Thursday was a short but difficult day for many under the Gold Dome. In addition to a closed-circuit video outage that forced lobbyists and onlookers from the halls of the House and Senate galleries to keep track of floor action, the House took up the emotionally fraught SB 140. The legislation, authored by Senator Carden Summers (R-Cordele), prohibits certain medical treatment for gender dysphoria in minors, a key agenda item for Republicans this year. Following a debate that elicited passion from both sides of the aisle, the House approved the measure by a 96-75 vote. Because the House passed a different version than the Senate, the bill goes back to the Senate for further consideration.
While several committees met before and after Thursday’s convenings, most legislators and lobbyists had called it a week by mid-afternoon. Everyone (including your #GoldDomeReport team) returns on Monday for the penultimate week of the 2023 Legislative Session.
In this Report:
- Floor Action
- Committee Reports
- New Legislation
- What’s Next
The House took up the following measures on the floor on Legislative Day 35:
- SB 55 - Counties, Municipal Corporations, and other Governmental Entities; regulation of businesses of persons under 18 years of age; prohibit (Substitute)(SBD-82nd) Parent-42nd. The committee substitute passed by a vote of 139-30.
- SB 64 - Birth Certificate; issuance of a copy of the original birth certificate to certain adult persons who were adopted; provide (Judy-135th) Robertson-29th. This bill was POSTPONED until the next legislative day.
- SB 90 - Selling and Other Trade Practices; commercial financing disclosures; provide (Substitute)(B&B-118th) Dixon-45th. This bill was RECOMMITTED to the House Rules Committee.
- SB 140 - Hospitals; the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors performed in hospitals and other licensed healthcare facilities; prohibit certain surgical procedures (Substitute)(PH-73rd) Summers-13th. The committee substitute passed by a vote of 96-75.
- SB 149 - "Georgia Door-to-Door Sales Act"; enact (Substitute)(A&CA-145th) Albers-56th. This committee substitute was POSTPONED until the next legislative day.
- SB 193 - Broadband Services; Department of Community Affairs to determine locations that are eligible for state or federal funding programs administered by the state; provide (EU&T-44th) Gooch-51st. The bill passed by a vote of 167-0.
The Senate took up the following measures on the floor on Legislative Day 35:
- HB 176 - Courts; increase amount of court reporters' monthly contingent expense and travel allowance (Judy-8th) Hatchett-50th The bill passed by a vote of 54-0.
- HB 460 - Courts; child's right to legal representation in legitimation cases; provide (Substitute)(JuvJ-23rd) Brass-28th. The committee substitute passed by a vote of 52-0.
Senate Appropriations Committee
Chairman Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) called the Appropriations Committee to order this morning to hear one bill. Representative James Burchett (R-Waycross) presented HB 611 to add a new Code section at O.C.G.A. 45-12-76.1 to create a framework for if the state receives proceeds from any settlements, judgments, or memoranda of understanding. It allows the Attorney General space to negotiate the legal proceedings, but the funds are to go to the state for the General Assembly to appropriate. This is addressing, for instance, settlements like the opioid settlement. In the original legislation, memoranda of understanding were not included, and the amended measure adds such as well as clarifies funds “paid to” rather than “derived by”. The bill received a DO PASS as amended, moving it to the Senate Rules Committee.
Tillery closed the meeting by noting that it was the goal to move forward with the FY 2024 Budget, HB 19, on March 23, 2023.
Senate Economic Development Committee
Chairman Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) and the Economic Development Committee met this morning. Among the measures taken up were as follows:
- HB 128, authored by Representative Soo Hong (R-Lawrenceville), is a part of the governor’s package and was presented as LC 36 5387-EC. It is an effort to streamline the certification process for minority-owned businesses. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation, moving it to the Senate Rules Committee.
- HB 514, authored by Representative Dale Washburn (R-Macon), was presented as a committee substitute, LC 47 2338S. It addresses a moratorium that may be imposed by local governments on housing with the Housing Regulation Transparency Act in Chapter 66 of Title 36. A number of entities supported the effort: Georgia Home Builders Association, the City of Atlanta, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia. The Georgia Apartment Association sought to change the legislation at lines 17-19 as it only applies to single-family residences. Beach expressed that he was not in favor of adding another 90-day time and would like to see it shorter than the 180-day moratorium in the bill. The 90-day moratorium amendment was attempted but failed. There was also an amendment to remove “single family” in lines 17 -19, which passed with some dissent. Finally, the committee added at line 35 to include in-house planners. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation as amended. It moves to the Senate Rules Committee. Senator Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton) will carry the legislation in the Senate.
- HB 237, authored by Representative Leesa Hagan (R-Lyons), seeks to add a new Code section at O.C.G.A. 50-3-92 to designate the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as the official soap box derby of the State of Georgia. After Hagan presented her first bill, Senator Derek Mallow (D-Savannah) offered a committee substitute on the legislation, incorporating a new version of “sports betting.” Hagan was caught off guard with the substitute and asked that her language be stripped from the legislation as she did not want her soap box derby bill associated with sports betting. After the committee amended (taking out the soap box derby language), the new substitute proposed by Mallow passed out of the committee with one no vote (Senator Sam Watson (R-Moultrie)). The legislation moves to the Senate Rules Committee.
Senate Children and Families Committee
Chair Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) called the committee to order to discuss the following measures:
- HB 291, authored by Representative Mitchell Scoggins (R-Cartersville), amends Title 29 to permit licensed registered nurses, LCSWs, professional counselors, and marriage and family therapists to render opinions to the Probate Courts in guardianship proceedings. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation, and it moves forward to the Senate Rules Committee.
- Representative Regina Lewis-Ward (D-McDonough) presented for hearing only her HB 144 amends O.C.G.A. 29-4-22 to authorize a ward to communicate more broadly with friends and relatives without the interference of his or her guardian. The bill generated significant discussion of whether the broader provisions were necessary or not. No action was taken on this measure.
Senate Judiciary Committee
Chairman Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) and the Senate Judiciary Committee met this morning with a full agenda of proposals:
- HB 243, authored by Representative Lynn Smith (R-Newnan), seeks to add a new judgeship to the Coweta Judicial Circuit. Senator Dugan presented the legislation, and it received a DO PASS recommendation. Dugan will carry the measure forward.
- HB 227, authored by Representative Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), amends O.C.G.A. 10-1-359.3 to revise the definition of critical infrastructure and include critical infrastructure damages in the offense of criminal damage to property in the first degree. This legislation addresses instances of crimes that occur at power station grids, like what took place in North Carolina, which knocked out power to individuals in December. The committee made a clarifying amendment also to include railroads in critical infrastructure. The legislation also applies to private financial institutions. The legislation received a DO PASS as amended, moving it to the Senate Rules Committee. Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) will carry the measure forward in the Senate.
- HB 220, authored by Leverett, presented a second bill addressing condominium and property owners’ associations which he described as the result of the Deerlake Homeowners Association versus Craig Brown case. The bill makes changes to Chapter 3 of Title 44 to provide for means of enforcement of condominium and property owners' association instruments, rules, and regulations and to provide for compliance with, and means of enforcement of, covenants and instruments for certain planned subdivisions. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation, and it moves to the Senate Rules Committee. Chairman Strickland will carry the bill forward in the Senate.
- HB 302, authored by Representative Lehman Franklin (R-Statesboro), amends O.C.G.A. 16-5-94 addressing restraining orders and protective orders to provide for the issuance of a temporary or permanent protective order by the court. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, and it moves forward to the Senate Rules Committee. Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) will carry the legislation in the Senate.
- HB 126, authored by Representative Tyler Paul Smith (R-Bremen), addresses Title 5 and the post-conviction litigation process. It specifically addresses two court actions: Seals v. State and Cook v. State. It makes a direct appeal of a conviction available when some charges are dead docketed, and it reinstates meaningful access to request post-conviction review from the court. The legislation before the committee was a new committee substitute, LC 48 0934S, addressing instances where there is a withdrawal of a guilty plea 30 days after entry of judgment or term of court, whichever occurs later, and also addresses guilty pleas made where dead docket charges remain. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving the bill forward to the Senate Rules Committee. Strickland will carry the bill in the Senate.
- HB 543, authored by Representative Matt Reeves (R-Duluth), amends O.C.G.A. 15-12-122 to the demand of jury panels from which to select a jury in civil actions in the state courts and the superior courts to revise an exception to six-person jury trials in civil actions. It amends the threshold in state court civil actions, moving the amount considered from $25,000 to $50,000 to allow either party to make a demand for a jury of 12 in such a case. The original bill had the amount at $100,000 (current law is $25,000) and was an amount that the State Bar of Georgia as well as the Judicial Council, had arrived at. Senator Cowsert offered an amendment to lower the amount to $50,000 (this amendment was adopted). Bobby Potter, an attorney representing State Farm, supported the change to $100,000. The committee discussed how the law originally came about and whether it was tied to policy limits in an insurance policy. Potter explained that changing policy limits was a separate conversation. The legislation, as amended, received a DO PASS recommendation.
- HB 204, authored by Representative Bill Yearta (R-Sylvester), amends Chapter 32 of Title 36 to create the Georgia Municipal Court Clerks' Council. Senator Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) offered a committee substitute, which addresses the Municipal Court Clerks but also adds language so that only the legislature can do apportionment for county commissioners (it does not address municipalities). It states that if someone is elected and reapportioned, then the person will not be removed from office if in their four-year term but would continue to serve. The legislation is in response to a Cobb County case involving this issue. The committee had a number of discussions around “home rule” but agreed to move the Setzler substitute. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving it now to the Senate Rules Committee. Setzler will carry the measure forward in the Senate.
- HB 298, authored by Representative Lauren Daniel (R-Locust Grove), amends O.C.G.A. 15-12-1.1 relating to juries to provide for an exemption or deferment from jury service for natural or adoptive parents of children under six months of age. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation, moving it forward to the Senate Rules Committee. Setzler will carry this measure as well.
Senate Regulated Industries and Public Utilities
Chairman Cowsert and the Regulated Industries met late today to hear these measures:
- HB 557, authored by Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), seeks to expand the scope of practice by allowing certain nurses and physician assistants to prescribe Schedule II medications. It allows Georgia for APRNs and PAs to prescribe. They have to have been licensed and practicing for a year so that they can prescribe a five-day course of medications. It requires a direct evaluation of the person before prescribing the medications. In the new substitute, it also allows these APRNs and PAs to issue disability placards. It also limited the ability of individuals to prescribe to individuals under the age of 18 and also addresses in the substitute at lines 58-59 hydrocodone and oxycodone and their derivatives only. This is only a one-time filling.
Shelia Humberstone appeared before the Committee for Georgia Association of Physicians’ Assistants. The Physician’s Assistants appreciated the legislation, and the committee recognizes the healthcare workforce. The advanced practice providers fill in for physicians, allowing physicians to see more patients. It is much like a paralegal, which allows a lawyer to do more. The PAs are licensed by the Composite Medical Board and also are required to work under a prescription by the Board or under a protocol, depending upon whether a PA or APRN. There are no times when a doctor is not available. PDMP (prescription drug monitoring program registry) is required to be used and monitored. At the end of the day, the physician is in charge of the job descriptions and protocol agreements.
Aubrey Villines spoke on behalf of the Advanced Registered Practice Nurses and supported the legislation.
Abigail Thompson, with Shepherd Center, supports HB 557, including the new language and issuance of disability parking permits.
Kyle Wingfield, with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, supported the initiative. It is a force multiplier for healthcare professionals.
Bethany Sherrer, with the Medical Association of Georgia, thanked the author for his work on the bill and the willingness to make changes. Physicians are concerned about the opioid crisis across the state. There is a downward trend in the number of prescriptions. MAG likes the “tailoring” of the bill. Subsequent prescription refilling language has been removed which MAG wanted.
Senator Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) moved DO PASS HB 557 by committee substitute. The motion passed, moving this legislation to the Senate Rules Committee. Senator Larry Walker, III (R-Perry) will carry the bill in the Senate.
- HB 498, authored by Representative Danny Mathis (R-Cochran), seeks to reinstate a lapsed funeral director’s license in O.C.G.A. 43-18-43.1. You would be able to reinstate within 10 years with payment of penalties. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation and now moves to the Senate Rules Committee.
- HB 406, authored by Representative Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), amends Article 2 of Chapter 2 of Title 46 and Chapter 1 of Title 10 to address the Georgia Public Service Commission and to regulate the provision of certain electricity used as a motor fuel in electric vehicles. The legislation, however, has changed from its introduction and now has the Department of Agriculture involved in regulating this energy as it does motor fuel. Allows sales by kilowatt; allows stations; and collection of excise tax.
Mark Woodall, with Sierra Club, commended Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) and others on the Study Committee for their work on alternative vehicles. Sierra Club thought it was premature to put the new tax on the charging fee for kilowatt hour as Georgia would have the highest charge in the country (and already has the second highest annual fee for EVs in the country). Motor fuel tax, with higher efficiency cars, and 2025 is too soon to implement a new tax. Sierra Club asked to remove the tax or delay it until 2028. Cowsert stated it would delay until January 1, 2025.
Doug Teper, Georgia Conservation Voters, expressed it was a big project and wants to see Georgia the electric vehicle state capitol in the country. He understands the need for the maintenance of our states’ roads and bridges. Teper commented they certainly do not want to be the state which taxes the most. The Committee gave a DO PASS recommendation on LC 39 3918S. The bill moves forward to the Senate Rules Committee, and it will be carried forward in the Senate by Gooch.
- HB 458, authored by Representative Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn), amends Chapter 23 of Title 2, to provide for “hemp farming.” No committee substitute was used at today’s meeting. The legislation provides for and requires retail consumable hemp establishment licenses and wholesale consumable hemp establishment licenses. Senator David Lucas (D-Macon) asked about the federal requirements on hemp products and the percentage allowed (0.3 percent). Chairman Cowsert inquired about the federal rules on THC, and it is 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis, according to Pirkle.
Rashan Bush from Rincon; he is a partner of one of the original six producers in the State. He has 11 stores in the State.
This measure was still being debated while this report went to press.
House Ways & Means Committee
Chair Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) called the full committee to order to discuss the following measures.
- SB 127, authored by Senator Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro), seeks to amend Article 3 of Chapter 13 of Title 48 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated relating to destination marketing. This is a companion bill to Representative Ron Stephens’ (R-Savannah) HB 223 on the tourism marketing industry. The measure prevents local governments from altering or changing their designated private-sector nonprofit organization engaged in promoting tourism, conventions, and trade shows. This only applies to local governments that have collected $500,000 or more for the last three fiscal years. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation. Stephens will carry the measure in the House.
- SB 220, authored by Senator Russ Goodman (R-Cogdell), amends Chapter 10 of Title 44 of the O.C.G.A. to create the Georgia Farmland Conservation Act. It creates a Purchase of Agriculture Conservation Easement program, the foundation, and creates a council to oversee the program. This is a dollar-for-dollar match to protect real property. The farmer can sell an easement on their farmland to keep the property as agricultural use land in perpetuity. 29 other states have similar programs. A substitute was presented, including language already in the code and clarifying language. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation. Representative Robert Dickey (R-Musella) will carry the measure in the House.
- SR 214, authored by Senator Ginn, to create a joint study committee on local option sales tax and service delivery strategies. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation. Blackmon will carry the measure in the House.
- The Department of Audits and their researchers gave a presentation on tax incentives which were required in SB 6 (2021 Legislative Session). The overarching approach for these evaluations includes foregoing state revenues; administration and other state costs; direct, indirect, and induced economic activity arising from the incentivized behavior; and other benefits or costs to the public.
The following legislation of interest has been introduced. Since the General Assembly is beyond Crossover Day, new legislation requiring action in both chambers is not eligible to achieve final passage by both chambers during this legislative session, but it will be available for consideration during the 2024 Legislative Session.
The General Assembly is in adjournment on Friday and will reconvene for Legislative Day 36 on Monday, March 20.
The House is expected to consider the following measures on Legislative Day 36:
- SB 42 - Human Trafficking Hotline Information; model notice requirements; increase the fine for failure to comply (JudyNC-9th) Hodges-3rd
- SB 44 - Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act; mandatory minimum penalties for violations; provide (Substitute)(JudyNC-103rd) Hatchett-50th
- SB 59 - Governor; Office of the Inspector General; establish (Judy-103rd) Hatchett-50th
- SB 135 - Paternity; Uniform Parentage Act of 2017; align evidentiary medical and genetic testing (JuvJ-23rd) Kirkpatrick-32nd
- SB 181 - Georgia Technology Authority; authority to conduct certain fingerprint criminal background checks of all current and prospective employees; require (JudyNC-18th) Payne-54th
- SB 223 - Health; reimbursement of patient incurred expenses related to participation in a cancer clinical trial; authorize (Hth-27th) Watson-1st
The Senate is expected to consider the following measures on Legislative Day 36:
- HB 35 - Georgia Ports Authority; provide for powers; expand arrest authority of officers (Substitute)(PS&HS-161st) Brass-11th
- HB 207 - Waters, ports, and watercraft; carrying of night visual distress signals upon coastal waters during certain hours; provide (Substitute)(GF&P-124th) Anderson-24th
- HB 373 - State holidays; September 11 as First Responders Appreciation Day; designate (SRules-60t) James-35th
- HB 414 - Mental health; grant program to aid service members, veterans, and their families; provide (Substitute)(Hth-146th) Watson-1st
- HB 493 - Professions and businesses; verification of competency for registered professional nursing licenses; revise a provision (Hth-155th) Walker-20th
- HB 545 - Agricultural Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits; provide (A&CA-172nd) Watson-11th