Gold Dome Report — Legislative Day 26

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Both chambers of the General Assembly were busy today in an effort to push forward numerous bills in advance of Crossover Day on March 8. The Senate approved a number of education-related measures, including SB 42 relating to discipline data in school climate ratings, SB 47 expanding the Special Needs Scholarship Program, SB 59 addressing charter school funding, and SB 204 providing for the Technical College System of Georgia to award high school diplomas in some cases. Meanwhile, the House had not one but two debate calendars, and notably signed off on an income tax cut for most Georgians (HB 593) and reauthorization of the House Rural Development Council (HR 185).

The legislature is in adjournment on Thursday, but all eyes will be on Room 341 as the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees begin meeting at 7:30 a.m. to present their recommendations for the FY22 State Budget. We’ll be following the meetings in realtime; follow along with us on Twitter using our hashtag, #GoldDomeReport.

In today’s Report:

  • Floor Action
  • Committee Reports

Floor Action

The House took up the following measures today:

  • HB 44 — State government; Georgia shall observe daylight savings time year round; provide (SP&CA-Cantrell-22nd) POSTPONED
  • HB 248 — Motor vehicles; local governing body to apply for a permit to operate a traffic enforcement safety device which enforces the speed limit in a school zone by recorded image; authorize (PS&HS-Powell-32nd) PASSED 133-35
  • HB 302 — Revenue and taxation; proceeds of local government regulatory fees be used to pay for regulatory activity; require (Substitute) (W&M-Momtahan-17th) POSTPONED
  • HB 303 — Jaida Act; enact (Ins-Glanton-75th) PASSED 170-0
  • HB 322 — Juvenile Code; revise definition of sexual exploitation (JuvJ-Wiedower-119th) PASSED 169-0
  • HB 334 — Superior courts; clerks; notaries public; provisions (Substitute) (Judy-Gullett-19th) PASSED 167-2
  • HB 355 — Georgia Carbon Sequestration Registry; inclusion of building products in construction; provisions (NR&E-Wiedower-119th) PASSED 167-3
  • HB 363 — Crimes and offenses; protection of elder persons; revise definitions (JudyNC-LaHood-175th) PASSED 171-0
  • HB 371 — Evidence; certain proceedings may be conducted by video conference; provide (Substitute)(JudyNC-Gunter-8th) PASSED 157-9
  • HB 410 — Bingo; transfer regulatory authority from Georgia Bureau of Investigation to Secretary of State (JudyNC-Lumsden-12th) PASSED 151-0
  • HB 435 — Local government; exempt certain contracts competitively procured by the state or cooperative purchasing organizations (GAff-Anderson-10th) FAILED 86-80
  • HB 470 — Property; no plans are required when units are not designated by physical structures; provide (Judy-Washburn-141st) PASSED 165-0
  • HB 477 — Revenue and taxation; proceeds of local government regulatory fees be used to pay for regulatory activity; require (Substitute) (W&M-Momtahan-17th) PASSED 165-0
  • HB 511 — State treasury; establishment or revision of certain Trust Funds; provide (Substitute)(App-Reeves-34th) PASSED 168-0
  • HB 548 — Social services; reasonable access to records concerning reports of child abuse to the Administrative Office of the Courts; provide (JuvJ-Dempsey-13th) PASSED 171-0
  • HB 586 — Georgia Economic Recovery Act of 2021; enact (Substitute) (W&M-Watson-172nd) PASSED 164-6
  • HB 587 — Georgia Economic Renewal Act of 2021; enact (Substitute) (W&M-Williamson-115th)(Rules Committee Substitute LC 43 1970S) PASSED 157-14
  • HB 593 — Tax Relief Act of 2021; enact (W&M-Blackmon-146th) PASSED 171-0
  • HR 185 — House Rural Development Council; reauthorize (ED&T-Watson-172nd) PASSED 164-0

The Senate took up the following measures today:

  • SB 42 — Education; school climate rating does not include discipline data; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-53rd) PASSED 39-12
  • SB 47 — Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Act; revise prior school year requirement (Substitute) (ED&Y-51st) PASSED 30-23
  • SB 59 — Education; additional QBE funding for each full-time equivalent student within a local charter school; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-56th) PASSED 38-15
  • SB 66 — Georgia Foundation for Public Education; a nonprofit corporation created by the foundation to receive private donations to be used for grants to public schools; authorize (Substitute) (ED&Y-31st) PASSED 51-2
  • SB 95 — State Government; conditions for meetings and public hearings to be held by teleconference in emergency conditions; provide (GO-47th) PASSED 49-0
  • SB 107 — Postsecondary Education Grants; waiver of tuition and all fees, for qualifying foster and adopted students by units of the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia; provide (Substitute) (H ED-17th) PASSED 50-0
  • SB 113 — Life Insurance; life insurers' requirement to review the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' life insurance policy locator service; provide (Substitute) (I&L-16th) PASSED 50-2
  • SB 117 — Department of Human Services; offenses of improper sexual contact by employee or agent in the first and second degrees; revise (JUDY-49th) PASSED 52-0
  • SB 168 — Meetings; corporation may hold annual shareholders' meetings and special shareholders' meetings by means of remote communication; provide (JUDY-20th) PASSED 51-0
  • SB 182 — Counties and Municipal Corporations; "fence detection system"; define the term; counties, consolidated governments, and municipalities regulate or prohibit such system; limit the ability (SLGO(G)-29th) PASSED 51-1
  • SB 183 — Office of Sheriff; qualification requirements; revise (PUB SAF-29th) PASSED 47-3
  • SB 187 — HOPE Scholarship; procedure for students with disability as defined by the American with Disabilities Act to apply for a waiver; establish (H ED-37th) PASSED 50-0
  • SB 195 — Hemp Farming; definition; revise (A&CA-53rd) PASSED 52-0
  • SB 204 — Education; State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia to award high school diplomas; provide (H ED-37th) PASSED 52-0
  • SB 222 — State Symbols; pecan as the official state nut; designate (A&CA-13th) PASSED 51-0

Committee Reports

Senate Higher Education Committee
Chairman Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) and the Senate Higher Education Committee heard two bills early this morning with both measures receiving a DO PASS recommendation, moving each now to the Senate Rules Committee.

  • SB 239, authored by Senator Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta), came to the committee in form of a new substitute, LC 49 0488S. Her legislation addresses part-time students who attend Georgia’s colleges and universities and the fees paid by those students. Her legislation seeks to allow fees to be paid based upon credits taken by students: 0-4 credit hours would pay 25 percent of fees; 5-7 credit hours would pay 50 percent of fees; and 8-10 credit hours would pay 75 percent of fees; and 11 or more credit hours would pay 100 percent of fees. Senator Harrell indicated she had conversations with the Board of Regents about these part-time students who are presently paying 100 percent of the fees. These students are not able to have the “college experience” as they are not living on campus and not available to take full advantage of offerings. Senator Billy Hickman R-Statesboro) stated he understood that fees were decided upon annually by “committees” and that four universities in the system, where students are enrolled with six hours or more, pay 100 percent of fees. His issue was that the bill was a mandate about fees and he thought more discussion was needed with each university. Hickman also questioned if a fiscal impact had been determined. Senator Harrell noted that she did not want to disadvantage one group to the advantage of another group. She questioned if part-time students’ participation in the committees making decisions on the fees - noting that the two highest fees are: athletic and institutional. Senator Harrell noted that institutional fees have been used to “plug” in funds after funding for the Board of Regents was cut during the “Great Recession” as tuition was not covering the costs. Senator Chuck Payne (R-Dalton) stated he had similar concerns and was fearful that smaller schools would be hit harder with this change. Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) expressed his support of the legislation but asked if there were other ways in which to limit in lieu of payment of fees. Senator Michael Rhett (D-Marietta) also voiced his support for the bill. Senator Max Burns (R-Sylvania) stated that as a former college administrator he had concerns that this legislation was a mandate and a tuition increase may not be a solution. He further suggested that perhaps fees should be reviewed based upon consumption. Chairman Tippins invited the participation of Tracy Cook, with the University System, to talk about fees. Ms. Cook noted that the committees, making decisions on fees, were composed of students (typically student government association leadership) as well as university employees. Ms. Cook noted that during the recession period, more than $1 billion was taken out of the University System of Georgia but more recently the General Assembly had funded enrollment. She noted that the institutional fees support activities and instruction and that cutting those would have a negative impact as they generate $200 million across the system. Ms. Cook stressed that the $1 billion was not put back into the budget. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation with a vote of 5-3. The legislation moves to the Senate Rules Committee.
  • SR 154, authored by Senator Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), creates the Joint Study Committee to Strengthen Georgia’s Future Workforce. The Study would look at funding needs-based scholarships. The legislation outlines the membership of this Committee which now includes 17 members including the Governor, appointment from the business community, Commissioner of Economic Development or his/her designee; and a representative from the Georgia Independent Colleges. This resolution also cleared and now moves to the Senate Rules Committee.

Lottery Oversight Gaming Subcommittee of the House Regulated Industries Committee
The Lottery Oversight Gaming Subcommittee of the House Regulated Industries Committee, chaired by Representative Casey Carpenter (R-Dalton), met today to consider a single measure.

  • HR 30, authored by Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), proposes a constitutional amendment to legalize casinos, pari-mutuel wagering, and sports betting. The committee substitute to this resolution specifically designates funds raised from sports betting to be allocated for needs based scholarships and funds raised from casinos and horse racing to be allocated to health care initiatives as designated by the Governor. The committee heard testimony from the public including Mike Griffin who spoke against the resolution on behalf of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Ultimately, the subcommittee recommended that the resolution DO PASS and moved it to the full committee.

Senate Judiciary Committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), held its final meeting before Crossover Day today to hear one bill:

  • SB 226, authored by Senator Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), in its original form, amends Title 16 to make the sale or distribution of harmful material to minors statute applicable to libraries operated by schools.

Senator Anavitarte presented a substitute to the bill (49 0497S), which creates a process in Title 20 for schools to handle complaints about potentially harmful materials from parents and requires the State Board of Education to create a model process. Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) pointed out a scrivener’s error in line 40, which was ultimately corrected through amendment. Senator Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) asked whether providing specific process steps in statute is overly prescriptive and whether it may be best to let the Department of Education develop the entire process. Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) suggested that the language clarify whether the process timelines are in calendar or business days.

Buddy Costley of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders spoke to subsection (b)(8), which references the tribunal law at Code Section 20-2-1160, and the pracality of the appeals to the local and State boards of education that it would allow. Chairman Strickland noted that he liked the ability to appeal to local authorities but understood the concerns around appeal to the State Board of Education.

Cole Muzio of the Family Policy Alliance spoke in support of the bill “with some hesitancy.” Virginia Galloway of the Faith & Freedom Coalition also expressed support, calling the bill “a step in the right direction.” Mike Griffin of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board called the bill “a vehicle, not the destination.”

In addition to Senator Watson’s amendment noted above, the Committee also amended references to “days” to read “business days” and extended the compliance deadline for local districts from August 1 to September 1, 2021. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

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

  • SB 106, authored by Senator Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro), amends Title 20 to require that wraparound services must be provided prior to the expulsion of assigning of out-of-school suspension to any student in grades preschool through grade three. Specifically, the bill enumerates the wraparound services that should be provided under Code Section 20-2-742.

Senator Davenport presented a substitute of the bill to the Committee, noting that the language reflects collaboration with stakeholders since the initial presentation to the Committee. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 240, authored by Senator Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta), amends Title 20 to require all local boards of education to provide a course on the critical role elections play in the democratic way of life.

Senator Harrell presented a substitute of the bill to the Committee (LC 49 0487S), which incorporates feedback from the Department of Education and Secretary of State. A key change is with regard to use of voting machines as part of the course, which is now proposed as a pilot program for two districts, one urban and one rural. Other districts could use a video for the demonstration. The substitute also gives local districts discretion with regard to the specific elements of the curriculum that are used. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by a 5-4 vote and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 266, authored by Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone), is the “Save Girls Sports Act.” The bill amends Title 20 to prohibit a person whose gender is male to participate in an athletic program or activity designed for females.

Senator Harbin presented the bill to the Committee with assistance from Matt Sharp of the Alliance Defending Freedom. Several individuals spoke against the bill, including representatives of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Georgia Equality, as well as a parent of student athlete who would be affected by the bill. Representatives of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board spoke in support of the bill.

The Committee declined to table the bill and proceeded to a roll call vote. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee by a 5-3 vote along party lines.

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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