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Gold Dome

Feb. 17, 2021

Gold Dome Report — Legislative Day 18

Education was the theme on the floors of the Georgia House and Senate today as each body approved measures impacting K-12 teachers and students around the state. The Senate signed off on two such bills, including Governor Kemp’s teacher pipeline package (SB 88) and a measure that establishes the Office of College and Career Academies in the Technical College System of Georgia (SB 81). Not to be left out, the House also had its own school measure, passing legislation mandating the inclusion of tobacco and vapor products in the required K-12 instruction on alcohol and drugs (HB 287). The House also approved legislation revising the State’s foster care and adoption laws (HB 154). These bills proceed across the hall for consideration by the opposite chambers.

Committee meetings continued this afternoon with a fresh batch of new bills assigned by the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate. All the details inside today’s #GoldDomeReport.

In today’s Report:

  • Committee Reports
  • New Legislation
  • Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 19

Committee Reports

Senate Health and Human Services Committee
Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) and the Health and Human Services Committee took up one proposal, SB 116, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula). The legislation seeks to enact in Chapter 5 of Title 49 the “Maternity Supportive Housing Act.” The legislation would allow nonprofits to own and operate housing for women who are ages 18 and older and who need a place to live while pregnant and for up to 18 months after the child is born; pregnant women can bring their existing children to these homes. These facilities would be different than homes provided to younger girls (typically those in foster care who become pregnant). Senator Robertson noted that it was to exclude government interference; there is a need for these homes as waiting lists exist. Senator Robertson reminded the Committee as a former law enforcement officer he knew well the pipeline to prison and this would perhaps help alleviate some of this pipeline of women.Senator John Kennedy (R-Macon) made some inquiries regarding necessary insurance, noting that perhaps some wording needed to be changed so that property and casualty coverage is in place. Mike Griffin, the lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, supported the legislation noting that many of his churches want to make a bigger difference and move the needle on maternal and infant mortality. Other supporters were Elizabeth Reed, with the Georgia Life Alliance, and Elizabeth Hathorn, with Whispering Hope. Whispering Hope is wishing to build a home for these women to serve six women at one time; the funds used would be private and not involve state money. Larry Ramsey with ACCG noted that ACCG did not oppose the use of maternity homes but it does oppose language addressing the preemption of local control in the bill. He noted that there were issues relating to zoning and also argued the constitutionality of the proposal because of the “home rule” provision and that federal law prohibits the treatment of protected classes differently. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation but the vote was 6-4.

Senate Education & Youth Committee
The Senate Education & Youth Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), met today to consider legislation including:

  • SB 42, authored by Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-14-33 to stipulate that school climate determinations not include student discipline data.

    In this third hearing of the bill, the Committee was presented with a substitute that would remove student discipline data from school climate determinations but require schools to maintain discipline records online. A representative of End Mass Incarceration Georgia Network spoke to the Committee, again, to express opposition to the bill. A representative of Educators First, which is promoting the bill, spoke in support. In a response to a question from Senator Matt Brass (R-Newnan), Kerry Pritchard of the Department of Education explained that student discipline data is not included in CCRPI but is only included in the school climate rating.

    Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) proposed an amendment to the latest substitute to allow for the public to request and receive a physical copy of the discipline data at no charge. The Committee accepted the amendment proposed by Senator Tippins and subsequently recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
  • SB 51, authored by Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White), seeks to create the “Dexter Mosley Act” in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-319.6. It proposes that a home study student shall be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities and inter scholastic activities under the sponsorship, direction, and control of the resident school or resident school system, provided that several requirements are met. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
  • SB 59, authored by Senator John Albers (R-Alpharetta), amends Title 20 relating to funding for local charter schools and charter systems. The bill changes the percentages for calculating FTE funding under Code Section 20-2-165.1, and also requires certain federal fund allocation and facility usage or stipends for local charter schools by local education agencies.

    Senator Albers presented the bill to the Committee, noting that it is intended to bring funding parity between locally approved charter schools and charter districts beginning in FY23, allow charter schools to elect participation in the State Health Benefit Plan on renewal, provide for fair distribution of federal funding, and provide for facility usage stipends to charter schools. The Georgia Charter School Association, Peter McKnight of Drew Charter School, Delana Reeves of Westside Charter School, Barry Lolless of Savannah Classical Academy, Davion Lewis of the RISE Schools spoke in support of bill. Buddy Costley of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders and Scott Bierman of the Georgia School Board Association expressed concern about the facility stipend in section five of the legislation. Dr. Mike Looney of Fulton County Schools noted that he is supportive of Senator Albers’ effort and looks forward to continued partnership to improve the bill. In response to a question by Senator Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), Dr. Looney elaborated that the funds addressed in section five lag a year and the language needs “prior year” language and there are concerns about accountability for federal funds in section four. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

Senate Retirement Committee
Chairman Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) and his Committee took up two proposals with no votes taken:

  • SB 84, authored by Senator John Albers (R-Roswell), seeks to amend law for Peace Officers Annuity and Benefit Fund (“ POAB”) to include participation for dispatchers in O.C.G.A. 47-17-1(5). Senator Albers asked for an actuary study to be conducted over the summer. No state or tax dollars; all funding is from outside sources. If this is passed next year, it would become effective July 1, 2022 only if funded.
  • SB 167, authored by Senator Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), restores the cost of living adjustment (“COLA”) back into Georgia law at O.C.G.A. 47-2-29 for Employees Retirement System (“ERS”) folks eligible for retirement benefits. In 1967, the ERS Board of Trustees was given power for this COLA.; law was amended and removed that COLA compensation in 2009. State retirees are desperate to age with grace and dignity and to have basic needs met and have asked for this COLA to be reinstated. If passed, it would be effective July 1, 2022 with a 3 percent COLA on an annual basis. The bill is not without cost per Senator Orrock; she wants actuarial study done over the summer. Chuck Friedman spoke to the merits of the COLA legislation. State retirees stuck with their jobs over the years but post-employment years have not been comfortable. If COLA had not been removed, it would have been 43 percent more than they receive now. TRS retirees receive COLA adjustments. 54,000 current state retirees who do not receive COLA benefits. Three sources of funding on this fund: employee contributions; employer contributions; return on investment of the pension fund. 15 percent return in the fund over the last year. Approximately $250 million would perhaps be the cost. ERS reported on the financial status of the fund; at the April meeting, the ERS board gets actuarial reports. The Executive Director of ERS noted that his priority is to make sure funds are there for current and future retirees; he testified to his awareness of the current situation and that no COLA has been received since 2009. ERS Board has not taken the COLA issue lightly; from 2009 to present, funding is 76 percent would be 57 percent and would have been on a downward trajectory if this COLA were included. The ERS target return on its investment performance was expected over 7 percent; however, they are at 22 percent return. This one year boost is not sufficient. ERS raised caution on imposing this COLA. Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) asked about the differences between the ERS and TRS systems.

Georgia Occupational Regulatory Review Council (“GORRC”)
Anna Wrigley Miller opened discussions for GORRC meeting. This meeting was convened to discuss HB 34, authored by Representative Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), which would enact the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact. The Office of Planning and Budget (“OPB”) reported its summary on HB 34 and statewide comparison of the regulation. A fiscal note has also been prepared. Cody Whitlock outlined the fiscal note on HB 34 - $60,000 upgrades for SOS for its licensure system so that it can track licensing. Another $49,000 cost for one licensure analyst for addressing applications and background checks. (This cost does not include benefits.) An undetermined cost - $6000 for membership dues for GA to be a member. Applicants would bear costs of criminal background checks. There would be an application fee for individuals who are applying for out-of-state but that has not been determined. The states of Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming have enacted this compact. Bill covers an interstate compact per Whitlock and would allow the state, once a certain number of states adopt, would allow licensure of folks from out of state. Georgia is one of 16 states reviewing legislation like this. Hours of supervision and date by which an audiologist is required to have a doctorate versus a master’s level degree.

Representative Belton appreciates the purpose of GORRC and voted for it in 2018. Two additional compacts are coming to OPB. Wants Georgia to be the most military state in the nation; this would help military spouses especially so they do not have to wait for licensure. The Pentagon has asked for these bills; four other compacts have been passed previously. He did not feel that GORRC needs to take a large look at this — these are not newly regulated professions. This is not a new licensure; professions have been regulated since the 1970s. This compact is in the formation process; if Georgia adopts it then the state will have a seat at the table to frame the compact’s rules the way its professionals would feel best. The original bill was sponsored by Senator Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale) in 2020 and it passed unanimously. The Bill is endorsed by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and would help with telehealth services to be delivered to patients. Representative Belton urged that the state should be a leader than a follower.

Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Association spoke to this legislation. Kelly Ball, SLP spoke in favor of HB 34. ASHA also supports this compact.

Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) noted her support for the legislation, noting she passed the physician compact. Gabe Sterling with the Secretary of State Office reported that Secretary Raffensperger supports these compacts; he reported this compact is written better than others and would be better to be in the first 10 to adopt.

A draft report will be circulated and the GORRC will vote at the next meeting, which will be held in two weeks, on the recommendation for HB 34.

Senate Finance Committee
The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), met today to consider two bills.

  • SB 148, authored by Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), amends Title 28 to create the 2021 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. Chairman Hufstetler explained that this committee was originally created 10 years ago and he believes a revisit is needed to continue Georgia’s competitive advantage in attracting businesses in the new decade. Members of the committee expressed their support for the bill subsequently moved the bill DO PASS.
  • HB 265, authored by Representative David Knight (R-Griffin), is the annual IRS update bill. John Foster from the Department of Revenue presented the line by line changes to the committee. Chairman Hufstetler explained that there is a sense of urgency to move the bill quickly before any tax deadlines. The bill received a motion DO PASS.

New Legislation

The House read and referred the following legislation to committee today:

  • HB 464, authored by Representative Mitchell Scoggins (R-Cartersville), amends Title 29 to allow probate courts to transfer petitions of temporary guardianship of a minor to the juvenile court. This bill was referred to the House Juvenile Justice Committee.
  • HB 468, authored by Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), amends Title 38 to allow any business to continue operating during a public health emergency if it conforms to the health and safety measures contained in any order from the Governor. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
  • HB 474, authored by Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), amends Title 16 to require concurrent opioid antagonist prescriptions for all opioid prescriptions. This bill was referred to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
  • HB 475, authored by Representative Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta), amends Title 28 to grant subpoena power to legislative committees. The bill would also require all witnesses before a committee to swear an oath to testify truthfully. This bill was referred to the House Rules Committee.
  • HB 477, authored by Representative Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), amends Title 48 to extend the sunset provision of the transfer of real property tax credit. This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
  • HB 478, authored by Representative Bonnie Rich (R-Sugar Hill), amend Title 24 to include all types of proceedings in the state's expert witness requirements. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
  • HB 479, authored by Representative Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), amends multiple Titles to alter the state's citizen arrest laws. The bill still allows off-duty law enforcement officers to detain and arrest individuals within their jurisdiction of employment or when aiding another officer. The bill specifically prohibits private citizens from using force that could cause bodily harm to detain another citizen. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
  • HR 163, authored by Representative Spencer Frye (D-Athens), creates the House Study Committee to Evaluate Workplace Safety and Labor Law Enforcement in Georgia. This resolution was referred to the House Industry and Labor Committee.
  • HR 165, authored by Representative Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs), calls for the creation of a standing committee of the House to investigate conditions and safety of Department of Corrections facilities. This resolution was referred to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

The Senate read and referred the follow legislation to committee today:

  • SB 183, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Title 15 to require that all candidates for Sheriff be in good standing with the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
  • SB 185, authored by Senator Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia), amends Title 48 to stipulate that any tax decisions made by a court or the Georgia Tax Tribunal be done without deference to any determination made by the Department of Revenue. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 187, authored by Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), amends Title 20 to establish procedures for individuals with disabilities to apply for a waiver of the time limit requirements of the HOPE Scholarship. This bill was referred to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
  • SB 189, authored by Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), amends Title 9 to provide courts with the ability to make bifurcation decisions for issues of liability and damage. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 190, authored by Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), amends Title 51 to limit recovery of damages for medical and health care expenses to amounts equaling the amount paid to healthcare providers on behalf of a claimant and necessary to satisfy incurred but unpaid medical expenses. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 195, authored by Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), amends Title 2 to revise the definition of "process or processing" within the state's hemp farming statute to exclude "traditional farming practices such as drying, shucking and bucking, storing, trimming, and curing." This bill was referred to the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.
  • SB 196, authored by Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), amends multiple Titles to provide for the crime of improper sexual contact by a person in a position of trust. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 197, authored by Senator Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain), amends Title 16 to revise the state's anti-stalking laws to include the place of residence of the defendant if the victim resides in that location. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 19

The House is expected to consider the following measures on Thursday for Legislative Day 19:

  • HB 111 — Financial institutions; clarify and remove superfluous language; provisions (B&B-Williamson-115th)
  • HB 165 — Motor vehicles; use of mounts on windshields for the support of wireless telecommunications devices and stand-alone electronic devices under certain circumstances; allow (MotV-Barr-103rd)
  • HB 168 — Penal institutions; certain information within inmate files of the Department of Corrections shall not be classified as confidential state secrets when requested by the district attorney; provide (JudyNC-Petrea-166th)
  • HB 169 — Motor vehicles; commercial driver's license; provide requirements for issuance (MotV-Corbett-174th)
  • HB 212 — Health; order not to resuscitate; revise parental requirement for consent (Substitute)(Judy-Carpenter-4th)
  • HB 353 — Motor vehicles; clarify what constitutes an obstruction for purposes of exceptions to when a vehicle is to drive on the right side of roadway (Substitute)(MotV-Jones-25th)

The Senate is expected to consider the following measures on Thursday for Legislative Day 19:

  • SB 46 — Health; certain medical personnel to administer vaccines during public health emergencies under certain conditions; authorize (Substitute) (H&HS-11th)