March 25, 2016

The General Assembly met on Tuesday and Thursday this week for the final two days of the 2016 session. The House and Senate adjourned sine die 30 minutes past the formerly accepted midnight deadline. Tuesday was also a long day for both chambers with the Senate working until after midnight that day as well, and the House adjourning around 11:40 p.m.

For the last two days, the Senate had been working off a long calendar with more than 80 bills on it, in addition to the time spent agreeing and disagreeing to House changes on various bills. The House Rules committee met Thursday morning to set a calendar for the last day then met again in late afternoon to set a supplemental calendar. Like the Senate, a substantial amount of House time on Day 40 was spent agreeing and disagreeing to changes the Senate had made on bills.

On Tuesday, the House and Senate passed the final version of the FY 2017 $23.7B budget. This budget includes a 3% raise for state employees and teachers, a 6% increase for law enforcement agencies, a 9% raise for public health nurses, and a one-time 3% bonus for state retirees who haven’t had a cost of living increase in many years. There is also nearly $1B for construction bonds and $825M for new roads and bridges. Additionally, there is a $10M provision for Invest Georgia, the venture capital program supported by Lt. Governor Cagle, and $6.5M for the demolition and design costs of Governor Deal’s proposed new judicial complex to be built where the old Georgia Archives Building currently stands.

In other action on Tuesday, the House agreed to the Senate changes in HB 1036, the moratorium on the use of eminent domain for petroleum pipeline construction, so it now goes to Governor Deal for his action. The Senate passed the bill allowing tasers on college campuses (HB 792) after making some changes to it, and the House agreed to the changes last night.  The Senate also passed legislation that would add two justices to the Ga. Supreme Court (HB 927).  Since they did not make any changes to the bill, it was ready to be sent to the Governor.

Bills that received final passage yesterday include drone regulation (HB 779), legislation containing the City of Atlanta referendum to fund MARTA expansion and separate referendum for North Fulton on road improvements (SB 369), and changes to the Judicial Qualifications Commission (HB 808).  Late in the evening the House and Senate adopted conference committee reports on the use of ignition interlock devices for DUI offenders (HB 205) and revisions to the fireworks bill that passed last session (HB 727).

Some news-making bills that did not get a final vote include the medical cannabis bill (SB 145) which passed the House yesterday but did not get called up in the Senate, and legislation that would lower the state’s income tax rate which had been substituted into HB 238 by the Senate but not called for a vote in the House.

With the many bill revisions yesterday, final versions of bills will not be posted on the state’s legislative web site until later next week. But please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or need information on any legislative issue.

The primary election is May 24, so House and Senate members with primary opposition have two months to campaign. Since current office holders are prohibited from accepting campaign contributions during the legislative session, it was good planning that the session ended with time for them to get back to their districts to raise funds and work on their campaigns.

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