January 24, 2014

The General Assembly reconvened on Tuesday, Jan. 21, after taking Monday off to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  An adjournment resolution (HR 1108) passed by both houses will set the legislature’s calendar for the next three weeks.  If they maintain this schedule, Feb. 18 will be the 24th legislative day.

On Tuesday, Governor Deal signed HB 310 that passed the House and Senate last week.  This legislation was the result of a federal lawsuit addressing the short interval between elections and runoffs that did not allow enough time for Georgians overseas to mail their absentee ballots.  The bill provides new dates for primary election qualifying (March 3-7), primary elections (May 20) and primary runoff elections (July 22).  Non-partisan judicial elections will also be held on May 20.  The date of the general election remains on Nov. 4 with general election runoffs on Dec. 2 for state offices and Jan. 6 for federal offices.

This morning the House overwhelmingly passed the amended FY 2014 budget by a vote of 163-1.  The AFY ‘14 budget is approximately $320M more than the original FY ‘14 budget of $19.9B.  Almost 60% of the increase will be used for additional student enrollment in K-12 public schools.  The House-passed AFY ’14 budget and budget tracking sheet can be found on the House Budget & Research Office web site.

Both House and Senate have introduced bills that would permanently cap the number of acres that can be commercially developed on Jekyll Island (HB 715 and SB 296).  Yesterday the House Natural Resources committee passed HB 715 and the Senate Natural Resources Committee passed SB 296.  Rep. Mark Hamilton was commended by the House committee chair for being able to bring a diverse group of interested parties to the table and reach an agreement on this development vs. preservation debate that has come before the legislature many times.

The House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee unanimously passed a bill to regulate negotiations between cell phone companies and local governments regarding location of cell towers (HB 176).  Local governments opposed this bill last year because they thought it gave too much leverage to the phone companies, but the bill has been rewritten and local governments are neutral on this new version.

Also introduced in the House this week were a constitutional amendment that specifies revenues from fees and assessments must be used for the purpose for which they were collected (HR 1087) and a balanced budget compact for the U.S. government (HB 794).  There will be a hearing on the Compact for a Balanced Budget in a House Judiciary subcommittee on Monday, Jan. 27.

A recently introduced resolution that has gotten a good bit of press this week is Senator Josh McKoon’s

SR 756 which creates a study committee on the use of medicinal marijuana for serious medical conditions.  It has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.  A House version, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake, is being drafted and is expected to be introduced next week.

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