February 6, 2015

The General Assembly convened three days this week.   They have completed 11 legislative days, and they will reconvene on Monday, February 9, for a four-day week.  The Senate Appropriations committee is meeting Monday morning when we anticipate they will pass the amended FY ’15 budget and it would then be ready for action on the Senate floor after they convene at 11:00.


Runoff elections were held on Tuesday to fill the last two vacant seats in the House.  Brad Raffensperger, a former Johns Creek City Council member, won in House District 50.  He will fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Lynne Riley who resigned when Governor Deal appointed her Commissioner for the Dept. of Revenue.  Trey Rhodes, a financial advisor from Greensboro Georgia, was the winner in House District 120 which was vacated when long-serving Rep. Mickey Channell resigned for health reasons.


Chief Justice Hugh Thompson delivered his State of the Judiciary speech to a joint session of the House and Senate on Wednesday.  He highlighted a State Bar pilot program that will attempt to provide legal service in rural, underserved areas.  The legislation introduced by Rep. Alex Atwood, an attorney from Brunswick Ga., would incentivize attorneys by paying off law school debt in exchange for committing to work for five years in one of these rural areas (HB 236).  He praised specialty courts, which he also referred to as accountability courts and problem-solving courts, and said they are a real bargain for the state as citizens are getting the help they need to become productive members of society rather than just being put in jail.  The Chief Justice also made the point that the state’s judges need a pay increase as they have not received a base pay raise for 15 years.  He noted that the number of appeals is 40% higher this year than last year and that they have fewer staff now than they did 10 years ago.  He closed his speech by remarking on the increased ethnic diversity in the state’s judges.


The Senate passed its second bill for this session. And, for the second time the vote was unanimous.  By a 56-0 vote, the Senate passed legislation that would make dual enrollment easier so high school students could enroll in college courses and receive credits allowing them to graduate high school early and earn their diploma (SB 2).  This has been touted as especially important for non-traditional students whose aptitude directs them towards technical college courses.  This bill is part of the Senate Majority agenda and it has been an important issue for Lt. Governor Cagle who proudly announced the vote.


The House Judiciary Non-Civil committee held its first hearing on Rep. Allen Peake’s medical marijuana bill (HB 1) on Tuesday.  The bill will decriminalize a particular strain of cannabis oil used to treat various medical disorders.  It was a lengthy hearing and the sheriffs and prosecutors voiced opposition to the bill.


A subcommittee of the House Transportation committee held its first hearing on the transportation funding bill (HB 170) Thursday morning and another meeting is scheduled for Monday.  We expect the bill will have numerous changes before it passes the full committee and is considered on the House floor.


Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or need information on any legislative issue. All bills can be found on the state’s site, and live action can be watched in the House and Senate chambers when they are in session.

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