Gold Dome Report - March 2019 #4

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Although the General Assembly was not in session, the State Capitol still buzzed with activity today. Beginning early this morning, House committees began meeting to give bills and resolutions one last chance to make it to the House floor by Crossover Day. In the afternoon, the House Rules Committee convened to set what is expected to be the first of at least three Rules Calendars for tomorrow. The Committee will meet tomorrow as necessary to keep the House’s plate full. Meanwhile, the Senate was mostly idle today after setting its Crossover Day Rules Calendar late yesterday. Check out the update on committee actions and the Rules Calendars below in today’s #GoldDomeReport, and then get some rest for a long day tomorrow!

In this Report:

  • Committee Updates
  • Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 28 (Crossover Day)          

Committee Updates

House Health and Human Services Committee

The House Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), met late on Tuesday to consider several propositions:

  • HB 10, authored by Rep. Debra Bazemore (D-Riverdale), amends Title 20 relating to the core curriculum to provide for the instruction of the best practices and risks associated with the use of tampons and AIDS prevention instruction. HB 10 also amends Title 31 to encourage physicians and nurses providing a tampon for use to recite and provide in written form, information regarding the best practices of tampons. Rep. Bazemore noted that she has been working with Dr. Garry McGiboney of the Department of Education, who has already agreed to incorporate this instruction in DOE curriculum, and pointed to funds included in the House’s version of the FY 2020 Budget for feminine products in schools. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
  • HB 214, authored by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), amends Title 43 to remove requirements that a pharmacist be located in or contiguous to the county of a physician prescribing a vaccine for a group of patients via a vaccine order contained in a vaccine protocol agreement. The bill was requested by the Medical Association of Georgia. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
  • HB 264, authored by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), amends Title 21 to require that any person undertaking to promote or oppose any matter before a local coordinating entity regarding the Emergency Medical Systems Communications Program (EMSC Program) are subject to transparency and lobbyist disclosure laws. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
  • HB 370, authored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), amends Title 43, to provide that advanced practice registered nurses may order up to a 14 day supply of non-narcotic drugs as necessary in an emergency situation. The bill was requested to assist a program in Clayton County where nurses travel in ambulances to help provide continuing medical care in the field and sometimes prescribe drugs. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
  • HR 259, authored by Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point), creates the Johnny Tolbert III House Study Committee on Heat-Related Injuries, Cardiac Injuries, and Other Sports-Related Injuries. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

The Committee met again today to hear several other propositions:

  • HB 481, by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), addresses Titles 1, 16, 19 and 31 and proposes to provide that all natural persons at any state of development, including an unborn child at any stage of development who is carried in the womb, shall be included in state population based determinations.  It also proposes to revise current law on when an abortion may be performed and make changes to the Woman’s Right to Know Act to provide for advising women seeking an abortion of the presence of a human heartbeat.  It states that no abortion is authorized or shall be performed if the unborn child has been determined to have a human heartbeat or except when, in reasonable medical judgment, the abortion is necessary to avert the death of the pregnant woman or avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman or preserve the life of an unborn child. The legislation if passed and signed into law is to be known as “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (“LIFE”) Act.”

The bill was presented as a substitute (LC 41 1931ERS) and described as medically and legally sound. Rep. Setzler noted that abortion is a timeless issue – medically unacceptable event years ago. His mother was a single mom when she was a college student. Doe v Bolton case started in 1970 – seven days after he was born. He described this as serious policy.  A baby with a heartbeat in the womb needs legal protections. He said this was not about politics and does nothing for him.  Life in the womb is sacred.  Life begins at conception. Privacy interest of the mother but heartbeat of the baby is worthy of protection. 14th Amendment protection is what is being discussed and it was passed in 1868 to provide full protection to a class of individuals. One threshold is the presence of a heartbeat – American College of Obstetrics. Bill recognizes humanity of the child in the womb.  Population counts track against US laws and the Census Bureau.  There are statewide population counts (e.g. DSH counts that are state specific).  It allows these children in the womb to be counted. No abortions are to be performed if a heartbeat has been determined. It does not provide a standard of care for physicians. Lines 164-166 in the Substitute; manner of conception has nothing to do with human life. There is an exception for abortion for rape or incest and when a heartbeat occurs in those instances – that language is new.  All children, though, have the same value per Setzler.  Lines 289-291 state that if a child is killed through wrongful death so it takes back to a “heartbeat” and lines 298-300 addresses in the Tax Code and allows a heartbeat may be counted for a tax return. It becomes effect on January 1, 2020 if passed and signed into law.

Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) inquired about lines 164-166 – seemed like a political consideration and not based on medical science.  No, per Rep. Setzler.  Abortions are not outlawed nationally  - that means that folks with resources could avail themselves of services where the poor would not be permitted to do so per Rep. Mitchell.  Rep. Setzler’s retort was he could help him pass this nationally.  Rep. Mitchell asked him his posture on the death penalty; his question was cut off by the Chair.

Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) asked about when abortions are legal now in Georgia is 20 weeks; this would move it to six weeks when a heartbeat begins.  The exceptions are new to the statute (rape and incest).  Rep. Mark Newton, MD (R-Evans) indicated as an emergency physician he often takes care of pregnant women.  A heartbeat is a crucial distinction in equating to life.

Rep. Shelly Hutchinson (D-Duluth) asked about “early infants in the womb.”  She indicated she was not familiar with that term.  Rep. Setzler stated that was part of legislative findings. It is a general term and early in their development. Rep. Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta) stated she was passionate about this issue.  She asked Rep. Setzler how many times he had carried a baby.  Rep. Setzler stated he and his wife viewed the value of the child as soon as she became pregnant.  She is struggling with him telling a woman how to do something.  Is there a fiscal note on the issue if there is an ability to claim the child on a tax return. She also asked if she would be accused of tax fraud if not claiming the child on the tax return.

Chairman Cooper asked how this part of the law would be enforceable.  Department of Revenue would write regulations and rules; verification of pregnancy by medical professional would likely be required.  Chairman Cooper also asked about the 14th Amendment was about the “born or naturalized citizens” of the country.  Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon) inquired about the law from 1787 to qualify a black life for census – blacks were deemed 3/5ths of a person.  The moral judgment of legislators is not to determine where life begins.

Rep, Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) noted Georgia already has limits on abortion (20 weeks but no science behind that).  This legislation attempts to make the law based on science. Rep. Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain) asked what is the state going to do with all the children that he intends to have – DFCS already has 14,000 in care. A bund of men should not dictate to her about her body and what she “has” to do. Rep. Dexter Sharper (D-Valdosta) asked about the IRS situation and how a social security number would be provided to this baby with a heartbeat. What happens if the child dies before birth?  This would not impact federal taxes per Setzler. Rep. David Dreyer (D-Atlanta) indicated that there is no fiscal note and this tax deduction with no cost; no criminal costs indicated.  There are also going to be constitutional challenges which will be costs to the state – all of these mean the bill should be tabled.

Dr. Al Scott of the Georgia OB/GYN Society expressed opposition to the bill. He noted that amniocentesis is not done until later in the pregnancy; that’s is when many problems with pregnancies are found.  It is unnecessary political interference in the practice of medicine. It violates the Constitution – more than 80 counties do not have an OB. It will increase maternal mortality and Georgia already has the worst in the country. It turns back the clock before Roe v Wade – like self-induced abortions. It is a bad public policy and in other places these have been deemed unconstitutional.  He suggested that rather than talking about abortion the General Assembly should be discussing ways to improve access to healthcare and reduce maternal mortality.

Dr. Kathy Aultman supported the legislation. She spoke on behalf herself and on behalf of the Charlotte Mozier Institute. She has performed first and second trimester abortions. Abortion is damaging to women – psychological and physical issues. The heartbeat is the best indicator of life. 

Rep. Angelika Kausche (D-Johns Creek) yielded her time to an Emory Professor OB/GYN and as a member of the Georgia OB/GYN Society who strongly opposed the legislation.  The organization promotes safe legal abortions. The legislation does not trust doctors; it is putting decision in the hands of lawmakers to make what is appropriate medical care and a new medical definition.  It would lead to worse outcomes for patients.  Women would resort to unsafe means for abortions (use of drugs included).  It disproportionately impacts those who are of color or poor. This legislation would negatively impact the field of physicians in Georgia; there is already a shortage of physicians.

  • HB 514, by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), was presented.  It was before the Committee as a Substitute LC 33 7930S and is a collaboration between the House, Lt. governor and Governor to create a Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission.  It would remain in place for four years made up with a group of individuals with expertise in the area of mental health – include two members of House and Senate.  The 23-member Commission would follow how the Criminal Justice Reform Commission worked.  The agenda would have to be approved by Governor’s counsel as long as Georgia remains under the DOJ Settlement.  Rep. Timothy Barr (R-Lawrenceville) asked about the end date of 2023 – it is complicated subject and the General Assembly could extend if necessary.  Rep. Shelly Hutchinson (D-Duluth) asked if would address APEX mental health funding or if it would interfere with the budget or work being done by Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities– no per Rep. Tanner. Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) thanked Rep. Tanner and clarified whether anything would occur before the DOJ Settlement is done; any agendas for meetings would be required to be approved by the Governor’s counsel.  This Commission would meet two times per year. The real focus, per Rep. Dempsey, needs to be on individuals who struggle with mental health and addiction and their families who deal with such.  Rep. Dempsey indicated that this was a huge challenge for folks in the state.  The Community Service Board Associations talked about HB 514 and they are funded for an important population but a small percentage of Georgians; they are absolutely supportive of reform for more services. They asked there by thought about innovation and want the state to see them as an important stakeholder. Melanie Dallas CEO for Highland Rivers spoke for the CSBs.  The legislation was originally held due to an issue with the bill missing pages.
  • HB 578, by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), was presented.  This initiative addresses a challenge that DHS faces.  Fingerprint background checks for final selections are now checked. Fully vet folks to make sure that appropriate folks are working with Georgia’s most fragile populations.  The statute has not been changed in a number of years.  It addresses the same standards as SB 406 passed in 2018?  It makes sure not only employees but also volunteers, interns and students are also background checked. The Department of Human Services supports the legislation.  A motion DO PASS was made by Rep. Dimitrius Douglas; his motion carried. The bill moves to the House Rules Committee.
  • HR 421 by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), was presented to form a Joint Study Committee on Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health. Some of these little ones may have autism issues or fetal alcohol syndrome and early diagnosis can help these youngsters.  Other issues may be able to find health issues for the moms of these children.  There will be a number of individuals to serve on this Joint Study, including members of the House and Senate as well as various Departments and public stakeholders. Rep. Mark Newton, MD (R-Evans) noted his support of the Resolution. A motion DO PASS was made and that motion carried.  The initiative proceeds to the House Rules Committee.

House Insurance Committee

Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus) and his Committee met this morning to take up the following pieces of legislation in advance of crossover.

  • Rep. Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) presented HB 540, which was recently transferred to this Committee. The bill amends O.C.G.A. 33-1-18(b) to allow a housing tax credit to be allowed against premium taxes. The goal is to open up the credit to insurance companies. There is no fiscal impact and is based upon federal application. Rep. Rhodes indicated that this initiative is consistent with the Georgia Rural Jobs Act.  Georgia is the only state in the Southeast with the state and federal program and a reason that Georgia is the number one place in the country to do business. The low income tax credit is capped. Chairman Smith reminded the Committee that the retaliatory tax is the reason that AFLAC is no longer domiciled in Georgia. All states have premium tax which is percentage of the premium (3 percent in state); a retaliatory tax (if another state taxes higher then it taxes at higher rate). There is a prediction is to open up $10 million for low income housing if this legislation is adopted. Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) inquired about a recent study committee on low-income housing and it proposed sunsetting the tax credit. A motion was made DO PASS; the motion carried. Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) works for a tax credit firm in Atlanta and recused himself.
  • HB 84, by Chairman Smith, was presented with a technical correction after being recommitted from the House Rules Committee.  Alternative dispute resolution language was placed on the wrong substitute bill; this corrects that by placing alternative dispute resolution into the correct bill (addressing transparency and balanced billing). A motion was made DO PASS; the motion carried with one dissent.

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee -- Setzler Subcommittee

The House Judiciary Non-Civil Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) met this morning to consider two measures that were both sponsored by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton):

  • HB 260 would revise the definition of burglary in the first degree to include home invasion with the intent to commit battery. Rep. Ballinger presented the bill, noting that the bill has been through multiple subcommittee hearings which has led to many revisions. The bill has grown in scope from its original intention to cover only family violence battery. Rep. Ballinger explained the substitute is consensus language and the committee recommended the bill DO PASS as a committee substitute.
  • Chairman Setzler indicated that HB 528 would receive a HEARING ONLY to allow for public comment. The bill relates to criminal record restriction. Rep. Ballinger avoided explaining the specifics of the bill because she expects the bill will undergo significant changes based on the input of many interested parties. She did, however, answer questions from the committee about why certain offenses were excluded. Many stakeholders provided public comment to the committee. Paul Howard, District Attorney of Fulton County,  explained that the bill aims to provide a second chance for offenders. He also walked through the potential process in Fulton County for record restriction if the bill were to pass. Notably, he explained that because the bill would not allow restriction within five years of a conviction it would not apply to repeat offenders. Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) had a line of questioning about the overall consensus opinion of District Attorneys statewide. Rep. Reeves also stated that he objected to the inclusion of burglary in the list of crimes for which a record can be restricted. Rep. Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs) raised concerns with language that would prevent any individual convicted of a minor traffic offense from applying for record restrictions within three years. Rebecca Grist from the Solicitors General Association indicated that the association has not come to a consensus regarding the bill and would prefer to focus first on classifying misdemeanors (an effort apparently not being seriously pursued by the association at this point). Jill Travis of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers spoke in favor of record restriction but noted several issues with the bill that needed to be addressed. Natasha Alladina from the Georgia Justice Project framed Georgia’s current record restriction policies to other states, noting Georgia lags behind many neighboring states. Doug Ammar of the Georgia Justice Project also spoke in favor of criminal record restriction.  Chairman Setzler explained Georgia’s slow movement on record restriction boils down to a “balancing issue” between helping rehabilitated individuals and allowing business owners clarity in the background of potential employees.

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee

Chairman Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) called a meeting of the full Judiciary Non-civil Committee today to hear several bills:

  • HB 551, authored by Rep. Dewayne Hill (R-Ringgold), creates regulations on the packaging and sales of kratom. The bill came out of a joint study committee. The committee recommended the bill DO PASS.
  • HB 260, which passed out of the Setzler Subcommittee immediately preceding the full committee hearing, was heard next. The bill received a motion DO PASS.
  • HB 43 by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) addresses the issue of unlawful contact by supervisory authority. Specifically the bill would expand the current statute to encompass more positions. The bill also creates a two-tiered system to classify the type of touching and provide for different penalties depending on the type of contact. Rep. Setzler indicated that he would recommend a small language change for the committee to remove language that differentiates “self-employed” individuals from other definitions. He further stated that he intended the bill to relate only to individuals with an agency relationship with the facility and the “self-employed” language as added in the committee substitute might cast too broad of a net for a felony. The Prosecuting Attorneys Council testified that they believe the “self-employed” language is crucial for the bill because of the many self-employed individuals that should fall under the purview of the bill. The committee held a lengthy discussion on this point coming to the conclusion that the language should remain. Rep. Setzler proposed an amendment to add more clarity to which individuals are covered by the bill by included both self-employed individuals and contracted employees. The bill received a motion DO PASS.

Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 28 (Crossover Day)

The House is expected to consider the following measures on Thursday for Legislative Day 28 (Crossover Day)

  • HB 83 -- Quality Basic Education Act; recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five; provide
  • HB 91 -- Hospitals and health care facilities; Federal Bureau of Investigation to retain fingerprints when an agency or entity is participating in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's program; allow
  • HB 118 -- Crimes and offenses; transmitting a false alarm; revise offense
  • HB 168 -- Sales and use tax; tangible personal property to certain non-profit health centers; extend exemption for five additional years
  • HB 198 -- Health; eliminate certificate of need requirements for all health care facilities except certain long-term care facilities and services
  • HB 288 -- Superior courts; revise the sums that the clerks are entitled to charge and collect for filing documents and instruments pertaining to real estate or personal property
  • HB 296 -- Superior Court of Hall County in the Northeastern Circuit; revise term of court
  • HB 307 -- Abandoned Motor Vehicle Act; enact
  • HB 311 -- State government; waiver of sovereign immunity as to actions ex contractu and state tort claims; provisions
  • HB 325 -- Law enforcement officers and agencies; records of investigation of an officer by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council shall be retained for 30 years; provide
  • HB 332 -- Agriculture; service of the Commissioner of Agriculture and the president of the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation as ex officio members; revise provisions
  • HB 337 -- Georgia Peer-to-Peer Car-Sharing Program Act; enact
  • HB 353 -- Insurance; create the crime of staging a motor vehicle collision
  • HB 373 -- Labor, Department of; employment security; change certain provisions
  • HB 444 -- Dual Enrollment Act; enact
  • HB 458 -- Fire protection and safety; use of class B fire-fighting foam for testing purposes if such foam contains a certain class of fluorinated organic chemicals; prohibit
  • HB 502 -- Civil practice; continuances for members of the Board of Regents and the Attorney General; revise
  • HB 507 -- Ad valorem tax; criteria used by tax assessors to determine the fair market value of real property; revise
  • HB 512 -- Agricultural Commodity Commission for Propane; provide
  • HB 525 -- Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center; rename to Savannah Convention Center

The Senate is expected to consider the following measures on Thursday for Legislative Day 28 (Crossover Day):

  • SB 2 -- Public Utilities and Public Transportation; electric membership corporations and their affiliates; authorize; broadband services; provide
  • SB 58 -- Attorney General; written approval that allows for a private person to bring a civil action regarding false taxpayer claims; eliminate requirement
  • SB 80 -- Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority; expired provisions; issuance and review of requests for proposals for a new location, ownership; remove
  • SB 103 -- Air Facilities; airports owned by a county, municipality shall not assess any fee to a veteran for motor vehicle parking; provide
  • SB 108 -- Competencies and Core Curriculum; computer science in middle school and high school; require
  • SB 110 -- Courts; State-wide Business Court; pursuant to the Constitution of this state; establish
  • SB 121 -- Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Data Base; length of time prescription information is retained from two years to five years; increase
  • SB 131 -- 'Georgia Major Airport Authority Act'
  • SB 132 -- Insurance; modernization and updates; provide; Commission on the Georgia Health Insurance Risk Pool; repeal Article 2 of Chapter 29A
  • SB 138 -- Disabled First Responders; certain benefits; provide
  • SB 162 -- Local Government; disaster mitigation improvements and broadband services infrastructure; downtown development authorities; provide
  • SB 167 -- Relative Search by DFCS; foster placement for a child adjudicated as a dependent; determine such child's permanency plan; provide
  • SB 171 -- Courts, Primaries and Elections, and Ad Valorem Taxation; compensation of various local government officials; modify
  • SB 177 -- General Assembly; requirements for consideration of local legislation revising existing districts or creating new districts; provide
  • SB 178 -- Specialized Land Transactions; statements of accounts under "Georgia Condominium Act" and "Georgia Property Owners' Association Act"; provide
  • SB 186 -- Trusts; qualified self-settled spendthrift trusts; establish
  • SB 190 -- Child Custody Intrastate Jurisdiction Act; party may bring a counterclaim for contempt in response to a complaint seeking a change of legal or physical custody; provide
  • SB 195 -- "Prescription Drug Benefits Freedom of Information and Consumer Protection Act"
  • SB 200 -- Georgia Department of Transportation; procedure for appealing the rejection of a contract bid; require
  • SB 209 -- Individual Schools and School Systems; star rating for financial efficiency; eliminate
  • SB 210 -- "Quality Basic Education Act"; recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five; provide
  • SB 211 -- Advertisement and Sale of Meat; representation of nonanimal products and non-slaughtered animal flesh as meat; render unlawful
  • SB 212 -- Department of Driver Services; criteria; authorize certain licensed driver training schools to administer on-the-road driving skills testing; revise
  • SB 213 -- Campaign Contributions; content of and certain reporting times for certain campaign disclosure reports; revise
  • SB 214 -- Barbers and Cosmetologists; the number of apprenticeship hours required; change
  • SB 216 -- Ad Valorem Taxation; local governments to accept prepayments of ad valorem taxes; allow
  • SB 219 -- Education; general educational development (GED) diploma; correctly answer 60 percent questions on the US Citizenship Civics Test; require
  • SB 222 -- Criminal Procedure; Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform; create
  • SB 225 -- Juvenile Code; in conformity with the federal Social Security Act and the Family First Prevention Services Act; bring provisions
  • SB 227 -- Special License Plates; benefit the Georgia Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, Inc.; establish
  • SB 228 -- "Child Victim Act of 2019”
  • SR 67 -- Senator Bill Jackson Interchange; Columbia County; dedicate
  • SR 264 -- Joint Emergency Medical Services Study Committee; create
  • SR 275 -- Joint Innovation and Emerging Technologies Study Committee; create
  • HB 293 -- Fayetteville, City of; Public Facility Authority; create


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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