It’s become tradition for lawmakers and lobbyists that the first Wednesday of each new legislative session start with an early morning surrounded by hundreds of their closest friends at the Georgia World Congress Center jockeying to read the political tea leaves (and get a better table assignment) at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues breakfast. That tradition lived on today, although in an all-virtual format, as attendees gathered around their computer monitors with their own coffee and breakfast of choice. Attendees heard from the State’s top three leaders, Governor Brian Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, and Speaker of the House David Ralston, as they teased their priorities for the session. And in segments new to this year’s event, Democratic and freshman lawmakers shared their perspectives with guests. More details on #EggsAndIssues21, as well as highlights of new legislation introduced in both chambers, in today’s #GoldDomeReport.
In today’s Report:
- State Leaders Preview Session at Virtual Eggs & Issues
- New Legislation
State Leaders Preview Session at Virtual Eggs & Issues
With many attendees quietly trading business suits for pajamas and slippers, the annual tradition of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues breakfast lived on this morning in an all-virtual format. While attendees livestreamed across the state, Chamber leaders presented their priorities before turning to State leaders for their outlook on the legislative session.
Leading off, Governor Brian Kemp acknowledged the challenges that Georgia’s citizens and businesses have faced and tackled during the pandemic and committed to seeing Georgia through its recovery. Ahead of his State of the State address tomorrow, he also highlighted a few items slated to appear in his budget proposal. Among them, $1 million in tourism marketing funds to begin rebuilding the state’s hospitality industry, “substantial investment” in broadband infrastructure, and funding for new programs in the Department of Transportation to address rural infrastructure needs.
Kemp was followed by Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, who highlighted his passion for and efforts around innovation, education, and freight and logistics. He reiterated his continued commitment to making Georgia the “Technology Capital of the East Coast.”
Speaker of the House David Ralston provided a bit more discrete insight into his goals for the legislative session. First and foremost, he noted that the legislature needs to get out an amended budget “fairly soon” so that State agencies have the resources they need in the continuing pandemic. But he also expressed optimism for the budget discussions ahead. Ralston also continued to express support for Georgia film tax credit and noted that, given the “inundation” of the pandemic, 2021 may not be the year for “substantial changes” to healthcare.
While Eggs & Issues typically focuses on just these three features, the Chamber used this year’s virtual format as an opportunity to highlight additional voices. In “bonus” coverage, Chamber President Chris Clark moderated a panel of Democratic leaders consisting of Senator Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia) and Representative James Beverly (D-Macon), and Chamber Senior VP David Raynor moderated a panel of freshman legislators consisting of Senator Clint Dixon (R-Buford) and Representative Will Wade (R-Dawsonville).
The House read and assigned the following legislation to committee today:
- HB 23, authored by Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), amends § 36-36-110, 36-36-114 et seq. to require that local boards of education be part of the process of annexation disputes with veto power by a majority of the voting board. The bill was referred to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
- HB 24, authored by Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), amends O.C.G.A. § 36-36-111 and 36-36-113 to require municipal corporations to notify counties about any proposed tax abatement, rebate, or financial incentives that will be offered by the municipal corporation on a property for which it plans to annex. The bill was referred to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
- HB 32, authored by Representative Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), amends O.C.G.A. 20-2-251 to require the State Board of Education to create a teacher recruitment and retention program by providing a refundable tax credit of $3,000 per qualifying teacher per year, for up to five school years. The department must pick no more than 100 schools from the list of qualifying schools to become a part of the program. The Office of Student Achievement is required to create program objectives and annually measure and evaluate the program. The program is limited to 1,000 teachers statewide. No new applications to the program can be accepted after December 31, 2031. The bill was referred to the House Education Committee.
- HB 34, authored by Representative Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), amends Title 43 to enact the "Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact". The Compact will allow audiologists and speech-language pathologists that participate to practice across state lines in other states that adopt the Compact. The bill also empowers the State Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology to administer the Compact in Georgia and conduct criminal background checks on licensees. The bill was referred to the House Regulated Industries Committee.
- HB 62, authored by Representative Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas), amends Title 21 to prohibit boards of election from receiving any funding from private sources. The bill was referred to the House Special Committee on Election Integrity.
- HB 64, authored by Representative Houston Gaines (R-Athens), amends Title 21 to stipulate that in the event of the death of a candidate on the ballot, the person's name shall remain on the ballot and if said person wins the election it will be handled as a failure to fill the office. The bill was referred to the House Special Committee on Election Integrity.
- HB 65, authored by Representative Houston Gaines (R-Athens), amends Title 21 to change the date of qualifying for nonpartisan general elections. This bill was referred to the House Special Committee on Election Integrity.
- HB 66, authored by Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), amends O.C.G.A. § 36-82-77 to allow local school districts to hold the same standing as a citizen to become party to a bond validation hearing. The bill was referred to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
The Senate read and assigned the following legislation to committee today:
- SB 3, authored by Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-2-690.1 and 20-4-15 to raise the minimum age of mandatory education from 16 to 17. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
- SB 4, authored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta), relates to substance abuse treatment programs. The bill creates a new Article within Chapter 5 of Title 26 to prohibit substance abuse providers from receiving referral fees or reimbursement related to patient referrals. The bill also amends Title 33 to prevent unfair billing practices for drug testing in substance abuse programs. This bill was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
- SB 5, authored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta), amends Title 43 relating to sedation in non-hospital settings. The bill directs the Georgia Composite Medical Board to establish rules regarding the use of sedation in “office based surgeries,” which are defined as “any surgery or invasive medical procedure requiring sedation, when performed in a location other than a hospital, hospital associated surgical center, or an ambulatory surgical facility, including, but not limited to, physicians' offices and medispas.” This bill was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.