February 13, 2015

The General Assembly has now completed 15 legislative days.  They will reconvene on Tuesday for another four-day week after which we will almost be at the session halfway point. The House and Senate passed a second adjournment resolution (SR 167) to set the schedule for the remainder of this session.  Following this resolution and barring any unforeseen circumstances, sine die adjournment will be April 2.


In the House This Week.  The House unanimously passed a bill allowing homeowners and businesses to finance the purchase of solar generating equipment (HB 57).  This bill is now in the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities committee.  The full House Transportation committee held an informational meeting on a revised transportation funding bill (HB 170) but they did not take a vote.  One of the changes in the bill is allowing county commissions to levy a local excise tax of up to 6 cents per gallon (previously they were allowed to levy 3 cents per gallon and they could have a voter referendum that could add up to an additional 3 cents). The policy board of the Association of County Commissioners (ACCG) has now unanimously voted to support the bill.  The Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) continues to oppose it.  Another change in the bill is terminating the current $5,000 state tax credit for purchasers of electric vehicles which has been estimated to save the state $45 million.


In the Senate This Week.  The Senate Appropriations committee approved the amended FY ’15 budget on Monday.  The committee made only minor changes from the House-passed version, and the full Senate passed it on Wednesday.  We expect there will be a quick agreement between House and Senate on this budget.  The Senate Economic Development and Tourism committee passed a bill that would allow local government to partner with private businesses on capital improvement projects for public facilities and infrastructure (SB 59).


The House and Senate Education committees held a joint informational meeting about Governor Deal’s proposal for the state to take over failing schools.  A school would be considered “failing” if it scores below 60 on the Ga. College and Career Performance Index for three consecutive years.  These failing schools would be part of a statewide “Opportunity School District” and the superintendent of this district would report directly to the Governor.  This proposal requires a constitutional amendment to make these changes, and must have a two-thirds vote in both House and Senate in order for it to pass.  Democrats have vocally opposed the state usurping local control and Senate Democrats in particular are trying to focus the debate on school funding and past austerity cuts that were required the last few years.


Bills introduced this week include judicial salary increases (HB 279), required installation of ignition interlock devices for first time DUI offenders (HB 205), and legislation to replace the current system for legal remedy regarding medical malpractice with a “patient compensation board” that would review claims and disburse money for medical malpractice claims (SB 86).


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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