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Gold Dome

Feb. 23, 2021

Gold Dome Report — Legislative Day 21

The Georgia State Senate kicked off the second half of the 2021 Legislative Session on Tuesday by considering four measures on the hot topic of the year — Georgia’s election laws. Each bill passed, although three of four were adopted on roughly party line votes. Meanwhile, the House took up a variety of measures with nothing to do with elections, including revisions to Georgia law regarding continuing education for massage therapists (HB 305), legislation allowing chiropractors to own professional corporations with physicians (HB 119), and the annual dangerous drug update to Georgia Code (HB 367). A full committee calendar followed the day’s floor action, and we have coverage of many in today’s #GoldDomeReport.

In today’s Report:

  • Floor Notes
  • Committee Reports
  • New Legislation
  • Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 22

Floor Notes

The House had a number of proposals on its Debate Calendar this morning:

House
Modified Structured Rule

  • HB 68 Professions and businesses; certain military certifications; extend time to qualify (RegI-Clark-147th) Bill PASSED 163-0.
  • HB 119 Professions and businesses; chiropractors may own professional corporations with physicians; provide (RegI-Hawkins-27th) Bill PASSED 163-0.
  • HB 161 Local government; downtown development authorities; remove provision providing perpetual existence to such authorities (GAff-Tankersley-160th) Bill PASSED 165-0.
  • HB 241 Insurance; revise meaning of property insurance; change parameters under which certain contracts or agreements may be canceled (Substitute) (Ins-Gambill-15th) Bill PASSED166-0.
  • HB 286 Local government; restrict ability of county governing authorities to reduce funding for county police departments(Substitute)(GAff-Gaines-117th) Bill was postponed.
  • HB 305 Professions and businesses; massage therapy; revise a definition (RegI-Hawkins-27th) Bill PASSED 161-2.
  • HB 367 Controlled substances; Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V; change certain provisions (JudyNC-Parrish-158th) Bill PASSED 164-0.

Structured Rule

  • HB 149 Income tax; certain elections to be made by Subchapter "S" corporations and partnerships for the filing of tax returns and imposition of taxes; allow (Substitute)(W&M-Williamson-115th) Bill PASSED 167-0.
  • HB 374 Sales and use tax; local authorities providing public water or sewer service; exempt (W&M-Gaines-117th) Bill PASSED 164-0.

Senate
The Senate focused its work today on Georgia’s elections processes and laws:

  • SB 67 Elections and Primaries; submission of identification in connection with absentee ballot applications; provide (Substitute) (ETHICS-20th) The bill PASSED by committee substitute 35-18.
  • SB 188 Elections and Primaries; election results reporting system to be established and maintained by the Secretary of State; provide (ETHICS-46th) The bill PASSED 34-18.
  • SB 40 Elections and Primaries; the time and method for opening and tabulating absentee ballots; revise (Substitute) (ETHICS-6th) The bill PASSED 53-0.
  • SB 184 Elections and Primaries; inputting credit for voting data; revise the time (ETHICS-46th) The bill PASSED 37-15.

Committee Reports

House Retirement Committee
The House Retirement Committee, chaired by Representative John Carson (R-Marietta), heard the following bills today:

  • HB 263, authored by Representative Mitchell Scoggins (R-Cartersville), amends Title 47 to to revise the method through which certain actuarial equivalents are determined for the probate judges’ retirement program. Specifically the bill allows for the program to adjust its mortality tables as necessary. The bill will be sent for actuarial review before further consideration by the Committee.
     
  • HB 385, authored by Representative Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), amends Title 47 to allow public school systems to employ beneficiaries of the Teachers Retirement System as full-time classroom teachers in areas with the highest need.

    Representative Blackmon presented the bill to the Committee, noting that it passed the House and is part of the Governor’s teacher pipeline package. He also explained that, while the bill had a fiscal impact last year when first introduced, it has been amended such that it no longer has a fiscal impact. Margaret Ciccarelli of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators spoke in favor of the bill, as did Rob Chatham of the Retired Educators Association, Karen Solheim of the Georgia Association of Educators, and Scott Bierman of the Georgia School Board Association. The bill will be sent for actuarial review before further consideration by the Committee.

House Insurance Committee - Life and Health Subcommittee         
Chairman Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) and the House Insurance Life and Health Subcommittee met this afternoon. The Subcommittee took up these measures:

  • SB 4, authored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta), seeks to establish standards for substance abuse providers to limit some marketing practices of paying inducements to potential patients to select a particular provider, such as airplane tickets, and of overcharging or overusing drug tests. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation, moving to the Senate Rules Committee.
     
  • HB 509, authored by Representative Houston Gaines (R-Athens), seeks to require an insurer to provide at least one individual health insurance product with no preexisting condition limitations or exclusions in the event that the Affordable Care Act is declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or is repealed by the Congress. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving to the Senate Rules Committee.
     
  • HB 115, authored by Representative Mike Wilensky (D- Dunwoody), seeks to prohibit health or life insurance providers from using any genetic information it obtained from or through non-therapeutic reasons to discriminate against any person. The bill is directed against using genetic characteristics or obtained from other sources such as 23 and Me to deny health or life insurance, for example, to an individual. Alzheimer’s Association and an individual with ALS testified in favor of the bill, but a witness for the life insurance association testified against the bill, arguing that an insurer should have access to any information an individual has in his or her possession. This legislation was held.
     
  • HB 73, authored by Representative Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus), seeks to address limits copayments, co-insurance, or other cost sharing arrangements charged by insurers or pharmacy benefit managers for insulin so that such changes can be no more than $50 per 30 days’ supply of the drug. Despite opposition testimony from the Georgia Association of Health Plans, the bill passed. The Georgia Pharmacy Association testified in support of the bill.

Environmental Quality Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee
The Environmental Quality Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Representative John Corbett (R-Lake Park), met today to consider a single bill.

  • HB 355, authored by Representative Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), amends Title 12 to include building products in construction in the Georgia Carbon Sequestration Registry. Representative Wiedower began by walking the committee through the bill. Chairman Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) expressed her support for the bill. The subcommittee moved that the bill DO PASS.

Senate Government Oversight Committee
Chairman Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) and the Government Oversight Committee took action on three bills this morning:

  • SR 37, authored by Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), is a constitutional amendment to amend Article III, Section II to provide term limits for members of the General Assembly. Members of the House of Representatives would be eligible to serve six consecutive two-year terms and members of the State Senate would be eligible to serve three consecutive two-year terms. An individual elected to serve as the Lieutenant Governor would be limited to two consecutive four-year terms and such amendment is proposed for Article V, Section I.. Such limitations would be imposed following elections in 2024. The Resolution received a DO PASS recommendation and moves to the Senate Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 120, authored by Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Marrietta), establishes an honorary title in O.C.G.A. 15-18-75 for solicitor-generals who have served as the chief prosecuting attorney in state courts for 20 years and who have retired after that length of service to be known as solicitor-general emeritus. A similar honorary title is conferred on district attorneys who have retired after 20 years of service. There is no financial implication involved with this legislation. There are 20 state court systems in Georgia. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation and moves to the Senate Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 144, authored by Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), addresses Georgia’s housing authorities and seeks in Chapter 3 of Title 8 to limit the ability of city housing authorities to operate outside municipal boundaries without authorization. This legislation also received a DO PASS recommendation and moves to the Senate Rules Committee.

Senate Higher Education Committee
Chairman Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) and the Higher Education Committee took up the following bills:

  • SB 107, authored by Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), seeks to provide in O.C.G.A. 20-3-660 tuition and fee waivers for foster care youth who are enrolled in the Technical College System of Georgia. Originally, the legislation included enrollment of youth in the University System schools; however, due to a constitutional prohibition, that language was eliminated in the new substitute presented. There is “urging” language included in the legislation for the University System to provide some type of similar plan for youth wishing to attend a school within that system. There are, in 2021, about 700 youth who are in the independent living program within DFCS. About 20 percent of those 700 may take advantage of this initiative. It is an average cost of $3,044 for attendance at TCSG school. Senator Strickland indicated that it would cost $426,000 if these 20 percent enrolled. This is Lt. Governor Duncan’s legislation. The bill does have a limitation on who can apply; it will only apply to those youth who are in the system at the age of 14. Director Rawlings indicated that this age is what is in line with federal law. Senator Max Burns (R-) asked if the student would be able to qualify for the HOPE grant; that is possible. Students will also be eligible for other funds such as PELL grants, Chaffee funds, etc. It was further explained that there are two units in the TCSG system which have housing on their campuses. Senator Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) noted her support of the legislation, arguing that students who get post-secondary education do better long term but she did have a concern about placing a disincentive in the legislation for adopting older youth with the age of 14 included. Director Rawlings stated that the median age of adoption is 6 years of age and included that DFCS spends $100 million annually in adoption assistance for families who adopt children. SB 107 received a DO PASS recommendation, moving now to the Senate Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 97, authored by Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), seeks to allow out-of-state students the ability to receive tuition waivers at historically black colleges and universities (Albany State, Ft. Valley State and Savannah State). Senator Jackson explained that this was a way in which to incentivize these youth to come to Georgia; they typically remain in the state after college. This bill amends the numbers of waivers from 2 percent to 4 percent. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving now to the Senate Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 204, authored by Chairman Tippins, addresses a gap in the system. It will allow a five-year pilot program (five units within the Technical College System of Georgia) for high school student dropouts to enroll in the Technical College System of Georgia and permit them to be granted a high school diploma if they complete their technical college course of study. Now, only a GED may be awarded. The legislation will also help those who are over the age of 21 to achieve a high school diploma as well. The State Board of Education will be responsible for creating rules and regulations around this effort. Chairman Tippins remarked this was not “mandatory attendance” but a way in which to allow students to get meaningful training. The academic course work at the high school level will transfer to TCSG in a “single enrollment”. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving now to the Senate Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 187, authored by Chairman Tippins, addresses a time limitation for students to receive HOPE. In 2019, it was changed to allow for 10 years of receipt of HOPE (enrollment based on July 1, 2019). The earlier law permitted HOPE eligibility for up to 7 years. This legislation is designed to assist those with disabilities (as identified by the Americans with Disabilities Act) who cannot complete their work so as to permit individual waivers for up to 10 years from the Georgia Student Finance Commission. There is no added financial burden to the state. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving now to the Senate Rules Committee.

Senate Insurance & Labor Committee
The Senate Insurance & Labor Committee, chaired by Senator Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge), met to consider the following measures today:

  • SB 112, authored by Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone), amends Title 33 to require annual notification to policy owners and requested beneficiaries of the existence of such policies. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 113, authored by Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone), amends Title 33 to provide for life insurers' requirement to review the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' life insurance policy locator service. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 166, authored by Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), amends Title 15 to stipulate that a relationship with an insurance company that may have a financial interest in the outcome of the case is grounds for disqualification of a juror. Jurors must fill out a questionnaire that identifies their current employers and insurance companies. The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association spoke to legal and practical problems with the bill. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 169, authored by Senator Larry Walker (R-Perry), amends Title 13 to provide for acceptance of electronic signatures and electronic corporate seals on bonds. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 191, authored by Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), amends Title 40 to remove the provision in Georgia law that allows for direct actions against motor carriers and their insurers. The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association spoke in opposition to the bill, explaining that the direct action statute has been in law for 80 years and the ability to directly sue an insurer is necessary because motor carriers are transient. A motion that the bill do pass was defeated.

Senate Health and Human Services Committee
Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) and the Health and Human Services Committee took up this legislation:

  • SB 215, authored by Senator Larry Walker, III (R-Perry), addresses permitting certified medication aides to administer certain medications in nursing homes in O.C.G.A. 31-7-12.7. They are presently not permitted to do so. Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) expressed concerns about controlled substances and again an issue with lines 29-30. She did not want to include named injectable drugs as there may be more. She was glad to know this activity would be under a physician protocol agreement. The legislation has been vetted by the Medical Association of Georgia and other entities including the Georgia Health Care Association. Pam Clayton, RN, with the Georgia Health Care Association, spoke to the proposal and appreciates the legislation brought forward. There is clarity under the physician order process. A committee substitute to this legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving now to the Senate Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 235, authored by Chairman Watson, seeks to amend Chapter 11 of Title 16 revise the offense of wearing a mask, hood, or device which conceals the identity of the wearer. Watson described that the legislation was needed due in part to court decisions. It does provide an exception so that wearing a mask is not an offense if a mask is being worn to comply with healthcare agency guidance or to prevent a communicable disease. The Committee gave a committee substitute a DO PASS recommendation, moving the legislation to the Senate Rules Committee.

Senate Regulated Industries Committee
The Senate Regulated Industries Committee, chaired by Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), met today to consider multiple bills including

  • SB 102, authored by Senator John Kennedy (R-Macon), would restrict local governments from prohibiting energy hookups in buildings based solely on the source of energy being delivered. Senator Kennedy introduced the bill and explained that the bill is primarily designed to protect consumer choice. Senator Tonya Anderson (D-Atlanta) expressed concerns that the bill would unfairly limit local control of municipalities of the state. Senator Kennedy explained that ACCG and GMA are neutral on the legislation.

    Mark Woodall from the Georgia Sierra Club spoke against the bill from both a local control and environmental impact perspective.

    Brad Mock with the Georgia Realtors Association spoke in favor of the bill. He explained that the bill preserves consumer choice for homeowners.

    Alex Muir with One Hundred Miles spoke in opposition of the bill. She explained that the bill restricts the ability of cities to make their own decisions.

    Stephen Loftin spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of the Georgia Gas Association. He discussed how the bill will promote job creation in Georgia’s energy sector.

    Nick Palumbo, an Alderman from Savannah, spoke against the bill. He discussed the need for the state to take a leadership role in the fight against climate change and noted that this bill could make that a much harder fight in the state. Senator Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) asked if Mr. Palumbo wants to ban natural gas at the port of Savannah to which he explained the question is whether or not cities have the ability to make that decision themselves, not the substance of the decision itself.

    Daniel New spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

    Chairman Cowsert suspended live testimony in the interest of time and the committee moved the bill DO PASS.

New Legislation

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

  • HB 576, authored by Representative Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro), amends Title 20 to allow school systems to use local option sales tax revenue to pay for energy savings contracts. The bill also allows improvement projects that are not causally connected to energy savings contracts up to 50% of the total contract cost. This bill was referred to the House Education Committee.
     
  • HB 578, authored by Representative Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs), amends Title 51 to repeal the right of action for seduction of daughter. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
     
  • HB 580, authored by Representative Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs), amends Title 45 to prohibit former state employees from engaging in any transaction with a state agency for one year after their employment ends. This bill was referred to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
     
  • HB 581, authored by Representative Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas), amends Title 33 to create new consumer protections for insurance including mandatory informational postings and requirements for claimant responses. This bill was referred to the House Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System.
     
  • HB 584, authored by Representative William Boddie (D-East Point), amends Title 34 to stipulate that daily overtime wages are based on a 24 hour period regardless of if that period covers multiple calendar days. This bill was referred to the House Industry and Labor Committee.
     
  • HB 586, authored by Representative Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), amends Title 48 to extend sunset dates on a variety of tax credits along with creating a new tax credit for ticket sales for fine arts performances within facilities owned by an art 501(c)(3). This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
     
  • HB 587, authored by Representative Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), amends Title 48 to create a new tax credit for the manufacturing of medical equipment. This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
     
  • HB 589, authored by Representative Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville), amends Title 20 to create the Georgia Commission on Civics Education. This bill was referred to the House Education Committee.
     
  • HB 590, authored by Representative Don Hogan (R-St. Simons Island), amends Title 37 to establish an assisted outpatient treatment program for persons with mental illness. The system is specifically designed for individuals that have trouble maintaining engagement with essential mental health treatment. To this end, the bill creates a three-year assisted outpatient treatment grant program. This bill was referred to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
     
  • HB 591, authored by Representative Don Hogan (R-St. Simons Island), amends Title 37 to authorize licensed marriage and family therapists to perform certain acts related to emergency mental health treatment. This bill was referred to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
     
  • HB 592, authored by Representative Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven), amends Title 51 to stipulate standards of gross negligence regarding COVID-19 safety requirements for businesses and facilities. Violation of this standard voids any other tort immunity related to COVID-19. This bill was referred to the House Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System.
     
  • HB 593, authored by Representative Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), amends Title 48 to increase the standard deduction for state taxable incomes. This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
     
  • HB 594, authored by Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), amends Title 48 to expand the definition of a digital goods and services for tax purposes. This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

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

  • SB 220, authored by Senator Chuck Payne (R-Payne), amends Title 20 to create the Georgia Commission on Civics Education. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
     
  • SB 221, authored by Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), amends Title 21 to create political leadership committees which are tied state party leaders including the Governor and Lt. Governor -- or candidates for these offices -- or the chair of the House and Senate majority and minority caucuses. These committees would be able to accept and disburse funds for political elections. This bill was referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
     
  • SB 223, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), is the “Community Rebound Act.” The bill amends Title 42 to provide for incentives to units of the Department of Community Supervision for meeting several outcome-based measures. This bill was referred to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
     
  • SB 226, authored by Senator Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), amends Title 16 to make the sale or distribution of harmful material to minors statute applicable to libraries operated by schools. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
     
  • SB 299, authored by Senator Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta), amends Title 16 to remove exemptions for weapons carry violations in school zones. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
     
  • SB 231, authored by Senator Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), amends Title 20 to create a pilot program within a limited number of charter schools to provide a high school diploma pathway for individuals between the ages of 21 to 35. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
     
  • SB 234, authored by Senator John Kennedy (R-Macon), amends Title 9 to provide new regulations for the practice of mediation in the state. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
     
  • SB 235, authored by Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah), amends Title 16 to exempt mask wearing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or other infectious respiratory disease from state criminal anti-mask laws. This bill was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
     
  • SR 136, authored by Senator Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), urges the Technical College System of Georgia to develop programs to expand technical education to individuals over the age of 16 who have withdrawn from high school.

Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 22

The House is expected to consider the following measures on Wednesday for Legislative Day 22:

  • HB 179 — Special license plates; support breast cancer related programs; amend logo design (MotV-Camp-131st)
  • HB 292 — Ad valorem tax; property; remove certain training requirements for members of county boards of equalization following their initial training for their first term (W&M-Williams-148th)
  • HB 306 — Corporations, partnership, and associations; corporations may hold shareholders' meetings by means of remote communication; provide (B&B-Gunter-8th)
  • HB 455 — Education; student transportation; revise a provision (Ed-Barr-103rd)
  • HR 142 — Property; conveyance of certain state owned property; authorize (SProp-Greene-151st)
  • HR 143 — Property; granting of non-exclusive easements; authorize (SProp-Greene-151st)

The Senate is expected to consider the following measures on Wednesday for Legislative Day 22:

  • HB 265 — Revenue and taxation; Internal Revenue Code and Internal Revenue Code of 1986; define terms and incorporate certain provisions of federal law into Georgia law
  • SB 51 — "Dexter Mosely Act"; enact
  • SB 89 — Elections and Primaries; chief elections assistance officer; qualifications, appointment, supervision, and duties; provide
  • SB 100 — State Government; this state shall observe standard time year round; provide
  • SB 119 — Permit Required for Burning Woods, Lands, and Marshes or Other Flammable Vegetation; except certain yard waste from permitting
  • SB 148 — 2021 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure; create
  • SB 157 — "Fair Business Practices Act of 1975"; deceptive practice of musical performance groups advertising; prohibit