Gold Dome Report — Legislative Day 15

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

The Georgia General Assembly is over halfway to Crossover Day, and new legislation continues to fill the hoppers each day. In these first 15 days of the 2021 Legislative Session, lawmakers have introduced 746 propositions — 515 in the House, and 231 in the Senate. And although committee meetings are occurring daily (and often overlapping one another), only 43 pieces of legislation have been reported out as of the beginning of today. The House Ways & Means Committee has the most work ahead of it with 36 pieces of legislation to consider, followed closely by the House Judiciary Committee with 33 propositions. Needless to say, it’s shaping up to be a busy few weeks ahead for lawmakers and lobbyists. Keep up with the madness with the #GoldDomeReport.

Governor Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Duncan, and Speaker Ralston also made news late today with the announcement that they will support $1,000 bonuses for more than 57,000 full-time state employees who earn less than $80,000 a year. The bonuses will cost approximately $59.6 million and are likely to be appropriated in the FY22 Budget, consideration of which will begin soon in the House of Representatives. The announcement comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement that State tax revenues continue to grow year over year and are up over 6% for the current fiscal year.

In today’s Report:

  • Committee Reports
  • New Legislation
  • Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 16

Committee Reports

Energy Subcommittee of the House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee
The Energy Subcommittee of the House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee, chaired by Representative Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), met this morning to consider two measures.

  • HB 76, authored by Representative John Carson (R-Marietta), amends O.C.G.A. § 46-4-164 to increase the percentage limitation of EMC investments in a gas affiliate. Current law allows investments up to 15%. This bill increases that amount to 60%. The subcommittee took no testimony on the bill and moved the bill DO PASS.
  • HB 150, authored by Representative Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), amends O.C.G.A. § 46-1-6 to prohibit local governmental entities from adopting policies that prohibit the connection or reconnection of any utility service based on the source of energy or fuel. Members of the committee including Reps. David Dryer (D-Atlanta) and Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) expressed concerns that the bill would reduce local control and make it harder for municipalities in the state to limit climate change. The bill ultimately received a motion DO PASS.

House Ways and Means Income Tax Subcommittee
The Income Tax Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), met this afternoon and considered two measures.

  • HB 114, authored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), amends O.C.G.A. § 48-7-29.15 to revise the adoption tax credit. The bill increases the credit to $6,000 for the first five years and $2,000 afterwards. Rep. Reeves explained that the average age of adopted children is eight years old. There are often costs for mental health treatment for adopted children that are incurred by adopted parents. Rep. Reeves explained his belief that the state should work to offset some of these costs. Chairman Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) asked for clarification regarding the state’s fiscal note. Rep. Reeves explained that the bill removed the carry-over provision for unused tax credit funds which lowered the expected costs of the bill. The Committee waived the rule requiring a second hearing for the bill and subsequently recommended the bill DO PASS.
  • HB 304, authored by Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans), amends Title 48 to provide for a tax credit for medical equipment and supplies manufacturers and pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers. Specifically, the bill provides for an additional $1,250 credit for each new job created. Rep. Lott explained that the bill would help move manufacturing of lifesaving medical equipment and medicine back to the US. Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) expressed hope that the bill would help the state lead in the development of pharmaceuticals and their ingredients. Chairman Shaw Blackmon asked why the bill does not contain a sunset provision. Rep. Lott explained that because the bill asks businesses to move into the state, the long term timeframe of the bill would hamper the development sought by the bill. Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City) asked if a reporting requirement on the full utilization of the credit could be added to the bill. The committee is awaiting a fiscal note on the bill and will hold another hearing on the bill when it is received.

House Higher Education Committee
Chairman Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) and his Higher Education Committee held hearings today on two bills. No action was taken on either proposal today.

  • HB 152, authored by Representative Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), seeks to amend Article 7 of Chapter 3 of Title 20 regarding the state’s private colleges and universities and in particular those which are operated on the state’s military bases. The bill was brought to the Committee as an agency proposal.
  • HB 7, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex), seeks to amend Title 20 to provide for in-state tuition at units of the University System of Georgia and branches of the Technical College System of Georgia for youth who are from foster care or homeless situations. It would allow these youth to access financial aid and would allow the youth once classified as meeting requirements as a homeless or foster care youth would remain under such classification until that youth obtained a baccalaureate degree or for ten years whichever occurs first. A number of individuals spoke in favor of HB 7 (which was introduced in 2020 as HB 16 but failed to get through the process). The Barton Child Law and Policy Center had a representative present who provided support noting that the legislation would expand opportunities to these youth and reminded the Committee that even in the best of times students sometimes encountered “academic disruption.” This legislation would help alleviate the financial burden barrier these students encounter. Sara Bess Hudson, with MAAC, and EmpowerMEnt youth spoke to the merits of the proposal and how it would address financial issues which students face to help them complete their post-secondary education.

House Human Relations and Aging Committee
Chairman Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) and the Human Relations and Aging Committee met to take up bills this afternoon:

  • HB 290, authored by Representative Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), amends Title 31 to prohibit hospitals and nursing homes from instituting any policy during a declared public health emergency that limits patients' abilities to be visited by designated family members or friends. The bill makes adherence to this requirement a condition precedent to obtaining or maintaining a permit to operate as a hospital or nursing home, but it does allow for facilities to impose "reasonable safety requirements." It also provides civil liability limitation for facilities for claims arising from compliance with this prohibition. The bill came to the Committee today in the form of a Committee substitute which took into account many of the comments which Representative Setzler had received from other legislators as well as various entities. Setzler noted that the legislation provides a minimum standard - two people for two hours per day to be physically present with their family member or long-term friend. The bill creates an “essential caregiver” definition in the new Substitute, L33 8611S. The long term care community developed this definition and it has been used in states of Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Representative Setzler indicated that this legislation was to enhance the patient’s wellness and public health outcomes. Several members of the Committee asked questions about the proposal - including who would be responsible for the costs to provide PPE and/or require any type of test to be taken; whether the proposal conflicted with the CDC and Department of Public Health guidelines, if the legislation would conflict with Georgia’s advance directive or healthcare power of attorney laws; what is considered to be “reasonable safety requirements;” why the age of 18 and older was included in the definition; and others. There were personal testimonials also supplied by a number of the public who have had members of their families in facilities. These family advocates indicated that they were able to advocate for their own family members for items of comfort for their loved ones. Facility owners also spoke to the proposal, some arguing that they needed families there as they serve as “watchdogs” helping facilities do a better job. There were also individuals who provided testimony from Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, Georgia Healthcare Association, and Georgia Hospital Association urging caution about the legislation and the requirements that facilities have placed on them from CMS and the potential endangerment of their financial participation in the Medicaid and Medicare programs. The Department of Community Health also spoke about putting facilities’ certification at risk with visitation. A hospital, for instance, could possibly lose insurance business if it lost its Medicare/Medicaid certification. There were also cautions around staffing challenges; the state has been augmenting staffing needs of hospitals and nursing homes over the last few months due to the pandemic in an effort to help facilities meet standards of care. The hearing took three hours; no vote was taken at today’s meeting.

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee
Chairman James Burchett (R-Waycross) and the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee took action on one bill in the afternoon. HB 168, authored by Representative Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), received a DO PASS recommendation from the Committee but with dissent. The legislation seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 42-5-36 to exempt certain inmate records for individuals that were convicted of a dangerous sexual offense against a minor or serious violent felony from being state secret requirements when requested by a district attorney. A similar bill passed out of the House in 2020 but was caught in the end after the session was halted. It would address only records that are in the Department of Corrections SCRIBE system which went into effect in 2010. There is also language in the bill which does not allow the district attorney to share that information; if that district attorney shares that information it would be considered a misdemeanor offense. The bill moves now to the House Rules Committee.

Senate Education & Youth Committee
The Senate Education & Youth Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), met to consider one bill today:

  • SB 88, authored by Senator Russ Goodman (R-Homerville), is Governor Kemp's teacher pipeline legislative package. The bill provides for a number of initiatives to recruit, retain, and mentor teachers, including: providing that the Georgia Teacher of the Year serve as an advisor ex officio to the State Board of Education; providing for a nontraditional teacher certification program for members and veterans of the United States armed forces; providing for the Professional Standards Commission to require that teacher education programs include mandatory coursework in differentiated instruction and reading fundamentals; and promoting increased student enrollment in and completion of teacher education programs offered at historically black colleges and universities in Georgia.

Senator Goodman presented the bill to the Committee, noting that it is focused on recruiting, retaining, and mentoring Georgia teachers. There were no questions from the Committee, and Chairman Payne dispensed with public comment because all speakers were in support (and included the Georgia Education Coalition, Georgia Association for Career & Technical Education, Georgia School Board Association, Georgia School Superintendent Association, and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators). The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

New Legislation

The House read and assigned the following legislation to committee today:

  • HB 360, authored by Representative Sheri Gilligan (R-Cumming), amends Title 50 to require all call centers within the state to notify the Department of Labor about any plans to relocate the call center at least 120 days prior to the relocation date. This bill was referred to the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
  • HB 363, authored by Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta), amends Title 16 to remove enhanced penalties for certain offenses against elderly persons. The bill also creates an offense of Abuse of Access for the illegal taking of resources from a disabled or elderly person if the resource was obtained due to the person's age or disability. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
  • HB 367, authored by Representative Butch Parrish (R-Swainsboro), amend Title 16 to make an annual update to the state's dangerous drug scheduling. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
  • HB 368, authored by Representative Mandi Ballinger (R-Holly Springs), amends Title 35 to stipulate the GBI be the primary law enforcement agency for any death investigation when the victim is under 18 years of age. This bill was referred to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
  • HB 369, authored by Representative Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), amends Title 43 to alter rules for physician assistants. The bill would no longer require physician assistants to submit job descriptions to the Georgia Composite Medical Board and would allow APRNs to prescribe Schedule II drugs in emergency situations. This bill was referred to the House Regulated Industries Committee.
  • HB 370, authored by Representative Jan Jones (R-Milton), amends Title 31 to create term limits of 12 years or three consecutive terms for members of a hospital authority. This bill was referred to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
  • HB 371, authored by Representative Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville), amends Title 24 to allow video conferencing for proceedings and meetings with prisoners confined in a correctional facility. The bill also allows for employees of the state crime lab to appear in video proceedings. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
  • HB 372, authored by Representative Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), amends Title 20 to define the term "gender" as the biological sex at birth based on a person's reproductive organs at birth. The bill also requires any high school athletic event divided by gender only include persons of the gender assigned at birth.
  • HB 377, authored by Representative Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta), amends Title 17 to provide that any woman arrested and not released on bond within 72 hours shall submit to a pregnancy test. The bill also requires judges to determine at the time of sentencing of a pregnant woman if the woman is eligible to have their sentence deferred until 12 weeks post delivery. The bill also contains reporting requirements from the Department of Corrections regarding the number of women and pregnant women in custody. This bill was referred to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
  • HB 378, authored by Representative Renitta Shannon (D-Decatur), amends Title 35 to require all law enforcement agencies to report monthly, in writing, any use of force by a law enforcement officer and discipline issued as a result of the use of force. This bill was referred to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
  • HB 379, authored by Representative Renitta Shannon (D-Decatur), amends Title 34 to require employers to provide employee salary data to any employee upon request. The information must be provided in writing within 30 days of the request. This bill was referred to the House Industry and Labor Committee.
  • HB 380, authored by Representative Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta), amends Title 34 to allow fired employees to request personnel files from their former employer when their claims are contested by the former employer. The bill also requires the Department of Labor to modify the separation notice form to include an indication of whether the claims are contested. This bill was referred to the House Industry and Labor Committee.
  • HB 381, authored by Representative Renitta Shannon (D-Decatur), amends Title 49 to expand Medicaid coverage for pregnant women up to one year postpartum. This bill was referred to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
  • HB 382, authored by Representative Renitta Shannon (D-Decatur), amends Title 31 to repeal the Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy Grant Program. This bill was referred to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
  • HB 385, authored by Representative Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), amends Title 47 to allow public school systems to employ beneficiaries of the Teachers Retirement System as full-time classroom teachers in areas with the highest need. This bill was referred to the House Retirement Committee.

The Senate read and assigned the follow legislation to committee today:

  • SB 115, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Title 40 to require the Departments of Public Safety and Driver Services to offer a course on best practices for interacting with law enforcement officers. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 116, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Title 49 to provide for the registration of maternity supportive housing residences. The state is not given the authority to implement rules and regulations to constrain the registration of these residences but may keep records submitted by a residence. This bill was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
  • SB 117, authored by Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), amends multiple Titles to provide for an offense of improper sexual conduct of a minor by a person in a position of trust. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 121, authored by Senator Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), amends Title 16 stipulate that any law enforcement officer that knowingly includes false information in a report is guilty of perjury. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 122, authored by Senator Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta), amends Title 20 to require that all students in grades kindergarten through eight be given at least 30 minutes of recess per day. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
  • SB 123, authored by Senator Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta), amends Title 20 to require the State Board of Education to establish facility requirements for temporary classrooms and rules for converting temporary classroom space to permanent classroom space within five years. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
  • SB 124, authored by Senator Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), amends Title 17 to create a duty to intervene for all police officers if they witness a use of force by another officer that could be considered excessive based on their training. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 125, authored by Senator Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), amends Title 17 to outlaw kinetic impact projectiles in use of force by law enforcement officers. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 126, authored by Senator Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), amends Title 50 to remove tort protections from police officers that are alleged to have committed misconduct while acting within the scope of their official duties. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 128, authored by Senator Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), amends Title 35 to create the Georgia Law Enforcement Citizen Review Council. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 129, authored by Senator Harold Jones (D-Augusta), amends title 35 to require all police officers that engage in traffic stops to record all interactions with audio and visual recording devices. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 130, authored by Senator Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta), amends Title 35 to prevent law enforcement agencies in the state from accepting certain types of equipment from the federal Department of Defense. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 131, authored by Senator Harold Jones (D-Augusta), amends Title 15 to require that a local district attorney notify the Attorney General when a law enforcement officer is charged with a felony or crime of family violence within the jurisdiction they are employed. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 132, authored by Senator Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), amends Title 17 to prohibit law enforcement officers from engaging in any use of force that restricts blood or oxygen flow to the brain. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 133, authored by Senator Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro), amends Title 17 to prohibit the use of no knock warrants unless testimony is provided that announcing the presence of the police during execution of the warrant presents a danger to human life or the destruction of evidence. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 134, authored by Senator Sheikh Rahman (D-Lawrenceville), amends Title 40 to prohibit law enforcement officers from using race or ethnicity to form probable cause to stop a vehicle. The bill does allow for race or ethnicity to be used to confirm a previously obtained description of a suspect. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 135, authored by Senator Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), amends various Code sections to remove references to the no duty to retreat prior to use of force used in indictment considerations. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 136, authored by Senator Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), amends Titles 17, 35, and 43 to repeal the state's citizen arrest law. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 137, authored by Senator Harold Jones (D-Augusta), amends Title 42 to prohibit the operation of private prisons in the state. This bill was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • SB 138, authored by Senator Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro), amends Title 35 to revise the standard for which all law enforcement agencies engage in vehicular pursuits. The bill prohibits pursuits unless the officers have probable cause that the suspect committed or is in the process of committing murder, aggravated battery, kidnapping, false imprisonment, rape, armed robbery, or any other offense that creates an immediate threat of death or serious injury to anther person. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 139, authored by Senator Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain), amends Title 9 to require that all seizure of property subject to civil forfeiture take place only after a criminal conviction. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 142, authored by Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), amends Title 48 to authorize the Georgia Lottery Corporation to issue no fewer than six licenses for mobile sports betting in the state. The bill requires all licensees to pay an annual $900,000 fee to the corporation and taxes all adjusted gross income of the operators at a 10% rate. All taxes collected must be deposited to the HOPE Scholarship fund. The bill allows for citizens 21 and older to place wagers on sports using mobile betting platforms. The bill prohibits betting on any event involving a public or private college or university located in the state. This bill was referred to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.
  • SR 83, authored by Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), proposes a constitutional amendment to increase the length of terms of members of the House of Representatives to four years and members of the Senate to six years. This resolution was referred to the Senate Government Oversight Committee.

Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 16

The House is expected to consider the following measures on Thursday for Legislative Day 16:

  • HB 67 — State government; public property; extend automatic repeals of certain provisions
  • HB 129 — Sheriffs; compensation; modify certain provisions
  • HB 208 — State holidays; second Wednesday of February of each year as National Swearing-in Day in Georgia; provide
  • HB 246 — Motor vehicles; issuance of replacement licenses and permits; increase fee

The Senate is expected to consider the following measures on Thursday for Legislative Day 16:

  • SB 32 — Public Disclosure; certain personal records of state and federal employees; exempt
  • SB 33 — Torts; cause of action against perpetrators for victims of human trafficking; provide
  • SB 34 — Domestic Relations; name change; victims of human trafficking may petition; provide
  • SB 49 — Buildings and Housing; procedures for alternative plan review, permitting, and inspection by private professional providers; provide
  • SB 86 — "Fair Business Practices Act of 1975 "; requirements for solicitations of services for corporate filings required by the Secretary of State; 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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