Georgia Gold Dome Legislation Report Day 37

Betty Q. Hixson

In the final week of a legislative session, committee meetings under the Gold Dome are a lot like magic shows. Bills and resolutions, including some thought to be long dead, come before a committee and, presto chango, emerge moments later very much alive with new sections and sometimes completely new text. The season of stripping-and-subbing and Christmas-treeing is well underway at the State Capitol, and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee put on its own show on Tuesday. In a last minute addition to its agenda, the Committee agreed to a substitute to HB 697 authored by Representative Mark Newton (R-Augusta) that adopts language from HB 1403, Representative Clint Crowe’s (R-Jackson) measure to provide an exemption from certificate of need for rural hospitals. We’ll track as much of the sleight of hand as we can in the #GoldDomeReport.

Retirement speeches also continue in the chambers, and it is becoming clear that the appropriations process will look much different in the coming years. Not only will the House have a new House Appropriations Committee Chairman as Representative Terry England (R-Auburn) retires, but House Budget Office Director Martha Wigton also announced her retirement on Tuesday. Ms. Wigton has been a stalwart in the legislature with over 30 years of service to the state. Chairman England and Speaker Ralston, along with other members of the House, honored Ms. Wigton from the rostrum for her dedication to the state and work of the General Assembly. Ms. Wigton’s retirement follows last week’s announcement that Senate Budget and Research Office Director Melody DeBussey will also be leaving after a number of years working with lawmakers. We wish all of them well as they move forward — and look forward to working with their colleagues and successors.

In this Report:

  • Floor Action

  • Committee Reports

  • New Legislation

  • What’s Next

Floor Action

The House took up the following measures on Legislative Day 37:

  • SR 463 – Joint Study Committee on the Electrification of Transportation; create

  • SB 345 – State Government; state and local governments from mandating vaccine passports; prohibit – PASSED (99-67)

  • SB 397 – General Educational Development (GED) Diplomas; update and replace terminology; state approved high school equivalency (HSE) diplomas; provide

  • SB 479 – Firearms by Convicted Felons and First Offender Probationers; each firearm in the possession or attempted possession of certain offenders shall be charged as a separate offense; specify

  • SB 486 – Agricultural Commodity Commission for Propane; full or partial remote communication with regard to public hearings; provide – PASSED (154-0)

  • SB 496 – Death Investigations; medical examiner’s inquiry when a pregnant female dies and an inquest; require – PASSED (156-5)

  • SB 534 – State Government; certain procedural requirements and considerations for the adoption of rules by state agencies that are applicable to charitable organizations; provide – PASSED (165-0)

  • SB 558 – Department of Transportation; meetings for the election of board members; amend notice provisions – PASSED (156-0)

  • SB 573 – Hospitals and Health Care Facilities; hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to utilize surgical smoke evacuation systems during surgical procedures to protect patients and health care workers from the hazards of surgical smoke; require – PASSED (149-0)

  • SB 586 – Road Projects; the use of the design-build contracting method by counties; authorize – PASSED (160-0)

  • SB 330 – “Giving the Gift of Life Act”; enact – PASSED (157-1)

The Senate took up the following measures on Legislative Day 37:

  • HB 200 – Motor vehicles; issuance of a Class C driver’s license to operators of certain three-wheeled motor vehicles; provide – PASSED (46-2)

  • HB 263 – Retirement; benefits for judges of probate courts; revise method through which certain actuarial equivalents are determined – PASSED (50-1)

  • HB 302 – Torts; authorize apportionment of damages in single-defendant lawsuits; provide for evidence of fault of nonparties – TABLED

  • HB 476 – Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Act of 2021; enact – PASSED (50-0)

  • HB 586 – Georgia Economic Recovery Act of 2021; enact – PASSED (50-1)

  • HB 620 – Guardian and ward; payment of certain settlements involving claims of minors; clarify and revise procedures and requirements – PASSED (46-4)

  • HB 1053 – Income tax; certain expenditures made by postproduction companies; extend tax credit – PASSED (50-1)

  • HB 1069 – Mental health; adult mental health programs; provide licensure – PASSED (50-0)

  • HB 1088 – Property; nonjudicial foreclosure of time-share estates; authorize – PASSED (51-1)

  • HB 1219 – Georgia Board of Dentistry; revise composition – PASSED (48-3)

  • HB 1381 – Local government; water and sewer authority board members to complete yearly continuing training courses; require – PASSED (48-5)

Committee Reports

Senate Health and Human Services

Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) called the Health and Human Services Committee to order to discuss the following measures:

  • HB 1533, authored by Representative Mark Newton (R-Augusta), amends Title 34 to improve healthcare workforce. The bill establishes a program to address career fatigue. This program would create a confidential space where employees can go to discuss the stress of their position. Representative Newton mentioned that some bigger health systems provide this for their employees and other states have similar programs. LC 33 9399S received a DO PASS recommendation and will be carried by Senator Hufstetler (R-Rome).

  • HB 1042, by Representative Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), amends Chapter 34 of Title 50. This bill authorizes the OneGeorgia Authority to create a grant of up to $200,000 to add a primary care facility. This is a recommendation from the Rural Development Council to promote primary care in rural areas. This grant would need the final approval of the Governor and the Department of Community Health. LC 50 0304 received a DO PASS recommendation and will be carried by Senator Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge).

  • HB 1304, authored by Representative Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), is the “Georgia Caregivers Act.” The bill amends Title 31 to require hospitals to provide patients with the opportunity to identify lay caregivers who may participate in a patient’s discharge planning process. LC 54 0060S received a DO PASS recommendation and will be also be carried by Senator Burke.

  • HB 1484, also by Representative Lee Hawkins, amends Article 7 of Chapter 4 of Title 49 of the O.C.G.A. to create a three-year pilot program beginning in 2024 to cover the diagnosis and treatment of PANDAS and PANS. LC 33 9096S received a DO PASS recommendation and will be carried by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta).

  • HB 697, initially by Representative Mark Newton, originally revised how electronic medical records were maintained. Instead, substitute language was provided. The language comes from Representative Clint Crowe’s (R-Jackson) HB 1403. 1403 is a narrowly tailored certificate of need repeal. HB 1403 was tabled earlier in the legislative season in the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Healthcare. Many Senators were frustrated that a tabled measure was being added to the bill that had crossed over. A motion to table failed, and a call to question motion was passed along party lines, 6-5. No public testimony and minimal committee discussion was allowed.

House Health and Human Services Committee

Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) and the Health and Human Services Committee took up these bills:

  • SB 116, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), seeks to create the Maternity Supportive Housing Act in Chapter 5 of Title 49. These will be homes provided by a nonprofit for women who are ages 18 and older and many minor children they may have. These homes are to provide safe housing and allow the women to remain in the homes for 18 months after the birth of their child.  There were many questions about the lack of regulation of these homes — they will, though, have to comply with local zoning laws. There were questions about overcrowding that might occur, but again the argument was that a woman has the choice to be in these homes. A number of groups supported the legislation, including the Front Line Policy Action, Citizens Impact, and Georgia Baptist Mission Board. There was an amendment proposed by Representative Dexter Sharper (D-Valdosta) to limit the number of children in the homes to three minor children; that amendment failed. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation with votes along party lines.

  • HR 1103, authored by Representative Mark Newton (R-Augusta), is an “urging” resolution to send to ask that the Biden Administration remove the veto and reapprove Georgia’s Medicaid Expansion Waiver. There were comments made by Representative Jodi Lott (R-Evans) indicating that there is a great deal of misinformation on Medicaid expansion; Governor Kemp’s waiver has provided coverage to Georgians and decreased premiums for individuals under the marketplace. Additionally, she stated that those with incomes between 100-150 percent of FPL qualify for private insurance without cost. The Resolution received a DO PASS recommendation with votes along party lines.

  • A presentation was made by Commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Judy Fitzgerald about the rollout of the “988” system which begins in July of this year. This call line will function like the 9-1-1 line and will be answered by the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, which the state operates. Calls to the “GCAL” line will continue to be answered as well. It is expected that call volume will increase by 151 percent.

Senate Regulated Industries Committee

Chairman Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) called the meeting order to discuss the following measure:

  • HB 1424, authored by Representative Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), amends Title 50. Specifically, the bill brings COAM regulation under the jurisdiction of the Administrative Procedures Act, increases the prize limit for crane games from $5 to $50, allows for gift card awards, and exempts military and fraternal organizations from the 50% rule. LC 36 5318S changes Section 1 due to concerns with cash payments. It also adds a yearly investigative study to the bill. The substitute allows gift cards for Class A machines but limits them to use at a store where the COAM machines are. Section 5 includes changes to allow licensed locations to terminate contracts if they have poor operating or dysfunctional COAMs, due to requests because some licensees refuse to fix machines at locations. Senate Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) and Senator Matt Brass (R-Newnan) expressed concern that gift cards could not be used elsewhere. The measure passed the committee with three no votes.

House Judiciary Committee

Chairman Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) called the first meeting of the House Judiciary to order early this morning to discuss two measures. The Chairman noted that his Senate counterpart, Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), bill would be held for the afternoon committee meeting.

  • SB 359, authored by Senator John Albers (R-Roswell), amends Title 15 of the O.C.G.A. and is known as the “Safe and Secure Georgia Act”. The bill amends multiple titles to address several criminal law issues. The bill first requires that accountability courts submit to legislative oversight. It provides an enhanced penalty for possession of a firearm by certain convicted felons and probationers and mandatory minimum sentences for recidivists convicted of abuse of a disabled or elder person. The bill also targets gang offenders by estopping them from disputing proven facts from a guilty or nolo plea in a subsequent civil action and providing multi-county jurisdiction for prosecution. The legislation amends the Code relating to criminal court procedure, and it also provides the GBI with jurisdiction over state offenses concerning child abuse and kidnapping, abuse of elder persons and disabled adults, criminal gang activity, organized crime activity, elections, and domestic, cyber, biological, chemical, and nuclear terrorism. Also, recently added to this measure is a provision relating to COVID in sections 6 and 7.

    Representatives from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office voiced their support of the legislation and provided context for committee members. Jill Travis from the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers expressed concern with several sections in the bill.

    Representative Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta) asked if all efforts had been exhausted to prevent gang crime. District Attorney Fani Willis noted that all DAs deal with issues differently. She added that in Fulton County, there is a considerable amount of diversion programs and services.

    Representative Tyler Paul Smith (R-Bremen) and Chairman Efstration offered two amendments: to remove the accountability courts and correct scrivener’s errors; both passed. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS as amended.

  • SB 276, initially authored by Senator John Kennedy (R-Macon), amends Title 36, giving local municipalities the authority to charge and collect law library fees. Representative Heath Clark (R-Warner Robins) presented a substitute. Now, the measure contains language from HB 109, the Child Protection Act of 2021. A slight amendment was made to change the year from 2021 to 2022 throughout the bill. The substitute received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • SB 576 was discussed at a later meeting of the House Judiciary.

House Regulated Industries Committee

Representative Dale Washburn (R-Macon) called the House Regulated Industries Committee to order to discuss the following bills:

  • SB 352, authored by Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White), is a bill to work toward addressing workforce issues in the state by amending Chapter 1 of Title 43. It provides for the issuance of expedited licenses for certain licenses of spouses of firefighters, healthcare providers, and law enforcement officers. Senator Thompson noted that it was a tool to encourage folks to move to Georgia. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation. Representative Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) will carry the bill in the House.

  • SB 45, also by Senator Thompson, amends several titles to bring the various licensed tradesmen and women up to Code. The bill primarily corrected errors and was brought to the Senator’s attention by the electricians, plumbers, and others. Chairman Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) wanted to ensure the Governor’s Office approved this measure and that none of these changes would be impacted by GORRC. The authors mentioned the Governor’s lawyer had signed off on it. Chairman Powell noted HB 430 was passed in the House earlier in the session had been added to this bill. HB 430 would allow APRNs and LPRNs the proper credentials to better provide for patients.

    Representative Karen Bennett (D-Stone Mountain) amended line 1300 to add a “licensed doctor of physical therapy”. Representative Rick Jaspers (R-Jasper) amended the measure by adding “LP piping”. Both amendments passed, and the measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • SB 445, authored by Senator Max Burns (R-Sylvania), amends Code Section 8-2-143 of the O.C.G.A. to create a maximum penalty for the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act. Representative Washburn presented the measure. LC 44 1888 received a DO PASS recommendation.

New Legislation

The following legislation of potential interest has been introduced:

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 38 on Wednesday, March 30 at 10 a.m.

The House is expected to consider the following measures on Legislative Day 38:

  • HR 625 – State of Georgia; establish Georgia Gullah Geechee Heritage Society; encourage

  • HR 1025 – State of Georgia; recognize copper as critical; urge for inclusion on official United States Geological Survey Critical Minerals List

  • SB 343 – Retirement; prohibition of granting postretirement benefit adjustments to any individual who became a member on or after July 1, 2009; remove

  • SB 363 – “Fair Business Practices Act of 1975,”; class action suits and for damages for violating the requirements for solicitations for corporate filings; provide

  • SB 404 – Emergency Medical Services Personnel; Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to retain certain fingerprints under certain conditions; authorize

  • SB 553 – Watercraft; any person 15 years of age or older to operate a Class 1, Class 2, or Class 3 vessel; authorize

The Senate is expected to consider the following measures on Legislative Day 38:

  • HB 412 – Professions and businesses; licensure of individuals in the practice of applied behavior analysis; provide

  • HB 424 – Income tax; change certain definitions

  • HB 478 – Evidence; expert testimony in criminal cases; change rules

  • HB 624 – South Georgia Judicial Circuit; additional judge of the superior court; provide

  • HB 752 – Psychiatric Advance Directive Act; enact

  • HB 884 – Professions and businesses; expedited licenses for military spouses; provisions

  • HB 934 – Sales and use tax; special district mass transportation; local government; provisions

  • HB 961 – Torts; authorize apportionment of damages in single-defendant lawsuits; provide for evidence of fault of nonparties

  • HB 997 – Ad valorem tax; timber equipment and timber products held by timber producers; provide exemption

  • HB 1004 – Education; unified campus police forces through agreements entered into by colleges and universities; provide for establishment

  • HB 1034 – Sales and use tax; exemption for sales of admissions to nonrecurring major sporting events; revise

  • HB 1041 – Income tax; tax credits for contributions to rural hospital organizations; increase aggregate limit

  • HB 1146 – Motor vehicles; law enforcement vehicles be equipped with primarily blue flashing or revolving lights; provide

  • HB 1183 – Criminal procedure; increase time allotted to try a criminal case in judicial emergencies; provide

  • HB 1193 – Funeral directors and embalmers; reinstatement of lapsed license under certain conditions; provide

  • HB 1276 – Community Health, Department of; statistical reports data relating to state health plans be posted on department website; require

  • HB 1433 – Criminal Justice Coordinating Council; revise and update composition of advisory board

  • HB 1437 – Income tax; revise rates of taxation on income

  • HB 1443 – Mobile food service establishments; operate in county of origin or other counties without an additional permit; provide

  • HB 1452 – Domestic relations; dating violence protective orders; revise a definition

Copyright ©2022 Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 89

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