January 19, 2018

The State Capitol was closed Monday to observe the Martin Luther King holiday.  The Appropriations committees had hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday; however, the Capitol was closed on Wednesday due to inclement weather.  The House and Senate were in session on Thursday and Friday to complete two more days of this 40-day session.  We have now completed six legislative days.

This week the Senate passed the adoption bill (HB 159) after another bill (HB 359) was added to it in committee.  HB 359 would allow parent(s) to assign temporary custody of their children to anyone of their choosing, and although it passed the House and Senate last session, it was vetoed by Governor Deal because of child safety concerns.  The adoption bill has been a priority for Speaker Ralston and he let it be known that he wanted the Senate to pass a “clean” version–one without major changes.  HB 159 will now return to the House in its amended form for House action.

The Senate Judiciary committee passed SB 194 that revises the state’s garnishment law.

The House and Senate Appropriations committees held joint hearings around the state’s snow days that interrupted their schedule.  Hearings that had to be postponed are rescheduled for next week.  Several highlights from the Governor’s 2019 budget are a $200M increase for K-12 schools and colleges, $256M increase in funding to pay for growth in Medicaid and to offset loss of federal funds, $68M increase for nursing home owners, $25M to improve and expand rural airports, and an additional $35M for deepening Savannah’s harbor.  There is no pay raise for teachers or state employees in this budget, but it does include $361M to shore up the Teacher Retirement System.

Atlanta made the short list of 20 cities being considered for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters, and this announcement was referenced several times this week by legislators on the House and Senate floors.

Governor Deal announced that newly elected Senator Brian Strickland will join Senators P.K. Martin and Larry Walker as his Senate floor leaders.  Reps. Chuck Efstration, Trey Rhodes and Terry Rogers will continue as floor leaders in the House.

The election for House District 175 has been set for February 13 and four candidates qualified this week for that race: three Republicans and one Democrat.  If a run-off election is required, it will be held on March 13.  This seat was vacated by Rep. Amy Carter who resigned to take a job in the state’s Technical College System.

PSC Commission Chair Stan Wise (PSC District 5) announced that he will resign his seat on the Public Service Commission on February 20.  This will allow Governor Deal an opportunity to appoint someone to complete his term. Elections for District 5 as well as District 3, held by Commissioner Chuck Eaton, will be held this fall.

The General Assembly will reconvene on Monday, January 22, and work through Thursday of next week.

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