After a week of public budget hearings (and almost certainly a weekend of budget negotiations behind closed doors), the General Assembly reconvened today and pushed the Amended FY21 spending plan a bit further along its fast track to adoption. House Appropriations subcommittees convened early this morning to pass out their respective segments of the budget, spilling only some of the highlights along the way in their perfunctory meetings. All of the House’s recommendations are expected to be revealed tomorrow when the full Appropriations Committee signs off on the amended plan, which will likely be voted on by the full House on Thursday. Details on what we know so far in today’s #GoldDomeReport.
The Amended FY21 Budget wasn’t the only topic of conversation under the Gold Dome today. As the state continues to grapple with high rates of COVID-19 infections, Speaker David Ralston announced from the rostrum that only one member of the House has failed to participate in twice-weekly COVID testing mandated of all members and staff. After giving the member the opportunity to excuse himself from the chamber discreetly, Ralston called on State Troopers to escort Representative David Clark (R-Buford) off the floor, where he will remain until he complies with the testing protocol. Speaker Ralston told the chamber that he's "attended too many funerals" and members need to "show love for our neighbors" by getting tested.
In today’s Report:
- House Subcommittees Drop Hints on Amended FY21 Budget
- House Adopts Adjournment Resolution
- Committee Report
- New Legislation
House Subcommittees Drop Hints on Amended FY21 Budget
Moving quickly after last week’s budget hearings, the subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee convened in sequence this morning to sign off on their assigned agency budgets. While actual tracking sheets were not released to the public, subcommittee chairs shared some highlights and hints about what we are likely to see in the full Appropriations Committee tomorrow:
The Public Safety Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Representative Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon), reviewed the changes to the Governor's proposed budget for Amended FY21, which include:
- Provision of funds for a temporary judge on the Court of Appeals;
- Restoration of operating and personnel funds to the Statewide Business Court to address its “growing pains;”
- Funding for the Judicial Council to upgrade to technology allowing interoperability between courts;
- Increased funds for defense of District Attorneys in civil suits;
- Funding for use of senior judges to help address court backlogs once in-person court action returns more fully;
- Recognition of federal CARES Act funds to county jails and detention centers to respond to COVID-19;
- Reallocation of funds from unfilled positions at the Department of Corrections to provide 10% raises to correction officers;
- Funding to GBI for recruitment and retention of forensic pathologists;
- Funding to Fire Fighting Council’s vehicles; and
- Reduction to Department of Public Safety due to attrition in trooper schools.
Most agencies under the purview of the Subcommittee received some restoration of operating and personnel funds due to the better-than-expected revenue collections in FY21.
The Education Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Representative Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth), unveiled the House’s recommendations for the Amended FY21 Budget as presented by Governor Kemp. Highlights of changes as presented by Chairman Jones include:
- Addition of $38.6 million for Pupil Transportation to purchase 500 additional buses (addressing a backlog of 800);
- Funding for the Special Needs Scholarship to reflect 4,700 new recipients; and
- Funding to hold four state charter schools harmless for sharp enrollment decline due to COVID.
The Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Representative. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), met and approved budget plans for agencies under its purview. Changes from the Governor’s proposal include:
- Repurpose of $1.757 million funds from FMAP savings to Adult Developmental Disabilities Services for implementation of 10-bed crisis center for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities;
- Recognition of federal grant for suicide prevention work;
- Restoration of funds to the Multi-Agency Alliance for Children LEADS program; and
- Funding for GVRA administrative director and a new website with online application functionality.
There were no changes made to the Department of Veterans Services.
This Subcommittee, under the direction of Representative. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn), made mention of these initiatives:
- Funding increase for resurfacing projects;
- Funding increases for construction administration;
- Funding for bond debt service;
- Language to align the purposes of the GRTA with the ATL due to passage of HB 930.
Representative Butch Parrish (R-Swainsboro) and his Subcommittee passed out the recommendations relating to the Departments of Community Health and Public Health. Among items accented included:
- Additional funding for inspections for the state’s nursing homes;
- Increases in funding for addressing pandemic costs to the state’s nursing homes (including items such as PPE and staffing costs as 74 percent of Georgia’s nursing home population is covered by Medicaid);
- Increases in Department of Public Health funding for “critical staffing” needs - including a chief medical officer for the Department and chief medical officer; and
- Increase of funds to update Georgia’s epidemiology system, including its GRITS program (which is the vaccine registry).
Representative Penny Houston (R-Nashville) and her Subcommittee passed out their recommendations which included these areas of focus:
- New program funding for the Hemp Program (including new positions as well as operational costs);
- Funding to keep local farmers’ markets in Thomasville, Cordele, and Savannah;
- Testing for bird diseases in the state’s poultry industry;
- Housing supplements in the Department of Community Affairs;
- Recognition of payments to One Georgia Authority for broadband to assure that the “mapping” prepared for broadband would be updated; and
- Transfer of funds for the State Forestry Commission to assure that the new vehicles were included in “protection” and not administration.
House Adopts Adjournment Resolution
Prior to adjournment today, the House adopted an adjournment resolution to set their calendar through Legislative Day 13. The resolution must be approved by the Senate before taking effect. The proposed schedule is as follows:
|Wednesday, January 27
||Legislative Day 6
|Thursday, January 28
||Legislative Day 7
|Friday, January 29
||Legislative Day 8
|Monday, February 1
||Legislative Day 9
|Tuesday, February 2
||Legislative Day 10
|Wednesday, February 3
||Legislative Day 11
|Thursday, February 4
||Legislative Day 12
|Friday, February 5
|Monday, February 8
||Legislative Day 13
House Regulated Industries
Chairman Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) and his Committee met for an organizational meeting this afternoon. Two new members have been added to the Committee: Representative Mike Wilensky (D-Dunwoody) and Representative Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone). The Committee also has additional new leadership as the new Vice Chair of the Committee is Representative Dale Washburn (R-Macon) and new Secretary is Ginny Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs). The Committee had introductions of its staff including Jan Brown the Committee’s administrative assistant, Shawn Marie Story its legislative counsel, Brian Groome and Brian Hines the analysts from the House office. This Committee focuses on legislation addressing gaming, alcohol, tobacco, industry matters, professional licensing, the Georgia Lottery Corporation, and regulatory-rule making. The Committee intends to hear from a number of interest groups in the coming days, including presentations from gaming, the lottery, co-am machine operators, alcohol and convenience stores. The only official action taken in today’s meeting was the adoption of the Committee’s Rules for this biennium.
The House read and assigned the following legislation to committee today:
- HB 4, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex), amends Title 20 by adding a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-590 to prohibit a local school system from selling a public school building to a private entity unless the building has been used as a public school building continuously for at least 15 years. The bill was assigned to the House Education Committee.
- HB 6, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex), amends O.C.G.A. § 48-7-40.37 to create an income tax credit for investors in women owned businesses. The bill was assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee.
- HB 9, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-2-779.1 to require the State Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, to develop a framework for the delivery of telehealth to students. These guidelines must be developed no later than October 1, 2021. The bill was assigned to the House Education Committee.
- HB 15, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex), amends O.C.G.A. § 35-8-28 to require every law enforcement basic training course teach de-escalation techniques. The bill was assigned to the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee.
- HB 16, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex), amends O.C.G.A. § to prohibit law enforcement agencies in the state from accepting military equipment from the United States Department of Defense. The bill was assigned to the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee.
- HB 19, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex), amends O.C.G.A. § 9-16-17 to increase the government's burden of proof in civil forfeiture to a clear and convincing standard. The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
- HB 21, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex), amends O.C.G.A. § to add bias motivated false 9-1-1 calls to the list of punishable offenses. The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
- HB 57, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex), amends O.C.G.A. 42-1-11.3 to require penal institutions to provide breast milk pumps and breast milk storage to female inmates during their postpartum period. The bill requires the Department of Public Health to provide these pumps free of charge. The bill was assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
- HB 86, authored by Representative Ron Stephens (R-Lyons) amends Title 50 to grant authority to the Georgia Lottery Corporation to establish and regulate a sports betting lottery game in Georgia. The bill stipulates that sports betting may be made on mobile platforms operated by licensed entities. Each license is to be awarded in a competitive bidding process through the Georgia Lottery Corporation. Each applicant for licensure must pay a $50,000 nonrefundable application fee along with an annual $900,000 licensure fee. Each licensee is required to pay a monthly 16 percent tax on its gross revenue. All taxes collected from these licensees will be deposited in the Lottery for Education Account in the state treasury. The bill was assigned to the House Economic Development & Tourism Committee.
- HB 87, authored by Representative Stacey Evans (D-Atlanta), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-3-519 to provide eligibility for the HOPE scholarship for remedial and developmental courses for individuals seeking associate degrees in the Technical College System of Georgia. The bill was assigned to the House Higher Education Committee.
- HB 88, authored by Representative Stacey Evans (D-Atlanta), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-3-519.5 to require that the HOPE grants equal the student's undergraduate tuition amount for the current school year. The bill was assigned to the House Higher Education Committee.
- HB 89, authored by Representative Stacey Evans (D-Atlanta), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-3-159 to provide eligibility for the Zell Miller Scholarship for individuals that did not qualify as a freshman. The bill was assigned to the House Higher Education Committee.
- HB 90, authored by Representative Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), amends O.C.G.A. § 51-12-51 to exempt certain buyers of land for the conversion of timber from liability claims relating to the timber. The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
- HB 91, authored by Representative Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone), amends O.C.G.A. § 49-4-181 to revise the definition of cash assistance for TANF funds. The new definition bases the standard of need at 50 percent of the federal poverty level for applicable family size and equates to a monthly maximum equal to 75 percent of such amount. The bill was assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
- HB 93, authored by Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), amends O.C.G.A. § 31-22-1 et seq. to repeal the state's regulations of clinical laboratories and instead require all clinical laboratories in the state to meet the certification requirements set forth in the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988. The bill was assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
- HB 94, authored by Representative Bonnie Rich (R-Sugar Hill), amends O.C.G.A. § 16-8-24 and 16-8-25 to create a new crime of possession of stolen mail and porch piracy. Each instance of the possession of stolen mail constitutes a separate felony offense. The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
- HB 95, authored by Representative Marvin Lim (D-Norcross), amends O.C.G.A. § 48-7-29 to provide an income tax credit up to 10% of the federal credit allowed under Section 32 of the Internal Revenue Code. The bill was assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee.
- HB 96, authored by Representative Jasmine Clark (D-Lilburn), amends O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3 to revise child custody proceedings. The bill requires initial custody to be split equally between the parents until a judge issues a ruling based on facts, findings, and conclusion of law. The bill also adds the desire of the child if the child is an appropriate age to the considerations of the judge. The bill was assigned to the House Juvenile Justice Committee.
- HB 97, authored by Representative Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), amends O.C.G.A. §15-9-36 to require that appointed chief clerks of probate courts swear the oath required of other civil officers. The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
- HB 98, authored by Representative Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), amends O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1 to allow the General Assembly to hold virtual hearings in cases of local, state, or federal states of emergency. The bill was assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
- HB 99, authored by Representative Ron Stephens (R-Lyons), amends O.C.G.A. § 30-11-1 and 30-11-2 to require all retail establishments with a restroom to provide access to the restroom to customers presenting a signed document from a healthcare provider that indicates the customer suffers from a qualifying health care condition. The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
The Senate read and assigned the following legislation to committee today:
- SB 10, authored by Senator Emmanuel Jones (D-Decatur), amends Title 16 and Title 40 to provide for the offense of illegal drag racing and laying drags. The bill also creates an offense for knowingly attending an illegal drag race or laying drag exhibition. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- SB 15, authored by Senator Tonya Anderson (D-Atlanta), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-2-142.1 to allow school districts to require coursework on the history of Black Americans and their contributions to American society. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
- SB 17, authored by Senator Emmanuel Jones (D-Decatur), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-2-641 to direct the State Board of Education to establish a program to grant whole child model school certifications to any school that implements a successful whole child model school plan. The bill also requires the Board of Education to provide publicly available guidelines for the whole child model on its website. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
- SB 18, authored by Senator Harold Jones (D-Augusta), amends O.C.G.A. 17-3-1 to alter the statute of limitations for offenses of rape, aggravated sodomy, or aggravated sexual battery. Offenses committed on or after July 1, 2021 may be prosecuted at any time. Offenses of rape, aggravated sodomy, or aggravated battery committed before July 1, 2021 may be prosecuted at any time if DNA evidence is used to establish the identity of the accused. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- SB 19, authored by Senator Gloria Butler (D-Atlanta), amends O.C.G.A. § 31-7-23 to require all hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to utilize surgical smoke evacuation devices during any invasive surgery that is likely to generate surgical smoke. This bill was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.