March 27, 2015

This week the House and Senate were in session every day and committees worked long hours amending and passing bills.  We are now down to the final two days of this legislative session.  With only two days left, there is still much work to be done. The General Assembly will meet on Tuesday for Day 39 and on Thursday for the final legislative day.  Both of these days could run late into the evening.

This week, the House and Senate gave final passage to several bills.  The House agreed to Senate changes in the medical marijuana bill (HB 1) and the Senate agreed to House changes in the “dual enrollment” bill that allows high school students to attend an accredited college or technical school (SB 2).  Gov. Deal’s legislation (SB 133) and accompanying constitutional amendment (SR 287) that allow the state to take over underperforming schools have passed both Houses. The House amended then unanimously approved a bill that would re-establish the 25-foot buffer around marshes (SB 101) and the Senate agreed to the House changes.  Another bill receiving final passage would allow Tesla to continue selling vehicles direct to consumers (HB 393).  All of these bills now go to the Governor to await his signature.

 

A significant announcement this week was the compromise declared by the Chairs of the House and Senate Insurance committees, Rep. Richard Smith and Sen. Charlie Bethel, over mandated insurance coverage of autism treatments for children.  The autism bill (SB 1) will be added to a House bill that has passed the House and is currently in the Senate Insurance committee (HB 429).  SB 1 requires coverage of autism treatments for children 6 years and younger, limits annual payouts to $30,000, and exempts businesses with 10 or fewer employees. Chairman Smith introduced legislation this week that calls for a constitutional amendment allowing citizens to vote on a sales tax increase of 0.2% that would fund autism treatment for children ages 2-18 years (HR 808).  If voters approve this amendment, then the provisions in SB 1 would be repealed.

 

Also this week, conference committees were appointed to work out the differences in the House and Senate versions of the FY 2016 budget and the transportation funding bill (HB 170).  Gov. Deal has cautioned legislators that he will call a special session this summer if they do not pass an “adequate” funding bill during this regular session.

 

The Senate passed its version of legislation regulating ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft (HB 225).  This legislation requires background checks on ride-share drivers who must have state-mandated liability insurance and be at least 18 years old.  Also, the companies must pay state sales tax or an annual fee for each car in its network.  The House and Senate must come to agreement on the bill before it receives final passage.

 

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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