Gold Dome Report- March 6-7, 2014
Greetings from the Gold Dome! This report covers the 33rd and 34th legislative days. After a very busy start to the week with Crossover Day on Monday, the Capitol was relatively quiet on Friday. Thus, the report, in chronological order, details the last two days of this week.
On March 6, Governor Deal released the State revenues for February, 2014. Revenues totaled approximately $838 million which is an increase of $42 million, or 5.3 percent, compared to the month-ended February 2013. Comparing year-to-date, Georgia's net tax revenue collections totaled $11.74 billion, an increase of nearly $560.5 million or 5 percent, compared to the same point in 2013.
Conferees are now in the process of hammering out differences for the FY 2015 Budget, HB 744.
March 6, 2014
The floor session began this morning when Mark Williams, Commissioner of Natural Resources, was invited to honor four park rangers. The rangers were honored for their bravery in the line of duty.
Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) honored the McIntosh High School Cheerleading Team. The team won the State Championship in their division.
Rep. Ron Stevens (R-Savannah) sponsored an invite resolution honoring the Grand Marshall of the Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade. Today was also Savannah Day at the Capitol.
Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) introduced the Doctor of the Day, Dr. Macy Morgan.
Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) carried SB 301 in the House today. The bill removes a ban on wood framing in the construction of schools in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-261. All buildings would still need to be up to code. The bill has no opposition from the Department of Education. Rep. Cheokas said that Georgia is one of four states with a ban on such wood construction. Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta) expressed concern for mold or mildew in the wood. Rep. Cheokas responded that those would only appear if the wood was exposed to water. Further, Rep. Cheokas pointed out that, if steel was exposed to water, it would rust and loose strength so there is little reason for concern. The bill passed, 168-0.
SR 736 was presented by Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawernceville). The legislation proposes a convention under Article V of the Constitution. This convention of the states would be limited to proposing amendments to the United States Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress. This is very similar to a bill we passed but has a balanced budget amendment. The bill passed by a vote of 107-58.
HR 1280 was presented by Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock). The resolution encourages the "Executive Branch and Congress to support the successful negotiation of a mutually beneficial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States and European Union." The goal with the European Union would be to finish a trade agreement that promotes free trade. Rep. Caldwell said that the agreement, "Gets government out of the way." The resolution passed 168-4.
Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) introduced SB 209. The bill provides that those who sell self- help materials may do so as long as they do not advertise that they are giving legal counsel in O.C.G.A. § 10-12-14.1. Rep. Quick told her colleagues that she would abstain from the vote because, as a lawyer, there was a conflict of interest. Rep. Alex Atwood (R-Brunswick) asked if the bill protected a consumer who called Legal Zoom and asked for legal advice. Rep. Quick responded that the SB 209 did not protect them because that is legal advice. Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) came to the Well to oppose the bill, explaining that it would make it harder for people to sue sites like Legal Zoom when they receive bad service. If they are not practicing law, then no one has standing to sue Legal Zoom for bad legal advice or documents. Rep. Jones insisted that sites like Legal Zoom should be held to the same standards as lawyers. This is an anti-consumer protection law. She also noted that the State Bar opposed the bill. Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) came to the Well, adding that Legal Zoom was being sued around the country for the unauthorized practice of law. According to Legal Zoom, he said, there is a disclaimer but that it takes up less than an inch on paper. Thus, Rep. Golick (as a lawyer) proposed an amendment requiring a larger disclaimer on the website and the name and information about the lawyer preparing the advice on such a site. Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) asked Rep. Golick how the bill was good for consumers. Rep. Golick said that it was fundamentally wrong for the House to do such a disservice to consumers, letting them receive such advice with no recourse in the event they receive bad advice.
After all the discussion, Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton) made a motion to put the bill on the table. There was objection. Thus, a vote was taken and the motion to table carried 122-40 and the Bill was tabled.
The Senate took up two bills today. The first of these was HB 824. The bill amends O.C.G.A. § 7-4-2 (d) and would allow financial institutions to classify fees as something other than interest (when there is a written agreement between the financial institution and the depositor). The bill was carried by Sen. Jessie Stone (R-Waynesboro) and passed, 48-5.
Finally, the Senate debated HB 744 which is the FY 2015 budget. Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) challenged his Republican colleagues for not supporting a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act in this year's budget. Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) responded to Sen. Fort by saying that expanding Medicaid would require taking federal funds which could, in the future, invite unwanted federal control. Sen. Fort was one of four Senators that did not vote in favor of the bill. The final vote was 51-4. Among the many changes made to this document include a large number of bond package proposals for technical schools across the State.
Senate Public Safety Committee
The Committee began almost an hour late today because Chairman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) could not find enough Senators to achieve quorum. Once they did begin, the Committee got right to work. One of the bills they considered was HB 877. Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla) presented the bill which deals with golf carts, multi-purpose off-highway vehicles, and all-terrain vehicles. Rep. Roberts noted that 80% of the world's golf carts are made in Georgia, making this bill particularly significant. The bill amends parts of Title 40. It provides definitions and regulations of golf carts and these similar vehicles. It addresses signage to be used for such vehicles as well as permits local governments to prepare personal transportation plans for these vehicles. The bill passed and will move on to the Rules Committee.
Another bill the Committee took up was HB 881. The bill, brought to the Committee by Rep. Bubber Epps (R-Dry Branch), was passed in the House as a bill to create a constitutional amendment for new special license plate for Grady Health Foundation. It would add such special license plate at O.C.G.A § 40-2-86 (51) which proceeds would be used to support and improve the quality of healthcare. After crossover, with all the necessary permissions, another piece of legislation was tacked onto this one dealing with conservation license plates. The new language would change the license plate funding formula for conservation, sending more money to the Georgia Conservancy than the General fund, according to Rep. Epps. The new language left some Senators feeling uneasy. Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) thought that the State should include money in next year's budget for conservation instead of changing the license plate funding structure. Still, the bill passed out of the Committee.
House Human Relations and Aging Committee
The Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), heard two pieces of legislation today. Both of them came from Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford). The first to be heard was SR 828. The resolution would create the Joint Study Committee on Emergency Relocation of Abused Adults. Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) asked Sen. Unterman what the ultimate goal of the study committee would be. He suggested that it might be the creation of state run care facilities for those who have to be removed from an abusive care home. Her answer, though, was much broader. She told Rep. Spencer that she hoped the Study Committee would put a plan in place so the State can take care of displaced adults who are moved because of abuse. The Resolution passed out unanimously from the Committee.
Next, Sen. Unterman presented SR 746. This Resolution expresses support for the State Plan for Alzheimer's and Related Dementias when it is released by the corresponding task force. Cathy Simpson, an Alzheimer's advocate, expressed her excitement for the Resolution and the plan to the Committee. Ms. Simpson said that such a plan would put Georgia in line with most other states which have such plans.
Senate Insurance and Labor Committee
Sen. Tim Golden (R-Valdosta), the Chairman of this Committee, arrived and realized a number of individuals were present, actually packing his Committee room, to apparently address HB 707 (the "Georgia Health Care Freedom Act"). He politely told those individuals that the legislation would be heard at a meeting next week; those proponents then left the meeting room.
Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smynra) brought HB 840, a bill which the Department of Insurance had requested. The legislation amends current law at O.C.G.A. § 33-2-24(g) regarding the Commissioner of Insurance's enforcement powers. Under the proposal, it would permit the Commissioner to have the power to place any person duly licensed on probation or subject those individuals to monetary penalties for any violation (up to $2,000.00 for any violation under Title 33) relative to insurance. The Bill, as it came before the Committee, also would permit that the Commissioner to have such enforcement over individuals who are "registered," but Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) moved that those "registered" be stricken from the proposal. Sen. Shafer's amendment was adopted; the Bill then passed as amended with two dissenting votes. There were questions as to who the "registered" parties would be (third-party administrators and life settlement brokers are two such groups; some ERISA products also require registration). Those licensed and now brought under the Commissioner's purview would include insurance navigators.
Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) brought forth HB 1027 for the Committee's consideration. This legislation was requested by the Department of Labor so that Georgia could become compliant with federal law and addresses the processes and procedures around unemployment insurance in Titles 34 and 50. The legislation codifies rules which the Department of Labor has previously adopted. No questions were raised. Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) moved that the Bill receive a do pass recommendation; Sen. Ronald Ramsey, Sr. (D-Decatur) seconded the motion and the Bill passed.
The final legislation was SB 173. No vote was taken on this proposal as this was a "hearing only" on this initiative brought by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus). This legislation would create a new Chapter 20C in Title 33 that would be known as the "Accuracy and Transparency in Physician/Provider Profiling Act." It would address insurance companies use of "profiling programs" which are defined to mean "a system that compares, rates, ranks, measures, tiers, or classifies a physician's or physician group's performance, quality, or cost of care against objective or subjective standards or the practice of other physicians, including without limitation quality improvement programs, pay-for-performance programs, public reporting on physician performance or ratings, and the use of tiered or narrowed networks." Dr. David Olansky, an Atlanta dermatologist, spoke in favor of the proposal, explaining how he and his practice were dropped by Humana. He noted that he had served patients for years and had earned patient loyalty and trust but was dropped from Humana's network. SB 173 would address such actions and "protect from a bureaucrat's whim." Sen. Golden inquired if other states had proposed or passed such legislation; Sen. McKoon indicated that he was not aware of any. Further, Sen. McKoon noted that this profiling was a relatively new problem. Marcus Downs, with the Medical Association of Georgia, rose in support of this legislation, and thanked the Bill's author for bringing the Bill. The Medical Association likes the fair and objective standards for profiling as well as the appeals process in the proposal.
House Insurance Committee
Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus) and his Committee held a hearing on SB 397, the autism mandate for requiring health insurance coverage for individuals who are ages six and under. This legislation was authored by Sen. Tim Golden (R-Valdosta). No vote was taken at this hearing. At the end of all of the discussions, Chairman Smith sent SB 397 to a Subcommittee composed of the following individuals: Rep. John Meadows (R-Calhoun); Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas); Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville); Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland); Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur); and Chairman Smith.
Some of the highlights on the testimony about SB 397 were:
Sen. Golden spoke to the proposal, asking that the Committee pass the legislation as written. He noted that the State Health Benefit Plan will now offer coverage for autism spectrum disorders to State employees and their dependents in the FY 2015 Budget. There are some insurance plans which will not be affected by SB 397 – those include ERISA plans and those offered by very small employers (with ten or fewer employees). It also will not apply to insurance products offered in the insurance exchange or the State's Medicaid program. This mandate covers treatment of "autism spectrum disorder" which will include the following types of care prescribed, provided, or ordered for an individual diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder: (A) habilitative or rehabilitative services, including applied behavior analysis or other professional or counseling services necessary to develop, maintain, and restore the functioning of an individual to the extent possible. To be eligible for coverage, applied behavior analysis shall be provided by a person professionally certified by a national board of behavior analysts or performed under the supervision of a person professionally certified by a national board of behavior analysts; (B) Counseling services provided by a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical professional counselor, or clinical social worker; and (C) Therapy services provided by a licensed or certified speech therapist, occupational therapist, or physical therapist."
Sen. Golden described the differences in this legislation and SB 191, "Ava's Law," proposed by Sen. Tommie Williams (R-Lyons). He noted too that autism was considered by the Centers for Disease Control as a public health epidemic; there are one in 84 Georgia children with autism and most of those are boys. Sen. Golden stated that Georgia was fortunate that the Marcus Autism Center was located here. The Department of Public Health is also committed to working on this epidemic as $700,000 has been placed in the FY 2015 Budget which includes money for an autism director who can help pull the various resources together from around the State and help with the "autism allies" so that teachers and others may help detect autism. Sen. Golden stated that early detection of the disease was crucial as the younger the child is when diagnosed then the greater likelihood for better outcomes and turning around the long-term prognosis. This early diagnosis will in turn lessen the costs.
Sen. Golden acknowledged that he had been the leader on the Mandate Review Commission. The Commission reviewed SB 191 – but the Commission was "advisory" in nature and its work cannot constitutionally bind a General Assembly in future years.
SB 397 addresses all the concerns raised in SB 191 – including tighter definitions; what therapists can do in providing applied behavioral analysis; the inclusion of a cap for services up to the age of six, and a cap for the monetary costs on an annual basis at $35,000. There are 34 states which have such laws; Sen. Golden has looked most closely at the states of Maine and Virginia in drafting this proposal. Like Virginia's law, SB 397 includes a one percent cap on premium growth in an effort to address cost concerns for small businesses. Virginia has seen premium costs go up in the amount of $1.08 per member per month.
The legislation is "doing the right thing" according to Sen. Golden.
There were a few questions raised by the Committee. Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) inquired about states considering such coverage in addition to the 34 – Mississippi and Tennessee are considering such proposals. Chairman Smith asked for clarification on exactly who this legislation would help as he had received calls indicating it would help ALL Georgia children which is not true. Sen. Golden again stated it would not address those individuals covered by Medicaid, ERISA plans, or those obtaining insurance coverage through the exchange. Thus, it is a not a "cure all." However, Sen. Golden did explain that Medicaid did cover diagnostic treatment for autism.
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta rose in support of this proposal. Marcus Autism Center became a part of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta in 2008 and it is a NIH-accredited facility. Georgia does have a law on autism now, but it does not cover evidence-based treatments which has become challenging for families. Autism costs over a lifetime can be $3.2 million; 90 percent of that amount is adult care costs. Special education costs for a child on an annual basis are around $12,000 whereas a well-child's costs for education are around $6,000. Currently covered services include diagnosis and some speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Behavioral treatment is not covered. Some school systems do use behavioral therapy; but those are not uniform and are very different from clinical applied behavior analysis. Therapy costs are minimal where states have passed similar laws – noting that Missouri has seen no appreciable impact on premiums and its law is much broader, providing coverage up to 18 with a $42,000 annual cap. Further, no state has repealed its insurance law on autism. The Bill before the Committee is not a new concept as this issue has been before the General Assembly for a number of years and it has adhered to the General Assembly's processes and addresses concerns raised by legislators and businesses.
There were other presenters in favor of SB 397, including the Medical Association of Georgia, Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Archdiocese of Atlanta, and the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Leaders (includes the Tea Party).
National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Association of Health Underwriters, America's Health Insurance Plans and Georgia Association of Health Plans opposed SB 397. Some of their remarks included their recognized sensitivity on the issue but their general opposition to mandates; the negative impact to individual and small group plans; the need for this proposal to also be vetted by the Mandate Review Commission as it is so different from Ava's Law; the argument that applied behavior analysis is actually educational rather than medical in nature; and the likely cost increase for additional coverage.
Senate Judiciary Committee – Non-Civil
Chairman Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) presided over the day's events. HB 720 was the first piece of legislation before the Committee. Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee) presented the initiative which provides for the use of electronic citation forms. Currently, the Georgia State Patrol and Department of Natural Resources use such types of citation forms. This legislation, which adds language in Article 11 of Chapter 21 of Title 15, would permit local police agencies to use these types of forms but would allow local governments to make that decision. HB 720 was touted as an officer safety bill as it would reduce by 50 percent the time an officer spends on a traffic stop issuing a ticket. This citation would be electronically submitted to the court and the clerk of the court may impose a $5.00 fee for the electronic submission (which the local government would have to approve for such collection). The legislation also has a sunset provision included of June 30, 2019. The Georgia Municipal Association, Association County Commissions of Georgia, Georgia Sheriffs Association and Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police are supporting HB 720. Some local judges were on hand to endorse the Bill as well – including Municipal Court Judges. Sen. William Ligon, Jr. (R-Brunswick) inquired about the amount of "add-on" fees that are on a typical ticket; he was told that a fine of $100 would generally cost $144.50 – that money generally goes to the General Fund unless it is a DUI fine which goes in part to the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund. There was a Senate Study Committee on Add-ons on Fines conducted two years ago; that was a reason for the sunset provision. Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) inquired if there was somewhat of a conflict of interest because you may incent individuals to excessively ticket individuals in order to generate funds; he was told that was not the case. Sen. McKoon was also concerned about the uniformity of electronic transmissions across jurisdictions; the judges concurred and expressed that they also want systems to be able to communicate with one another. An amendment was offered on the proposal and it was adopted; the Bill passed as amended. Sen. Hufstetler (R-Rome) will carry this initiative in the Senate.
Next up was HB 742 by Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange). This was described as the judges' bill and adds additional judges for the Coweta and Waycross Circuits in O.C.G.A. § 15-6-2. This legislation did not raise any questions and quickly sailed out with a do pass recommendation. Sen. McKoon will carry this measure in the Senate.
The final Bill was HB 804 by Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta) which was brought to the Committee by Rep. B.J. Pak (R-Lilburn). With Rep. Pak were District Attorney Paul Howard and one of his Assistant District Attorneys. It would add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 17-8-55. It would repeal current provisions in O.C.G.A. § 17-8-55 which permit the testimony of a child ten years old or younger to be taken by closed circuit television and address those persons entitled to be present during that testimony. The new Code Section would allow for the testimony of individuals under 18 years of age outside the physical presence of an accused in criminal proceedings under certain circumstances. In subsection (c) of the new Code Section, the court, "upon the motion of the prosecuting attorney, the motion by a proponent for a child, or on its own motion, shall hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether a child shall testify outside the physical presence of the accused. Such motion shall be filed, or requested by the court, at least ten days prior to trial unless the court shortens such time period for good cause, as it deems just under the circumstances." Further, the court would then be permitted to "order a child to testify outside the physical presence of the accused, provided that the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that such child is likely to suffer serious psychological or emotional distress which impairs such child's ability to communicate as a result of testifying in the presence of the accused. In determining whether a preponderance of the evidence has been shown, the court may consider any one or more of the following circumstances:
(1) The manner of the commission of the offense being particularly heinous or characterized by aggravating circumstances;
(2) The child's age or susceptibility to psychological or emotional distress on account of a physical or mental condition which existed before the alleged commission of the offense;
(3) At the time of the alleged offense, the accused was:
(A) The parent, guardian, legal custodian, or other person responsible for the custody or care of the child at the relevant time; or
(B) A person who maintains or maintained an ongoing personal relationship with such child's parent, guardian, legal custodian, or other person responsible for the custody or care of the child at the relevant time and the relationship involved the person living in or frequent and repeated presence in the same household or premises as the child;
(4) The alleged offense was part of an ongoing course of conduct committed by the accused against the child over an extended period of time;
(5) A deadly weapon or dangerous instrument was used during the commission of the alleged offense;
(6) The accused has inflicted serious physical injury upon the child;
(7) A threat, express or implied, of physical violence to the child or a third person if the child were to report the incident to any person or communicate information to or cooperate with a court, grand jury, prosecutor, police officer, or law enforcement office concerning the incident has been made by or on behalf of the accused;
(8) A threat, express or implied, of the incarceration of a parent, relative, or guardian of the child, the removal of the child from the family, or the dissolution of the family of the child if the child were to report the incident to any person or communicate information to or cooperate with a court, grand jury, prosecutor, police officer, or law enforcement office concerning the incident has been made by or on behalf of the accused;
(9) A witness other than the child has received a threat of physical violence directed at such witness or to a third person by or on behalf of the accused, and the child is aware of such threat;
(10) The accused, at the time of the inquiry:
(A) Is living in the same household with the child;
(B) Has ready access to the child; or
(C) Is providing substantial financial support for the child; or
(11) According to expert testimony, the child would be particularly susceptible to psychological or emotional distress if required to testify in open court in the physical presence of the accused.
There was a great dispute over the interpretation of the Supreme Court case, Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S.836 (1990). The facts in that case involved a child who was six years of age.
Attorney Jack Martin, on behalf of the Legislative Committee for Criminal Defense Lawyers, argued that there were huge changes in the proposed legislation, noting that, if there were members of the Committee who were fans of Justice Antonin Scalia then they should be concerned. He argued that defendants had the Constitutional right to "confront" witnesses. He agreed that testifying could be traumatic for anyone, including a child.
Polly McKinney, with VOICES for Georgia's Children, rose in support of the legislation.
In the end, the Committee held HB 804 until Rep. Lindsey could be present.
Senate Judiciary Committee
Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) chaired this meeting. This Committee took up the following:
- HB 790, by Rep. Chuck Williams (R-Watkinsville), addresses the statute of limitations in cases involving cutting or cutting and carrying away timber. A new Substitute was offered for the Committee's review to address certain issues previously raised before the Committee (no Substitute is currently available). Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) asked for some grammatical amendments which were adopted and the Bill passed by Committee Substitute as amended. Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) asked some questions about the damages imposed for these violations which are unlike those in other torts. Sen. Cowsert will carry this Bill in the Senate.
- HB 820, by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla), addresses O.C.G.A. § 44-3-106 clarifying provisions relating to the standing of condominium associations participation in litigation under certain circumstances. This initiative passed. Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough) will carry this proposal forward in the Senate.
- HB 654, by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), also sailed out of the Committee in a new Committee Substitute, addressing earlier questions concerning the appointments of testamentary guardians in O.C.G.A. § 29-2-4. It establishes the process by which a notice of testamentary guardianship must be served and on which individuals. Sen. Cowsert will carry this forward in the Senate.
March 7, 2014
Dr. Brinkley Goodson was the Doctor of the Day today. Dr. Goodson thanked House members for their service and told them that the community health program in Georgia held thousands of people around the state, for which he was grateful.
Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) introduced a special group at the Capitol today. A delegation from the South Carolina House of Representatives traveled to Atlanta to meet with the Savannah River Caucus. The caucus includes legislators from both states who represent districts along the Savannah River.
Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas) introduced HR 1599 on the floor today. The resolution proposes the creation of a study committee to review the State’s code concerning alcoholic beverages. Rep. Maxwell did not yield for questions. The bill passed by a vote of 161-0.
SB 117 was the next bill to come before the House. The Bill, carried by Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla), would amend O.C.G.A Chapter 9 of Title 25 and would provide for new and clarified definitions of terms relating to “blasting or excavating near utility facilities.” The bill passed, 161-0.
Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville) introduced SB 65 to the House. The bill would amend O.C.G.A Title 37 by inserting the term “licensed professional councilor” and defining it. The bill passed without debate, 161-0.
Finally before adjourning, Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) asked the House to disagree to the Senate’s proposed changes to HB 744, the FY 2014 budget. They did so unanimously. Thus, the bill will now go into conference committee.
The Senate welcomed Cystic Fibrosis advocates to the chamber today as it was Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Day at the Capitol. Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) spoke to a resolution honoring the advocates.
Sen. Millar also requested that HB 646 (by Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) be placed at the foot of the calendar. This legislation addresses the Magistrates Retirement Fund. The motion was passed without objection. Thus, the bill was not heard today.
Sen. Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton) introduced the first bill on the Senate’s Rules Calendar. HB 740 would amend O.C.G.A § 27-1-2 that would consider non-resident military personnel and their families to be considered as Georgia residents for the purposes of purchasing hunting licenses. It would therefore permit them to purchase those licenses at resident rates. The bill passed, 48-0.
HB 764 was carried by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta). The legislation would amend O.C.G.A. § 47-2-357, addressing the Georgia State Employees' Pension and Savings Plan. It would require that state employees, hired after July 1, 2014, to contribute 5 percent of their income to their 401k retirement plan. Sen. Steve Henson (D-Tucker) asked Sen. Millar many questions about the 401k system as opposed to the old pension system. Sen. Henson hinted that people who were not saving for retirement were those who could not afford to do so. Further, he was concerned about those who were making $50,000 or less annually and how they would contribute this 5 percent. The old pension (the defined benefit plan), Sen. Henson noted, did not require a hefty contribution, the 401k does. Sen. Millar noted that the 401k has a 3 percent match by the State and that such a contribution was a competitive one. Sen. Millar argued too that other employers were moving towards these defined contribution systems. After that back and forth the Senate passed HB 764 by a vote of 51-0.
Finally, the Senate took up HB 786. Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) carried the bill which was originally authored by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin). It would amend O.C.G.A. 27-2-3.1 and would allow any infant (under the age of two) or any child from the age of two to 15 who has a grandparent in the State with a lifetime sportsman license to be exempt from the out of state price of a lifetime hunting license, regardless of their residence status. The bill passed, 48-4.
If you should have any questions regarding this report, please contact Stan Jones at 404-322-6133 or Helen Sloat at 404-322-6170.
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.