• April 5, 2017

    The final day of the 2017 General Assembly gaveled in around 10:00 last Thursday morning and adjourned sine die at 1:00 a.m. Friday morning.  Many of the bills that had been widely covered by the news were passed, but not all were able to achieve passage, and Conference Committee reports on several big issues passed within the last few minutes of the session.

    Some high profile bills that achieved final passage on Day 40 include the bill expanding medical diagnoses for which low THC oil (medical marijuana) can be prescribed, the bill allowing guns in certain areas of public university campuses, changes in calculating the ad valorem taxes for leased vehicles, insurance coverage for hearing aids for children, recommendations from the Criminal Justice Reform Council, an increase in the Governor’s salary, increases in the state’s boating fees and hunting and fishing licenses, petroleum pipeline regulation, creation of a statewide 9-1-1 Authority to modernize and maintain a 9-1-1 system, regulations for autonomous vehicles, changes to tax credits for rural hospitals, and a bill to help turn around  low-performing schools.

    High profile bills that did not pass include legislation allowing casinos in Georgia, major revisions to the state’s adoption laws, a bill requiring e-filing of civil court cases, changes to individual income tax rates, and a requirement for on-line retailers to charge and remit sales taxes.

    Georgia has two-term sessions and 2017 was the first term, so any legislation that did not pass this session will be available for passage next year.

    The Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate are still working to get final versions of all bills posted on the state’s legislative web site. The website should be updated by next week, but if you have questions or need information on any legislative issue, please do not hesitate to contact us.

  • March 25, 2017

    The House and Senate met past dinnertime yesterday, which was Day 38, and will reconvene on Tuesday and Thursday next week for the final two days of this legislative session. The General Assembly was in session Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week leaving two recess days for committees to meet and pass the last few bills that could make it onto general calendars for the House and Senate Rules committees. The Senate has never set a calendar for Day 40 but uses that day to debate bills that had been postponed from previous legislative days and to consider conference committee bills as well as agreeing or disagreeing to bills that bounce back and forth between the two chambers with various amendments.

    Both House and Senate passed the Conference Committee budget for FY 2018 on Wednesday.  This $25B budget includes 20% pay raises for state law enforcement, 19% raises for child protection workers, and 2% raises for teachers and state employees. It also includes money for the new judicial building near the Capitol and the new technical college in Hall County. The budget now goes to the Governor for his signature. Passing a budget is the only thing that is required of the General Assembly each session, so theoretically the session could be adjourned sine die at any time now.

    The Senate passed a bill that would give property tax breaks to solar farms (HB 238) and agreed to House changes in the craft brewery bill (SB 85) that would give distilleries as well as brewers the ability to sell their products directly to consumers. They also passed legislation changing the TAVT so that ad valorem taxes on used cars are calculated as they are for new cars and taxes on leased vehicles would not be duplicated (HB 340), a governor-supported school improvement bill that would assist low-performing K-12 schools (HB 338), and a bill that would regulate fracking (HB 205).  The Senate Finance committee passed a bill (HB 217) that would raise the annual cap on tax credits for private school scholarships from $58M to $65M; this bill is now on the Senate Rules general calendar.

    The House passed legislation expanding the scope of practice for optometrists after the author inserted that language into a bill that originally dealt with hearing aid dealers (SB 153).  They also passed legislation regulating autonomous vehicles (SB 219) with some changes that will have to be agreed to by the Senate.  The House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications committee passed their version of the petroleum pipeline regulation (SB 191) this week.  On Friday the Senate Regulated Industries committee replaced the original language in HB 413 with a revised version of petroleum pipeline regulation and passed it.  These pipeline bills are now on the general Rules calendars in their respective houses and are available for House and/or Senate consideration Tuesday.  The House Regulated Industries committee held another hearing on the casino bill (HB 158) this week even though it was well past cross-over day.  Language from the casino bill could still be attached to another bill before the session ends on Thursday.

    As always, 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 legislative web site, and live action can be watched in the House and Senate chambers when they are in session.

  • March 16, 2017

    The General Assembly convened four days this week and has now completed 35 of 40 legislative days.  They will be in recess tomorrow but are scheduled to meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week.

    The Senate passed its version of the FY 2018 budget on Wednesday.  Like the House version, the Senate budget includes salary increases for state law enforcement (20%), child protection workers (19%), and teachers and state employees (2%). The $25B budget also includes $485,000 for the Senate to begin video streaming its committee meetings like the House currently does. Included in the budget’s bond package is $105M for a new judicial building and $73M for a new technical college campus in Hall County.  The budget now goes to a conference committee of House and Senate members to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.

    The Senate Education committee amended the school turn-around bill that would assist low-performing K-12 schools (HB 338) and will continue to meet on this bill next week.

    The House passed legislation that would allow breweries and distilleries to sell their products directly to consumers (SB 85).  The House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications committee heard petroleum pipeline regulation (SB 191) and continues to work on the bill. The House Transportation committee passed legislation on autonomous vehicles (SB 219) and legislation to create a Ga. Regional Transit Council (SB 6). Versions of those two bills as passed by committee will be available tomorrow.

    Secretary of State Brian Kemp has announced that he will be a candidate for governor in 2018, and Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville) then announced that he will be a candidate for Secretary of State.

    As always, 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 legislative web site, and live action can be watched in the House and Senate chambers when they are in session.

  • March 6, 2017

    The House and Senate have now completed 28 legislative days.  Friday was cross-over day which meant both House and Senate worked later into the evening. The Senate finished around 7:00 and the House around 10:00. House bills that did not pass the House and Senate bills that did not pass the Senate are considered “dead” for this session.  The only way for a dead bill to continue at this point is to find a related bill that is still active to which it can be attached.

    This week, House committees should now focus on Senate bills and Senate committees should focus on House bills. The legislature is convening today, Thursday and Friday with recess days for committee meetings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

    In House action last week, they passed a bill that would replace current individual state income tax rates with a single 5.4% rate (HB 329), a bill to increase the maximum amount of tax credits available for persons and businesses who donate to private school scholarship organizations from $58M to $100M over a six-year period (HB 217), and a bill to tax Uber, Lyft and other rideshare services (HB 225).  They approved a bill amending the state’s current vehicle title ad valorem tax (TAVT) law to avoid double taxation on lease vehicles, to set a maximum of $1,100 on the amount people moving from other states would pay when registering their vehicles in Georgia, and to specify that the calculation of the TAVT for used vehicles would be based on the highest of either the sales price or the state’s book value of the vehicle (HB 340). They also passed a gun bill (HB 280) which would allow persons who have concealed weapon permits to carry guns on college campuses excluding dorms, fraternities/sororities, athletic events, and up to three day care centers or pre-school classrooms per campus.  With bipartisan support, the House passed a school turnaround bill to help the state’s lowest performing public schools (HB 338).

    The Senate unanimously passed legislation requiring the Ga. Lottery to increase the percentage of gross revenues it sends to pre-K programs and HOPE scholarships from 25% to 28.5% over the next three years (SB 5) and a bill calling for a referendum to increase DeKalb County’s sales tax rate from7% to 8% with the proceeds to be used for road resurfacing, police and fire stations, and other facilities (SB 143). They also approved legislation requiring pipeline companies to get a permit from Ga. EPD and limiting their ability to use eminent domain unless they receive a certificate of need from GEFA along with the permit from Ga. EPD (SB 191). The Senate also approved a floor amendment to this bill that prohibits any new pipeline or pipeline extension within the Ga. Coastal Zone Management Program.

    The House and Senate each had casino bills (HB 158 and SB 79) and neither bill made the cross-over deadline on Friday.

    As always, 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 legislative web site, and live action can be watched in the House and Senate chambers when they are in session.

  • March 6, 2017

    The House and Senate have now completed 28 legislative days.  Friday was cross-over day which meant both House and Senate worked later into the evening. The Senate finished around 7:00 and the House around 10:00. House bills that did not pass the House and Senate bills that did not pass the Senate are considered “dead” for this session.  The only way for a dead bill to continue at this point is to find a related bill that is still active to which it can be attached.

     

    This week, House committees should now focus on Senate bills and Senate committees should focus on House bills. The legislature is convening today, Thursday and Friday with recess days for committee meetings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

     

    In House action last week, they passed a bill that would replace current individual state income tax rates with a single 5.4% rate (HB 329), a bill to increase the maximum amount of tax credits available for persons and businesses who donate to private school scholarship organizations from $58M to $100M over a six-year period (HB 217), and a bill to tax Uber, Lyft and other rideshare services (HB 225).  They approved a bill amending the state’s current vehicle title ad valorem tax (TAVT) law to avoid double taxation on lease vehicles, to set a maximum of $1,100 on the amount people moving from other states would pay when registering their vehicles in Georgia, and to specify that the calculation of the TAVT for used vehicles would be based on the highest of either the sales price or the state’s book value of the vehicle (HB 340). They also passed a gun bill (HB 280) which would allow persons who have concealed weapon permits to carry guns on college campuses excluding dorms, fraternities/sororities, athletic events, and up to three day care centers or pre-school classrooms per campus.  With bipartisan support, the House passed a school turnaround bill to help the state’s lowest performing public schools (HB 338).

     

    The Senate unanimously passed legislation requiring the Ga. Lottery to increase the percentage of gross revenues it sends to pre-K programs and HOPE scholarships from 25% to 28.5% over the next three years (SB 5) and a bill calling for a referendum to increase DeKalb County’s sales tax rate from7% to 8% with the proceeds to be used for road resurfacing, police and fire stations, and other facilities (SB 143). They also approved legislation requiring pipeline companies to get a permit from Ga. EPD and limiting their ability to use eminent domain unless they receive a certificate of need from GEFA along with the permit from Ga. EPD (SB 191). The Senate also approved a floor amendment to this bill that prohibits any new pipeline or pipeline extension within the Ga. Coastal Zone Management Program.

     

    The House and Senate each had casino bills (HB 158 and SB 79) and neither bill made the cross-over deadline on Friday.

     

    As always, 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 legislative web site, and live action can be watched in the House and Senate chambers when they are in session.

  • February 24, 2017

    The House and Senate met Tuesday through Friday this week and have now completed 24 of 40 legislative days.  The legislature will meet for four days next week, but Thursday will be the recess day.  Friday will be Day 28, which is the new crossover day according to recent Rules adopted in the Senate and agreed to by the House. Crossover day is the final day for bills to pass out of the chamber where they were introduced, so House bills must pass the House and Senate bills must pass the Senate before House and Senate adjourn on Friday in order to continue this session. This is usually a very late day for both houses as they work to get many bills passed.

    This week the Senate unanimously passed a bill creating the Ga. Regional Transit Council (SB 6) to address the state’s transit needs and develop a consolidated plan for the state’s transit systems.  They also unanimously passed legislation to address the problem of “surprise billing” (SB 8)  to assist hospital patients who receive medical bills from out-of-network providers even though the hospital itself is in network for their insurance. Today the Senate demonstrated broad support for law enforcement by passing four bills: specialty license plates (SB 169), longer sentences for persons convicted of assaulting officers (SB 160), a 50% increase in the amount of money received by the family of a slain law enforcement officer (SB 154), and creation of a Local Law Enforcement Compensation Commission to study police salaries and report their findings and recommendations back to the legislature (SB 155).

    A House Public Safety subcommittee passed legislation requiring hands-free use of electronic devices while driving (HB 163).  A House Appropriations subcommittee passed a bill to raise the salary of the governor from $139,000 to $175,000 effective 1/1/19, after Governor Deal has completed his term (HB 202). The House Ways & Means committee passed a resolution that would allow voters to decide through a constitutional amendment if fees and taxes collected for specified purposes have to be spent on those purposes (HR 158).  The House overwhelmingly passed legislation to regulate fracking for natural gas (HB 205).

    The special election for Senate District 32 is set for April 18.  Senator Judson Hill resigned this seat to join the crowded field running for U.S. Congress in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.  The 6th District was formerly represented by former Congressman Tom Price who is now the Secretary for U.S. Health and Human Services. Five Republicans and three Democrats qualified to run for Senate District 32, and just like the Congressional race, all candidates will be on one ballot.  If no candidate wins over 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will be in a run-off election on June 20.

    As always, 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 legislative web site, and live action can be watched in the House and Senate chambers when they are in session.

  • February 17, 2017

    We are halfway through this legislative session having completed 20 days as of today.  The legislature will be in recess on Monday, February 20, for Presidents’ Day, and then they will reconvene Tuesday through Friday next week.

    The major action in the House this week was passage of the $25B budget for fiscal year 2018 earlier today.  Other House action this week included House passage of HB 61 which calls for consumers to pay sales tax on internet purchases and the Education committee’s first hearing of governor-supported HB 338 which aims to turn around failing schools. The House Regulated Industries committee unanimously passed SB 85, the craft brewery bill, after amending it to include distilleries.

    Action in the Senate this week included Senate passage of SB 16 that amends the state’s medical marijuana law to lower the allowable level of THC from 5% to 3% and expands the diagnoses for this treatment to include autism. The Senate Insurance & Labor committee passed SB 118 which increases the age for mandatory insurance coverage of autism from 6 to 21 years.

    The House and Senate agreed to the final version of the supplemental budget which Governor Deal then signed on Wednesday. Changes to the original FY 2017 budget, which goes through 6/30/17, include a 20% pay raise for state law enforcement officers and $50M for a cybersecurity center in Augusta.

    On Monday, Governor Deal signed a three-year extension of the Medicaid provider fee (SB 70), also known as the hospital bed tax.  This fee will generate $311M and qualify the state for an additional $600M in federal funds for the Medicaid program.

    Since Congressman Tom Price was recently confirmed as Secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services, Governor Deal called for an April 18 election to fill that congressional seat. Instead of having primary races amongst Republican and Democratic candidates to determine the top vote getters from each party who then run against each other, for this election all candidates will be listed on one ballot. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off between the top two finishers on June 20.  Qualifying for this race started on Monday, Feb. 13, and ended on Wednesday.  Eighteen candidates qualified to run: 11 Republicans, 5 Democrats, and 2 Independents. Some well-known names include former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) and former state senators Dan Moody (R) and Ron Slotin (D).  Also, state Senator Judson Hill (R) announced his senate resignation February 13 to run for this seat.

    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 10, 2017

    We are nearing the halfway point of the 2017 legislative session.  The legislature met for four days this week and has now completed 16 legislative days.  They will reconvene on Tuesday, February 14, and will be in session through next Friday.

    Recently introduced bills include HR 158 which is a constitutional amendment requiring fees and taxes collected for specified purposes to be dedicated to those purposes, SB 118 raises the cap for mandatory insurance coverage of autism from 6 to 21 years of age,  HB 217 and HB 236 both substantially increase the current $58M cap on the state’s private school tax credit program, HB 61 requires online retailers with a minimum of $250,000 or 200 sales per year to collect state sales tax, HB 280 revisits the “campus carry” issue that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses,  HB 232 and SB 136 both require completing a gun training course in order to get a gun license.

    On Thursday the Senate passed the $24.3B supplemental budget (HB 43). The Senate only made a few changes from the House version which makes a $600M adjustment to the current FY 2017 budget. HB 43 passed the House and Senate with only one “no” vote in each chamber. After the House and Senate agree on a final version, it will be ready for Governor Deal’s signature.

    The House passed the bill to recreate the Judicial Qualifications Commission (HB 126) and the bill extending the sunset date for the Medicaid provider fee to 2020 (SB 70).  SB 70 passed the Senate last week with only three dissenting votes and will raise $311M in revenue from hospitals and an additional $600M in matching funds.

    The House and Senate each passed their own versions of legislation that would allow dental hygienists to clean teeth in schools, nursing homes and public health clinics without having a dentist on the premises (HB 154 and SB 12).

    The House Medical Cannabis Working Group unanimously passed HB 65 that would expand the diagnoses for which patients could be treated with medical cannabis to include AIDS or HIV, Alzheimer’s, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, Tourette’s syndrome and intractable pain.

    The Senate Regulated Industries committee held its first hearing on a casino bill (SB 79) and the Chairman said another hearing will be scheduled within the next couple of weeks.

    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 3, 2017

    We are now into the second month of the legislative session and the legislature has completed 12 legislative days.  They will reconvene on Tuesday next week and will be in session through Friday. The House and Senate have agreed to an adjournment resolution setting the calendar for the remainder of this session (SR 132) which, if no changes are made, will end on March 30.

    Notable legislative action this week includes Senate passage of the bill that extends the hospital bed tax (SB 70) and the craft brewing bill that allows more direct sales to consumers (SB 85).  The House Judiciary committee passed a bill to recreate the Judicial Qualifications Commission (HB 126), Rep. John Carson introduced a fuel tax break for airlines (HB 145), and the Medical Cannabis Working Group held its first meeting.

    In other news, Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) announced that he will finish his current term that ends in 2018 but will not run for reelection.

    The House Appropriations subcommittees have been holding hearings and working on the FY 2018 budget all week.

    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 26, 2017

    The legislature met Monday-Thursday this week and they have now completed eight legislative days.  They will reconvene on Monday and will meet for four days again next week.

    Standing committees have begun to meet, but these meetings have been introductory and organizational.

    There were two special events of note this week:  House passage of the amended FY ’17 budget and Chief Justice Hines’ address to a joint session of the House and Senate.

    The House passed the amended FY ’17 budget totaling $23.4B on Thursday.  There were only a few adjustments from the current 2017 budget, including an additional $111M in local school funding for increased enrollment, $27M for the 20% pay raise for state law enforcement officers, and $50M for Governor Deal’s proposed cyber security center.  The Appropriations Committee also approved moving $5M into the Governor’s emergency fund to help the storm victims from the tornados in South Georgia last weekend.

    Chief Justice Harris Hines gave his State of the Judiciary speech on Wednesday.  He remarked on the state’s growing population and technological advances and how these are affecting the judiciary in Georgia.  He praised Governor Deal’s Criminal Justice Reform and noted that the next step was to shorten the length of probation for low-risk offenders.  He cited examples of the state’s working poor and noted that these people made too much to qualify for legal aid but could not afford to pay for legal services.  He also stated that every Superior Court Judge should have a law clerk and that it was important to have independent full-time Juvenile Court Judges. The Chief Justice’s final point was about the need for a centralized system for e-filing.

    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.