Georgia Gold Dome Report Legislative Day 36

Betty Q. Hixson

Spirits were high on Monday as weary lawmakers and lobbyists embraced the fact that only one week remains in the 2022 Legislative Session. The State Capitol has a bit of a “last week of school” feel as retiring legislators continue their fareWELL speeches to their colleagues — representatives Heath Clark (R-Warner Robins) and Mike Wilensky (D-Atlanta) both reminisced about their time under the Gold Dome today. And onlookers had to do a double take as retiring Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), the almighty Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, took the Speaker’s place on the rostrum in the House of Representatives for a few moments of feting.

Despite the joviality among some, work does continue in the run up to adjournment sine die. Gaming advocates were dealt a hot hand late Monday afternoon as the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee passed out heavily-negotiated measures proposing a constitutional amendment eliminating the prohibition on gambling in the state (SR 135) and enabling legislation for sports betting (SB 142). The House and Senate also danced on the FY23 State Budget, disagreeing with each other’s position on the spending plan and appointing a conference committee to hash out the differences. Still, others remain frustrated as their bills and resolutions cannot seem to get out of the ditch. More on the work that continues downtown (and some that doesn’t) in this #GoldDomeReport.

In this Report:

  • Floor Action

  • Committee Reports

  • New Legislation

  • What’s Next

Floor Action

The House took up the following measures on Legislative Day 36:

  • SB 87 – “Senator Jack Hill Veterans’ Act”; enact – PASSED (169-0)

  • SB 152 – State and Other Flags; pledge of allegiance to the state flag; add language – PASSED (125-23)

  • SB 332 – “Inform Consumers Act” enact – PASSED (155-4)

  • SB 337 – Public Officers; suspension of compensation because of indictment for a felony; provide – PASSED (149-4)

  • SB 438 – Contracts; certain provisions relating to retainage of progress payments; change – PASSED (151-0)

  • SB 461 – Bails, Bonds; human trafficking as a bailable offense; add the offense – PASSED (166-0)

  • SB 562 – Department of Administrative Services; companies owned or operated by Russia to bid on or submit a proposal for a state contract; prohibit – PASSED (168-0)

  • SB 565 – Sentence and Punishment; any time after conviction; defendant convicted of an offense and sentenced as a direct result of being a victim of trafficking for labor or sexual servitude may petition the sentencing court to grant the relief of vacatur; provide – PASSED (151-0)

  • SB 566 – Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act; a medical or traumatic condition includes a mental health condition or substance use disorder; emergency medical services include post-stabilization services; clarify – PASSED (163-3)

  • SB 588 – Local Boards of Education; all meetings of local boards of education shall be open to the public except as otherwise provided by law; provide – PASSED (129-41)

The Senate took up the following measures on Legislative Day 36:

  • HB 246 – Motor vehicles; issuance of replacement licenses and permits; increase fee – PASSED (41-12)

  • HB 464 – Guardian and ward; petition for appointment of temporary guardian of minor filed in probate court may be transferred to juvenile court; provide – PASSED (53-0)

  • HB 1059 – Insurance; unfair trade practices and unlawful inducements; provide for exclusions – PASSED (51-1)

  • HB 1292 – Education; prohibit students who participate in 4-H sponsored activities or programs from being counted as absent from school – PASSED (54-0)

  • HB 1308 – Insurance; allow plan sponsor to consent on behalf of an enrollee to electronic delivery of all communication – PASSED (53-0)

  • HB 1134 – Crimes and offenses; prosecute offenses involving criminal gang activity; provide for concurrent authority – PASSED (50-5)

  • HB 1425 – Medical cannabis; Governor to issue initial Class 1 and Class 2 production licenses for a limited time period; authorize – PASSED (53-0)

  • HB 1461 – Local government; annexation of territory; revise provisions relating to dispute resolution – PASSED (53-0)

  • HB 1481 – Motor vehicles; standards for issuance of dealer license plates; provide – PASSED (54-0)

Committee Reports

Senate Education and Youth Committee

The Senate Education and Youth Committee was convened by Chairman Chuck Payne (R-Dalton) called the meeting to order to discuss the following measures:

  • HB 1084, a bill by Representative Will Wade (R-Dawsonville), LC 49 0827S, was presented. The measure prevents divisive concepts from encroaching on educating students in Georgia’s K-12 classrooms. This measure includes espousing ideas that one race is superior to another, the United States is fundamentally racist, an individual is inherently racist, race determines one’s character, and meritocracy as well as any other form of racial stereotyping or scapegoating. Representative Wade’s goal is that identifying these will prevent students “from being used a pawn.” The measure requires the local board of educations to adopt a complaint resolution policy to address violations of this bill. Students and/or parents report the incident and file the incident with the principal. The principal or their designee will evaluate and either dismiss or take necessary remedial steps. The principal’s determination shall be reviewed by the local school superintendent or their designee. Students and parents are given the right to an appeal based on the determinations to the State Board of Education. Changes were made to the version which passed the House.

    Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) asked if it was true that we needed to not only know our past but understand it. Representative Wade agreed and indicated that state standards should be updated. Senator Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) asked if racial red-lining would be acceptable for teachers to discuss in class, to which Representative Wade said it would be if it was in the standards. Senator Donzella James (D-Atlanta) asked about the author’s intent. Representative Wade explained he felt racism was alive and well. Senator James followed up by asking why a commission was not a better avenue and further asked if not discussing the history was the best way to reach the author’s goal.

    Chairman Payne did not allow public testimony. Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) called to question. Senator Jackson motioned to table. The motion to table failed, 5-4. The measure passed Committee and is on to the Senate Rules Committee.

  • HB 1215, authored by Representative Brad Thomas (R-Holly Springs), amends Code Section 20-2-2089 to allow students to move from a public school to a charter school mid-year. The measure was described as the “charter school clean-up bill”. According to the author, section 1 refines the “state charter school” definition to “better align it” with the federal definition. Section 2 prevents local school districts from prohibiting students from leaving a traditional public school for a charter school midyear. Under current law, students can already transfer from a charter school to a traditional public school midyear. Section 3 “closes a loophole” related to school funding.

    Bonnie Holiday, Georgia Charter Schools Association, and a Savannah student with an IEP expressed support for the measure. LC 49 0864S received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 1482, authored by Representative Chris Erwin (R-Homer), amends Title 20 to revise the eligibility criteria for project-specific capital outlay grants for low-wealth school systems. Specifically, the bill prohibits a school system that receives a low-wealth capital outlay grant from receiving another such grant within ten school years but allows consideration of the past three years of tax data in determining rankings. The bill also requires a building to be at least 35 years old to be eligible. With no questions or comments, LC 49 0944S received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 681, authored by Representative Bill Yearta (R-Sylvester), amends Title 20 to require a course of study in financial literacy for students in tenth and eleventh grades. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 1283, authored by Representative Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge), amends Title 20 to provide for recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five. The bill requires that each elementary school schedule recess every school day but provides flexibility on the length of such recess and implementation. A school need not provide recess on days a student participates in physical education or when “reasonable circumstances impede such recess.” The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

Senate Finance Committee

Chairman Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) called the Committee to order to discuss the following measures:

  • HB 428, authored by Representative Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), amends Title 48. A substitute bill was presented which exempts museums, like the Aquarium, from sales tax on expansions. This would also extend the sunset to 2025. The underlying bill, HB 428, was removed. The substitute received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HR 732, also authored by Representative Chuck Martin, creates a Constitutional Amendment for local governments to receive temporary loans. This would create a ballot question for Georgians to vote on this election cycle. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 1039, authored by Representative Mack Jackson (D-Sandersville), amends Code Section 48-7-40.34. Representative Sharon Cooper presented a substitute bill to include nurse practitioners and physicians assistants and remove the initial language relating to railroads. The new language decreases the credit to $2 million. The substitute received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 1291, Representative Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain), amends Code Section 48-8-3.The measure continues to further the work for high technology companies by increasing the sale and lease for the calendar year cap from $15 million to $18 million. It was set to expire next June. This is extended in the measure to December 2033.

    Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) asked if there was a fiscal note. Representative Smith noted there had been in the past, but there is not one at this time. Chairman Hufstetler noted a fiscal note was received regarding the effect on local governments, which would be about $70 million. Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) noted that this bill combines several different bills, HB 1187 and HB 1223, one section on companies and another section on stand-alone data centers. He further identified other states do this, and the extension should be competitive.

    An amendment was offered and approved, which changes the extension dates. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation as amended.

  • HB 1421, by Representative Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City), amends Part 2 of Article 3 of Chapter 8 of Title 12 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. This measure dedicates fees to the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund. SB 516, as passed by the Senate, was added to HB 1421, which then received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 1437, by Representative Shaw Blackmon, amends Chapter 7 of Title 48. This bill is the Speakers and Chairman of Ways and Means income tax reduction bill. The measure removes the tax brackets from statutes and imposes a maximum tax at a flat 5.25%, a 0.5% reduction. Deductions would be eliminated, except for charitable contributions, including the current $5,400 standard deduction for single filers and $7,100 for joint filers. The measure increases the standard exemption for single filers, from $2,700 to $12,000, for those joint-filing from $7,400 to $24,000. Exemptions for dependents would remain at $3,000, and exemptions for retirees would not change either.

    Chairman Hufstetler offered an amendment to create a more measured approach. HB 1437, as amended, received a DO PASS recommendation.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Chairman Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) called a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee to order to discuss the following measures:

  • HB 961, authored by Representative Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), amends Code Section 51-12-33. The measure seeks to change the amount of damages a defendant would be required to pay and bases it on their responsibility rather than an automatic 100%. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 1377, authored by Representative James Burchett (R-Waycross), revises Title 48 to allow an employee to seek civil action against an employer who fails to deduct and withhold wages for the income tax properly. This is often found when a company claims an employee is a 1099 and only provides injunctive relief. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 1068, authored by Representative Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), revises Title 50. A substitute was presented so more than one person could be present. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation by substitute.

  • HB 1528, by Representative Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas), amends Title 10 to tackle the theft of catalytic converters. LC 39 3437S was presented by Representative John Corbett (R-Lake Park). The original measure relating to the catalytic converter was removed. The new language substituted creates a grant process for local law enforcement agencies to apply for to mitigate motor vehicle crimes. This would create a state-wide board tasked with establishing programs, improving law enforcement bandwidth, and providing grants across county lines. The substitute received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 689, authored by Representative Houston Gaines (R-Athens), originally amended Title 35 to allow criminal investigation agencies to access sealed criminal records of victims of human trafficking. This language was added to Senator Tonya Anderson’s bill currently moving through the House. A substitute was presented in its place which allows for human-grade food to be offered to dogs dining at a restaurant with their owners. Senator Kirkpatrick asked how restaurants would be cleaning after the animal. Representative Gaines noted the bill authorizes DPH to create rules and regulations for this. A representative from Lazy Dog came forward to explain the particulars of how they operate in other states. Megan Andrews from DPH expressed concerns regarding cleanliness. Nathan Humphrey from NFIB voiced support for the measure. The substitute received a DO PASS recommendation.

Chairman Strickland held HB 274 to be discussed at a later date.

Senate Science and Technology Committee

Chairman Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming) and the Science and Technology Committee met this afternoon with two bills originally published on the Committee’s agenda. However, no action was taken on HB 1478, authored by Representative Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth). The other bill on the agenda was:

  • HB 1217, authored by Representative Chris Erwin (R-Gainesville), which enacts the Student Technology Protection Act, and it was presented today in the form of a new Substitute, LC 49 0997S. The legislation revises the current law in an effort to promote the safe and appropriate use of technology and responsible digital citizenship starting with the 2022-2023 school year. The legislation is aimed at the safe school technology use of state-owned technology devices. It specifically amends O.C.G.A. 20-2-145 and O.C.G.A. 20-2-324. Representative Erwin explained that this bill is to work in conjunction with the federal law, the Child Internet Protection Act (“CIPA”). The last time CIPA was changed was in 2011. The reason for the legislation is the expanded use of technology by students at home and at school since the pandemic began. There are 180 different protection programs among the school systems across the state; larger school systems may be able to rely on staff to protect from obscene materials. When Georgia created its own law on technology protections, that was 2008 and the iPhone was not in distribution at that time. Some of the changes included in this legislation:

    • Revises the term of “child pornograph” to mean any visual depiction, including any live performance, photography, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced of sexually explicit conduct as defined by applicable laws, where the production of the visual depiction involves a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct or the visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct

    • Requires each local school board to establish technology protection measures and requires charter schools to implement acceptable-use policies and technology protection measures (the new substitute addresses the acceptable use policy and the April 1 deadline which the DOE is to establish compliance standards and specifications to be used by the schools and local school systems)

    • Establishes that violations no longer need to be willful, rather intentionally violating this policy is enough

    • Expands use of the property beyond the school property (any connection with school equipment, network, server, or technology)

    • Requires the local board and charter school to provide administrative procedures for enforceability of the policy and mechanisms to address complaints from denial of access to certain information

    • Allows the local school system to have different policies based on age of the students and the local school systems are to conduct routine updates on their technology measures

    • Requires that the Department of Education is to establish guidelines for training of its personnel, compliance standards and specifications for technology measures, recommended technology protection measures to be installed, identify a non-exclusive list of providers of technology protection measures providers, and provide technology assistance to the local boards and charter schools

    • Establishes that DOE may withhold technology funds when a system is found to not have proper technology protections in place and

    • Prohibits the use of strategic waivers to be used.

The Committee gave this legislation a DO PASS recommendation, dividing along party lines. The bill moves forward to the Senate Rules Committee.

Senate Interstate Cooperation

Chairman Donzella James (D-Atlanta) and her Interstate Cooperation Committee moved forward one bill this afternoon:

  • HB 1522, authored by Representative Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth), amends the current law on beauty pageants in O.C.G.A. 10-1-831. The bill requires certain additional information to be provided to beauty pageant contestants before accepting a fee, adding an internet website and email address in addition to the operator’s name, address, and telephone number. The concern is that pageants are luring young girls in and require them to do photoshoots etc. and this legislation is to help provide more security around the pageants with more information required for disclosure. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation and now moves to the Senate Rules Committee.

New Legislation

The following legislation of potential interest has been introduced:

 What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 37 on Tuesday, March 29 at 10AM.

The House is expected to consider 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

  • 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

  • SB 496 – Death Investigations; medical examiner’s inquiry when a pregnant female dies and an inquest; require

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

  • SB 558 – Department of Transportation; meetings for the election of board members; amend notice provisions

  • 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

  • SB 586 – Road Projects; the use of the design-build contracting method by counties; authorize

  • SB 330 – “Giving the Gift of Life Act”; enact

The Senate is expected to consider 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

  • HB 263 – Retirement; benefits for judges of probate courts; revise method through which certain actuarial equivalents are determined

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

  • HB 476 – Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Act of 2021; enact

  • HB 586 – Georgia Economic Recovery Act of 2021; enact

  • HB 620 – Guardian and ward; payment of certain settlements involving claims of minors; clarify and revise procedures and requirements

  • HB 1053 – Income tax; certain expenditures made by postproduction companies; extend tax credit

  • HB 1069 – Mental health; adult mental health programs; provide licensure

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

  • HB 1219 – Georgia Board of Dentistry; revise composition

  • HB 1381 – Local government; water and sewer authority board members to complete yearly continuing training courses; require

Copyright ©2022 Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 87

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