Georgia Gold Dome Report Legislative Day 19

Betty Q. Hixson

The General Assembly returned to the State Capitol for Legislative Day 19 on Twos-day (2/22/22) with multiple measures up for consideration in each chamber. The House approved a number of health-related propositions, including a bill to allow hospitals to offer flu vaccines to discharging patients over the age of 50 (HB 1086), legislation providing an alternative to incarceration for certain pregnant women in the criminal justice system (HB 1092), and a measure directing the State to seek a Medicaid waiver for a demonstration project for the early treatment of HIV (HB 1192). Meanwhile, the Senate signed off on SB 449, Governor Kemp’s “Parent’s Bill of Rights”, and gave final passage to HB 840, allowing a local vote to incorporate the City of Vinings. The Senate was also scheduled to consider SR 395, recognizing February 2022 as Self-Care Awareness Month, but tabled the measure and, as often happens to lawmakers and lobbyists in the middle of the session, pushed self-care to another day.

In this Report:

  • Floor Action

  • Committee Reports

  • New Legislation

  • What’s Next


Floor Action

The House of Representatives took up the following measures on Tuesday:

  • HB 500 – Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act; provide for a second round of funding and period for applications – PASSED (153-11)

  • HB 1086 – Health; influenza vaccinations for discharged patients; lower age to 50 – PASSED (153-3)

  • HB 1092 – Georgia Women’s CARE (Child Care Alternatives, Resources, and Education) Act, enact – PASSED (161-0)

  • HB 1146 – Motor vehicles; law enforcement vehicles be equipped with primarily blue flashing or revolving lights; provide – PASSED (105-55)

  • HB 1148 – Game and fish; possession of cervid carcasses; remove definitions; provisions – PASSED (156-0)

  • HB 1192 – Social services; treatment services under Medicaid to persons with HIV; provisions – PASSED (136-14)

  • HB 1195 – Local government; audits of funds may be conducted in accordance with statutory accounting principles; provide – PASSED (157-0)

  • HB 1361 – Civil practice; Attorney General is to be served and heard in defense of all Acts of the General Assembly when challenged in any court action; clarify – PASSED (163-0)

The Senate took up the following measures on Tuesday:

  • HB 840 – Vinings, City of; incorporate – PASSED (33-19)

  • SB 395 – Mountain Judicial Circuit; third judge of the superior courts; provide – PASSED (51-1)

  • SB 449 – Education; protection of the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their minor children from undue infringement by a state or local government entity; provide – PASSED (33-21)

  • SB 469 – Watercraft; certain watercraft to have day and night visual distress signals on board when on coastal waters of Georgia; require – PASSED (55-0)

  • SR 395 – Self-Care Awareness Month; recognize February 2022 – TABLED

Committee Reports

Senate Committee on Government Oversight

Chairman Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) and the Committee on Government Oversight took up the following measures this morning:

  • SR 37 LC 47 0696, authored by Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), seeks to amend Georgia’s constitution so as to provide for four-year term of office for members of the state’s senate. The proposal cleared the committee last year; it is back from the Senate Committee – this version is changing the Senate terms to four years and limiting the Lt. Governor to two four-year terms.  The members of the House would serve for a two-year term. It would go into effect in 2024.  There was a great deal of debate last year on the idea. The Resolution received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • SB 279 LC 47 0935, authored by Senator Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia), seeks to create a monument to honor the Original 33.  Senator Dugan presented this proposal which he indicated would be a plaque inside of the Capitol to honor these individuals. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation without further discussion.

  • SB 108 LC 33 8743S, authored by Senator Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro), seeks to create the Commission for the Blind and the Visually Impaired. The legislation cleared the Committee in a substitute form; it did not make it through Rules.  This legislation addresses blindness advocacy and seeks to help address employment issues. The Commission would be made up of six individuals.  Senator Randy Robertson (R-Catuala) asked how they have been underserved by Voc Rehab – their problems were not addressed and that is the reason that they seek their own commission. Senator Robertson raised issues about splitting off groups – he reminded the Committee of the Warm Springs facility in his district. He asked if perhaps there should be matters addressed internally with Voc Rehab.  Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) also asked about how issues were addressed by Voc Rehabilitation Agency, making sure there is no overlap of services. The Department of Human Services, according to Senator Davenport, indicated the Department wanted the funds to follow the Commission.  Senator Miller also asked how the legislation would interact with Georgia Industries for the Blind.  Senator Jackson indicated that the Georgia Industries for the Blind would continue to operate and be overseen by the Commission as proposed by the legislation. The legislation was to be held for the Voc Rehabilitation Agency to discuss the proposal.  DJ McIntyre spoke in favor of the legislation on behalf of her mother and explained their difficulties to get training and job opportunities and how the agency changed counselors frequently. There are no specialized counselors for blind, newly blind individuals or individuals losing their sight, and there are no individuals to help with computer training.  The agency has been failing for ten years; the way the money is flowing is not reaching the blind.  Betsy Grenovich also spoke to the Committee – the blind are the most expensive and the hardest to get back to work.  Iowa has a Commission; they have more employed in jobs.  Proficiency in Braille – many are illiterate because of auditory resources. They no longer get training to travel independently. Cecily Nipper, president of the Georgia Council of the Blind, has a current open case with Voc Rehab – there are no systems in place to help blind individuals, noting obstacles for individuals to receive services (including application process).  Senator Dolezal asked about the numbers of visually impaired or blind in Georgia. Ms. Nipper was not sure but Ms. McIntyre indicated 200,000 individuals.  Chairman Harbin held the legislation to take up at the next meeting in order to hear from the Vocational Rehabilitation Agency.

  • SB 337 LC 28 0365, authored by Senator Larry Walker III (R-Perry), seeks to suspend public officers’ compensation because of a felony indictment.  Senator Walker explained it is a “retread” of SB 218 (which passed the Senate last year but was tied up in the House). There are laws for locally elected officials who are indicted for felony charges.  This ceases payment so that the individual under indictment and the newly placed individual at the same time; if found not guilty, it would allow for reinstatement of the compensation.  SR 134 is the companion legislation; it will be on the ballot in November.  Senator Jackson asked about the language to hold the funds in trust/escrow. There were some questions about the legislation’s impact on school superintendents – some are hired by school boards and some are elected.  Senator Jackson indicated her concern about an individual who lacks due process; this would remove their livelihood based on an indictment.  Senator Jackson also noted that an emphasis should be placed on getting a speedy trial.  The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation.

Senate Higher Education Committee

Chairman Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), and the Higher Education Committee met for the purpose of taking up

  • SB 508, Senator Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) requires in O.C.G.A. 20-2-161.3 the collection and aggregation of data for dual enrollment program. The Committee worked from LC 50 0326.  Senator Parent remarked that dual enrollment saves time, dollars, and removes impediments to bolstering ways for students to earn degrees.  This legislation outlines some data points for annual reports that would be provided so that policymakers may make better decisions regarding the program, including funding. Georgia has limited data on success rates and cost savings – it also does not have data by broken by race, economic status, etc. participation, success rates, achievement of milestones, effectiveness of the dual enrollment credit in reduction of time and expense, meeting of program objectives, etc.  There would be an annual report prepared and submitted to the General Assembly, if the legislation is passed. Every high school student has the opportunity to avail himself/herself of 30 hours, according to Chairman Tippins – limiting the program to juniors and seniors and a way to limit expenditures as those students would likely have a better understanding of their academic trajectory. What policy would be modified if we knew all of this information?  As students have the ability to take 30 hours. Senator Parent indicated that policymakers may have made different decisions two years ago when the law was revised. Coming from a position of knowledge is a reason for data; Chairman Tippins asked for Senator Parent’s policy change ideas – she argued that she needed the data to offer suggestions.  Senator Max Burns shared some of the Chairman’s concerns; he asked what the data would cost and how that would allow adoption of better policies.

Jennifer Ellis, with ALL for Ed, supported SB 508 as it offers needed transparency.  Post-secondary education is vital for success, according to Ms. Ellis. Remediation is often needed for students entering college. She remarked that Georgia is leading in dual enrollment policies nationally – is that due to investment or how?  Georgia has 30 credits covered without cost, which is very generous, but other states have done more in terms of transfer of credits.  Senator Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta) indicated there was an audit done previously on the dual enrollment program as the mission of the program was not fully stated.  She argued the need for the data so that clarification of the program can be done.  One question is how to channel the students in the core courses. SREB has done an extensive study on dual enrollment; several hearings have been held, and Georgia is a leader, according to Chairman Tippins.

Patrick Rodriguez, Common Good Atlanta, outlined the credit-bearing courses offered in prisons and what is offered to formerly incarcerated individuals.  They have five disciplines available to them. He presented a prison education policy brief for the Committee’s review. He also mentioned what might happen with PELL funding changes. Georgia recidivism is around 50 percent.  Common Good has found that there is even less recidivism (back to prison) with education. Sarah Higginbotham, an Emory professor, also spoke to the Committee about prison education programs. They have good success rates with credit transfer rates from credits from Bard College.

This legislation was only discussed today; no vote was taken.

Senate Health and Human Services Committee

Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) and members of the Health and Human Services Committee undertook a closer review of Georgia’s Trauma Commission.  Dr. Dennis Ashley presented a report to the Committee on Georgia’s trauma system. They have the Georgia Trauma Center Report.  In 2016, the report was not good – the first state report. Georgia was above average in numbers which was not positive and they understood an American College of Surgeons (ACS) Consultation and Verification Progress effort – looking at trauma designations Levels I, II, III. Site visits were undertaken, which made the centers better with even better outcomes. In 2021, the categories all dropped, which was positive, showing that Georgia has quality trauma services. Rural Georgia, within an hour’s drive, was reviewed.  The gap is in the southeastern part of the state – there is not enough population to drop a Level I trauma center. They have begun to integrate MARCH PAWS (military civilian integration) – Massive hemorrhage, airway, respiration, circulation, head injury/hypothermia, pain control, antibiotics, wounds, and splinting.  This is hopefully a solution for those who have no access to trauma care within an hour. Emanuel Medical Center has received grant funds for trauma. Rural focused ACS consult visit also requested to be done – looking at challenges and opportunities.  ACS typically only does consult visits for Level I and II; this has begun new work on these consult visits – it will be a pilot program in south Georgia and be taken nationally.   Dr. Ashley noted the impact of COVID on trauma. The centers showed a marked number increase in patients in 2020, even though they thought numbers would go down. There is a communications center which looks at where facilities are with beds; which facilities are on diversion – they have remained full and some have been overcrowded. The Commission reviewed some of its funding issues – to be certified, it takes more than $10 million for Level I and about $5 million for Level II centers. For Levels III and IV the costs are around $1.7 million and $81,000, respectively (these are soft numbers).

Also on the agenda was SB 496, authored by Senator Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge). The Committee reviewed a new Substitute LC 33 9035S which amends Chapter 16 of Title 45.  The Department of Public Health provided a report on maternal mortality numbers.  Georgia should mandate an autopsy on pregnancy related deaths.  There are a significant number annually.   A pregnant female or a female within 365 days postpartum will have an autopsy if the cause is not obvious. Clinical autopsies will be referred to the regional perinatal centers. What is an unintended death is also clarified in the legislation. There were some questions of using 180 days versus 365 days – clarifying when the coroner may review a death.  The Committee gave a unanimous DO PASS recommendation on LC 33 9035S.

The Committee will meet on February 23, 2022, at 1:00 PM.

House Appropriations General Government Subcommittee

Chairman Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) called the Subcommittee meeting to order to hear reports and Fiscal Year 2023 budget requests from the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Audits, and the Department of Labor.

  • Commissioner Mark Williams again thanked legislators for pay raises and the added benefits packages, which totals a little under $10.7 million. He also highlighted the $8.5 million for the Outdoor Stewardship Program and $723,870 reduction in the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund to reflect 2021 collections. At the end of his remarks, Commissioner Williams asked for approval of the GOSA Slate. Commissioner Williams answered a few questions regarding the volume of applicants and the process for those who do not receive approval. The slate was unanimously approved.

  • State Auditor, Greg Griffin, provided a line-by-line presentation of the proposed budget. He outlined that pay raises would equal $2.8 million. Mr. Griffin described the $2 million increase for SB 6, a measure passed in 2021, which requires analysis of 10 tax credits. The House and Senate will each provide five credits they wish to be reviewed. Mr. Griffin detailed 2 line items which he is requesting a return to pre-pandemic levels. This $1.5 million request is for positions, which were not filled during the pandemic, and those funds were used as a supplement to prevent furloughs. In conclusion, Mr. Griffin added the $3.5 million for the annualized costs of the COLAs and the costs for the retirement plans that are working their way through the legislative process. Representative Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) asked about the tax credit analysis and if the department would be working the Department of Administrative Services. Mr. Griffin noted that they would be working together and that they were unable to do the audits themselves is because it is written in the legislation.

  • Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler was thankful for the pay increases and outlined that the majority of his budget was for realignment within the department. This includes almost over $7 million being transferred to the Technical College System of Georgia relating to labor market information and workforce solutions. Commissioner Butler mentioned that while the pay raises did apply to many employees, it was not comprehensive and that more was needed to accomplish the full goal. The final questions centered around opening local offices, to which Commissioner Butler answered they were opening offices. After those final questions, Chairman Watson adjourned the meeting.

House Appropriations Committee – Health Subcommittee

Chairman Butch Parrish and members of the Health Subcommittee heard presentations from the following agencies:

  • Commissioner Caylee Noggle, Department of Community Health – Commissioner Noggle outlined the programs’ funding and statewide changes proposed by Governor Kemp. The first statewide change with the proposed raise for full-time benefit eligible employees.  She noted the 12 percent turnover but noted funding the raise will help with retention rates. Changes according to Chairman Parrish would be helpful to providers. Representative Petrea expressed his interest in mental health items in her Budget. The Medicaid program has dramatically increased over the last few years without expanding Medicaid – it has been done consistently – like maternal mortality and other areas.

  • Freeman Montaque, Interim Executive Director of the Georgia Board of Healthcare Workforce – Mr. Montaque explained his agency’s budget. There are six departments; three have changed – including the $5,000 raise for employees; the withdrawal of up to 40 hours leave; and the ERS contribution rate. Representative Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City) asked about shortfall of psychiatrists and nurses in the state. Are there efforts for expedited nurse training programs; Mr. Montaque will follow up.  Representative Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) also noted the nursing shortage and the pilot program at Grady, and how the state could turn out more nurses.  Representative Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus) inquired about forensic scientists – there is a program at Albany State; she asked if the Board was working with that program.  Representative Hugley indicated that she knew a graduate who could not find a job in her field of study and who was now working as a teacher. Chairman Parrish noted the large need for forensic pathologists.

  • Daniel Dorsey, with the Composite Board Medical Board – The agency licenses physicians and other members of the healing arts.  It is composed of 16 members.  The Board has 30 staff members, including six POST certified members who do investigations.  Approximately 60,000 licensees with about 43,000 physicians. They reviewed 24,477 licenses in FY 2021. The total Budget is about $2.6 million and they collected $7.4 million, which was turned over to the State’s Treasury.  Three recommendations – including the cost of living adjustment of $5,000; increase to allow withdrawal up to 40 hours of earned annual leave; and ERS contribution rate. The new Budget would be around $2.6 million for FY 2023 as proposed.  The Chairman asked for clarification on what is a physician and resident physician difference – residency training but not at full practice.

  • Dennis Troughton, Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency – Mr. Troughton provided an overview of his agency. There are 47,000 active licensees in the state – pharmacists and pharmacies.  10 agents (who are POST certified and are licensed pharmacists) conducted 2621 inspections last year; 441 criminal investigations were also conducted. 658 facility licenses were issued; his agents did the reviews for those.  The budget includes the $5000 raise; the permission to use 40 hours of leave; and the ERS contribution.  Representative Hugley inquired about what GDNA’s typical finding was – it could include records issues on prescription drugs and look at complaints (impaired pharmacists, etc.). Chairman Parrish asked about vacancies – he has one vacancy in the southern part of the state.

  • Commissioner Kathleen Toomey, Department of Public Health – Commissioner Toomey talked about the statewide changes, particularly the $5000 raise for full-time, benefit eligible employees. The raises also help with local boards of health as well which she explained would be beneficial as they had worked extraordinarily hard during the pandemic. She noted the turnover of inspectors and nurses – this raise will be in many instances, a 10 percent increase for those employees. High-risk pregnancy populations are proposed to receive funds for monitoring these women remotely – looking at blood pressure and other indicators and also will allow communications with a patient navigator.  The Georgia Coordinating Center also has proposed funding of $4.3 million – this will help direct ambulances to the appropriate hospitals and permit coordination of services statewide (they learned this during COVID).  $9.9 million for HIV/AIDS will allow growth in the program as there have been an increased number of cases (more are being identified, but there have also been more individuals who have been without insurance).  Pre-exposure prophylaxis program to help stop the transmission of HIV; it is a pilot but the last tranche of funds will allow the rollout of a rural program (especially due to drug use in the state).  Representative Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) thanked the Commissioner for the work done during the pandemic.  Representative Petrea lauded Commissioner Toomey for the work during COVID and inquired about the Augusta pilot on high-risk pregnancy; there is also a program on cardiac services but are reaching out to the same individuals (looking at the first year postpartum).  Representative Buckner expressed her thanks to Commissioner Toomey and the hard work done during COVID; she asked about the pay scale of the workers to know how far off the State is with other sectors for those jobs.  She also asked about lead poisoning and whether DPH needs funding – yes, environmental inspectors will need to be funded. Representative Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) also thanked the Commissioner for work on COVID.  Representative Hugley also extended her thanks – she asked about staffing salaries.

  • Liz Atkins, Director of the Georgia Trauma Commission – Super Speeder fines were first outlined as those will have the first year of full funding in FY 2023.  There are 10 EMS regions in the state which she noted.  There are 33 trauma centers around the state.

The public hearing will be held tomorrow, February 23, 2022

House Appropriations Committee – Public Safety Subcommittee

Chairman Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon) called the meeting to order to hear agency reports.

  • Department of Community Supervision reported on the pay increases. Specifically, he highlighted the $940,000 increase for maintenance and repairs. An additional $31,620 for the implementation of a murder-suicide support group and $64,031 for the state to match federal funds for domestic violence programs. The Department’s budget also included over $22 million for salary increases and benefit adjustments.

  • Department of Corrections reported on the Governor allocations of $6.7 million for technology health for offenders and for tracking. The facility transformation plan will have $167 million. Regional transportation hubs are receiving $7.2 million. Many questions were asked on retention rates and the mental health of prisoners.

  • Department of Public Safety detailed the $9.4 million in a pay increase, $4.4 in annual leave withdrawals, and $4.9 million for ERS and cost of living adjustments. Under the direction of the Governor, $3.1 million has been allocated for a 75-person trooper school. Questions were asked regarding the current number of cadets. At this moment, there are 70 in training.

  • Georgia Public Safety Training Center had a few small adjustments to reflect changes and adjustments in agencies. These adjustments totaled $5,308. The biggest budget request under their line items came in at $2,125,000 for maintenance and repairs, along with a $1.089 million request for ten proper use of force and de-escalation and positions.

  • Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) reported $421,141 in salary increases and adjustments. POST also reported a $500,859 increase for one auditor, one investigator, one curriculum specialist, and two hearing officers.

  • Fire Fighter Standards and Training Council had $134,012 in pay raises and benefit adjustments. The Council provides 12-15,000 examinations per year for firefighters.

  • Office of Highway Safety asked for a further $154,566 to accommodate pay raises and reported that the Governors proposed budget was short about $130,000 for the other adjustments for annual leave and retirement. They asked the subcommittee to review the numbers and to include them. Under the Driver’s Education, funds have been shifted around to more appropriately show line items, including the $2.9 million transfer from Highway Safety to the Driver’s Education Commission.

  • Judicial Council has increased funds for a research analyst ($74,934), a customer support specialist ($88,654), an IT Help Desk ($65,000), and a policy counsel position ($129,600). Restoration of previous budget cuts totaling $87,987 with increased grants for legal services for victims of domestic violence, $1,322,828, and for the kinship care families, $274,674.

  • Prosecuting Attorneys Council (PAC) identified $5.8 million for placement of Assistant District Attorneys on the pay scale, which has been an issue for several years, so a less experienced assistant is paid higher and more experienced. An additional line item would incrementally increase pay scale at $2.7 million. Annualized funds for ADAs in new judgeships in Cobb, Flint, and Ogeechee Circuits is at $193,482 with $515,854 outlined for four circuits that passing through the legislative process now. Finally, PAC outlined $150,000 in increased funds for legal fees for DAs and Conflict Cases. $35,000 for better support and to interface with the prosecutor case management system. A little over $121,000 for a payroll specialist position. Animal Abuse Resources Prosector position will have $170,000.

New Legislation

The following legislation of interest has been introduced in the House:

The following legislation of interest has been introduced in the Senate:


Education; limitations on waiver and variance requests by local school systems requesting flexibility; provide

GA Sen. Lester Jackson (D-GA-002)


Public Disclosure; public disclosure of certain public records pertaining to state employees; remove an exemption

GA Sen. Matthew “Matt” Brass (R-GA-028)


State Government; certain procedural requirements and considerations for the adoption of rules by state agencies that are applicable to charitable organizations; provide

GA Sen. John Kennedy (R-GA-018)


“Reducing Street Homelessness Act of 2022”; enact

GA Sen. Carden Summers (R-GA-013)


Bona Fide Coin Operated Amusement Machines; administrative procedures and actions regarding bona fide coin operated amusement machines shall be subject to Chapter 13 of Title 50; provide

GA Sen. Clint Dixon (R-GA-045)

What’s Next

The General Assembly is in adjournment on Wednesday and will reconvene for Legislative Day 20 on Thursday, February 24 at 10AM.

The House is expected to consider the following propositions on Legislative Day 20:

  • HB 389 – Employment security; change definition of employment to include services performed by an individual for wages

  • HB 896 – Revenue and taxation; update population bracket and census date for a certain property tax exemption for certain leased property

  • HB 1008 – Georgia Achieving A Better Life Experience; governance of program by board of directors of Georgia Higher Education Savings Plan; provide

  • HB 1059 – Insurance; unfair trade practices and unlawful inducements; provide for exclusions

  • HB 1088 – Property; nonjudicial foreclosure of time-share estates; authorize

  • HB 1186 – Speech-language pathologists and audiologists; revise licensing provisions

  • HB 1215 – Education; provision that reduced the amount of certain funding to state charter schools that offer virtual instruction; remove

  • HB 1217 – Student Technology Protection Act; enact

  • HB 1233 – Natural Resources, Department of; earliest effective date for certain rules and regulations; delay

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

  • HB 1320 – Revenue and taxation; Internal Revenue Code and Internal Revenue Code of 1986; define terms and incorporate certain provisions of federal law into Georgia law

  • HB 1321 – Commerce; litigation bar on governmental entities regarding certain statewide opioid litigation; provide

The Senate is expected to consider the following propositions on Legislative Day 20:

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

  • SB 435 – Education; shall be unlawful for Ga public school students or teams to compete against a Ga public school that permits a person of one gender to participate in an athletic program that is designated for persons of opposite gender; provide

  • SB 472 – Public Service Commission; description of the election districts for members; change

  • SB 505 – Communications Officers; 9-1-1 communications officers receive training in the delivery of high-quality telephone cardiopulmonary resuscitation; require

  • SR 477 – Joint Georgia Music Heritage Study Committee; create

  • HB 1028 – Cobb County; Board of Education; change description of districts

  • HB 1154 – Cobb County; Board of Commissioners; change description of districts

Copyright ©2022 Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 53

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