Today was all about the numbers - State spending and revenue as well as the increasing count of Georgians diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The House Appropriations Committee voted out its version of HB 793, the state’s spending plan for FY 2021. More on the budget is noted below. Meanwhile, Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) announced the House’s intention to pursue an income tax decrease on individuals, taking the rate to 5.37 percent from 5.75 percent. On the coronavirus count, earlier reports were there are nineteen Georgians infected.
Other news swirled around the State’s response to the COVID-19. The State, as announced, is preparing to use Hard Labor Creek State Park to house individuals for isolating and monitoring. Congressman Doug Collins announced this afternoon that he is self-quarantining himself after having contact with an individual with coronavirus at CPAC. And, a Fulton County Schools employee has tested positive with the virus, leading to the early closure of Bear Creek Middle School, Woodland Middle School and Creekside High School. Tomorrow, the state is expected to receive 34 passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship where several of its passengers have contacted the virus - those individuals are expected to arrive at Dobbins Air Force Base.
Meanwhile, for the time being, we’ll be here preparing for Crossover Day and publishing the #GoldDomeReport.
In today’s Report:
- House Unveils FY 21 Budget Proposal
- Notable Floor Action
- Committee Reports
- New Legislation
- Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 27
House Unveils FY 21 Budget Proposal
After an early morning slate of House Appropriations Subcommittees walked members through their respective sections of the FY 21 Budget, Chairman Terry England (R-Auburn) took the podium to provide his report to the full Committee. Notably, the House has chosen to reduce the Governor’s recommended $2,000 pay raise for Georgia’s certified educators by half, moving raises to teachers to $1,000. Additionally, the proposed raises of $1,000 for employees making less than $40,000 have been deleted across the Budget. More than $30 million is added back to the proposed cuts offered by the Governor in the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Another major addition in the Department of Education’s Quality Basic Education program, which is also fully funded this year, is the inclusion of $24.8 million for funding the 1:450 ratio for school counselors across all segments. Also, in the Department of Education, there is a two percent increase for school nurses. Special Needs Scholarships continue to be a source of disagreement; the Governor had proposed an addition of more than $9.7 million and the House zeroed that funding out and instructed to realize savings from program attrition to fund additional growth. The move to lessen the raise amount to teachers freed up funds for the House to divy up those monies across the budget. We have noted a few changes in the Budget below. However, the full document may be found here.
Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
Adult Addictive Diseases
- Maintain prior year funding levels for residential treatment of addictive diseases. The Governor had proposed a decrease of $4.9 million; the House instructed: (H:Increase funds to provide a 25% increase in residential treatment capacity for addictive diseases.) for a reduction of $3,415,980
- Utilize $50,000 in existing funds to maintain funding for the treatment, prevention, and recovery support services for pregnant and postpartum women living with substance use disorder. The House instructed this with the language, “Yes”
Adult Developmental Disabilities
- The Governor proposed to reduce funds for intensive family support services by $1 million. And the House expressed to: Maintain $500,000 for family support services.
- The Governor proposed to reduce funds for assistive technology assessments and research by $1,000,000 and the House agreed to this cut.
- The House proposed to increase funds for 100 additional slots for the New Options Waiver (NOW) and Comprehensive Supports Waiver Program (COMP) for the intellectually and developmentally disabled at a cost of $5,599,600
- The House also proposed to provide funds for a 4% targeted salary increase for forensic and health service technicians, community service workers, and certified nursing assistants to address the 48% turnover rate at a cost of $441,466.
Adult Mental Health Services
- The House disagreed to the Governor’s reduction of funds for behavioral health services. Instead, the House proposed to Maintain funds for behavioral health core services restoring all of the more than $8,341,192 cut.
- The House also proposed to annualize funds for statewide crisis bed infrastructure and capacity to maintain 95 beds at a cost of $2,553,087
- The House also proposed to include funds for a 4% targeted salary increase for forensic and health service technicians, community service workers, and certified nursing assistants to address the 48% turnover rate at a cost of $673,825.
Child and Adolescent Developmental Disabilities
- The Governor proposed to reduce funds to reflect contractual savings associated with Medicaid eligible services by $1,087,686. The House proposed to reduce funds to reflect contractual savings associated with Medicaid-eligible services and maintain $750,000 for the Marcus Autism Center reflecting only a $337,686 cut.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
- The Governor proposed to eliminate funds for four crisis respite homes due to non-implementation which would have been more than $5.9 million reduction in State funds. The House proposed to maintain funding for two previously identified crisis respite homes in Bibb and Clayton counties leaving a reduction of $2.96 million.
Department of Community Health
Healthcare Access and Improvement
- The House proposed to eliminate funds for one-time start-up funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers in the amount of $500,000
- The House proposed to increase funds for two Federally Qualified Health Center start-up grants including $250,000 for a primary care center in Wayne County and $250,000 for a school-based primary care center in Irwin County at a total cost of $500,000
- The House proposed to eliminate one-time funds for a grant program for hospitals in counties with population less than 35,000 for CMS-required upgrades to emergency rooms with a reduction of $250,000
- The House proposed to provide funds for charity clinics with an addition of $100,000
- The House proposed to increase funds available for Rural Hospital Stabilization Grants from $3 million to $10 million with an addition of $7,000,000.
Medicaid Aged, Blind and Disabled Medicaid
- The House proposed to increase funds to expand the Quality Incentives program for nursing centers with $450,000 (State funds)
- The House also proposed to increase funds for a 3% increase in Medicaid ventilator reimbursement rates with an addition of $189,600 (State funds).
- The House proposed to increase funds to provide six months of postpartum Medicaid coverage to mothers effective July 1, 2020 with the inclusion of $19,684,703.
- The House proposed to increase funds to provide lactation care and services as defined in O.C.G.A. 43-22A-3(5) with an addition of $250,000.
- The House proposed to increase funds to provide a 1% reimbursement rate increase for 108 primary care codes to physicians for a cost of $2,371,494.
- The House proposed to provide funds to increase reimbursement for silver diamine fluoride effective January 1, 2021 with the addition of $1,114,975.
State Health Benefit Plan
- The House added language directing the Department of Community Health to redirect $14,000,000 in existing technology contracts to statewide prevention and well-being activities.
Department of Early Care and Learning
- The Governor proposed to reduce funds for information technology staffing and services ($150,000) and community initiatives provided by the Georgia Family Connection Partnership ($260,000). The House instructed no and restored these funds.
- The Governor proposed to reduce funds for personal services to eliminate one vacant position by $81,149. The House disagreed and instructed to maintain funds for one pre-k specialist position and restored these funds.
- The Governor proposed funds to increase funding to adjust the state base salary schedule to increase salaries for certified personnel by $2,000 and assistant teachers by 5 percent effective July 1, 2020 for a cost of more than $14.1 million. The House proposed to increase funds to adjust the state base salary schedule to increase salaries for certified personnel by $1,000 and assistant teachers by 3% effective July 1, 2020 at a cost of $7,356,637.
- The House proposed to provide funds for an additional 1,000 pre-k slots, bringing the total number of slots to 85,500 at a cost of $4,047,517.
- The House proposed to increase funds for pre-k classroom operations by 2.5 percent. At a cost of $1,773,185.
- The House proposed to provide funds for four behavioral and classroom support specialists to assist lead teachers and assistant teachers in Ga Pre-K classrooms at a cost of $320,000.
Department of Education
- After Governor Kemp proposed a $2,000 salary increase for all certified educators, the House proposed a $1,000 salary increase to begin on September 1, 2020. This increase is reflected in the Quality Basic Education Program under the Department, as well as other programs that employ certified educators.
- The House proposed to provide funds for five young farmer positions in Baldwin, Fulton, Pickens, Ware, and Worth counties at a cost of $425,000.
- The House proposed to increase funds for 17 new extended day/year programs at a cost of $144,500.
- The House proposed to provide funds for an urban/suburban agriculture specialist. At a cost of $125,000.
- The House proposed to transfer five certified personnel positions to the state teacher salary schedule with an addition of $47,828.
- The House proposed funding for program specialists at each youth camp with an addition of $150,000.
Business and Finance Administration
- The House proposed to provide funds for a budget analyst/grant manager position to ensure accuracy in data collection and statutorily-required formula calculations with an addition of $125,000.
- The House proposed to provide additional funds for charter school facilities grants pursuant to HB 430 (2017 Session) with an addition of $500,000.
Chief Turnaround Officer
- The House proposed to transfer $700,000 from CTO to the School Improvement Program to support continued improvements in student achievement.
- The House proposed a reduction of $860,442 reflecting all remaining funds in CTO, effectuating a program elimination.
Non Quality Basic Education Formula Grants
- The House proposed restoration of funds as a hold harmless for residential treatment facilities from a decline in enrollment and provide time to restructure educational personnel based on fewer students with an addition of $1,150,777.
- The House proposed a reduction of funds for one vacant grant manager position and reflect oversight of the residential treatment facilities funding formula in the Business and Finance Administration program in the amount of $126,908.
Quality Basic Education Program
- The House proposed a reduction from the Governor’s recommendation for the State Commission Charter School supplement in the amount of $18 million.
- The House proposed a reduction from the Governor’s recommendation for the Special Needs Scholarship Program with instructions to realize savings from program attrition to fund additional growth in the amount of $9,742,283.
- The House restored a reduction in funding for school nurses in the amount of $103,803.
- The House proposed an addition of new funds to fully fund school the counselor ratio at 1:450 for all QBE student categories pursuant to HB 283 (2013 Session) in the amount of $24,790,442.
- The House proposed a restoration of funds for consulting services in the amount of $600,000.
- The House proposed a restoration of funds for grants to RESAs in the amount of $274,081.
- The House proposed an increase in funds for one AP exam for free and reduced price lunch eligible students, and one science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) exam per student, based on projected growth
Notable Floor Action
The House acted on the following legislation of note today:
- HB 877 - Motor vehicles; standards for issuance of a Georgia certificate of title for certain motor vehicles; provide (MotV-Hogan-179th). This bill passed with a vote of 161-1.
- HB 894 - Seed Development Commission; stagger terms of members (Substitute)(A&CA-Meeks-178th). This bill passed with a vote of 161-1.
- HB 903 - Motor vehicles; issuance of a traffic citation to a vehicle owner in lieu of the individual operating the motor vehicle in certain instances; provide (PS&HS-Dollar-45th). This bill passed with a vote of 161-3.
- HB 911 -- Crimes and offenses; offenses of improper sexual conduct by a foster parent in the first and second degrees; provide. This bill passed with a vote of 165-0.
- HB 983 -- Sexual Offender Registration Review Board; information required to be provided by sexual offenders when they register; revise. This bill passed with a vote of 164-0.
- HB 984 -- Criminal procedure; sentencing; change provisions. This bill passed with a vote of 164-0.
- HB 1008 - Buildings and housing; residential industrial building; revise the definition (A&CA-Campbell-171st). This bill passed with a vote of 166-1.
- HB 1071 - Public utilities; text messages as a method of making unwanted telephone solicitations; prohibit (EU&T-Gullett-19th). This bill passed with a vote of 162-1.
- HR 1240 - Federal government; allow states to switch to permanent Daylight Saving Time; urge (IntC-Cantrell-22nd). This bill passed with a vote of 145-20.
The Senate acted on the following legislation of note today:
- SB 311 -- Health; patient brokering; prohibit; definitions; exceptions; penalties; provide. This bill passed with a vote of 56-0 by Substitute with a Floor Amendment which addresses remuneration.
- SB 318 -- Education; public forums at public institutions of higher education; provide. This bill passed 32-21 with a Floor Amendment that addresses allowances for athletic department disciplinary processes for student athletes.
- SB 344 -- Witness or Criminal Defendant; certain proceedings conducted by video conference; requirements; provide. This bill passed by Substitute with a vote of 54-1.
- SB 369 -- Department of Revenue; electronic transmission of returns by public utilities; require. This bill passed 55-0.
- SB 391 -- "Early Prescription Refills During Emergencies Act"; health insurers to provide coverage for early refills of a 30 day supply; require; enact. This bill passed with a vote of 55-0.
- SB 439 -- Juvenile Code; enhanced notice to and improved participation of foster, preadoptive, and relative caregivers in certain hearings; provide. This bill passed by a vote of 54-0.
- SB 442 -- Property; amendments to property owners' association instruments and covenants that restrict rental of residential lots and plots; prohibit. This bill passed the Senate with a vote of 33-20.
- SB 459 -- Public Utilities and Public Transportation and State Government; funding for the deployment of certain communications services throughout this state; provide. This bill passed by a vote of 54-0.
- SB 462 -- Banking and Finance; duties, powers, and responsibilities relative to industrial loans from the Industrial Loans Commissioner to Department of Banking and Finance; transfer. This bill passed with a vote of 54-0.
House Juvenile Justice Committee
Representative Matt Dubnik chaired today’s meeting which took up four bills: HB 440, HB 958, HB 971 and HB 993.
- Representative Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) presented HB 993 which is a bill supported by both the Department of Public Health and Division of Family and Children’s Services. It will permit the Division of Family and Children’s Services the ability to timely access vital records and reports (including notification of births, deaths, putative father registry updates, fetal death information). The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation and moves to the House Rules Committee.
- Representative Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville) presented HB 971 which received a hearing. This legislation addresses training for juvenile court intake officers and was requested by the Departments of Juvenile Justice, Division of Family and Children’s Services and the Council of Juvenile Court Judges. Cindy Wang, with the Department of Juvenile Justice, spoke up about the clarification of definitions for children who are delinquent and children in need of services (CHINS) and the technical clean up for the Temporary Alternatives to Foster Care passed in 2019. She also mentioned that the bill permits Department of Juvenile Justice the ability to access the Child Abuse Registry which it currently cannot do. Director Tom Rawlings with DFCS explained that the legislation is not a change in policy. It has clarifications in the Temporary Alternatives for Foster Care, and addresses the ex parte actions that can be taken by a judge. It further addresses both show cause hearings as well as hearsay evidence at the dispositional stage. Rawlings expressed that parts of the bill also represent a multi-year effort to align the Juvenile Code, the Child Abuse Registry and Mandated Reporter and those relevant definitions. There is also language to simplify the child abuse registry. No action was taken today on this bill.
- Chairman Mandi Ballinger’s (R-Canton) bill, HB 440, which changes the jurisdiction for juvenile courts was moved forward with a DO PASS recommendation without any discussion.
- Representative Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) brought HB 958 which seeks to address the relaxation of rules for maternity homes when such housing is provided to pregnant women and new mothers who are 18 years of age and older. Nonprofit and religious-affiliated homes are seeking this relaxation of the rules, Women in these homes would be limited to six. The homes would provide no healthcare or counseling and would not be an institutional setting. The new proposal would require these homes to “register” and pay an annual fee of $25.00 and self-certify that meets building code and maintain adequate home owners’ insurance. Currently, maternity homes require cash reserves for one year; 24 hour staffing 365 days per year. There was a lot of discussion around the language included regarding local governments; Representative Andy Welch (R-McDonough) questioned the language’s constitutionality. An amendment was offered by Representative Welch which was adopted and the bill received a DO PASS recommendation despite a divided vote of 6-5.
House Health and Human Services Committee
One bill was presented this afternoon in Chairman Sharon Cooper’s (R-Marietta) committee meeting and that was her own bill, HB 1114. This legislation permits six months of coverage by Medicaid for post-delivery women and also addresses lactation coverage for these women. Presently, Medicaid covers women for only two months post delivery. Representative Mark Newton, MD (R-Augusta) indicated that this legislation was a big improvement, tripling the coverage for women to six months which could help address maternal mortality around hypertension, diabetes, obesity and long-acting contraception. It will also help women to space babies for up to one year apart. Only 30-40 percent of Medicaid mothers go back for physician visits when they are post-partum. A number of groups testified in support of HB 1114 including Georgia Health Advocates, Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, March of Dimes and Medical Association of Georgia. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation, and now moves to the House Rules Committee.
House Judiciary Committee
The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), met late this afternoon. The committee heard HB 544, authored by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), which revises procedures for emergency involuntary treatment for mental health. Rep. Efstration explained that the bill came as a result of a study committee. He brought a substitute to the committee which would include the required affidavits, without PPI, to be reported to law enforcement and the treating facility. The bill would also refer the issue to the appropriate commission or department to be studied further. This bill received a recommendation DO PASS.
The following legislation of interest was introduced in the House today:
- HB 1120, authored by Rep. Vernon Jones (D-Lithonia), amends Title 17 by adding a new Code section at O.C.G.A. 17-10-17 to allow for penalty enhancement in cases of politically motivated attacks.
- HB 1121, authored by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), amends Title 51 by adding O.C.G.A. 51-16-1 et.seq to provide for a right of action of sexual harassment against a co-worker or employer.
- HB 1123, authored by Rep. Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth), amends Title 44 to provide that the personal obligation of a unit owner for a lien assessment includes reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, collection costs of an attorney, and costs of a completed judicial foreclosure.
- HB 1125, authored by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), amends Title 45 to require DCH to compile information on identifying individuals at high risk for breast cancer and post this information on its website. The bill also requires that any insurance plan under the State Health Benefit Plan must include coverage for breast cancer screening for women ages 30 or older that have been identified as being at high risk for breast cancer.
- HB 1128, authored by Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville), amends Title 33 to make changes to the state’s PBM laws. The bill proscribes PBMs from reimbursing a pharmacy less than the NADAC cost, the pharmacy’s acquisition cost for the drug, or the pharmacy’s usual and customary charge; whichever is lowest. The bill also prevents PBMs from reimbursing pharmacies less than an amount the PBM reimburses their affiliate pharmacies.
- HB 1129, authored by Rep. Sam Park (R-Lawrenceville), amends O.C.G.A. 48-7-29.2 to provide for a tax credit for qualified home caregiver expenses. These expenses include home health agency costs, costs of modifications to a home or residence that help the family remain safe, mobile, and independant, the purchase or lease of equipment which allow the qualified family to carry out activities of daily life. The tax credit is also increased from $150 to $1,000.
Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 27
The House is expected to take up the following measures on Monday for Legislative Day 27:
- HB 216 - Special license plates; Georgia Tennis Foundation; establish (Substitute)(MotV-Anulewicz-42nd)
- HB 244 - Electric membership corporations; comply with certain requirements in determining the rates for attachments to utility poles by communications service providers; require (Substitute)(ED&T-Stephens-164th)
- HB 245 - Peace Officers' Annuity Fund; require certain benefits payable to a surviving spouse to terminate if such surviving spouse remarries; remove a provision (Ret-Buckner-137th)
- HB 791 - Pharmacists; dispense up to a 90 day supply of a maintenance medication under certain conditions; authorize (Substitute)(H&HS-Stephens-164th)
- HB 793 - General appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021 (App-Ralston-7th)(Substitute)
- HB 807 - Revenue and taxation; allow businesses to provide affidavits of certified public accountants in lieu of tax returns (Substitute) (W&M-Momtahan-17th)
- HB 879 - Alcoholic beverages; legislative intent of the General Assembly to exercise strict regulatory control over the three-tier system; provide (Substitute)(RegI-Harrell-106th)
- HB 913 - Domestic relations; protection of children; strengthen, clarify, and update provisions (Substitute)(JuvJ-Reeves-34th)
- HB 952 - Pharmacies; prohibit corporations that own and operate multiple pharmacies from implementing policies and procedures that restrict the quantity of controlled substances dispensed or restrict the prescriber (SCQHC-Cooper-43rd)
- HB 1111 - Public officers and employees; certain provisions related to homeowner tax relief grants; remove (B&FAO-Welch-110th)
- HB 1112 - Public officers and employees; Office of Planning and Budget; repeal certain duties (B&FAO-Pirkle-155th)
The Senate is expected to take up the following measures on Tuesday for Legislative Day 27:
- SB 386 - Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Act; prior school year requirement; revise (Substitute) (ED&Y-45th)
- SB 415 - Civil Practice and Litigation; several titles of the O.C.G.A.; amend and revise (Substitute) (I&L-51st)
- SB 482 - Office of Health Strategy and Coordination; state all-payer claims database; establishment of an advisory committee; provide (Substitute) (H&HS-11th)
- SB 358 - State Symbols; muscadine grape as the official state grape; designate (AG&CA-7th)
- SB 337 - Invasion of Privacy; prohibition against the transmission of photography depicting nudity; include falsely created videographic or still images (Substitute) (S&T-14th)
- SR 194 - Joint Study Committee on Transferring Oversight of Developmental Disabilities to the Department of Community Health; create (Substitute) (RULES-13th)
- SB 473 - Conservation and Natural Resources; duties, powers, and responsibilities relative to historic preservation; from Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Community Affairs; transfer (NR&E-7th)
- SB 474 - Department of Natural Resources; construct, operate, maintain, and supply informational materials at welcome centers assigned to it by the Governor; provide (Substitute) (NR&E-7th)
- SB 445 - Soil Erosion and Sedimentation; water and sewer authorities to be designated as local issuing authorities for land-disturbing activity permits; authorize (NR&E-18th)
- SB 338 - Animal Protection; annual license fees; provide (Substitute) (AG&CA32nd)
- SB 430 - "Quality Basic Education Act"; home study students and private school students to take courses at a college and career academy; authorize (Substitute) (ED&Y-3rd)
- SB 381 - "Georgia Food Act"; certain information obtained by the Department of Agriculture from the federal Food and Drug Administration; confidential and not subject to disclosure; provide (AG&CA-32nd)
- SB 468 - Dogs; animal shelters to accept registration of veterans' service dogs; require (AG&CA-45th)
- SB 483 - "Behavioral Rehabilitation and Stability Services Act"; certain Medicaid reimbursement; enact (Substitute) (H&HS-28th)
- SB 405 - Superior Courts of the Cobb Judicial Circuit; eleventh judge; provide (JUDY-37th)
- SB 417 - Physicians, Assistants, and Others; criminal background checks for certain healthcare professionals and others; provisions; revise (H&HS32nd)
- SB 321 - Physician Assistants; relating to the number a physician can authorize and supervise at any one time; provisions; revise (Substitute) (H&HS52nd)
- SB 443 - Garnishment Proceedings; revise; uniform procedures for garnishment actions; provide (Substitute) (JUDY-23rd)
- SB 447 - Work Based Learning Programs; definitions regarding work based learning and related positions and programs; provide (Substitute) (ED&Y-9th)
- SB 466 - "Quality Basic Education Act"; employment; needs improvement rating; group of performance evaluation ratings; remove (Substitute) (ED&Y9th)
- SR 833 - Joint Study Committee on Preparing Our Future Workforce; create (RULES-9th)
- SR 793 - Joint Private Financing of Infrastructure Study Committee; create (RULES-21st)
- SB 28 - Insurance; imposing a copayment, coinsurance, or office visit charge in an amount greater than charges imposed for physician; prohibit (Substitute) (H&HS-2nd)
- SB 387 - State-wide School Lunch Program; State Board of Education to promulgate rules and regulations; authorize; course of instruction; preparation of food (ED&Y-6th)