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Gold Dome

February 19, 2020

Gold Dome Report - February 19, 2020

Just over a month after first convening on January 13, 2020, the General Assembly took its first major action today as the House signed off on its version of the Amended FY20 Budget. The House-approved budget, which now proceeds to the Senate for consideration, contains a number of notable departures from Governor Kemp’s proposal in the form of funding restorations and redirections. Key details on the House’s AFY20 spending measure, as well as today’s committee action and new legislation, in this issue of the #GoldDomeReport.

In today’s Report:

  • House Passes Amended FY20 Budget
  • Committee Reports
  • New Legislation
  • Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 15

House Passes Amended FY20 Budget

Taking up its first major bill of 2020, the House today voted 126-46 to adopt its version of the Amended FY20 Budget. Contained within HB 792, the spending proposal includes a number of notable departures from Governor Kemp’s proposal, including the following:

Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

Crisis Stabilization

  • Increase funds to maintain statewide crisis bed infrastructure and capacity:
    • Governor’s Recommendation: No recommendation
    • House Recommendation: $2,553,087

Marcus Autism Center

  • Reduce funds to reflect contractual savings associated with Medicaid eligible services. (H: Reduce funds to reflect contractual savings associated with Medicaid eligible services and restore $750,000 for the Marcus Autism Center.)
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($1,087,686)
    • House Recommendation: ($337,686)

Family Support Services

  • Reduce funds for intensive family support services to reflect projected expenditures. (H: Reduce funds for intensive family support services to reflect projected expenditures and restore $500,000 to the Bobby Dodd Institute.):
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($1,000,000)
    • House Recommendation: ($500,000)

Department of Community Health

Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce: Undergraduate Medical Education

  • Reduce funds for medical student capitation payments to Emory University School of Medicine, Mercer University School of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). (H: No)
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($170,700)
    • House’s Recommendation: $0

Department of Education

Quality Basic Education

  • Increase funds for a midterm adjustment to the State Commission Charter School supplement training and experience.
    • Governor’s Recommendation: $9,384,675
    • House’s Recommendation: $6,262,789
  • Increase funds for a midterm adjustment for a 0.3% increase in enrollment
    • Governor’s Recommendation: $113,742,778
    • House’s Recommendation: $104,231,089
  • Increase funds for the State Commission Charter School supplement.
    • Governor’s Recommendation: $18,382,887
    • House’s Recommendation: $25,387,375
  • Increase funds for a midterm adjustment for the Special Needs Scholarship.
    • Governor’s Recommendation: $9,742,283
    • House’s Recommendation: $2,441,006

RESAs

  • Reduce funds for grants to RESAs.
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($282,720)
    • House’s Recommendation: ($132,720)

Department of Human Resources

Child Welfare Services

  • Replace $970,000 in state general funds with existing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant (TANF) funds for child protective caseworker positions. (H: Replace $470,000 in state general funds with existing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant (TANF) funds for child protective caseworker positions and utilize $500,000 in state funds for the Multi-Agency Alliance for Children.)
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($970,000)
    • House’s Recommendation: ($470,000)
  • Reduce funds for personal services for the Family First Project Management Team to reflect actual start dates
    • Governor’s Recommendation: No recommendation
    • House’s Recommendation: ($171,016)
  • Reduce funds for personal services for the quality assurance monitors to reflect actual start dates.
    • Governor’s Recommendation: No recommendation
    • House’s Recommendation: ($274,268)
  • Reduce funds to reflect the delayed implementation of a pilot program for closed foster care cases to reflect a July 1, 2020 start date.
    • Governor’s Recommendation: No recommendation
    • House’s Recommendation: ($940,000)

Elder Support Services

  • Reduce funds to reflect the non-implementation of marketing for the Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC).
    • Governor’s Recommendation: No recommendation
    • House’s Recommendation: ($94,920)

Department of Juvenile Justice

Community Service

  • Reduce funds to reflect actual billing for youth competency beds.
    • Governor’s Recommendation: No recommendation
    • House’s Recommendation: ($322,201)
  • Reduce operating funds to reflect a later opening date for the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Victims' Facility of February 2020.
    • Governor’s Recommendation: No recommendation
    • House’s Recommendation: ($234,924)

Department of Public Health

Adolescent and Adult Health Promotion

  • Reduce funds for the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (CORE). (H: Reduce funds for the regional cancer coalitions to accurately reflect the governor's proposal.)
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($300,000)
    • House’s Recommendation: ($300,000)

Public Service Commission

Commission Administration

  • Eliminate funds for the utilities research contract. (H: No)
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($37,750)
    • House’s Recommendation: $0
  • Reduce funds for regular operating expenses for high mileage travel reimbursements. (H: No)
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($19,463)
    • House’s Recommendation: $0

Utilities Regulation

  • Reduce funds for operating expenses. (H: Restore personal services funding to prevent furloughs.)
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($341,924)
    • House’s Recommendation: ($157,424)
  • Reduce funds for contractual services with professional associations. (H: No)
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($61,668)
    • House’s Recommendation: $0
  • Reduce funds for regular operating expenses to reduce high mileage travel reimbursements. (H: No)
    • Governor’s Recommendation: ($24,334)
    • House’s Recommendation: $0

Committee Reports

House Insurance Committee

The House Insurance Committee, chaired by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), met early this morning to consider three measures.

First, Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville) presented HB 893 which he described as a cleanup bill for the collection of fraud fees. The bill would codify the practice of collecting the fees quarterly instead of yearly. The Department collects quarterly by rule but this bill will add it to code. The committee recommended the bill DO PASS.

Next, Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville) presented HB 842. The bill is named after Gracie Noble, a constituent of Rep. Williams. The bill’s intent is to ensure a person with a mental or physical disability is not discriminated against in organ transplant proceedings. The national ADA covers this issue but the bill will add the specific rule to state law. Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) asked if there have been any conversations revolving around organ transplants for individuals living with HIV. Rep. Williams explained that this bill originated from an individual with down syndrome. He also stressed that the bill would not apply to individuals with alcoholism. Rep. Carolyn Hugely (D-Columbus) asked if there have been violations of this law in other states where it has been implemented. Rep. Williams explained he was unaware of any specific cases.

David Tatum from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta spoke in favor of the bill. He explained that CHOA performs the highest number of pediatric organ transplants in the state and there is no medical evidence suggesting individuals with disabilities benefit any less from an organ transplant.

The committee approved an amendment changing a reference to district courts to read “superior courts.” The bill then received a recommendation DO PASS.

Rep. Noel Williams (R-Cordele) presented HB 583. He explained that the bill would help further protect consumers from travel insurance products. The bill would establish uniform terms and facilitate new sales practices. Specifically, the bill would prevent opt-out sales and require that the insurance sales are filed with the Department of Insurance. Rep. Cannon asked for clarification regarding organizations delineated in the bill, specifically how churches are affected. Rep. Williams explained that this allows for church groups going on trips to purchase insurance. The committee recommended the bill DO PASS and the committee adjourned.

Senate Health and Human Services Committee

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) met to consider multiple measures this afternoon.

First, Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alphretta) presented SB 340 which would create annualize the designation of September 1st of each year as Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. The bill received a recommendation DO PASS.

Next, Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) presented SR 546 which urges groups that often interact with individuals with mental illness to issue mental health alert wristbands. The resolution received a recommendation DO PASS.

Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) presented SB 272. This bill would prohibit the sale of drugs containing dextromethorphan to minors. Sen. Robertson explained that this drug is often abused by minors and can be found in many common over-the-counter drugs. The bill received a recommendation DO PASS with Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming) voting no.

Lastly, the committee heard from Sen. Chuck Hufstetler about SB 359, his version of the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act. Sen. Hufstetler explained that there are a few updates from the previous hearing including changing “counties” to “zip codes” at the behest of the Medical Association of Georgia. The new substitute also included language to ensure that consumers shall not receive balance bills and expands coverage to facilities as well as providers. Sen. Hufstetler noted that overall, the bill will protect consumers and allow for a fair process for providers and insurers to negotiate any billing issues. Sen. Hufstetler also explained that a wide coalition from both sides of the issue supports the bill. The bill received a recommendation DO PASS.

Before adjourning, Chairman Watson indicated that he feels passing a bill to address balanced billing will be a crucial aspect of this year’s session.

Senate Public Safety Committee

The Senate Public Safety Committee, chaired by Sen. John Albers (R-Alpharetta), met today to hold a hearing on Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula)’s SB 226. This bill would require that all occupants of a motor vehicle wear a seatbelt. Sen. Robertson indicated that he needed some additional time to work with others on amendments to the legislation. Chairman Albers noted that the committee will hold another hearing on the bill on Monday.

Senate Education and Youth Committee

The Senate Education and Youth Committee, chaired by Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville), met today to consider SB 343, Sen. Lester Jackson’s (D-Savannah) bill that would raise the age of mandatory education from 16 to 17. Most members of the committee indicated that they philosophically agree that more education is a positive but that there can be some instances of children losing interest early in their education career. Opponents of the measure cited studies which indicate raising the age could result in more than $10 million in additional costs to school systems. Chairman Martin subsequently asked for a fiscal note for the bill. Sen. Jackson explained that these costs are lower than the resulting costs of students dropping out of school. The bill was held for a hearing only and no action was taken.

Senate Retirement Committee

The Senate Retirement Committee, chaired by Sen. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta), heard testimony today on SB 294, which will allow TRS to make alternative investments with up to 5% of the value of the fund. Teacher group advocates spoke against the bill stating that TRS already has a robust return on its investments and does not need to enter into the market through alternative investments which often come attached with higher fees. Opponents also pointed out that a bill that passed the House Retirement Committee yesterday (HB 830) would raise the cap on alternative investments by public retirement funds to 10% which would subsequently apply to TRS if SB 294 passes. Chairman Black indicated that he does not expect the House legislation to pass the Senate.  The bill received a recommendation DO PASS and the committee subsequently adjourned.

New Legislation

The following legislation of interest was introduced in the House today:

  • HB 918, authored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), amends Title 26 to make multiple changes to Code relating to pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers. Specifically, it amends the Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights to provide that the cost of claims cannot be used as a criterion for selecting claims to review and limits the number of prescriptions that can be audited. It also extends the time for a pharmacy to address an audit discrepancy from 30 to 60 days. The bill precludes recoupment from a pharmacy for problem claims to cases of fraud, overpayments, and certain misfills. The bill also limits audits to once per six month period. The legislation also amends portions of the pharmacy anti-steering provisions. The bill was referred to the House Insurance Committee.
     
  • HB 920, authored by Rep. David Clark (R-Buford), amends O.C.G.A. 20-3-66 to allow for certain undocumented students to recieve out-of-state tuition and fee waivers if they meet certain qualifications. The student must have attended an in-state secondary education school for three consecutive years prior to graduating highschool, applied to college within 24 months of graduating highschool, and submitted a transcript certifying attendance in highschool. The tuition waiver will cover all tuition and fees up to 110% of the required credit hours. This bill was referred to the House Higher Education Committee.
     
  • HB 934, authored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), amends O.C.G.A. 48-7-29.75 to increase the state income tax credit for foster parents from $2,000 to $6,000 per qualified foster child. This tax credit would last for the first five taxable years after the adoption becomes final and then return to $2,000 until the child turns 18. This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
     
  • HB 939, authored by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), amends O.C.G.A. 48-7-29.16 to remove the sunset provision for the $100 million cap on the qualified education tax credit. This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
     
  • HB 940, authored by Rep. Greg Kennard (D-Lawrenceville), amends Title 20 to require for mandatory pre-k and kindergarten for all children prior to entering first grade. This bill was referred to the House Education Committee.

The following legislation of interest was introduced in the Senate today:

  • SB 379, authored by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), amends various Code Sections within Chapter 10 of Title 43 to provide updates to the state’s licensure requirements for barbers and cosmetologists. This bill was referred to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.
     
  • SB 380, authored by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), provides for a ballot question for citizens of Fulton County to enact a new homestead exemption. This bill was referred to the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee.
     
  • SB 383, authored by Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro), amends Title 30 to create the Georgia Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The bill describes the purpose of the Commission in O.C.G.A. 30-11-3 as serving as the principal entity of the state to advocate on behalf of blind or visually impaired persons. The bill also directs the Commission to advise the Georgia Vocational Rehab Agency on the development of a state plan for vocational rehab for blind persons along with the provision of independent living services for blind or visually impaired individuals. This bill was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
     
  • SB 385, authored by Sen. John Wilkenson (R-Toccoa), amends O.C.G.A. 12-9-7 to require that any permit for industrial biomass boilers prevent the burning of wood products treated with creosote compounds or naphthenate compounds. This bill was referred to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.
     
  • SB 386, authored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), amends Title 33 to provide updates to the state’s Special Needs Scholarship. The bill adds “Physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment” to the list of qualifying disabilities for the scholarship program. The bill also extends the scholarship to all students placed in foster care. Further, the bill adds transparency requirements including mandatory survey periods for parents of participating students along with annual reports of any complaints received about the program from participating parents. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
     
  • SB 387, authored by Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta), amends Title 20 to instruct the State Board of Education to create rules for schools to disburse leftover food from food preparation courses to needy students within the school. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
     
  • SB 390, authored by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), amends various Titles to create a comprehensive judicial reform bill. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 14:

The House is expected to consider the following measures on Thursday for Legislative Day 15:

  • HB 716 - Insurance; carriers issuing a health benefit plan in this state through an agent shall file proposed commission rates with the department; provide (Ins-Blackmon-146th)
     
  • HB 777 - Community Affairs, Department of; consider amending the state minimum standard codes to allow tall mass timber construction types; direct (A&CA-Corbett-174th)
     
  • HB 786 - Superior courts; additional judge of the Flint Judicial Circuit; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Welch-110th)
     
  • HR 1023 - Judiciary; people may petition for declaratory relief from certain acts of this state or certain local governments or officers or employees; provide - CA (Substitute)(Judy-Welch-110th)

The House is expected to consider the following measures on Thursday for Legislative Day 15:

  • SB 134 - Georgia Commission on the Holocaust; commission for administrative purposes; reassign (Substitute) (UAff-32nd)
     
  • SB 268 - Notaries Public; persons for whom notaries perform notarial acts; valid Veterans Health Identification Card; provide (VM&HS-2nd)
     
  • SB 335 - Children and Youth; foster children and foster families; laws and supports; strengthen (Substitute) (Amendment) (JUDY-28th)
     
  • SB 345 - Standards, Labeling, and Adulteration of Food; nonprofit organizations to prepare in accordance with Department of Public Health requirements; provide (Substitute) (H&HS-32nd)
  • SB 356 - Solid Waste Management; expansion of certain municipal solid waste landfills to areas within two miles of military air space used as bombing ranges; allow (NR&E-3rd)