Gold Dome Report - March 2018 #3

by Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

As dawn broke over the State Capitol this morning, it revealed the long-awaited FY 2019 Budget as amended by the House Appropriations Committee. House budget subcommittees met beginning at 7AM, quickly adopting their individual subject matter proposals, and the full Appropriations Committee gave its official stamp of approval this afternoon. Details of notable adds, as well as notes from a number of other House and Senate committee meetings, in today’s #GoldDomeReport.

In today’s Report:

  • House Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2019 Budget Proposal
  • Governor Deal “Likes” $750M Facebook Data Center for Stanton Springs
  • Committee Reports
  • New Legislation
  • Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 32

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2019 Budget Proposal

The House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), met today and passed its recommendations for the FY 2019 Budget. Notably, the House proposal included no increase in available funds based on favorable revenue estimates in recent month. However, there were substantial deviations from the Governor’s proposal for FY 2019, including:

Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

  • $1,416,611 increase for the development and statewide availability of a mental health crisis and suicide prevention mobile application in coordination with the Georgia Crisis and Access Hotline (New Item)
  • $125,000 increase in funding for the Matthew Reardon Center for Autism (New Item)
  • $14,000 increase for an agricultural careers summer camp for youth with disabilities (New Item)

Department of Community Health

  • $1,792,141 increase to fund increase in Medicaid triage payment rate by $10 for urban and $20 for rural hospitals (New Item)
  • $1,020,000 increase for additional fellowship and residency programs, including a new psychiatry residency program at Gateway Behavioral Health (New Items)
  • $569,057 increase to fund increase in Medicaid reimbursement rate for Marcus Autism Center (New Item)
  • $500,000 increase for FQHC start-up grants for a primary care center in Bryan County and a behavioral health center in Emanuel County (New Item)
  • $401,524 increase to fund Medicaid increase in personal needs allowance to nursing home residents
  • $250,000 increase for start-up of the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center (New Item)
  • $130,000 increase for insurance premium assistance for physicians practicing in counties with one or fewer physicians (New Item)

Department of Education

  • $10,000,000 increase for an annual allotment for school bus replacement (New Item)
  • $1,600,000 increase to fund mental health awareness training in RESAs (New Item)
  • $642,500 increase to purchase and staff a mobile audiology clinic for rural Georgia (New Item)
  • $227,570 increase to fund soft skills training and character education development for the lowest performing schools in rural Georgia (New Item)
  • $143,373 increase in Non-QBE Formula Grants to provide 20 additional Residential Treatment Facility beds
  • $51,233 increase (and reversal of cuts) to the school nurse program

Department of Human Services

  • $3,731,213 increase to provide for a $3.75 per day increase for relative foster care rates
  • $936,896 increase to provide for a $3.75 per day increase for child placement agency foster care rates
  • $490,000 increase for child advocacy centers for equipment and services (New Item)
  • $238,500 increase for each county’s allocation for Family Connection (New Item)
  • $200,000 increase for a state hub in Southwest Georgia to provide outreach and services to support independent living for disabled citizens
  • $143,991 increase to fund increase in personal needs allowance to nursing home residents

Department of Public Health

  • $2,000,000 increase to address maternal mortality (New Item)
  • $551,858 increase to fund increases in occupational and physical therapy rates for Babies Can’t Wait program (New Item)
  • $887,500 increase for the Georgia Cancer Control Consortium to fund the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education and the five regional cancer coalitions (New Item)
  • $265,700 increase to fund surveillance and care relating to HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C virus

Governor Deal “Likes” $750M Facebook Data Center for Stanton Springs

Governor Nathan Deal announced a major economic development win today coming to East Georgia. In coordination with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Deal unveiled a deal with Facebook to locate a $750M data center in Stanton Springs in Newton County. The project, which is expected to create at least 100 full-time jobs, will be fully operational in 2020. Governor Deal noted ““It is fitting that the No. 1 company in the world in terms of active users has chosen the No. 1 state for business for this project. We appreciate Facebook’s leadership for recognizing Georgia as a state that serves not only as a major hub for general business, but also as a place where tech firms can be successful in the future.”

Governor Deal’s full press release can be found here.

Committee Reports

Senate Health and Human Services Committee

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), met on Tuesday to hear four bills. The Committee took no action on these bills today, but Sen. Unterman noted that she expects to take votes on Thursday. There will be no additional presentations on these bills on Thursday.

  • HB 161, authored by Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell), provides that persons affiliated with a syringe service program (“SSP”) are not subject to prosecution for certain offenses relating to distribution of hypodermic needles. The bill is intended to assure that individuals have access to clean needles and disposal locations by allowing SSPs to work to curb the spread of disease while providing counseling and testing for those who are using needles.
  • HB 305, authored by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta), seeks to add stepparents and former stepparents to the list of third parties who are permitted to petition the court for the custody of a child when paternal power is revoked from or lost by another. The list already includes grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, siblings, and adoptive parents. Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) inquired as to whether there is a priority ranking of these individuals, to which Rep. Beskin noted there is no statutory hierarchy.
  • HB 513, authored by Rep. Pam Dickerson (D-Conyers), requires the Department of Community Health to develop standards for and hospitals, infirmaries, and health departments to post a sign that indicates locations where a newborn child may be left such that the mother can avoid criminal prosecution. Rep. Dickerson noted that there are not currently uniform signage to designate such points. Anna Adams of the Georgia Hospital Association spoke in support of the bill but asked that the signage requirements be extended to other types of location where drop offs may occur (like fire departments). Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) asked if there were particular instances that this bill is seeking to address, to which Rep. Dickerson said there was no specific instance motivating the bill.
  • HB 909, authored by Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs), amends Title 31 to allow the Department of Public Health to designate perinatal facilities providing maternal or neonatal care. The legislation requires the department to create designation criteria and procedures, as well as post a list of designated centers. This bill was requested by the Department of Public Health to align Georgia with the 36 other states that have a similar designation program. Elise Blasingame, Executive Director of Health Mothers, Health Babies Coalition of Georgia, spoke in favor of this bill and the Committee’s support of quality improvement in healthcare.

House Health and Human Services Committee

Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) called her meeting to order on Tuesday and took up these proposals:

  • SB 357, by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge), was held in Committee in an effort to allow some suggestions from the Committee to be incorporated into the legislation.  Sen. Burke has been working with Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) on the rural development issues since this past summer.  In the current version of Sen. Burke’s bill, it creates a Health Coordination and Innovation Council which would be composed of members appointed by the Governor. The Committee appeared to want some of the appointees to be from the Lt. Governor and Speaker as well.  The original version of the legislation also proposed creating a Health System Innovation Center which is a research arm so as to allow for best practices to be brought forward.  That will be in a separate bill which Rep. Jasperse will handle. 
  • Several Resolutions were passed out of the Committee:

    • HR 1376 which is an urging resolution by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) so as to allow the hospitals to provide the Rural Development Council a stage to tell their story on struggles with providing care and getting reimbursed for such care. 
    • HR 1364 which is a resolution by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) to encourage the General Assembly to broaden eligibility and increase funding for the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention Program.
    • HR 1375 which is another resolution by Rep. Dempsey seeks to advise public and private schools to education parents and students about the dangers of meningococcal disease.
    • HR 1363 which is a resolution by Chairman Cooper (R-Marietta) is as she described her parting gift to outgoing House member Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) so as to urge Congress to address issues around allowing medical cannabis to be used.  It seeks to have research universities and drug companies determine which diseases can be successfully helped with the THC oil and those derivatives.  She urged her fellow members to contact Sen. Hatch and Democratic Congressional colleagues to address this issue as currently Georgians are placed at legal risk for having such medical cannabis.

Senate Education and Youth Committee

The Senate Education and Youth Committee, chaired by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), met today and considered four propositions:

  • HB 494, authored by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), is requested by DECAL and revises certain provisions relating to the safety of children in early care and education programs. The bill allows for the use of hearsay in preliminary hearings regarding emergency closure of a program or the emergency placement of a monitor or monitors . and revises the definition of "crime" for purposes of background checks. The legislation also provides that background checks are not valid if an individual has been separated from employment for more than 180 consecutive days from an early care and education program. The Committee delayed action until the next meeting.
  • HB 655, authored by Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville), amends Title 20 to require every public school to post a sign containing the toll-free telephone number operated by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Services to receive reports of child abuse or neglect. Chairman Tippins noted that the Committee would not take a vote on the bill today pending an effort to combine the bill with a proposition by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock) to require sexual assault education in K-9 health courses with online training for teachers. Rep. Cantrell’s proposal is from his HB 762, which passed out of the House Education Committee but was not considered on the House floor. 
  • HB 853, authored by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), permits funding to follow Georgia students who are in a psychiatric residential treatment facility under a physician’s order. Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) asked whether students were currently being charged, to which Rep. Dempsey responded that they had been charged in some cases. The Committee delayed action until the next meeting.
  • HR 898, authored by Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), would create a Joint Study Committee on the Establishment of a State Accreditation Process to evaluate the propriety of Georgia establishing its own accreditation process for K-12 schools. The study committee was previously authorized, but the State Senate failed to appoint its representatives, so Chairman Coleman is seeking to have the committee re-authorized. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

House Education Committee – Academic Support Subcommittee

The Academic Support Subcommittee of the House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock) met today to consider two bills:

  • SB 330, authored by Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa), provides for the extension of an agricultural education program in this state to include K-5th grades.  It is based on a three-component model that will help provide for a pilot program to develop and implement agricultural education in elementary schools; aide in the selection of at least 6 pilot sites; and assist the Professional Standards Commission to extend in-field certification for agricultural education to include K-5th grade. The author requested an amendment to change the name of the National FFA Association to the National FFA Organization. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the bill. The Subcommittee adopted the author’s proposed amendment and recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the full Education Committee.
  • SB 401, authored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), relates to individual graduation plans and requires that eighth grade students be counseled on career aptitudes and interests and that those aptitudes and interest be incorporated in their graduation plans and consulted when scheduling ninth grade classes. The legislation also requires the Department of Education to review school counselors’ role, workload, and program service delivery in grades six through twelve. The Professional Association of Georgia Educators spoke in favor of the legislation. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the full Education Committee.

House Education Committee – Academic Innovation Subcommittee

The Academic Innovation Subcommittee of the House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), met to hear two bills today:

  • SB 30, authored by Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), creates the Sustainable Community School Operational Grant Program, a pilot program that would provide a grants for local schools and school systems proposing to work with community organizations to help transition to positive discipline practices, more engaging and relevant curriculum, and transformative parent engagement.  These grants would be available to schools designated or eligible for Title I or with low graduation rates, and the awardees would need to provide community school programming like early childhood education, child care services, academic enrichment programs, job training and internship programs, and specialized instructional services. The program would only be operational upon appropriations. The Subcommittee took no action on the bill.
  • SB 362, authored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), provides for the establishment of an innovative assessment pilot program in several school districts. The bill, which is part of an effort led by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, exempts the participating districts from certain state-wide assessment requirements while the districts pilot other assessment models, like formative testing. The pilot program will include up to ten school systems who will apply to participate. Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) presented the bill on Sen. Tippins’s behalf, and Irene Munn, Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Cagle, provided details on the proposal. Representatives of Marietta City Schools, Fulton County Schools, Putnam County Schools, and Gwinnett County Schools, each of which have been involved in the formulation of this policy, spoke in favor of the bill. Ms. Munn also noted that the Department of Education and State Board of Education is in support of the proposal. Rep. David Casas (R-Lilburn) asked why this legislation was necessary if some systems were already piloting formative testing, to which speakers noted that, under current law, they are still required to conduct summative testing and the burden of doing both is too great. Rep. Casas also expressed concern about what might happen if the federal government challenged this effort down the road. John Tabley, Co-President of Walton High School PTSA, and Margaret Ciccarelli of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators spoke in favor of the bill. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the full Education Committee.

Senate Insurance and Labor

The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee passed out the following today:

  • SR 329, authored by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), creates a Study Committee for professional employer organizations. 
  • HB 734, authored by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), modernizes the first ten chapters of Insurance Code. 
  • HB 754, authored by Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland), addresses reinsurance industry but dies exempt Attorney General from signing off on all Rules and regulations. 
  • HB 760, authored by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), addresses notice of reduction of coverage required.  It lines up the code with current requirements in auto and property and casualty. This passed by Substitute. 
  • HB 798, authored by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), is a DOI bill modernizing and streamlining registering of agents and subagents for limited credit insurance. This passed by Substitute. 

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee

The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, chaired by Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) held an hour long hearing on Marsy’s law for crime victim rights brought by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), SR 146. They heard powerful supporting testimony from several domestic abuse victims and the sisters of a murdered veteran.  The Prosecutors Council announced its support of the bill. The bill proposes a constitutional amendment to define certain rights of notice to victims of the prosecution or release of perpetrators of crimes against them. The Committee members had several questions seeking to avoid any procedural rights of criminal defendants. No vote was taken but the Chair announced his intention to move the bill this session after further clarifying amendments.

House Judiciary Committee

The House Judiciary Committee met Tuesday and heard three bills:

  • SB 301, authored by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), enacts the “Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.”  Amending Titles 29 and 53 of the O.C.G.A, this bill extends a fiduciary's powers to include managing tangible property and digital assets.  This act helps bring the code up to date for this digital age by giving an  executor access to digital cloud materials and bitcoins.  It is supported by companies who store digital information.  The Committee voted unanimously DO PASS.
  • SB 321, authored by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), allows for the maximum penalty authorized by federal law in the case of false or fraudulent Medicaid Claims and increases the civil penalties in such cases.  The federal government has asked for this language update.  The Committee unanimously voted DO PASS on this legislation.
  • SB 431, also authored by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), allows for Liability Not Limited in cases where the owner of a land charges an admission price or fee to be on the land.  One motion was made to enter the word legally in order to clarify that this bill would not affect cases where the person was trespassing, however the amendment failed.  The Committee unanimously voted DO PASS on this legislation. 

Senate Regulated Industries Committee

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee, chaired by Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) heard two bills on Tuesday:

  • HB 757, authored by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), undertakes to simplify the and regulate taxis in Georgia.  Currently, laws regarding the regulation of taxis vary widely across the state.  This legislation requires taxis to have a visible photo id, a medallion and provides for the ability to use a soft meter or app in order to protect the rider.  This does not cover ride share companies such as Lyft or Uber. Local government; regulatory powers of cities and counties with certificate of public necessity and convenience; provisions.  Only two currently cities have medallions and an inspector for taxis.  There was some question as to how this might conflict with the distracted driving law, however that objection was dropped.  Line 97 was amended to say that the photo identification “shall be displayed in full view by visitors.”  The Committee unanimously voted this bill DO PASS.  Sen. Miller will sponsor in Senate. 
  • HB 775, authored by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), provides for a Georgia Real Estate and Appraisal Commission so as to make Georgia in compliance with federal law.  The Committee unanimously voted DO PASS. 

New Legislation

The following propositions have been introduced in the House and Senate:

  • HB 1029 – (Rep. Dale Rutledge, R-McDonough) amends Chapter 1 of Title 28 of the O.C.G.A. to provide that members of the General Assembly shall be limited to introducing not more than five general bills or resolutions proposing constitutional amendments or having the effect of law at each legislative session.  There would not be a limitation on the number of local and special bills.  In addition, each member shall be entitled to introduce not more than four privileged or invite resolutions during each legislative session.
  • SR 972 – (Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville) encouraging local educational agencies to support Georgia's talented and gifted students by complying with all State Board of Education and Georgia Professional Standards Commission guidelines for gifted education.

Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 32

The House will take up the following propositions on Friday:

  • HR 1017 -- State and local educational agencies and schools; dyslexia has a profound educational impact that must be addressed; recognize
  • HR 1162 -- House Study Committee on the Establishment of a State Accreditation Process; create

The Senate will take up the following propositions on Friday:

  • HB 135 -- Employees' Retirement System of Georgia; creditable service for certain law enforcement officers; expand
  • HB 257 -- Local government authorities; register with Department of Community Affairs; require
  • HB 432 -- Tuition grants; certain institutions that lack accreditation be approved for tuition equalization purposes; provide
  • HB 777 -- Historic Chattahoochee Compact; repeal


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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