• 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.

  • March 17, 2016

    Winding down the 40-day session, the legislature met three days this week and will be out of session today and tomorrow to prepare for the final two legislative days.  The Senate had a three- page calendar that they worked through yesterday, finishing around 8:30 in the evening.  The House had a long day, too, but they adjourned a couple of hours earlier. The General Assembly will convene next week on Tuesday for Day 39 and on Thursday for Day 40.

    There were several surprises yesterday, like the MARTA referendum replacing the fireworks regulation bill that was the original SB 369, and legislation for lowering the state income tax rate replacing the tax break for aquarium expansion that was the original HB 238.

    Another surprise was the passage of a religious freedom bill, after lengthy debate, by both House and Senate yesterday evening. The bill, HB 757, was further amended by House members after different versions of it had passed the House and Senate.  It was presented in the House about 1½ hours after being printed.  The House passed the bill along party lines then sent it to the Senate for consideration, where it also passed along party lines. The bill will now go to Governor Deal for his consideration.

    Governor Deal has now expressed concerns about the bill to allow concealed weapons on college campuses (HB 859).  This bill has passed both houses and is on his desk awaiting his action.

    The House unanimously passed an education bill that would reduce the number of mandatory tests for students and make teacher evaluations less subject to students’ test scores (SB 364).  They also passed a City of Atlanta voter referendum that would allow a 0.5% sales tax from the T-SPLOST to fund MARTA expansion (SB 369).  The House Governmental Affairs committee passed a substitute-version of a carry-over bill from last session that now contains the medical cannabis bill (SB 145) since it did not get a hearing in Senate committee.

    The Senate passed the tax break on sales of tickets to the Super Bowl and other major sports events (HB 951), which had been amended in the House to include the sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping (July 30-31) and energy efficient appliances (Sept. 30-Oct. 2).  Since the Senate did not make any changes to the bill, it now goes to the Governor for his action. They passed a moratorium on the use of eminent domain for petroleum pipeline construction (HB 1036).  This bill will now go back to the House for agreement with a Senate change that would allow applications for EPD permits during the moratorium although permits would not be issued.  The Senate also passed drone regulation (HB 779) after removing several restrictions that were in the House version.  This bill will now go back to the House for them to agree or disagree to Senate changes.

    Based on candidate qualifying that ended at noon last Friday, Republicans will retain control of Georgia’s House and Senate. Out of 56 Senate seats, Republicans will keep 29 of those seats– there are 18 Republican incumbents without any opposition and 11 Republican incumbents with only primary opposition. Out of 180 House seats, Republicans will occupy 92 of those seats–there are 68 Republican incumbents without any opposition and 24 Republican incumbents with only primary opposition. There is also an open seat in House District 29 and only one person, Matt Dubnik, a Republican qualified for that seat, so barring a write-in candidate, there will be 93 Republicans in the House.

    Several House and Senate leaders have election opposition: House Speaker David Ralston, House Majority Leader Jon Burns and Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert.  Numerous House committee chairs have opposition, including Tommy Benton, Brooks Coleman, Sharon Cooper, Terry England, Howard Maxwell, Jimmy Pruett, Ed Rynders, Tom Taylor, Tom Weldon, Joe Wilkinson, and John Yates.  Information on all qualifiers can be found on the Secretary of State’s web site: http://elections.sos.ga.gov/GAElection/CandidateDetails

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

     

  • March 11, 2016

    Legislators were in session four days this week and attended numerous committee meetings to work on cross-over bills and resolutions. They have completed 35 legislative days and there are only five days left in this legislative session.  Legislators will convene three days next week, Monday through Wednesday, then have several days out of session to prepare for the final two legislative days.

    With cross-over bills still being worked on in committees, not many bills passed the House or Senate this week.  However, of most importance, the Senate passed their version of the $23.7B 2017 FY budget.  They have recommended ten percent raises for public health nurses and three percent raises for state employees, teachers and other school employees, as well as $10.6M for Invest Georgia which is of special interest to Lt. Governor Cagle. The House and Senate conferees will now begin working out the small number of differences between these versions.

    There were lengthy debates in both Senate and House this afternoon with the Senate considering the bill to allow concealed weapons on college campuses (HB 859) and the House deliberating state grants for pregnancy crisis centers (SB 308).  Both of these measures passed, mostly along party lines.

    This week was also qualifying week for persons wanting to run for elected office.  All 236 state House and Senate seats are up for reelection as well as 14 U.S. House seats, one U.S. Senate seat (Johnny Isakson, incumbent) and one Public Service Commission seat (Tim Echols, incumbent). Many incumbents are getting primary opposition, including Senator Isakson and Commissioner Echols. So far eleven state legislators have announced that they will not run for reelection: Senators Bill Jackson, Tommie Williams and Mike Crane, and Reps. Stephen Allison, Mike Dudgeon, Margaret Kaiser, Ronnie Mabra, B.J. Pak, Matt Ramsey, Nikki Randall and Barbara Sims.

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

  • March 3, 2016

    The General Assembly convened Monday at 10:00 a.m. for Day 30.  They worked through full calendars, then the Senate adjourned that evening around 8:00 and the House adjourned around 9:30.  Legislators reconvened with very brief calendars yesterday for Day 31. They will be off for the remainder of this week and will be in session four days next week, with Wednesday being an off-day.

    Bills that crossed-over on Day 30 include the medical marijuana bill which expands the number of diagnoses that can be prescribed this treatment (HB 722), a moratorium on the use of eminent domain to construct petroleum pipelines (HB 1036), regulation of drones or unmanned aircraft vehicles (HB 779), a driver’s license prohibition for DACA residents (Deferred Action for Child-hood Arrivals) who would instead be issued a driving privilege card (SB 6), and a constitutional amendment declaring English as the official language of Georgia (SR 675).

    Two notable bills that did not make the cut on cross-over day are the casino gambling measures (HR 807 and HB 677). These were both on the calendar for House action but were pulled by Speaker Ralston after consulting with some of his close House advisors.

    Bills that did not pass one chamber by the end of the day on Monday are considered dead. The only way dead bills can pass at this point is if legislators can find related bills that are still alive to which the dead bills can be attached.

    On Wednesday, the House passed resolutions creating four House study committees. In the Senate, there were two farewell speeches, a lengthy speech from Sen. Bill Jackson and a much shorter one from Sen. Tommie Williams. The Senate had two House bills on its calendar, but they voted to table both bills then adjourned.

    The Senate Judiciary committee had a hearing only for the “campus carry” bill that would allow persons with a weapons permit to carry guns on college campuses, although housing and athletic venues are excluded (HB 859), and the Senate Economic Development & Tourism committee voted unanimously to approve the tax break for Super Bowl ticket sales (HB 951).

    Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill announced a meeting on the FY 2017 budget at 7:30 Monday morning, so we anticipate the Senate version of the budget will be coming up soon.

    The House Transportation committee had a brief question and answer session on the “roadside enhancement” bill that would allow vegetation and tree trimming to expose advertising on the sides of buildings (SB 383).  This bill has been assigned to a subcommittee.

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

  • February 26, 2016

    The General Assembly met five days this week and have now completed 29 legislative days.  It was a week of extended floor sessions and later committee meetings.  Monday, February 29, will be the 30th legislative day and it is also known as cross-over day.  That is the final day when a bill must have passed at least one house and crossed over to the other house in order to still be alive for this session.

    There was sad news in the House this week because of the death of Rep. Bob Bryant (D-Savannah) and leaders from both parties spoke at length about him during a memorial time on Thursday.

    Several dignitaries spoke to the General Assembly this week, including Ohio Governor and Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich, Ga .Congressman Buddy Carter, and the new University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart.  Also at the Capitol, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke to the Georgia Democratic Caucus.

    In House action, Representatives started the week with the campus carry bill on their calendar.  This bill (HB 859) would allow persons with gun permits to carry firearms on public college campuses, but does not allow guns in athletic venues, dorms, fraternities and sororities.  It was debated for a couple of hours then passed along party lines on Monday.  A day later, the House approved legislation to allow stun guns and tasers on public college campuses (HB 792), again along party lines.  Both bills now go to the Senate, where the Ga. Board of Regents was able to stop the campus carry gun bill a couple of years ago.

    The House passed public safety legislation that would allow first-time DUI offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles (HB 205).

    The House also passed legislation to abolish the current Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) and recreate it as a seven-member Commission with appointments being made by the Supreme Court (2), Governor (3), Lt. Governor (1) and House Speaker (1).  The State Bar of Ga., which currently has three appointments, would not have any under this new structure.  The JQC’s purpose is to investigate and resolve complaints against judges of unethical or illegal conduct.  This restructuring of the JQC would need voters’ approval, through passage of a constitutional amendment (HR 1113), as well as the enabling legislation (HB 808) that the House passed on Tuesday becoming law.  The House also passed a special study committee resolution (HR 1363) on Judicial Qualifications Commission Reform.

    The House Ways & Means committee passed legislation that would exempt sales taxes on Super Bowl tickets (HB 951) after it was amended by adding the back-to-school shopping and energy-efficient appliance sales tax holidays to it. The bill was then passed by the House this afternoon.

    The Senate passed Sen. John Kennedy’s bill that would implement the latest recommendations from Governor Deal’s Commission on Criminal Justice Reform regarding the reentry of former prisoners into society (SB 367).

    The Senate also passed three bills related to fireworks. SB 369 tightens the hours and locations for setting off fireworks and grants more control to local governments.  The other two bills were related to sales tax on fireworks:  SR 558 and SB 350.  SR 558 is a constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would specify that sales tax on fireworks would be used only for trauma care, fire services and local public safety; SB 350 stipulates how these taxes would be divided among these three areas.

    Committees were especially busy this week trying to pass bills before the approaching “cross-over” day.  Several news-making bills that passed committee this week include the medical marijuana bill (HB 722). The House Judiciary Non-civil committee approved an amended HB 722 that expanded the number of medical diagnoses for which this can be prescribed but deleted the provision for cultivating medicinal marijuana.  This bill is on the calendar for full House action on Monday.  Rep. Allen Peake subsequently introduced HB 1077 calling for a nonbinding statewide referendum on whether Georgia should establish a regulatory structure for cultivating medical marijuana in the state.

    At a speed seldom seen at the Capitol, the casino bills went from committee action to a supplemental calendar for full House action in less than 24 hours. Yesterday afternoon the House Regulated Industries committee passed two measures to allow casino gambling in Georgia (HR 807 and HB 677).  These measures then went to the Rules committee which met at lunchtime and put them on a supplemental calendar for today. When the House reconvened after lunch, Speaker Ralston announced that these two bills would be postponed until Monday. The resolution is a constitutional amendment that would be on the November ballot. The bill would allow for four casinos, two in Atlanta and two outside the metro area, with licenses costing a total of $65M for the Atlanta locations and $15M each for the other two locations.  According to the bill, the tax rate on gambling revenues would be 20% and revenues would go towards the HOPE scholarship program.  However, legislators are already speaking up on where this tax revenue should go with some agreeing on the HOPE scholarship program, some calling for funds to go to healthcare, and others for mental health.

    The House Energy Utilities & Telecommunications committee approved a bill that calls for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain to construct petroleum pipelines through June 30, 2017 (HB 1036).  During that moratorium the State Commission on Petroleum Pipelines, with the majority of members appointed by the Speaker and Lt. Governor, would study the need for new pipelines and facilities.  This bill came about in response to Kinder Morgan’s proposal to build a pipeline through east Georgia.

    The Senate Public Safety committee passed a bill stipulating that DACA residents (from Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) could apply for a driving privilege card but not a regular Ga. driver’s license (SB 6).  This bill is on the Senate calendar for Monday.

    Rep. Wendell Willard introduced legislation that would repeal the state’s certificate of need (CON) law by 2018 (HB 1055).  The CON law regulates hospital and healthcare facility construction.  The House Governmental Affairs committee decided that this issue would be studied before next session and it will not take action on this bill.

    Sen. Jeff Mullis introduced two resolutions calling for study committees to research and recommend alternative fuels infrastructure so that Georgia can be on the forefront of having the necessary framework for providing options for citizens and alternative fuels for their vehicles (SR 1037 & SR 1038).

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

     

     

     

  • February 19, 2016

    After having Monday off for President’s Day, the General Assembly met for the remainder of this week to complete 24 legislative days.  Next week will be a full and busy one with legislators meeting all five days.

    In a special election runoff, Park Cannon soundly defeated former legislator Ralph Long to represent House District 58 for the remainder of this term. She will fill the seat that was left vacant when Rep. Simone Bell resigned to take a job at Lambda Legal.

    The House passed its version of the 2017 budget early on Friday with only one dissenting vote.  The 2017 budget and corresponding tracking sheets can be found on the state’s web site.  This $47.5B budget includes $470M for three percent raises for state employees and public teachers. Earlier in the week, the Senate and House agreed upon an amended FY 2016 budget that has been signed by the governor.

    The House approved Rep. Mike Dudgeon’s “Georgia Right to Try Act” (HB 34). This bill would allow people with terminal illnesses to try experimental medical treatments that have completed their first phase of a federal trial but that are still being studied. Insurance would not be required to pay for these treatments. It is now in the Senate Health & Human Services committee.

    The House also passed Rep. Christian Coomer’s “Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act of 2016” (HB 927).  This bill would enact reforms recommended by the Ga. Appellate Jurisdiction Review Commission relating to appellate court efficiencies, and it would add two additional justices to the Ga. Supreme Court.

    The Senate spent the better part of Friday afternoon debating Rep. Kevin Tanner’s “pastor protection” bill (HB 757) that was amended in committee to add provisions from Sen. Greg Kirk’s “First Amendment Defense Act” (SB 284).  After the debate that lasted many hours, they voted along party lines to pass it.

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

  • February 12, 2016

    Legislators completed Day 20 yesterday, and we are now at the halfway point of this session.  They are in recess today and are taking off Monday for Presidents’ Day, then they will be in session Tuesday through Friday.

    The Senate unanimously passed their version of the amended FY 2016 $23B budget on Wednesday.  It will now go to conference committee where they should come up with a compromise fairly quickly.  In his budget presentation to the Senate, Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill remarked there were few differences between House and Senate versions of the budget.  He also noted that the Ga. Lottery Corp. is sending a record amount of over $1B to the HOPE scholarship and pre-k programs for the first time ever.

    The Senate also passed Sen. Jesse Stone’s revisions to the state’s current garnishment law (SB 255). This bill requires creditors to inform debtors that Social Security benefits, welfare and workers’ compensation cannot be garnished.  It was favorably reported by the House Judiciary committee yesterday.

    On Thursday, the House unanimously passed the Speaker-backed “pastor protection” bill that provides legal protections to pastors who do not want to perform same-sex marriages (HB 757).

    The House also passed Rep. Alan Powell’s “move over” bill (HB 767) that would add stopped utility service vehicles to the list of vehicles for which drivers must move over one lane or slow down and be prepared to stop.  It has been assigned to the Senate Public Safety committee.

    The House Judiciary Non-civil committee held its second hearing on Rep. Allen Peake’s cannabis oil legislation (HB 722).  This bill would allow the state to license up to six cultivators for medical marijuana and would allow doctors to prescribe for patients with 17 specified diagnoses.  Opponents of the bill testified at the hearing on Monday and Rep. Peake committed to continue revising the bill to address their concerns, for example employers’ concerns about having drug-free workplace designations.

    Senator Steve Gooch introduced a resolution to create a joint study committee on high-speed broadband access for all Georgians (SR 876).  This resolution was assigned to the Senate Economic Development & Tourism committee.

    Rep. Mike Cheokas introduced the “Honorable Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Access Act” (HB 965) that would prohibit insurance companies from mandating that patients first fail to respond to other treatments before trying new treatments.

    Rep. Chad Nimmer introduced a bill to exclude sales taxes on Super Bowl tickets, as well as other major sporting events expected to generate revenue of more than $50M, when a Georgia city is the host for these events (HB 951).  This bill has the support of Governor Deal as well as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

    The Dept. of Revenue released upbeat revenue information for January and the first seven months of the state’s fiscal year. There was an 8.9% growth rate over last year which meant a $1.02B rise in collections.  The increased motor fuel taxes, from the transportation bill that passed last year, were responsible for the largest share of the growth.  Motor fuel tax collections have increased 59% over last year and vehicle title ad valorem taxes have increased 15.2%.  Income taxes grew 6.7% for individuals and 6.5% for businesses while sales tax revenues stayed relatively flat.

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

  • February 5, 2016

    The legislature met four days this week and will meet again on Monday through Thursday next week. They have now completed 16 legislative days and have settled into the familiar routine of calendar setting by the Rules committees, convening of House and Senate to deliberate and act on their calendar bills, then additional committee meetings to debate and pass along more bills to the Rules committees.

    The House Appropriations subcommittees have been meeting to work on the 2017 budget and will continue with their process next week. Senate Appropriations has been wrapping up their version of the AFY 2016 budget.  We expect the amended budget to be on the Senate calendar sometime next week.

    Rep. Christian Coomer introduced the “Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act of 2016” (HB 927) on Thursday.  This bill would enact reforms recommended by the Georgia Appellate Jurisdiction Review Commission relating to appellate court efficiencies, and it would add two additional justices to the Ga. Supreme Court.

    There were two bills introduced this week that would lower the annual fee for alternative fuel vehicles from $200 to $75 (SB 324 and HB 878).

    Sen. Brandon Beach introduced two bills this week calling for a voter referendum in DeKalb and Fulton Counties to increase taxes by ½ cent to be used for MARTA expansion (SB 313 & SB 330).  SB 313 was read on Tuesday and assigned to the Senate State and Local Government Operations committee.   SB 330 was read on Thursday and assigned to the more receptive Senate Transportation committee.

    The House Motor Vehicles committee passed Rep. Alan Powell’s “move over” bill (HB 767) that adds stopped utility service vehicles to the list of vehicles for which drivers must move over one lane or slow down and be prepared to stop. This bill is on the calendar for full House action on Monday.

    Rep. Mike Dudgeon’s “Georgia Right to Try Act” (HB 34) was amended in the House Health & Human Services committee which then passed the bill.  This bill would allow people with terminal illnesses to try experimental medical treatments that have completed their first phase of a federal trial but that are still being studied.  Insurance would not be required to pay for these treatments.

    The Senate Judiciary committee passed Sen. Jesse Stone’s revisions to the state’s current garnishment law (SB 255).  Among other things, this bill requires creditors to inform debtors that Social Security benefits, welfare and workers’ compensation cannot be garnished.

    The House Judiciary Non-civil committee has its second meeting on cannabis oil (HB 722) scheduled for Monday.  This is a hearing only and no vote will be taken.  Rep. Allen Peake is working on a substitute bill but it is not yet published.

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

  • January 29, 2016

    It was a busy week with more committee meetings and the State of the Judiciary speech on Wednesday. Chief Justice Hugh Thompson’s speech to the House and Senate followed the recommendations of the governor’s judicial task force and focused on shifting the Supreme Court’s caseload to the Court of Appeals, which recently expanded from 12 to 15 judges. He also touched on criminal justice reform, the need for all courts to have multilingual capabilities, and the need for a new judicial building with state of the art technology as well as security.

     

    One of the biggest accomplishments of the week was the House passing the amended FY 2016 budget (AFY ‘16) yesterday.  The House made few changes to the Governor’s version which includes a $110M mid-year increase due to growth in public K-12 schools and $759M for new road construction.

     

    With significant bipartisan support, Republican Rep. Rich Golick introduced civil rights legislation that would prohibit discrimination in public accommodations (HB 849).  Rep. Rick Jasperse introduced a “campus carry” bill that would allow guns on college campuses (HB 859).  And several health care bills were introduced including Medicaid expansion (HB 823), the Georgia Health Care Transparency Initiative (SB 299), and the Georgia Affordable Free Market Health Care Act (SB 291).

     

    The House Judiciary Non-civil committee spent all afternoon Monday hearing from supporters of Rep. Allen Peake’s medical marijuana bill (HB 722).  This bill includes provisions for growing it in Georgia and expands the list of illnesses from which patients can seek relief with cannabis oil.  Opponents of the bill were scheduled to speak on Wednesday but that meeting was cancelled and will be rescheduled.  Rep. Dusty Hightower’s Judiciary Non-civil subcommittee passed out Chairman Tom Rice’s bill that calls for ignition interlock devices for drivers who refuse blood alcohol testing (HB 205).

     

    The Senate Regulated Industries committee passed out horse racing legislation (SB 264 and SR 143) that would allow pari-mutuel wagering in Georgia. These bills will be on the Senate general calendar waiting Rules committee action.

     

    Three additional religious freedom bills were introduced this week.  Senator Greg Kirk introduced the “First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia” (SB 284) and Rep. Ed Setzler introduced legislation calling for the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to apply to Georgia (HB 837).  The “Georgia Student Religious Liberties Act of 2016” is a bipartisan bill that among other things would allow student-led prayers at school events (HB 816).

     

    February 1 is the last day to register to vote in the state’s March 1 presidential primary, and absentee voting for that race has already begun.

     

    The legislature met four days this week and they will be in session four days next week, Monday through Thursday. They have now completed 12 legislative days and are over one-fourth of the way through this legislative session.

     

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

  • January 22, 2016

    The legislature convened three days this week and they have now completed eight legislative days. They will be in session Monday through Thursday of next week.

     

    This week was dominated by joint Appropriations committee meetings with all state agencies appearing before the House and Senate committees to explain their funding requests.  Next week, the House Appropriations subcommittees will be meeting and working to put together the House version of the budgets.  The Governor’s budgets for FY 2017 and AFY 2016 and can be viewed on the OPB website.

     

    Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced a run-off date of February 16 between former Representative Ralph Long and wellness advocate Park Cannon for House District 58.  This seat was previously held by Rep. Simone Bell who resigned to take a job at Lambda Legal.

     

    Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, has announced that he will not run for another term in the U.S. House and there is conjecture about persons who may run to fill that seat.  So far, only one candidate has announced and that is state Senator Mike Crane, a Republican from Newnan.  Other expected candidates, Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) and Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) have all said that they are not running.  There has been speculation that Congressman Westmoreland may run for governor in 2018.

     

    In other news, Georgia’s revenue grew 8.7% to $10.44B for the first half of this fiscal year.  A lot of this growth is attributed to the increase in the state’s motor fuel taxes and other provisions (as called for in HB 170 that was enacted in the 2015 session).  Tax revenues for motor fuels increased 59%.

     

    Legislation making the news includes several religious freedom bills, the decriminalization of marijuana possession (not related to medical marijuana), and bills to allow the creation of townships rather than full-fledged cities. There was also a bill introduced that would make the Board of Regents an elected board rather than one appointed by the governor. This is in response to a number of legislators’ frustration over the steep increases in tuition over the last few years. Tuition rates in Georgia have increased at the second highest rate in the country (48% from 2010-2015).

     

    On Monday and Wednesday next week, the House Judiciary Non-civil committee will hold its first hearings on Rep. Allen Peake’s HB 722 that builds on the medical marijuana law from last year and includes provisions for growing it in Georgia. Supporters are scheduled to speak on Monday and those opposed are scheduled to speak on Wednesday.  Rep. Hightower’s Judiciary Non-civil subcommittee will meet on Tuesday to hear Chairman Rice’s bill that calls for ignition interlock devices for drivers who refuse blood alcohol testing (HB 205).

     

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