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.

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