Gold Dome Report — Legislative Day 36

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

The General Assembly kicked off the penultimate week of the 2021 Legislative Session early this morning with a number of committee meetings preceding early afternoon convenings of both chambers. Perhaps the most watched of these was the Senate Appropriations Committee, which met to reveal its take on the FY22 State Budget. The proposal, which is expected to be considered on the Senate floor tomorrow, reflects substantial federal funding headed to Georgia under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, as well as additional commitments of State funds to behavioral and physical health. Highlights on the Senate’s proposal, as well as updates from committees and the House and Senate floors, in today’s #GoldDomeReport.

In today’s Report:

  • HIGHLIGHTS: Senate FY22 Budget
  • Floor Action
  • Committee Reports
  • Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 37

HIGHLIGHTS: Senate FY22 Budget

This morning, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY22 State Budget. In addition to recognizing the substantial funds headed to Georgia under the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the spending proposal makes a number of substantial changes to the version presented by the House. The tracking sheet for the entire document can be found here, and highlights of changes from the House version are highlighted by department below:

Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

  • Adult Developmental Disabilities Services
    • $1.5M addition for respite services with priority to rural communities.
    • $100,000 addition for Rockdale Cares for respite services.
  • Adult Mental Health Services
    • $1M addition for advancements in mental health telehealth capabilities
    • $250,000 addition for The Bradley Center at St. Francis-Emory Health Care for mental health crisis services.
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
    • $1,480,822 reduction for crisis respite home due to non-implementation.

Community Health

  • Departmental Administration
    • $278,408 increase for a third senior leadership position to support the department's increasing workload including contract oversight and working with the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget on value based purchasing, quality, and outcomes-based reimbursement for Medicaid across all programs
    • $129,397 addition for a financial specialist.
    • $50,000 addition for one-time funding for planning and implementation of an All-Payer Claims Database.
  • Health Care Access and Improvement
    • $12M reduction to Rural Hospital Stabilization Grants and language directing review of the grant process and reporting potential new formal grant processes to the Chairs of the House Appropriations Health Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Community Health Subcommittee and the Chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
    • $500,000 reduction eliminating two Federally Qualified Health Center start-up grants in Jeff Davis County and Marion County.
    • $300,000 addition to provide an additional three year grant to rural hospitals for Electronic Intensive Care Units.
    • $125,000 addition for South Central Primary Care Center dental program.
    • $100,000 reduction reflecting elimination of funding for start-up funding for a charity clinic.
  • Healthcare Facility Regulation
    • $153,900 addition for a deputy director position to support skilled nursing facility quality incentives.
  • Medicaid: Aged, Blind, and Disabled
    • $5,735,269 reduction in State funds to reflect the 10% increase in FMAP for home and community-based providers from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
    • $3,470,204 reduction in State funds to reflect update on the general and
    • professional liability, property insurance, and property tax pass-through rate components in 2019 cost reports.
    • $569,362 reduction in State funds to update nursing home reimbursement rates and general and professional liability, property insurance, and property tax pass-through rate components to reflect 2019 cost reports with 3% inflation.
  • State Health Benefit Plan
    • $500,000 reduction to a pilot program for a drug deactivation system that provides a safe disposal of unused prescription and over-the-counter medications with direction to use existing funds.
    • Direction to use existing funds to begin a pilot program for the use of care coordination and technology in rural areas for patients with chronic medical conditions.
  • Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce
    • $250,000 increase to coordinate with medical education programs to develop graduate medical programs to address the shortage of medical examiners and forensic pathologists.
    • $170,000 increase for the development and implementation of a formal grant program for new graduate medical education programs in Georgia.
    • $250,000 reduction eliminating a proposed medical examiner/forensic pathologist at Mercer School of Medicine.
    • $50,000 addition to expand physician loan forgiveness program to include forensic pathology fellowship program at Georgia Bureau of Investigation in partnership with Medical College of Georgia.

Education

  • Agricultural Education
    • $340,000 reduction from providing five young farmer positions statewide to one position in Ware County.
  • Curriculum Development
    • $1,630,000 addition to fund SB48 (2019 Session) screening mandate and a state educational agency dyslexia specialist.
    • $1M addition for computer science grants per SB108 (2019 Session).
    • $240,000 addition for rural coding equipment in partnership with Georgia Cyber Center.
  • Information Technology Services
    • $50,000 reduction from a proposed pilot program to provide access to STEM and AP STEM virtual courses to students in rural Georgia without district courses.
  • Non Quality Basic Education Formula Grants
    • $213,806 reduction to Residential Treatment Facilities to reflect a 4% austerity reduction with language directing development of a new formula to accurately reflect attendance and funding needs.
    • $62,500 reduction to fund half of a Residential Treatment Facilities' budget analyst/grant manager position rather than a full time position.
  • Nutrition
    • $5M decrease eliminating additional funds for school nutrition.
  • Technology/Career Education
    • $250,000 reduction for unimplemented pilot programs.
    • $166,894 reduction to offset of the austerity reduction for Extended Day/Year, Vocational Supervisors, Industry Certification, and Youth Apprenticeship programs.
  • Testing
    • $5,366,103 reduction to reflect rent savings due to the transition to a remote workforce model.
    • $250,000 reduction eliminating a proposed pilot program for Computer Science Principles AP exams with a focus on schools and systems with no AP coursework

Human Services

  • After School Care
    • $4,727,964 addition to support community partnerships to stem learning loss due to COVID-19 for K-12 students.
  • Child Welfare Services
    • $200,000 addition for contracts for vocational training services with Broken Shackle Ranch.
    • $65,000 addition for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) for development and start-up for underserved Echols, Henry and Lowndes Counties.
  • Out of Home Care
    • $6.7M addition to establish a therapeutic foster care program and leverage federal funds.

Public Health

  • Adolescent and Adult Health Promotion
    • $200,000 increase to Georgia CORE for screening for leading cancers, care coordination and navigation, and prevention education.
    • $125,000 increase to Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia.
    • $75,000 addition for a nurse peer assistance program to support nurses recovering from substance use.
  • Epidemiology
    • $1.5M reduction and recognition of federal funds for maintenance and operations of a new vaccine management system.
  • Infant and Child Health Promotion
    • $1,017,109 addition for newborn screening of Krabbe disease.

Floor Action

The House considered the following measures on the floor today:

  • SB 9 - Courts; the Columbia Judicial Circuit and to be composed of Columbia County; create a new judicial circuit for the State of Georgia (Substitute)(Judy-Newton-123rd) Anderson-24th PASSED 96-70
  • SB 32 - Public Disclosure; certain personal records of state and federal employees; exempt (Substitute)(Judy-Gullett-19th) Brass-28th PASSED 165-0
  • SB 114 - Professions and Businesses; grounds for refusing to grant or revoking a license; revise (RegI-Momtahan-17th) Robertson-29th PASSED 152-14
  • SB 145 - Distilled Spirits; initiating a referendum election for the authorization of the issuance of licenses for the package sale of distilled spirits; modify the petition requirements (RegI-Ballinger-23rd) Brass-28th PASSED 133-33
  • SB 159 - Elementary and Secondary Education; provision relating to student transportation; revise (Substitute)(Ed-Barr-103rd) Gooch-51st PASSED 165-0
  • SB 185 - Revenue and Taxation; all questions of law decided by a court; matters from state board of equalization and refunds and appeals be decided without deference; require (Judy-Jones-25th) Hatchett-50th PASSED 162-4
  • SB 219 - Alcoholic Beverages; regulation of the manufacture, distribution, and sale of malt beverages; provide (RegI-Powell-32nd) Ginn-47th POSTPONED
  • SB 247 - Agricultural Commodity Commissions; public hearings with online public comment opportunities; replace (A&CA-Meeks-178th) Anderson-24th PASSED 165-0
  • HB 745 - Washington County; Board of Education; provide nonpartisan elections for members (IGC-Jackson-128th) PASSED 149-9

The Senate considered the following measures on the floor today:

  • HB 119 - Professions and businesses; chiropractors may own professional corporations with physicians; provide (H&HS-20th) Hawkins-27th PASSED 47-6
  • HB 149 - Income tax; certain elections to be made by Subchapter "S" corporations and partnerships for the filing of tax returns and imposition of taxes; allow (FIN-52nd) Williamson-115th PASSED 52-1
  • HB 150 - Public utilities and public transportation; prohibit governmental entities from adopting any policy that prohibits the connection or reconnection of any utility service based upon the type or source of energy or fuel (Substitute) (RI&U-18th) Williamson-115th PASSED 34-15
  • HB 161 - Local government; downtown development authorities; remove provision providing perpetual existence to such authorities (GvtO-20th) Tankersley160th PASSED 50-0
  • HB 234 - Self-funded Healthcare Plan Opt-in to the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act; enact (H&HS-52nd) Hawkins-27th PASSED 52-0
  • HB 271 - Community Health, Department of; assess one or more provider matching payments on ambulance services; authorize (FIN-54th) Reeves-34th PASSED 51-0
  • HB 316 - Pharmacies; increase pharmacist to pharmacy technician ratio for providing direct supervision at any time (H&HS-1st) Stephens-164th PASSED 50-0
  • HB 410 - Bingo; transfer regulatory authority from Georgia Bureau of Investigation to Secretary of State (RI&U-29th) Lumsden-12th PASSED 49-1

Committee Reports

House Education Committee
The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville), met this morning to consider the following legislation:

  • SB 42, authored by Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), originally amended O.C.G.A. § 20-14-33 to stipulate that school climate determinations not include student discipline data.

Representative Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) presented a substitute to the bill, which amends the original bill and adds the language from Representative John Carson’s version of the “Dexter Mosley Act”, the “Equal Opportunity for Access in Education Act” contained in HB 545. Chairman Dubnik confirmed that the language from HB 545 is as it passed the House Education Committee earlier this year.

The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee. The bill will be carried by Representative John Carson (R-Marietta) in the House.

  • SB 47, authored by Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), amends Title 20 to expand eligibility for the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship.

Senator Gooch presented a substitute to the bill to the Committee that was distributed to members during the meeting. Although he did not present the specific changes, the substitute apparently now requires a Section 504 plan for eligibility (removing the “formal diagnosis” qualifier) and limits the reimbursable expenses.

Representative Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) asked how a student gets a Section 504 plan, to which Senator Gooch explained how his son, who is a high school senior, received one. Representative Benton expressed concern about potential gaming of the system and the waiver of student rights under the bill. Representative Becky Evans (D-Atlanta) asked if there is a cap on the number of students in the bill, to which Senator Gooch said no. Representative Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven) expressed concern that the bill is being described as “narrowly tailored” but gives the State Board of Education substantial leeway to identify additional qualifying conditions. Representative Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) asked for confirmation that school districts lose student funding if a student leaves the district already and that per-pupil funding will actually increase when students leave with a scholarship due to local property tax dollars. Representative Dominic LaRiccia (R-Douglas) spoke in support of the bill.

The following individuals and groups spoke in support of the bill: Patricia Neely, a parent of a child with autism and ADHD; Jenna Chund, a parent of children with special needs; Ellie Anglin; a parent of a child with multiple special needs; Brandy Simpre, a parent of an autistic child who receives the Special Needs Scholarship; Tiffany Peers, a parent of an autistic child; Annie Johnston-Jones, a special needs school administrator; and Susan Drew, a parent of two dyslexic students.

The following individuals and groups spoke in opposition to the bill: Lisa Morgan of the Georgia Association of Educators; Margaret Ciccarelli of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators; Gretchen Walton of Cobb County Schools; George Ray of the Georgia Education Coalition; Buddy Costley of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders; and Grace Kim of the Georgia School Board Association.

The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute by a 11-5 vote. Representative Will Wade (R-Dawsonville) will carry the bill in the House.

  • SB 51, authored by Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White), seeks to create the “Dexter Mosley Act” at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-319.6. It proposes that a home study student shall be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities and interscholastic activities under the sponsorship, direction, and control of the resident school or resident school system, provided that several requirements are met. Senator Thompson indicated that GSHA and members of the Minority Party had worked on the legislation. The student will be allowed to participate not only in sports but also arts and music opportunities as well. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, and it now moves to the House Rules Committee.
  • SB 213, authored by Senator Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), amends Title 20 to allow school systems to use local option sales tax revenue to pay for energy savings contracts.

Senator Harper presented the bill to the Committee, and the Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee. Representative Trey Rhodes will carry the legislation in the House.

  • SB 246, authored by Senator Matt Brass (R-Newnan), is the "The Learning Pod Protection Act". The bill amends Title 20 to expressly exempt homeschool students and their voluntary participation in learning pods from any state regulation under Title 20.

Senator Brass presented the bill to the Committee, and Representative Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven) asked if the legislation was preemptive, to which Senator Brass noted that there have been issues in other states. Representative Mesha Mainor (D-Atlanta) asked if the Department of Early Care and Learning is okay with the legislation, to which Senator Brass said to the best of his knowledge, it is. Representative Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) asked if the legislation could be created outside of the homeschool Code section, to which Senator Brass deferred to legislative counsel. There was substantial discussion of this potential amendment, but it was not ultimately considered.

The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS as presented and be sent to the Rules Committee. Representative Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) will carry the bill in the House.

SB 59 was previously scheduled for hearing during the meeting, but it was held for the next meeting.

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee
The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, chaired by Representative James Burchett (R-Waycross), met this morning to consider the following legislation.

  • SB 235, authored by Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah), amends Title 16 to provide an exemption to the state’s anti-mask laws for public health masking. The committee amended the bill to remove language regarding the mask wearer’s reasonable foresight that their actions could result in injury. The committee recommended the bill DO PASS as amended.
  • SB 226, authored by Senator Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), would create an appeal process for parents that find content in school libraries to be offensive. Representative Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) presented a substitute to the bill. This new version would require any material a school board decides is permissible after an appeal would be made publicly available. Chairman Burchett noted that he favors the bill’s approach of keeping the decision making at the local level. Representative Josh McLaurin (D-Dunwoody) asked how the four year time frame for review was determined. Representative Setzler explained that this was to cover the general time frame of a student’s time in high school along with preventing complaints on the same material year-after-year. Representative McLaurin stated that he would like to see a specific aspect in the bill that prohibits repeated challenge to any material during the four-year time frame.

    After hearing from speakers on both sides of the issue, the committee recommended the bill DO PASS.

This Committee also convened again in the afternoon to take up SB 117 authored by Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville). The bill had been recommitted to the Committee from the Rules Committee. The legislation revises the offenses of improper sexual contact by an employee or agent of the Department of Human Services. The legislation was a committee substitute which received a DO PASS recommendation, passing with an amendment eliminating the word “express”.

Senate Education and Youth
The Senate Education and Youth Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), met this morning to consider the following legislation.

  • HB 455, authored by Representative Timothy Barr (R-Lawrenceville), would allow school districts to provide transportation for students using vehicles other than school buses. Representative Barr explained the need for this legislation to the committee which recommended the bill DO PASS.
  • HB 681, authored by Representative Bill Yearta (R-Sylvester), would require the State Board of Education to prescribe a course in financial literacy. Representative Yearta presented the bill and explained the merits of a financial literacy course. Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming) expressed his preference that the bill does not require any district to offer this course, instead allowing for an opt-in authorization. The committee took no action on the bill but Chairman Payne indicated action could be taken at a meeting later this week.

Senate Appropriations Committee
Chairman Blake Tillery and the Senate Appropriations Committee swiftly moved through a presentation on the Committee Substitute to HB 81, the state’s spending plan for FY 2022 in the amount of $27.2 billion in state funds. The largest number of additions in the Senate version of the proposal was to the education portion and the next largest was to the health segment of the budget HB 81 received a unanimous vote on a DO PASS recommendation, moving the legislation further along in the process. HB 81 recognizes the federal funds which Georgia will receive from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The Committee also moved forward three compensation resolutions by Representative Mallow (D-Savannah) (HR 24, HR 25, and HR 26 relating to the three individuals from Savannah who were wrongfully accused and spent years in jail for crimes they did not commit) and failed to move forward the compensation resolution for Jakeith Robinson, HR 29 authored by Representative Hugley (D-Columbus).

Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 37

The House is expected to take up the following measures on Tuesday for Legislative Day 37:

  • SB 33 - Torts; cause of action against perpetrators for victims of human trafficking; provide (Judy-Bonner-72nd) Dixon-45th
  • SB 86 - "Fair Business Practices Act of 1975 "; requirements for solicitations of services for corporate filings required by the Secretary of State; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Efstration-104th) Walker III-20th
  • SB 119 - Permit Required for Burning Woods, Lands, and Marshes or Other Flammable Vegetation; except certain yard waste from permitting (NR&E-McDonald-26th) Harper-7th
  • SB 144 - Housing Authorities; ability of city housing authorities to operate outside municipal boundaries without authorization; limit (GAff-Ehrhart-36th) Tippins-37th
  • SB 187 - HOPE Scholarship; procedure for students with disability as defined by the American with Disabilities Act to apply for a waiver; establish (HEd-Wiedower-119th) Tippins-37th
  • SB 238 - Code Of Georgia; enactment of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated; revise provisions (Substitute)(CR-Efstration-104th) Strickland-17th
  • SR 134 - Public Officers; suspension of compensation; felony; provide -CA (Judy-Efstration-104th) Walker III-20th

The Senate is expected to take up the following measures on Tuesday for Legislative Day 37:

  • SR 190 - Congress; allow individuals to retain the right to use their image and likeness and shield them from copyright infringement; urge
  • SR 201 - SK Innovation; recognize
  • HB 81 - General appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2021 - June 30, 2022
  • HB 168 - Penal institutions; certain information within inmate files of the Department of Corrections shall not be classified as confidential state secrets when requested by the district attorney; provide
  • HB 154 - Domestic relations; protection of children; strengthen, clarify, and update provisions
  • HB 210 - Motor vehicles; recording of odometer readings upon certificates of title; exempt certain vehicles
  • HB 395 - The Professional Counselors Licensure Compact Act; enact
  • HB 451 - Ad valorem tax; property; fair market value applicable to inventor; provisions

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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