Gold Dome Report for February 22, 2011
Greetings from the Gold Dome! Today, the bigger news was the release of an organized "plan" for HOPE and the program's funding by Governor Deal, the Speaker, Lieutenant Governor, and other Republican leaders.
Specifically, in Governor Deal's Press Release, it states:
"Under the new legislation, Zell Miller Scholars will include the top 10 percent of HOPE scholars under the present system based on both a 3.7 GPA and a 1200 SAT or 26 ACT score. These scholars attending any public college or university in the state will be awarded full tuition scholarships, while those attending private institutions will receive the full private HOPE award."
In the fall of 2011, students who have a 3.0 GPA attending Georgia public colleges and universities will receive 90 percent of the standard tuition rate. However, the legislation will eliminate funding for books and remedial classes, cap eligible hours at 127 and "ensure that HOPE scholars are prepared for college-level work by requiring these students to take a certain number of high school rigorous courses."
Pre-K will continue to receive one-third of all lottery-funded expenditures. Further, the program will remain "a voluntary, universal, free program serving 4-year-olds across the state regardless of a family’s economic status." One of the major shifts will be for Pre-K to be a four-hour a day program rather than the current six and a half hour day initiative.
Other changes of note:
- Georgia remains one of only four states to provide a universal Pre-K program
- Adds at least 5,000 slots to address the Pre-K waiting list in the state. Currently there are around 9,000 on the waiting list in Georgia.
- Increase of transportation funds
- Increases extended day funds by $4.5 million, tripling the amount currently paid for these slots for at-risk students
- Eliminates the use of HOPE Grant funds for remedial classes. (estimated savings: $13.1 million)
- Requires students to earn a 3.0 GPA by the first HOPE check point, once enrolled in technical college courses; currently, 68 percent of students have a GPA of 3.0 or higher at the 45-hour checkpoint. (estimated savings: $15 million)
- Provides that students who already possess a postsecondary degree are ineligible to receive the HOPE Grant; currently, 2 percent of students using the HOPE grant already possess a bachelor’s degree or higher. (estimated savings: $2.8 million)
- Establishes a firm cap of 95 quarter hours or 63 semester hours for all students. (estimated savings: $250,000)
- The Georgia Lottery Corporation
- Limits bonuses awarded to Georgia Lottery Corporation employees to no more than 25 percent of their base compensation.
- Requires that bonuses be based on the amount of net proceeds transferred to the Lottery for Education Account, not simply on lottery revenue.
- Lowers the commission paid to lottery retailers from an average of 7 percent to no more than 5 percent on all games and provides that retailers shall not receive more than 1 percent of payouts. (estimated savings: $69 million)
Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) reported that the Journal had been read and was in order.
- SB 9, originally to be heard, was dropped to the foot of the Rules Calendar and will be taken up later.
- SB 38 passed by Committee substitute with a vote of 50 to zero.
- SB 47 passed with a Floor Amendment 53 to zero.
- SR 29 passed with nine dissenting votes.
The House took up four proposals.
- HB 30 passed with a vote of 105 to 58. This Bill cleans up the error regarding the effective date for the "blue penciling" of employment agreements as passed in 2009.
- HB 92 also cleared the floor with a vote of 148 to 20.
- HB 53 also passed with a vote of 155 to 2.
- HB 232 gained passage and now makes its way to the Senate with a vote of 158 to 3.
HB 281 – Rep. Ben Harbin (R-Evans) authored changes to Chapter 4 of Title 7 relating to Georgia's legal rate of interest and maximum rate of interest generally. Specifically, it would permit, in O.C.G.A. § 7-4-2(a)(3), a debtor the ability to use proceeds of a loan or advance to establish collateral for the loan or advance. "The amount of such proceeds used for collateral is not considered a reduction in the principal amount of the loan or advance for purposes of calculating interest under this Code section." It further amends criminal penalties for excessive interest in O.C.G.A. § 7-4-18(a).
HB 282 – Rep. John Yates (R-Griffin) introduced this Bill pertaining to the Child Custody Intrastate Jurisdiction Act. It adds a new Part 5 in Chapter 9 of Title 19 to be known as the "Military Parents Rights Act". One of its provisions is that it will not permit a court to enter a final order which modifies the parental rights of a deployed parent until 90 days after the deployment ends unless the modification is agreed to by the deploying parent. It further provides that a court is to enter a temporary order modifying parental rights and responsibilities or parent-child contact during the period of deployment or mobilization under certain conditions; motions for modifications are to be heard as expeditiously as possible by the court.
HB 283 – Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague (D-Red Oak) offered this Bill concerning Georgia's Quality Basic Education Act to provide that the State's Board of Education would be required to incorporate into rape prevention and personal safety education programs a program for the prevention of teen dating violence to be known as the Love is Not Abuse Curriculum. Such requirement would be added at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-314.
HB 284 – Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) offered amendments concerning the process involved in the use of certified process servers in Chapter 11 of Title 9. One of the major changes is that the certified process servers would file applications with the Administrative Office of the Courts, rather than with the sheriff of the county. It would also permit a court to revoke or suspend a certification of a process server. If a complaint is filed by a peace officer or citizen alleging serious misconduct by a certified process server, then a judge may be able to suspend the process server's certification up to five business days while the matter is under the judge's consideration. The process server will be entitled to be heard and have the ability to present evidence to rebut the suspension or withdrawal of his or her certification.
HB 285 – Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Lawrenceville) authored this Bill amending O.C.G.A. § 20-2-211.1 addressing clearance certificates which are issued by the Professional Standards Commission. Specifically, in (d), it will permit local units of administration the authority and responsibility to order criminal record checks through the Georgia Crime Information Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the authority to receive the results of those checks. Those local units of administration can then forward the results to the Professional Standards Commission. The Professional Standards Commission would be authorized to establish the requisite rules and regulations to carry out this set of changes.
HB 290 – Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) introduced this Bill pertaining to State purchasing in an effort to correct an oversight in provisions protecting against fraudulent use of State purchasing cards. It adds a definition for the terms "agency" or "agencies".
HB 291 – Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) authored this Bill adding a new Code Section proposal for O.C.G.A. § 48-5-33 so that property tax bills will not include any non-tax related fees or assessments (such as stormwater service fees or solid waste service fees).
HB 292 – Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Winston) offered this Bill regarding employment security in Chapter 8 of Title 34. It changes periods covered in O.C.G.A. § 34-8-151 and assessments to be made.
HB 296 – Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford) offered this proposal with changes to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-321 and to O.C.G.A. § 31-7-6. The State Board of Education will be required to collect and maintain data from each local school board on an annual basis about the number of students who are illegal aliens and who are unable to provide proof of citizenship, after which, the State Board will then calculate and publish the amounts of expenditures, by school district, for these students in grades K-12. The Report would then be published on the State Board's website no later than January 1 of each year. Likewise, the Department of Community Health will be required to maintain data on the number of patients receiving medical treatment who are illegal aliens and patients who are unable to provide proof of citizenship. This data would be collected by any hospital, healthcare facility, medical or skilled nursing home, or other organization rendering patient care to these individuals including the numbers of patients, types of treatment, costs and dates of treatment, and methods of payment (indicating whether it was cash, by insurance, through Medicaid, unpaid or other form of payment). This information will not capture the identity of the patient. The information collected by the Department of Community Health would then be compiled and published on its website no later than January of each year.
HB 298 – Rep. Ben Harbin (R-Evans) introduced this Bill providing for the establishment of a small business investment company credit in O.C.G.A. § 33-1-19
HB 303 – Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) authored this Bill which proposes to address delegation of authority to a physician assistant by a physician in O.C.G.A. § 43-34-103(e.1) and (e.2). It would amend the permission for a physician assistant to sign off on certain documents, including signing and receiving of professional samples and distribution of those professional samples to patients. The delegation of this authority would be required in the physician assistant job description and the professional samples would be within the specialty of the supervising physician. Further, professional samples distributed would be required to be noted on the patient's medical record. It further expands in (e.2), that:
Except for death certificates and assigning the percentage of a disability rating for purposes of workers' compensation, a physician assistant may be delegated the authority to sign, certify, and endorse all documents relating to health care provided to a patient within his or her scope of authorized practice, including, but not limited to, documents relating to physical examination forms of all state agencies and verification and evaluation forms of the Department of Human Services, the State Board of Education, local boards of education, the Department of Community Health, and the Department of Corrections.
O.C.G.A. § 43-34-109 eliminates the 12-month requirement for the supervising physician to see a patient who has been seen by a physician assistant. Changes would require that such patient evaluation and follow-up care be appropriate to the nature of the practice and the acuity of the patient's medial issue, as determined by the supervising physician.
HB 305 – Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) authored this Bill providing that members of local boards of education will be limited to serve terms of no less than four years beginning January 1, 2012 in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-52.
HB 306 – Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) authored this proposal as well which would add at paragraph (90) in O.C.G.A. § 48-8-3 additional exemptions from State sales and use taxes for certain "qualified job training organizations" which are: located in Georgia; exempt from income taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; specializes in retail sales of donated items; provides job training and employment services to individuals with workplace disadvantages and disabilities; and uses a majority of revenues for job training and placement programs.
HR 339 – Speaker Ralston authored this Resolution to recognize and commend the 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness members.
HR 342 – Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford) proposed this Constitutional Amendment to provide for the prioritized expenditure of excess State revenues, including income tax relief, in the event of a budget surplus. It would be required to be ratified by the voters if passed and would apply to any State fiscal year commencing on or after July 1, 2014. This amendment would be known as Article IXA, Taxpayer Dividend Amendment of 2012.
SB 112 – Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) offered this Bill relating to the Child Custody Intrastate Jurisdiction Act, addressing procedures for the governance of parental rights in the event a parent is subject to military deployment. These changes would be added as a new Part 5 in Chapter 9 of Title 19 and it mirrors Rep. Yates' Bill above.
SB 113 – Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) authored this Bill addressing Titles 36 and 50 to clarify the authority of municipal corporations which enter into certain contracts so that such do not change or conflict with any otherwise existing authority to enter into such contracts.
SB 114 – Sen. Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville) proposed this Bill amending Chapter 4 of Title 3 pertaining to the licensing and regulation of alcohol. It would provide for the issuance of a manufacturer's or distiller's license to a fruit grower for the manufacture of distilled spirits in any county or municipality of Georgia that has approved either the package sale of distilled spirits or the sale of distilled spirits by the drink or both.
SB 117 – Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) introduced this initiative which modifies two provisions in Chapter 13 of Title 44:
- In O.C.G.A. § 44-13-1, it increases the amount of exemptions from levy and sale of property from $5,000 to $25,000 or $50,000 for real or personal property that is the debtor's primary residence.
- It makes similar revisions in O.C.G.A. § 44-13-100 for property of a debtor to exempt, for purposes of bankruptcy.
SB 118 – Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) introduced this Bill addressing matters relating to the Georgia Crime Information Center in Chapter 3 of Title 35. It permits time frames within which certain actions are to be taken relating to expungement, modification, or supplementation of criminal records. It outlines time frames within which expungement is to be taken and allows a party to file an action in the superior court where the agency is located when a court declines to expunge, modify or supplement an individual's criminal record or if the court's order is contrary to the desires of the agency or prosecuting attorney. It further adds additional instances where records may be expunged to also include: when defendant in an indictment or accusation was placed on the dead docket or nolle prossed; found not guilty of the charges by a judge or jury; successful in completing a pretrial diversion program, the terms of which did not specifically provide for the expungement of the arrest record; and a defendant was convicted of an offense, but such conviction was reversed by an appellate court and the decision has been made final and the prosecuting attorney has elected not to pursue the charges further.
SB 119 – Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) offered this Bill in Chapter 3 of Title 20 to amend definitions relating to tuition equalization grants and HOPE scholarships and grants - it permits an "approved school" to be an institution which was previously accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools ("SACS") within the last eleven years, which is currently working to re-attain such accreditation and which otherwise meets the requirements of the definition. Currently, it is a school which has been SACS accredited within the last seven years.
SB 120 – Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) introduced this legislation in an attempt to stress ill effects of alcohol on young drivers. It would add in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-142 a parent or guardian participation component in the alcohol and drug course required for obtaining a driver's license for a person under the age of 18 (and would include a separate component for parental or guardian instruction that provides drug prevention strategies, legal accountability information, and an opportunity for a parent or guardian to ask questions and acquire other information which would offer assistance to parents to help protect their children from alcohol and other drug use.) It also would add in O.C.G.A. § 40-5-25(f) that parents or guardians who successfully participate in this parent-guardian component would be entitled to a one-time three-year online motor vehicle report.
SB 121 – Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) proposed this Bill amending laws permitting disposition of funds received by the Department of Natural Resources, appropriations, and grants and donations for natural resources conservation camps and numbering of watercraft vessels when such moneys were collected in error or from overpayment and which are not entitled to the Department. Such changes will be addressed in O.C.G.A. § 27-1-13 and O.C.G.A. § 52-7-5 and in O.C.G.A. § 14-5-21.
SB 123 – Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) introduced revisions concerning foreclosure practices on security deeds in Title 44.
- In O.C.G.A. § 44-14-64, it strips out current law on transfers of deeds to secure debt and the indebtedness secured in whole or in part by a financial institution and in its place adds that no later than 30 days after the date on which a deed to secure debt is transferred, the transferee will be required to notify the property owner, in writing by certified mail, statutory overnight delivery, or personal service, the identity, address, telephone number of the new creditor, date of transfer, and name of an agent or representative authorized to act on behalf of the new creditor. Further, the owner of property subject to a security deed will be entitled to receive without charge a payoff balance from the holder of the deed to secure debt by making a request for that balance. There are also provisions concerning assignments if they are not duly recorded with the Superior Court where the property is located – requiring that no sale may proceed until the recordation of assignments necessary to trace the interest of the person who asserts that he is the holder of the obligation secured by the security deed or mortgage to the original grantee or mortgagee is accomplished. Failure of a creditor to follow the new requirements will be subject to damages.
- Notice of foreclosure provisions are also amended in O.C.G.A. § 44-14-162.2, including that notice must be given of the initiation of a power of sale within 60 days prior to the date of the proposed foreclosure – current law is 30 days. The notice must also be done by certified mail, statutory overnight delivery or by personal service (rather than just be mail). This notice must also be tacked to the property which is to be sold. Notices will now be required to contain specified information – such as name, address and telephone number of the party secured and any agent of that individual; amount which will be accepted to cure the default; etc.
- Beginning in O.C.G.A. § 16-8-100 et seq., there are expanded provisions in Georgia's Residential Mortgage Fraud Act (which will be known as the Georgia Residential Mortgage Fraud and Foreclosure Act).
SR 183 – Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) offered this Resolution to recognize the first week in October as Georgia Pre-K Week.
SR 184 – Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) proposed commending the Professional Association of Georgia Educators ("PAGE") today, February 22, 2011.
Senate Appropriations Committee
Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the FY 2011 Supplemental Budget. In total, the Senate Appropriations Committee cut $6.3M in State funding in the Department of Community Health's Budget. Overall, the Department's recommended budget is hovering around $2.22 billion in State funds and $12.26 billion in total funds (with federal funding).
For hospitals, they agreed to fully fund the state portion of the DSH payments to both deemed and non-deemed private hospitals.
The Committee restored cuts made in some areas, including some benefitting the hearing impaired, and elderly Georgians with Alzheimers. The Senate also restored cuts made to help hemophiliacs. Even though many patients can transfer to new federal insurance programs that eliminate pre-existing conditions, the transfers are not proceeding as fast as hoped and some restoration of state funds was necessary.
After discussing the restored cuts and other substitutions, the substitute passed with no objections.
Department of Community Health:
1. Supplanted state funds with Tobacco Settlement Funds to address the loss of ARRA federal funding in the Low-Income program. ($6M - state/tobacco funds)
2. The Senate has presumed an additional $800,000 in State savings in the Low-Income program from drug company settlements.
3. A reduction was also taken in Low-Income Medicaid of $6 million based on lower prior year expenditures.
Public Health/Healthcare Access
4. Infectious Disease Control and Vital Records took a cut of $300,000 and $227,000 in State and federal funds, respectively
5. The Senate disagreed with the House and restored $800,000 State money that had been supplanted with fraud settlement funds in the Department's Administration budget.
Healthcare Facility Regulation
6. The Senate also reduced State funding by approximately $378,000 based on revised expenditure projections.
7. The Senate's version restored a portion of the reductions for medical education in the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce Budget, including approximately $448,000 for the Mercer School of Medicine Operating Grant and an additional $141,000 for Morehouse Undergraduate Medical Education payments.
Under the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Budget, the Senate's only change dealt with the re-allocation of additional State funds to increase the "DBHDD's" contribution to the State Health Benefit Plan. Otherwise, money remains to address the Department of Justice settlement agreement for the provision of community-based mental health and developmental disability services.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee met to discuss SB 66 and SB 67. SB 67 proposes to protect the title "Nurse" by law to prevent other non-certified persons from misleadingly using the title. This would make "Nurse" a protected title similar to Registered Nurse. The committee approved the bill without objection.
SB 66 seeks to define the continuing educational requirements, licensing renewal process, and definitions of scope of practice for clinical perfusionists. Clinical perfusionists handle "extracorporeal blood," or blood that is outside the body, during surgeries such as heart transplants. Michael Troyko of the Perfusionists Advisory Council of the Georgia Board of Medical Examiners spoke to the committee about the specifics of the bill, and submitted facts about the duties of a perfusionist. Although there are 90-100 perfusionists in Georgia, the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion which licenses perfusionists has no presence in Georgia. The bill will require Georgia perfusionists to be certified by the board initially, but their licenses may be renewed by the state. SB 67 passed the committee unanimously.
House Children and Youth Committee
The House Children and Youth Committee heard a presentation by Bobby Cagle, Commissioner of Georgia's Bright from the Start program, which manages our Pre-K program funded with lottery proceeds. He explained the changes the Governor proposed this morning in Pre K slots and daily schedules. Commissioner Cagle was joined by Susan Adams and Dr. Bentley Palmer. They discussed some background statistics on Georgia's Pre-K program, as well as their goals.
Today, Governor Deal introduced cuts to the HOPE scholarship, one of which cuts the funding for Pre-K from 6 1/2 hour days per student to 4 hour days per student. These cuts are made with the intention of allowing more children to participate in the program, and ideally will add 5,000 children from the 10,000 child wait list.
In spite of the budget cuts, the goal is to preserve four main aspects of the program: maintaining parent choice of where to send their child to Pre-K, fostering public-private partnerships in providing Pre-K, achieving high quality results for every child, and providing a universal program for Children in Georgia. One way the program is seeking to attain these goals is through implementing CLASS, or Classroom Level Assessment Scoring System when evaluating the effectiveness of instructors.
Next, Stephanie Blank of Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students addressed the committee in regards to the necessity of early education to avoid the long term costs of remedial education. Mrs. Blank informed the committee that 80% of families in Georgia with children in Pre-K make $60,000 or less annually; thus, ensuring they get a quality education in Pre-K is of utmost importance to prevent costs in the future. The discipline, social skills, and emotional development children acquire in Pre-K determines the future of their education. Mrs. Blank ended her statements noting: "Remediation costs so much more than doing it right the first time."
Senate Public Safety Committee
The Senate Public Safety Committee met to discuss SB 95, presented by Senator Carter. SB 95 was passed by both the House and Senate in the previous session, but vetoed by Governor Perdue. SB 95 authorizes law enforcement agencies to contact previous employers to attain employment records of prospective employees. These records only pertain to the behavior or performance of an employee. Frank Rotundo, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, and Michael Caldwell, legislative council, spoke on the merits of the bill alongside Bill Clark of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. SB 95 passed the committee unanimously.
SB 94 was also discussed, seeking to amend conflicts in the previous session's SB 308. SB 308 didn't include rifles with 16" barrels and did not define BB Guns with explosive gun powder in the cartridge as handguns. SB 94 seeks to clarify these definitions to provide consistency throughout the document and define these weapons accordingly. SB 94 passed the committee unanimously as well.
The following is a synopsis of some of the meetings which took place yesterday but for which we have not yet reported:
The Human Services Subcommittee of House Appropriations heard budget presentations from several agencies Tuesday morning about their SFY 2012 proposals. Dr. Frank Shelp of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities walked through the several items in his budget relating to an increase in community services pursuant to the Department of Justice mental health settlement. Many questions focused on exactly what services would be in place in northwest Georgia to support the closing of the state hospital in Rome. The 2012 plan calls for crisis respite beds for DD patients released from the Hospital and mobile crisis services as well. There will be additional community supports for DD patients and 250 new waiver slots. The committee wanted to be sure that kids in foster care on the waiting list for community services would be covered by the new slots, and Dr. Shelp and his DD director assured the committee that there were enough slots to cover kids aging out of foster care.
On the mental health side, there will be an additional crisis stabilization program added to the Cobb Douglas CSB and the Advantage CSB in Gainesville. Contracts with community hospitals are also under discussion in Gainesville, Rome and Dalton. The Committee members were very focused on exactly where and when the new services/contracts would be opened or in place in the several regions of the state. They also asked questions about the substance abuse prevention contracts paid for by the federal block grant, but this interest seemed to wane a bit when it was clear that these questions were about state funds. Some questions seem oriented to holding back state dollars for services if they were not actually implementable. The questioning was extensive but the Committee seemed to support the various changes, including the hospital closure. Some questions were also about Milledgeville.
Commissioner Clyde Reese next spoke for the Department of Human Services. He received considerably fewer questions about his budget proposals. In many instances, DHS is using federal dollars, typically TANF ones, to substitute for state ones. This avoids programming cuts and enables the Department to meet the Governor's goals for state fund reductions.
Gay Collier, Director of Family Connections, gave a spirited defense of keeping her state partnership under its current independent status and not attaching it to the Governor's Office of Children and Adolescents. The Committee seemed sympathetic and asked questions that elicited the support from Woodruff, Casey and Walmart Foundations for the county-based programs and the state staff, that Family Connections personnel primarily are not state employees, but work for the partnership, and that the operating programs are primarily at the state level. Jen Benecke, Director of the Governor's Office spoke later in the afternoon.
The Setzler Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, Non Civil, passed the bill about basalt salts being inhaled by kids. The GBI testified in favor of it and Jay Neal described the extensive bad side effects as a result of this new drug's abuse, accenting that it was not yet clear what the antidote or treatment is or exactly how medically dangerous inhaling it is. The issue was described as more serious and extensive than crack or crystal meth use. The over-the-counter availability of the salts is a serious problem and one the bill wishes to regulate.
This Committee held the prescription monitoring bill amid questions about violation of privacy rights.
Please contact Stanley S. Jones, Jr., Helen Sloat, Taylor Janney, or Claire Cantrell at 404.322.6000 for further information on legislative happenings. Gold Dome Reports will be available daily during the Session at www.nelsonmullins.com.
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.