partnership adjustments.  It seeks to provide for Georgia partnership and pass-through entity adjustments and assessments and related appeals. The bill was referred to the Ways & Means Committee.
  • HB 851, by Rep. Dale Rutledge (R-McDonough), proposes to amend O.C.G.A. § 48-7-29.6 and add a new subsection (d).  This relates to the imposition, rate, computation and exemptions from State income tax and would provide for the expiration of low-income housing income tax credits by repealing the Code Section on December 31, 2023 if passed and signed into law. The bill was referred to the Ways & Means Committee.
  • HB 852, by Rep. Michael Smith (D-Marietta), proposes to address the Quality Basic Education Act and add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-296 for the purpose to provide for a student’s continued enrollment in a public school under certain circumstances – allowing the local board of education to allow a student, who has been enrolled in and attended a public school for more than half of the school year and who moves during the school year to another attendance zone within the local school system, to continue to be enrolled in and attend the initial public school through the completion of the school year – as long as the student has no chronic disciplinary problems. The bill was referred to the Education Committee.
  • HB 853, by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), seeks to amend Georgia’s Quality Basic Education Act at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-133(b) relating to free public instruction.  It would provide that children placed in psychiatric residential treatment facilities pursuant to a physician’s order may not be charged tuition. The bill was referred to the Education Committee.
  • HR 1065, by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), recognizes February 8, 2018 as Independent Living Day at the State Capitol. 

The following legislation was introduced in the Senate:

  • SR 714, by Sen. Jennifer Jordan (D-Atlanta), which recognizes February 7, 2018 as “Dyslexia Day” at the Capitol.  It also urges schools, local education agencies and the State to address the profound educational impact of dyslexia.

Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 18

The House will take up four bills tomorrow:

  • HB 538 -- Labor and industrial relations; rights, powers, and responsibilities of professional employer organizations are not to be construed to exempt any person from licensure requirements; provide
  • HB 618 -- Skidaway Island, City of; incorporate
  • HB 655 -- Quality Basic Education Act; post sign containing telephone number to receive reports of child abuse; require every public school
  • HB 699 -- Firefighter certification; military firefighter training may be accepted as required basic training; provide

The Senate will take up three bills tomorrow:

  • SB 197 -- Employees' Retirement System of Georgia; chairperson of the board of trustees; provision; change
  • SB 328 -- Income Tax; expiration of certain income tax credits; provide
  • SB 339 -- Board of Regents and University System; establishment of free speech policies for institutions of the university system; provide


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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We may update this cookie policy and our Privacy Policy from time-to-time, particularly as technology changes. You can always check this page for the latest version. We may also notify you of changes to our privacy policy by email.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about how we use cookies and other tracking technologies, please contact us at:

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