Monday was photo day for the Georgia House of Representatives. Time for the biennial panoramic photo of all members present and on their best behavior at their desks in the House chamber. It was a rare moment of calm and composure in a typically bustling chamber, and it was likely the last moment of quiet as the session accelerates toward adjournment sine die.
Legislative Day 40 is just nine days away, and the chambers and their committees are working feverishly to advance bills and resolutions before the gavel falls for the final time in 2023. That work began early on Monday with the Policy Subcommittee of the House Education Committee taking up and passing out SB 233, this year’s cannonball run for school voucher expansion in Georgia. More on this bill and the other committee actions in this #GoldDomeReport.
In this Report:
- Floor Action
- Committee Reports
- New Legislation
- What’s Next
The House took up the following measures on the floor on Legislative Day 36:
- SB 42 - Human Trafficking Hotline Information; model notice requirements; increase the fine for failure to comply (JudyNC-9th) Hodges-3rd. The bill passed by a vote of 167-0.
- SB 44 - Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act; mandatory minimum penalties for violations; provide (Substitute)(JudyNC-103rd) Hatchett-50th. The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 99-74.
- SB 59 - Governor; Office of the Inspector General; establish (Judy-103rd) Hatchett-50th. The bill passed by a vote of 171-2.
- SB 61 - Sick Leave for Care of Immediate Family Members; sunset provision relating to such sick leave requirements; repeal (Substitute)(I&L-117th) Strickland-17th. The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 172-1.
- SB 64 - Birth Certificate; issuance of a copy of the original birth certificate to certain adult persons who were adopted; provide (Substitute)(Judy-29th) Camp-135th. The measure was POSTPONED until the next legislative day.
- SB 90 - Selling and Other Trade Practices; commercial financing disclosures; provide (Substitute)(B&B-118th) Dixon-45th. The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 163-9.
- SB 93 - Information Technology; use of certain social media platforms on state equipment; restrict (Substitute)(PS&HS-118th) Anavitarte-17th. The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 174-0.
- SB 135 - Paternity; Uniform Parentage Act of 2017; align evidentiary medical and genetic testing (JuvJ-23rd) Kirkpatrick-32nd. The measure was POSTPONED until the next legislative day.
- SB 149 - "Georgia Door-to-Door Sales Act"; enact (Substitute)(A&CA-145th) Albers-56th. The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 160-1.
- SB 181 - Georgia Technology Authority; authority to conduct certain fingerprint criminal background checks of all current and prospective employees; require (JudyNC-18th) Payne-54th. The bill passed by a vote of 174-0.
- SB 223 - Health; reimbursement of patient incurred expenses related to participation in a cancer clinical trial; authorize (Hth-27th) Watson-1st. The bill passed by a vote of 170-0.
The Senate took up the following measures on the floor on Legislative Day 36:
- HB 35 - Georgia Ports Authority; provide for powers; expand arrest authority of officers (Substitute)(PS&HS-161st) Brass-11th. The Senate passed this bill by Substitute 54-0.
- HB 207 - Waters, ports, and watercraft; carrying of night visual distress signals upon coastal waters during certain hours; provide (Substitute)(GF&P-124th) Anderson-24th. The Senate passed this bill. The Senate passed this bill 53-0.
- HB 373 - State holidays; September 11 as First Responders Appreciation Day; designate (SRules-60t) James-35th. The Senate passed this bill 52-0.
- HB 414 - Mental health; grant program to aid service members, veterans, and their families; provide (Substitute)(Hth-146th) Watson-1st. The Senate placed amendments on this bill to provide for “transparency” and cited Georgia’s open meeting and open records laws. The bill passed by substitute as amended on the Floor 51-0.
- HB 493 - Professions and businesses; verification of competency for registered professional nursing licenses; revise a provision (Hth-155th) Walker-20th. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 50-0.
- HB 545 - Agricultural Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits; provide (A&CA-172nd) Watson-11th. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 47-3.
The Senate also agreed to the House changes to SB 104 with a vote of 54-0. The legislation addresses compensation for the clerk of superior court, sheriff, and probate judge for Cobb County.
House Education Committee – Policy Subcommittee
The Policy Subcommittee of the House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), met Monday to consider one measure:
- SB 233, authored by Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), is the “Georgia Promise Scholarship Act.” The bill amends Title 20 to provide for the establishment of promise scholarship accounts to be funded by the state in the amount of $6,000.00 per school year for each participating student.
Dolezal presented the bill alongside Jamie Lord, who represents the Georgia Center for Opportunity and is promoting the legislation.
Representative Rick Townsend (R-Brunswick) asked several questions about how the voucher would affect private school student participation in college and career academies and the receipt of therapy services. Representative Lydia Glaize (D-Fairburn) expressed concern about the ability of the neediest families to leverage $6,000 to improve their students’ educational situation. Representative Becky Evans (D-Atlanta) asked if participating students would be eligible to receive a voucher through this program and a Special Needs Scholarship, to which Dolezal said no. Representative Miriam Paris (D-Macon) asked if there is a fiscal note on the bill, to which Dolezal said no because it is essentially a “fund swap” because students are already receiving QBE. Representative Karlton Howard (D-Augusta) asked if there are any standards for private school admissions processes, to which Lord said they have autonomy. Howard expressed concern about State money going to private entities over which the State has no control.
37 individuals signed up to speak on the bill. Speakers in support of the legislation included Georgia Faith and Freedom; two fourth-grade students; a student at SOAR Academy; Frontline Policy Council; the Georgia Center for Opportunity, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation; and a parent of a child attending a microschool.
Speakers opposed or with concerns with the legislation included the Georgia Association of Education Leaders (asking for transparency and accountability for private schools mirroring public schools); Georgia PTA; two students from Savannah; three public school graduates who are students at Georgia State University; the Southern Education Foundation; the Professional Association of Georgia Educators; the SPLC Action Fund; the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda; Dr. Terry Oates, Superintendent of Rockdale County Schools; Dr. Stephen Owens of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute; the Georgia Association of Educators; Georgia Youth Justice Coalition; and the Georgia School Board Association (proposing several amendments).
Public testimony was suspended by the Chair to allow for a motion. Representative Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) moved that the bill do pass. Rather than entertaining amendments during the meeting, the Chair explained that amendments would be considered after the meeting and potentially presented at the full House Education Committee meeting when the bill is taken up. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the full Education Committee.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee
Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) and the Health and Human Services Committee had the following measures on the committee’s agenda this afternoon:
- HB 143, authored by Representative Danny Mathis (R-Cochran), takes on a new rider with Senator Shelly Echols’ (R-Alto) continuous glucose monitor legislation in Chapter 4 of Title 49. The language addresses the concerns of the Department of Community Health. It moves from medical to pharmacy regarding insurance benefits. The version the committee worked from is LC 33 9515S. The substitute received a DO PASS recommendation. Echols will now carry the legislation forward.
- HB 181, authored by Townsend, addresses Chapter 13 of Title 16 concerning kratom. It prohibits the sale or transfer of possession of kratom to an individual under 21 years of age, and it prohibits the ingestion of kratom through a heating element or vaporizing mechanism or the selling of such mechanisms. The legislation further provides requirements and limitations on sales of kratom products and establishes additional packaging requirements for manufacturers. The bill previously received discussions in 12 hours of testimony and a couple of rewrites of the bill. The legislation is now a compromise with all parties, according to its author. LC 33 9513S is the version of the legislation the committee reviewed today. Law enforcement would be in charge of the enforcement. Kratom is an over-the-counter food product and is on the danger list of the FDA. Presently kratom is not regulated or monitored. It has been testified to previously that it can be used to help individuals to come off of pain medications. Jerry Keen, with the American Kratom Association, rose in support of the substitute. 45 other states regulate kratom — some are behind the counter, and some do not have it behind the counter. This legislation is stricter than many other states. Dr. Gaylord Lopez, a poison control expert, was asked about the modification or otherwise treated. Senator Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) asked about the number of states that have the product listed as a Schedule I substance; five states have banned the drug, and the other is rolling it back, per Keen. The bill received a DO PASS on the new substitute (Senators Matt Brass and Kim Jackson made the motion), and the bill passed unanimously. Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) will carry the legislation forward in the Senate.
- HB 309, authored by Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), addresses Chapter 7 of Title 31 regarding hospitals and related institutions financial stability requirements. This legislation specifically addresses personal care homes and assisted living facilities. Cooper indicated that this is a department-requested bill. The goal is to make sure that these entities are financially sound, clarifying that CPAs are not required to certify the entities finances. Setzler asked questions about what information is reviewed to determine if an entity is financially sound. The CPA will look at the pro forma and financial statement. CPAs had concerns about being asked to certify if the entity is a “going concern.” It is also changing from two-year to one-year financials in the law. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, and it moves forward to the Senate Rules Committee. The bill will be carried by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) in the Senate.
- HB 497, authored by Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta), seeks to permit the use of certified medication aides in penal institutions in O.C.G.A. 31-2-19. LaHood discussed his bill as having broad support from DCH and DOC. The Department of Corrections requested the legislation as it has been proven that medication aides can provide assistance in other healthcare settings. It also addresses how CNAs become certified and outlines professional education standards so that it outlines the requirements to be eligible for individuals to take the test. Kirkpatrick did not see the qualifications for certified medication aides. LaHood explained that there is a “pathway” to becoming a certified medication aide after taking a state test. A motion was made to DO PASS on LC 33 9442S. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation, moving it forward to the Senate Rules Committee. Echols will carry the legislation forward in the Senate.
- SR 250, authored by Senator Donzella James (D-Atlanta), is a resolution relating to the cities of East Point and South Fulton. James, 35th – Relating to the City of East Point and the City of South Fulton, urging the cities to take joint action for the construction of a new hospital to serve the citizens of South Fulton County. Senator Matt Brass (R-Newnan) indicated that this is an area of need and questioned whether the Department of Community Health would issue a CON. James indicated they have talked to WellStar about whether it would provide the CON from one of the closed facilities; however, it requires money. WellStar wants a hospital authority or a private and public source of funds for the hospital. There have also been several interested physicians in the issue. There is a general law that authorizes all cities and counties to take action for the formation of a hospital authority. Senator David Lucas (D-Macon) indicated that there is a need and sees no issue with the resolution. The resolution received a DO PASS recommendation, moving it forward to the Senate Rules Committee.
The final committee meeting is on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m.
Senate Finance Committee
Chair Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) called the Finance Committee to order to discuss the following measures:
- HB 290, authored by Representative Mitchell Scoggins (R-Cartersville), seeks to amend Article 6 of Chapter 5 of Title 48 of the O.C.G.A. for tax commissioners for the collection of property tax. This measure was passed last year. The salary for this contract cannot exceed 50% of the tax commissioners' annual salary. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.
- HB 504, authored by Representative Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin), seeks to amend Code Section 20-2-164 relating to freeport taxes. A fiscal note projected a $300 million impact to which the author agreed to drop the effort. The committee then amended the legislation by cutting out the original legislation and adding the Rural Hospital Tax Credit and the Public School Scholarship. The new language also extends the sunset to December 31, 2026 and cleans up language to mirror federal language.
- HB 86, authored by Representative Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro), seeks to amend Code Section 48-8-3 to address the Atlanta Zoo and Aquarium. Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) offered an amendment to attach SB 153. This is a voluntary two percent stadium surcharge tax to raise funds for capital outlay projects for public safety. This would be a voluntary tax for the city. Albers also amended the measure to change the sunset to December 31, 2026 and removed the word “state.” All three of these amendments passed. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.
- HB 101, authored by Representative Clint Crowe (R-Jackson), amends Title 48 of the O.C.G.A. to address several tax credits. The measure was amended only to include the School Scholarship Organizations Credit aggregate amount of up to $130 million per year with a sunset for December 31, 2026. Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) amended the measure to cap the broker fee at 2.5% for the first $120 million and then drop to 2%. Senator Jason Estevez (D-Atlanta) amended the measure to require the SSO to submit reports to the Department of Audits to include performance data, parent and student level of satisfaction, recipient amount, and cost of the school's students are going to. Another amendment from Estevez included language to prevent legislators from having a conflict of interests by receiving an administrative fee from this and ensuring transparency. Kellen Carr, on behalf of the AAA Scholarship Foundation, Inc., expressed support for the measure. Justin Pauly with the Georgia School Boards Association and Claire Suggs with PAGE expressed concern over the measure. The measure was TALBED for further discussion.
- HB 454, authored by Representative Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), amends Title 48 of the O.C.G.A. This is the annual IRC cleanup bill. The committee did not have a fiscal note on the bill, so it was held until the next meeting.
- HB 170, authored by Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), Title 48 of the O.C.G.A. to create parity in the tax code. This measure would tax digital downloads. The exemptions include streaming but include digital art, books, periodicals, magazines, newspapers, greeting cards, and video games. The substitute includes language on home delivery of alcohol across county lines within a 25-mile radius of the purchaser. Currently, Georgians can purchase alcohol for home delivery if the producer or market they purchase from is located within their county. This bill would allow a consumer to purchase either within their county or within a 25-mile radius. The sales taxes will go to whichever jurisdiction the alcohol was purchased in. Senator Beach expressed concern over the measure. Brett Harrell and Kasey Honeyman with Robins Government Relations spoke on the measure. Beach amended the measure to strike the language relating to alcohol sales across jurisdictional lines, which failed. The measure passed with three opposed.
House Juvenile Justice Committee
Chair Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) called a late afternoon meeting to order to discuss several measures.
- SB 216, authored by Senator Brass, amends Title 49 of the O.C.G.A. to define respite care for foster parents. This is to allow foster parents to allow their foster kids to attend stay in another location other than their home for short-term periods, no longer than 72 hours with another adult. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.
- SB 230, authored by Brass, amends Title 49 of the O.C.G.A. to create the Foster Parents Bill of Rights. There were a few questions about this bill's relationship with current federal law. The measure was held for further review.
- SB 133, authored by Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), amends Title 15 of the O.C.G.A. regarding custody. A substitute was presented.
This measure was still being discussed as this report went to print.
Senate Judiciary Committee
Chairman Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) and the Senate Judiciary Committee was delayed this afternoon but was anticipated to take up the following pieces of legislation (at the time of writing of this report):
- HB 88, authored by Representative Houston Gaines (R-Athens), seeks to enact the Coleman-Baker Act in Chapter 21 of Title 17. The legislation was brought to the Committee as LC 48 0944S.
- HB 475, authored by Representative Tyler Paul Smith (R-Bremen), is the annual Code Revision Commission bill, revising, modernizing and correcting errors in Georgia’s Code.
- HB 500, authored by Representative Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs), seeks to address the offense of arson of law enforcement vehicles. LC 48 0852 It adds a new Code section at O.C.G.A. 16-7-60.1.
- HB 375, authored by Representative Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), addresses Georgia’s Guardian and Ward laws at O.C.G.A. 29-5-23. It seeks to amend the authority of conservator and cooperation with guardian or other interested parties. It also defines gross settlement. (LC 44 2254)
- HB 404, authored by Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), seeks to enact the Safe at Home Act (LC 50 0549S) in Chapter 7 of Title 44 It specifically provides for a duty of habitability for certain rental agreements as well as notice and a maximum security deposit amount (no more than two months rent).
- HB 30, authored by Representative John Carson (R-Marietta), seeks to provide in Chapter 1 of Title 50 for the definition of antisemitism in LC 49 1412S.
- HB 219, authored by Representative Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), seeks to provide in Titles 7 and 16 for the offense of money laundering in LC 48 0901S.
- HB 563, authored by Representative Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), amends Chapter 19 of Title 45, the Fair Employment Practices Act of 1978, and seeks to provide for hearings before an administrative law judge (LC 44 2294).
- HB 470, authored by Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), seeks to enact in Chapter 12 of Title 24 the “Georgia Candor Act (LC 33 9502S (SUBSTITUTE)). The bill allows for voluntary open communications related to healthcare under rules of evidence.
The following legislation of interest has been introduced. Since the General Assembly is beyond Crossover Day, new legislation requiring action in both chambers is not eligible to achieve final passage by both chambers during this legislative session, but it will be available for consideration during the 2024 Legislative Session.
The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 37 on Tuesday, March 21 at 10:00 a.m.
The House is expected to consider the following measures on Legislative Day 37:
- SB 1 - State Government; automatic repealer on the prohibition on state and local governments from requiring proof of COVID vaccination for government services; remove (Substitute)(PHth-25th) Dolezal-27th
- SB 20 - "Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act"; ensure consumer access to quality healthcare by setting adequacy standards for network plans offered by an insurer (Substitute)(Ins-27th) Kirkpatrick-32nd
- SB 47 - Offenses Against Public Health And Morals; vaping in restricted areas is a misdemeanor punishable by fine; provide (Substitute)(PHth-45th) Hufstetler-52nd
- SB 131 - Permanent Guardianship; service by publication; provide (Substitute)(JJ-32nd) Tillery-19th
- SB 148 - Nonprofit Corporations; comprehensively revise, simplify, and modernize said chapter (Substitute)(Judy-123rd) Kennedy-18th
- SB 155 - Dangerous Instrumentalities and Practices; provisions relating to harming a law enforcement animal; revise (Substitute)(PS&HS-144th) Kirkpatrick-32nd
- SB 213 - Zoning Procedures; local governments from preventing the continuance of lawful nonconforming use of property; prohibit (Substitute)(GAff-144th) Burns-23rd
- SB 218 - Identification Cards; issuance of identification cards to persons completing a term of incarceration; provide (Substitute)(PS&HS-157th) Rhett-33rd
The Senate is expected to consider the following measures on Legislative Day 37:
- HB 120 - Motor vehicles; standards for issuance of limited driving permits for certain offenders; provide (Substitute)(MotV-174th) ALbers-56th
- HB 138 - Revenue and taxation; update population bracket and census data for a certain property tax exemption for certain leased property (W&M-118th) Williams-25th
- HB 163 - Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce; student loan repayment for medical examiners employed by the Division of Forensic Sciences of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; provide (Substitute)(HEd-26th) Hodges-3rd
- HB 193 - Local government; increase dollar values of certain public works construction contracts exempt from bidding requirements (GAff-10th) Watson-11th
- HB 221 - Insurance; filing review process for private passenger motor vehicle liability coverage providing the minimum limits offered by the carrier; revise (Substitute)(Ins-12th) Walker-20th
- HB 222 - Insurance, Department of; clarify, streamline, and make transparent the practices of the department (Ins-12th) Walker-20th
- HB 273 - Board of Natural Resources; extend date by which rules and regulations must be in effect for purposes of establishing criminal violations (Substitute) (NR&E-167th) Hodges-3rd
- HB 408 - Sales and use tax; exemption for competitive projects of regional significance; change sunset provision (W&M-112th) Hufstetler-52nd
- HB 431 - Special purpose local option sales tax; counties; provisions (W&M-85th) Butler-55th
- HB 541 - Motor vehicles; proper procedure for passing postal service vehicle; provide (Substitute)(MotV-12th) Robertson-29th