March 7, 2014

The legislature met every day this week and will meet Monday through Thursday next week.  As of today, there are only six legislative days left in this session.  March 3 was the 30th legislative day also known as “cross-over” day, and both chambers had lengthy calendars.  The Senate adjourned around the dinner hour, but the House worked much later with the bell ringing the last floor vote at 11:10 p.m.  In order for a bill to be active for the remainder of the session, it must have passed the chamber in which it was introduced and crossed over to the other chamber by the end of Day 30.  At this point, bills that have failed to cross over can only survive if they are amended onto other bills which have crossed.

Monday, March 3, was also the first day of candidate qualifying for the May 20 primary elections. Up for election are all of Georgia’s 14 seats in the U.S. House and one U.S. Senate seat, as well as all of the state’s legislative seats and constitutional officers.  Four candidates who had previously announced runs for the gubernatorial race have qualified.  The three Republican candidates are Governor Nathan Deal, former Dalton Mayor David Pennington and State School Superintendent John Barge, and the Democrat candidate is State Senator Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. Two former state representatives have qualified to run as Democrats against Republican incumbent state officers: Keith Heard will run for Insurance Commissioner and Robbin Shipp will run for Labor Commissioner.  A teacher and wrestling coach at Gilmer County High School, Sam Snider, has qualified to run against Speaker Ralston to represent House District 7.  Sen. Jack Murphy, Chairman of the Regulated Industries & Utilities committee, has three primary opponents, including Lauren McDonald, son of Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald.  The longest-serving Republican in the state Senate, Sen. Don Balfour, former Senate Rules Chairman who was recently acquitted on charges for filing erroneous expense reports, has two primary opponents. Qualifying ended at noon today.

This week the Senate passed a resolution allowing citizens to vote on amending the state constitution to eliminate the state property tax levy (SR 783).  This resolution would not affect local governments’ ability to levy the taxes.  The Senate gave final passage to the legislation that would set the rules between local governments and cellular providers about granting permits on cell towers (HB 176); this bill now goes to Governor Deal for his signature.  The Senate also passed the $20.8B 2015 fiscal year budget.  There are differences between the House and Senate budget plans, so a compromise will have to be agreed upon.

The House passed two bills authorizing statues or monuments.  One bill approves a “historic granite monument” that shows the Ten Commandments, the preamble to the Georgia Constitution and an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence (HB 702), and the other bill would erect a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. (HB 1080). The MLK Jr. Statue has the Governor’s support and Rep. Calvin Smyre, the author of this bill, said private funds would be used to pay for the statue.  The House overwhelmingly passed the cannabis oil bill, also called the medical marijuana bill (HB 885), which is narrowly drawn to allow use of this oil under medical supervision for the treatment of childhood seizure disorders.  It is now in the Senate Health and Human Services committee.

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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