• April 7, 2021

    The final two days of the 2021 session were hectic and intense.  In both the House and Senate, Day 40 lasted more than 14 hours.

    Two of Governor Kemp’s legislative initiatives that passed this session with bipartisan support were the repeal of the state’s “citizen’s arrest” law (HB 479) and legislation creating trust funds so that fees collected for specific reasons will be used for those purposes (HB 511).

    Some of Governor Kemp’s other initiatives focused on the state’s foster care, child welfare, and adoption systems.  Four bills were carried by the governor’s floor leaders on these issues and all were passed with bipartisan support:  increasing tax credits for families adopting a child from foster care (HB 114), allowing individuals 21 years of age to adopt (HB 154), allowing the court to consider testimony of secondhand information in child protective hearings (SB 28), and a waiver of tuition and fees for qualifying foster and adopted students by the state’s university system and technical college system (SB 107).

    First Lady Marty Kemp has backed legislation to help victims of human trafficking.  Two bills dealing with this issue both passed with bipartisan support: SB 33 would allow victims or state officials to file civil lawsuits for money damages against traffickers and SB 34 allows for victims to change their names under seal.

    Other bills that passed include an extension of business protection from COVID 19 claims to July 14, 2022 (HB 112), automatic enrollment of kids into the Medicaid program if they receive food stamps (HB 163), a state income tax reduction due to an increase in the standard deduction amount (HB 593), and a combination of business tax breaks/credits and a study to determine if these incentives are living up to their promised job creation and/or revenue generation (SB 6).  Two bills were passed honoring long-serving Georgians: HR 119 would name a bridge near the port in Savannah for U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and SB 140 would establish a committee to approve a monument of former Governor Zell Miller at the state capitol.

    Some sources have said as many as 80 election bills were filed during this session.  Provisions from some of these bills were included in the election bill (SB 202) that passed along party lines on Day 38 and was signed by Governor Kemp that evening.  No other bill passed this session, or in recent sessions, has garnered this much attention or caused this much division within the legislative chambers.  While the Republican legislators said election reforms were needed to improve the integrity of the system, Democrats claimed no changes were needed.  Four lawsuits have been filed regarding this legislation and it will be up to the courts to decide.

    Governor Kemp has until May 10 to sign or veto bills.

    Some bills that did not pass include the distracted driving bill (HB 247) that would set definite fines and close a first-offense exception, allowance of disclosed cameras in long-term care homes (HB 605), and a bill that would allow visitation by “legal representatives” in hospitals and nursing homes during a public health emergency (HB 290).  Gambling legislation gained press attention but the none of these bills were passed, including sports betting bills that were supported by the state’s four major league sports teams (HB 86, SB 142 & SR 135), horse racing bills that were promoted as rural development (HB 538, SB 30 & SB 212), and casinos (HR 30).

    Bills that did not pass in the 2021 session will remain in the committees they were in when the session ended.  If they were on the Rules or General Calendars of the House or Senate, they will return to the committee from which they were last reported.  All unpassed bills are alive for consideration in the 2022 session.

    The legislature will convene this fall to consider only the issues specified by Governor Kemp in his charge calling for the special session.  We expect the only item to be considered will be redistricting.

     

  • March 19, 2021

    There are five days left in the 2021 legislative session and these days will be spread over the next two weeks.  The legislature adjourned yesterday and will reconvene Monday, March 22, and be in session on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday next week.

    Some bills that are still being worked on are the FY ’22 budget, election reform, repeal of the state’s “citizen’s arrest” law, and sports betting.

    This week, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation authorizing a monument on the Capitol grounds to honor north Georgia native Zell Miller who served the state for over three decades as a state Senator, Lt. Governor, Governor, and U.S. Senator (SB 140).  The House also passed legislation that allows courts to suspend statutory speedy trial deadlines during the COVID emergency (SB 163), and a bill that allows creation of political “leadership committees” that would be required to disclose donors, but could take donations during the legislative session and would have no limit on the contribution amounts they can receive (SB 221).

    Yesterday, the House Special Committee on Election Integrity held a hearing that lasted several hours on an election reform bill (SB 202).  The original bill would prohibit third-parties from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who had already requested one or who had already voted.  Chairman Fleming presented a substitute to the bill that includes many other election reform measures. The committee did not take any action on it and Chairman Fleming indicated another meeting will be scheduled.

    The Senate passed the bill to extend COVID immunity from liability claims for another year, until July 2022 (HB 112) and the bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.  The Senate passed the governor-backed bill that calls for fees collected to be used for their stated purpose rather than go into the state’s general fund (HB 511).  They also passed legislation along party lines that calls for an increase in standard deductions which would mean a modest income tax reduction for some Georgians  (HB 593).  Democrats have opposed the bill because they say it will jeopardize the state’s $1.9B in federal COVID relief funding since the federal relief bill prohibits money being used for tax cuts.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed legislation to repeal the state’s citizen’s arrest law (HB 479).  The bill would allow people to intervene if they witness a crime in action and detain suspects until the police arrive, but they would not be allowed to take the law into their own hands.  While all 50 states have a citizen’s arrest law, Georgia would be the first to repeal, and it has been one of Governor Kemp’s priorities.

    On Tuesday, Ga. Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton spoke to a socially-distanced House and Senate.  He reflected on how the pandemic has impacted the state’s court system and commended the resiliency and creativity of the courts in continuing to operate during the pandemic.  He noted that it was March 14, 2020, a full year ago, that he declared a statewide judicial emergency and called for suspending jury trials, and it was just last week that he ordered jury trials to resume.  He noted that it may take two or three years to work through the backlog of cases. This was his final State of the Judiciary speech because he will retire on July 1.  He announced the new Chief Justice will be David Nahmias and the new Presiding Justice will be Michael Boggs.

    The newest member of the Ga. House was sworn-in this week, Rep. Angela Moore, who won a special election run-off for House District 90.

  • March 26, 2021

    The legislature convened three days this week so there are now only two remaining days in this 2021 legislative session.  These two final days are scheduled for Monday and Wednesday next week.

    The Senate unanimously passed their version of the $27.2B FY ’22 budget.  A conference committee will now work out a compromise between the House and Senate versions.  The Senate version of the budget substantially agrees with the Governor’s and House’s proposed budgets. They all support $40M for a rural innovation fund and $10M to extend internet into rural areas.  Other budget items include more money for nursing homes, funds for additional staff at DCH, Ethics Commission, DOR and Secretary of State’s office, and $1B for construction projects for new schools, college buildings, roads and bridges, and a convention center in Savannah.

    The Senate also unanimously passed a resolution (HR 119) to name a bridge near the Savannah Port in honor of long-serving U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who retired due to health issues.

    The House unanimously passed SR 134 that will put a constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot calling for public officials’ pay to be suspended while they go through the legal process when they are indicted on charges related to their actions in office.  If these officials are exonerated, they would return to office and receive back pay. This bill is in response to the indictment of Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck who was charged a few months after taking office but has continued collecting a salary and benefits, which will amount to almost $400,000 by June 30, as reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. This amendment would not be retroactive to the Beck case, but will affect scenarios like this in the future.

    Yesterday, after debate lasting several hours, the House passed election reform measures along party lines (SB 202) which was then immediately transmitted to the Senate.  The Senate debated then passed this bill with the House changes and sent it to the Governor who signed it last night.  Election reform has been an emotional and time consuming issue this session with both House and Senate committees hearing many hours of testimony.  Republicans have claimed that changes were needed to restore voter confidence in the election process while Democrats have said no changes were needed.

    The House originally had the sports betting legislation (SB 142/SR 135) on the calendar for action yesterday, but they were pulled and sent back to the Rules committee.

    Governor Kemp signed the income tax reduction bill (HB 593) on Monday.  This bill would increase standard deduction amounts thus reducing the state income tax owed by some Georgians.  Democrats have opposed the bill because they say it will jeopardize the state’s $1.9B in federal COVID relief funding since the federal relief bill prohibits money being used for tax cuts.  The Governor also signed a bill that for five years will increase tax credits for families who adopt children from the foster care system from $2000 to $6000 (HB 114).

    U.S. Rep. Jody Hice has announced his intention to challenge incumbent Brad Raffensperger in the 2022 race for Secretary of State.

  • March 12, 2021

    The legislature has adjourned for this week and will reconvene on March 15, for Day 32.  They will be in session Monday through Thursday next week.

    Cross-over Day was Monday, which meant bills must have been passed by the chamber where they originated and crossed-over to the other chamber in order for them to still be alive for this session.  Because of this deadline, Monday was a long and hectic day.  The Senate had four pages of bills for consideration on its calendar, and the House Rules Committee met several times to continue adding bills to the House calendar.  The day ended after 7:00 for the Senate, which adjourned with a dozen or so bills left on the calendar.  The House stayed in session until after 11:00 and left a few bills on its calendar as well.

    While some Senate election reform bills were not called up on Monday, the Senate did pass some election bills after a debate that continued for several hours.  One of the bills passed was Majority Leader Mike Dugan’s substantial election reform (SB 241) that eliminates no-excuse absentee voting among other things.  Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan was noticeably absent during this debate, saying later that he couldn’t preside over something he very much opposed.  The bill passed with the bare minimum of 29 votes.  The Senate also passed Sen. Mullis’ sports betting legislation (SR 135 and SB 142).  The constitutional amendment (SR 135) requires approval of sports betting by voters and SB 142 is the enabling legislation.  During debate, a senator questioned the bill’s low application and renewal fees for sports betting licenses.  The bill’s author acknowledged that more work was needed on the issue but he wanted to get something passed and over to the House. Other bills passed by the Senate include creation of the Ga. Commission on E-Commerce and Freight Infrastructure Funding (SR 102), compensation suspension of public officers who are indicted for felonies (SB 218 and SR 134), creation of a Chief Labor Officer within the Department of Labor (SB 156), and the Ga. Uniform Mediation Act (SB 234).  The Senate also considered a pay increase for statewide public officials and legislators (SB 252), but the measure failed 20-33.

    The Senate Appropriations subcommittees have been holding hearings all week on the FY ’22 budget.

    The House unanimously passed the bill supported by Governor Kemp that would repeal Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law (HB 479).  Other bills passed by the House include  elimination of the “loophole” in the distracted driving law that allows first offenders to bring in proof of obtaining a cell phone holder in order to have their charges dropped (HB 247), allowed visitation to hospitals and nursing homes during a public health emergency (HB 290), an increase in the contribution limits for the state’s K-12 scholarship fund  (HB 517), and legislation calling for DCH to create an “express lane” for enrolling uninsured children by automatically adding children receiving food stamps to the Medicaid program  (HB 163).  The House had its legislator/public official pay increase bill (HB 675) as well its sports betting bill (HB 86) on the calendar for Monday but declined to take up either of these bills.

    After a long and stressful cross-over day on Monday, the usual bickering has now started between the House and Senate over which Chamber is passing enough bills from the other side.  The Senate had passed several House bills earlier in the week, but the House had not yet taken up any Senate bills.  The Senate Rules Chair, Sen. Mullis, threw down the gauntlet during his committee meeting Wednesday saying the Senate was not going to take up any more House bills until the House takes up Senate bills.  The House Rules Committee met Thursday morning and put one Senate bill on the House calendar for Thursday and one for Monday.  In response, the Senate Rules Committee met after the Senate adjourned and put one House bill on the Senate calendar for Monday.

    In the special election run-off for House District 90 held on Tuesday, March 9, Angela Moore received 59% of the vote to defeat former Rep. Stan Watson. She will be sworn in next week.

     

  • February 26, 2021

    The Georgia legislature has passed the midpoint of the legislative session. The House and Senate convened every day this week as well as managing a considerable number of committee meetings.  They will reconvene on Monday, March 1, which will be the 25th Day of the 40-day session.

    The focus this week was on monitoring committee and subcommittee meetings as well as floor action.  After many hours of testimony, the House Special Committee on Election Integrity passed Chairman Fleming’s comprehensive election reform bill (HB 531) and it is on the House calendar for full floor action on March 1.  The House Appropriations Committee approved Governor-backed legislation that would create nine trust funds and require monies collected for certain purposes be used for those purposes (HB 511).  The House Ways &  Means Committee passed the “Tax Relief Act of 2021,” a bill that would cut state income taxes by increasing standard tax deductions (HB 593).

    Legislation introduced this week includes Senate Majority Leader Dugan’s election reform bill (SB 241), pay increases for statewide and legislative office holders (SB 252) and increases in state retirement benefits for legislators (SB 251).  Legislation was also introduced on Tuesday to allow creation of “leadership committees” by the Governor, Lt. Governor, House and Senate leadership and party caucuses (SB 221).  Among other things, the bill states that contribution limits do not apply.   Earlier today, SB 221 passed the full Senate with a 30-21 vote along party lines.

    The Magistrate pay increase bill (HB 488) overwhelmingly passed the House earlier today.  The Senate passed legislation calling for Georgia to observe standard time year round (SB 100) until Congress authorizes states to only observe daylight saving time, then we would switch to daylight saving time year round.

    The sports betting bill (HB 86) was on the House calendar for full House action yesterday, but it has been postponed until a later date. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed Sen. Mullis’ constitutional amendment that would give voters the option to approve sports betting (SR 135) and the accompanying enabling legislation for sports betting (SB 142).

    The House and Senate passed an adjournment resolution setting the schedule for the remainder of the session.  The legislature will convene on Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week with committee work days scheduled in between.  Cross-over Day, the deadline for a bill to pass one chamber and cross to the other chamber, will be Monday, March 8.

     

  • February 19, 2021

    The Georgia legislature met three days this week and has now completed 19 legislative days, so we are almost to the halfway point of the 40-day session.  They will reconvene on Monday, Feb. 22, and are scheduled to meet all five days next week.

    Most of our time this week was filled with online monitoring or attending numerous House and Senate committee and subcommittee meetings.  The House Public Safety Committee passed HB 247 to eliminate the “loophole” that allows first offenders of the distracted driving law to bring in proof of obtaining a cell phone holder in order to have their charges dropped.  The House Energy Subcommittee had a hearing on HB 449, which revises the “Ga. Utility Facility Protection Act,” and they will meet on it again Monday, Feb. 22, at 8:00 a.m.  The Senate Regulated Industries Committee held a hearing on Sen. Beach’s horse racing proposals (SB 30 and SR 53) earlier in the week, and they heard Sen. Mullis’ sports betting bill (SB 142) for 1½ hours yesterday.  The Senate Finance Committee passed Chairman Hufstetler’s bill that would create a Joint House/Senate Council to review Georgia’s tax and revenue structure (SB 148).

    The Senate Ethics Committee and the House Special Committee on Election Integrity have been assigned dozens of bills from Republicans and Democrats dealing with changes to election law.  The Senate Ethics Committee passed out five bills yesterday morning including SB 67, which requires submitting ID when requesting an absentee ballot, and SB 89 which creates the position of chief elections assistance officer within the Secretary of State’s office. The House Special Committee on Election Integrity Chairman, Rep. Barry Fleming, presented his comprehensive election reform bill (HB 531) to that committee in a lengthy meeting yesterday afternoon.  Committee hearings on HB 531 have been going since 9:30 this morning and are continuing this afternoon.  Chairman Fleming has indicated he intends to have hearings on Monday, too.

    Yesterday, the House passed a bill that would allow drivers to mount a cell phone holder onto a vehicle’s windshield as long as it doesn’t obstruct vision (HB 165) and legislation clarifying the three-foot buffer required for passing bicyclists (HB 353).  The House also passed a bill giving three weeks of paid parental leave to state employees and teachers (HB 146).

    Legislation introduced this week includes a pay increase for Magistrate Judges (HB 488) which was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, a bill regarding the delivery of vaping products (SB 199) which was assigned to the Senate Finance Committee, and a bill lifting the restrictions on direct sales of electric vehicles (HB 460) which was assigned to the House Motor Vehicles Committee.  Sen. Mullis is the primary sponsor, along with a mix of other Republicans and Democrats, on yet another Senate bill dealing with horse racing (SB 212) that will be read and assigned to a committee on Monday.  An identical horse racing bill (HB 538) was dropped in the House as well, with Rep. Ron Stephens listed as the sole sponsor.

    On Monday, Governor Kemp signed the FY ’21 supplemental budget.  Governor Kemp held a press conference Tuesday to introduce his bill (HB 479) that has bipartisan support and would revise the state’s 150-year-old citizen’s arrest law.  The Governor’s floor leader filed legislation Wednesday that would require legislators to appropriate fees and fines to the purpose for which they were collected (HB 511).  Yesterday, the Governor held a press conference with Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner for the Department of Public Health, to announce four locations across the state that will be mass vaccination sites.

  • February 12, 2021

    The Georgia legislature met Monday through Thursday this week and has now completed 16 legislative days.  Next week they will be in session on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  This schedule was set in the Adjournment Resolution (SR 82) adopted by the House and Senate on Feb. 9.

    On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed its version of a $26.5B supplemental 2021 budget.  The House and Senate were able to come to an agreement on the differences between their two versions and both chambers approved the final supplemental budget yesterday morning.  It passed the Senate unanimously and it passed the House with only four dissenting votes.  In the final version, just over $40M was appropriated for 520 new school buses, $27M for the Department of Public Health to modernize its computer system to track immunizations and fund five new positions, an additional $4M for the Governor’s emergency fund, an increase of $127,000 for the Ga. Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, and a one-time payment of $1,000 for state employees making less than $80,000.

    Senator Jeff Mullis introduced a sports betting bill (SB 142) this week with bipartisan support.  Other signers on the bill are Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller and Democrat Senators Elena Parent and Harold Jones. One of the ways this bill differs from Rep. Ron Stephens’ sports betting bill (HB 86) is that the Senate version calls for a 10% tax on sports betting companies’ income while the House version calls for 14%.  SB 142 is scheduled to be heard next week in Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities.

    Senator Mullis also introduced a bill to place a monument at the State Capitol for the late Zell Miller who has served the state in a variety of capacities from state senator (4 years) to Lt. Governor (16 years), Governor (8 years), and U.S. Senator (5 years).

    Another bill introduced in the Senate this week would create a governor-appointed position of Chief Labor Officer within the Department of Labor (SB 156).  Funding for this position was included in the supplemental budget that was approved yesterday.

    The House passed legislation to extend until July 2022 immunity for businesses from frivolous COVID lawsuits (HB 112), regulations for the offering and issuance of travel insurance (HB 205), and an increase in fees for limited driving permits and replacements for lost driver’s licenses (HB 246).

    The House Health & Human Services Committee (HB 163) passed a bill that calls for the Department of Community Health to create an “express lane” for enrolling uninsured children by automatically adding children receiving food stamps to the Medicaid program.

    There was a special election on Tuesday to fill the seat in House District 90 that was vacated by Rep. Pam Stephenson for health reasons.  The top two vote-getters from the field of six candidates were Democrats Stan Watson (28% of the vote) and Angela Moore (17%).  Stan Watson is a former state representative and DeKalb County commissioner.  Angela Moore is a public relations specialist.  The run-off election for this seat will be held on March 9.

    Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Duncan and Speaker Ralston held a press conference on Monday announcing a joint broadband project between Central Georgia EMC and Southern Rivers Energy that would bring fiber internet to 80,000 homes and businesses in middle Georgia at a cost of around $210M.

     

  • January 29, 2021

    The Georgia legislature met Tuesday through Friday this week and has completed eight legislative days.  They will reconvene on Monday, February 1, and be in session through Thursday next week.

    The focus of the House this week has been passage of the supplemental budget, which makes adjustments to the current budget that runs through June 2021.  With the threat that COVID could possibly cause a suspension of this session, like last year, Speaker Ralston said they resolved early on to get the supplemental budget passed quickly.  By a vote of 149-20, the full House passed the amended FY ’21 budget before lunchtime yesterday then passed it on to the Senate.  Senate Appropriations subcommittees began meeting on the budget at 6:30 this morning, and a full Senate vote is expected next week.

    Some items of interest in the amended budget include funding for 500 new school buses, $20M for a rural broadband grant program administered by One Georgia, $15M for the AIDS/HIV Drug Assistance program, $19M for nursing homes, and additions to the Department of Public Health that include a Chief Medical Officer, Deputy Commissioner and a Chief Data Officer as well as $18M for a new computer system to track immunizations.

    COVID protocols were in the news earlier this week when Speaker Ralston asked a state trooper to escort a member out of the House chamber because he had not been tested and had refused to do so.  House Rules require members to be tested twice a week as well as wearing masks and maintaining a six-foot social distance.  In order to properly space members in the House chamber, they are currently occupying seats on the House floor, in the House balcony, and in a large meeting room.  Spacing requirements have also caused Senate members to spread into the Senate balcony.

    Spacing in meeting rooms is as challenging as it is in the House and Senate chambers and some require almost all available space for committee members.  Therefore, lobbyists and members of the public are encouraged to watch on-line unless they need to be at the Capitol for a specific bill or meeting.  So far, most committee meetings have been introductory and organizational.

    In a meeting on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, Chair of Senate Finance Committee, said he would like to see a comprehensive study of the state’s current tax system, along with a review of the state’s current $9.5B in tax breaks.

    Some bills of note that have been introduced include extending the limit on people’s ability to file lawsuits if they contract COVID to 2022 (HB 112), photo ID requirements for people voting by absentee ballots (SB 29), and a permanent switch to daylight saving time (HB 44).  Gambling bills that have been introduced include horse racing (SB 30), online sports betting (HB 86), and a constitutional amendment would allow casinos (HR 30).

     

  • February 5, 2021

    The Georgia legislature met Monday through Thursday this week and has completed twelve legislative days.  They will reconvene on Monday, February 8, with the Senate session beginning at 10:00 a.m. and the House session beginning at 1:00 p.m.

    The Senate Appropriations Committee passed out the supplemental budget yesterday morning.  The Senate version had some increases in certain areas of the budget but overall agreed with the House version.  Senate Appropriations changes include an $11M bond redirect to go to the Department of Public Health, $7.5M to go to the Governor’s emergency fund, and money for a new position to deal with unemployment claims within the Department of Labor.  This budget should be voted on by the full Senate next week.

    The Senate unanimously passed legislation (SB 6) that would allow the Chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee to request independent economic reviews of tax breaks that are given to businesses on the promise of creating jobs in order to track the value of the tax credits to the state.  The Senate has passed similar versions of this bill several times, but those bills have either failed to make it to final passage or were vetoed by Governor Kemp.  Senate Finance Chair Chuck Hufstetler has also stated that he would like a broader-based study of the state’s current tax system.

    There were many House and Senate committee meetings this week.  The House Economic Development committee passed legislation that would legalize online sports betting (HB 86).  The bill authorizes the Georgia Lottery Commission to manage this online betting and would provide an estimated $40M in proceeds going to HOPE college scholarships. It is supported by the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, Hawks and United organizations. The House Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System approved legislation (HB 112) to extend until July 2022 the protection of businesses from COVID lawsuits, unless a business shows “gross negligence or reckless or intentional infliction of harm.”  The Senate Regulated Industries committee held two days of hearings to get an update on broadband expansion and hear presentations from telecom, cable, and satellite companies as well as, the EMCs and the Public Service Commission.

    Rep. John Carson is recommending changes to the distracted driving law that he authored and the General Assembly approved in 2018.  This bill (HB 247) would eliminate the option that first offenders could bring in proof of purchase of a cell phone holder in order to have their distracted driving charges dropped.  It would also set the penalties at $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $150 or the third offense.  Currently, a judge could impose a lower fine but has the option to penalize an offender up to those amounts.

    For the third year in a row, Rep. Wes Cantrell has introduced legislation for the state to be on permanent Daylight Saving Time (HB 44).  While the idea is gaining in popularity with Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee also considering it, it is unlikely to pass, and if it were to pass, it would need Congressional approval. Senator Ben Watson has introduced a different time observance bill calling for the state to be on Standard Time year-round until Congress approves the Daylight Saving option (SB 100).

    Both parties have introduced numerous bills to revise current election law.  In the Senate, election-related bills are going to the Ethics Committee.  In the House, Speaker Ralston created the Special Committee on Election Integrity, chaired by Rep. Barry Fleming, to handle these bills.  Yesterday that House committee passed a bill to change the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot from the Friday prior to a Tuesday election to 10 days prior to election (HB 270).

  • January 14, 2021

    The Ga. General Assembly convened on Monday, January 11, to begin the 2021 legislative session and met for four days this week.

    Governor Brian Kemp delivered his 2021 State of the State address to socially distanced General Assembly members this morning. (You can follow the link to watch the State of the State on the GPB site.)

    As one might expect, much of his speech focused on the COVID crisis and the state’s response to it.  Governor Kemp spoke of all of the challenges the state has faced and persevered, and he observed a moment of silence for the Georgians who have died from COVID.  He talked about the state’s COVID battle and he noted the heroic efforts of the Ga. National Guard, the healthcare providers, and Dr. Kathleen Toomey.

    Governor Kemp emphasized that, for the 8th straight year, Georgia was again the Number 1 State for Business.  He affirmed the work of the Ga. Dept. of Economic Development and highlighted the Department’s success in adding 16,000 new jobs and $6B in new investment since the beginning of the 2021 fiscal year.  He also noted that the state’s unemployment rate of 5.7% is below the national average.

    He spoke of the solid financial shape that the state is in and that they had maintained a AAA bond rating.

    He said there will be NO budget cuts, NO state employee layoffs or furloughs, and NO new taxes.

    Gov. Kemp touted his PPE tax credit legislation from last session and said he’d like to expand on that to cover pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturers.

    Some specific items that he mentioned in his budget include $1,000 one-time bonuses for teachers and school staffers, $40M for a Rural Innovation Fund, Rural Broadband Grants ($20M in amended FY ’21 and $10M in FY ’22), $76M to implement his Ga. Pathways and Access program to help patients with access to healthcare, and $329M to fund projected costs for Medicaid and PeachCare.  The amended FY ’21 and FY ’22 budgets will be on the House Budget Office website.

    The legislature will be in recess next week.  The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will be holding joint meetings Jan. 19-21.  The hearings and can be viewed online (https://www.legis.ga.gov/house).

    The House and Senate will both reconvene at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 26.