February 14, 2014

What was supposed to be a four-day work week turned into a two-day week for the General Assembly and all of state government when we had our second winter weather event in three weeks.  With ice and snow amounts ranging from one inch to almost one foot in many parts of mid and north Georgia, the state came to a standstill.

However, there are some legislative actions to report. The House and Senate passed an adjournment resolution (HR 1333) setting the calendar for the remainder of the 2014 legislative session.  Unless other events preempt this schedule, the General Assembly is expected to adjourn sine die on March 20.  They will reconvene Monday, Feb. 17, and be in session for five days next week.

Of most importance, the House Appropriations committee favorably reported their version of the $20.8B state budget for the 2015 fiscal year that begins June 1, and House Rules put it on the calendar for a floor vote on Monday, Feb. 17.  The Appropriations committee also favorably reported Rep. Stacey Evans bill to increase the HOPE grant to cover the full cost of tuition for technical college students who earn a minimum 3.5 GPA (HB 697).  This bill attempts to alleviate the drop in enrollment at the state’s technical colleges.

The Senate Health and Human Services committee revised and favorably reported a bill that would require bidding out child welfare services through contracts with community-based providers (SB 350).  It now awaits action by the Senate Rules committee.

The House Agriculture Committee favorably reported legislation that would authorize state investment in Flint River stream augmentation projects (SB 213).  This bill passed the Senate last year but has had some opposition by farmers in SW Georgia because the EPD director could prohibit this “augmented” water from being withdrawn by downstream property owners.  This bill is on the House general calendar and awaits action by the House Rules committee.

Another bill awaiting House Rules committee action is the gun carry bill that has been covered before in these updates (HB 875).  The Association of County Commissioners (ACCG) has now stated concerns about a couple of provisions in the bill.  Since guns would be allowed in government buildings that do not have security, local governments could opt to either hire security for all buildings or expose themselves to greater liability and increased insurance premiums.  Both of these options could be expensive for taxpayers.  The ACCG also fears costly frivolous lawsuits by persons who allege local government regulation of firearms, and they expressed concerns that law enforcement would not be allowed to confirm that persons carrying weapons are properly licensed.

Day 20 was this past Monday, which marks the halfway point of the session.  Some legislation of note that has passed from one legislative body to the other to date includes: a bill to prohibit making bad faith assertions about patent infringement (HB 809), a provision that routine service fees of state chartered banks and credit unions will not be considered interest (HB 824), legislation to deny unemployment benefits during the summer and winter breaks for private firm employees who work at schools (HB 714), and a bill to regulate the negotiation process between cell phone companies and local governments over the location of cell towers (HB 176).

The full text of all bills can be found on the state’s legislative web site: www.legis.ga.gov.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us about any issue or any legislation.

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