February 2, 2018

The legislature was in session Monday through Thursday this week and has now completed 14 legislative days.  Most of the week was dominated by committee meetings with much of the House and Senate floor action focusing on invitation resolutions, until yesterday when the House unanimously passed another amended version of HB 159, the comprehensive revision of Georgia’s adoption laws.  In this version the House agreed to retain HB 359, which has been a sticking point with the Senate, after working with the Governor’s office on suitable language that tightens some of the provisions that caused Governor Deal to veto HB 359 last year.  HB 359 would allow parent(s) to assign temporary custody of their children to anyone of their choosing, but if this custody is being assigned to a non-relative, the power of attorney must be filed with the probate judge’s office and a background check would have to be done on the temporary custodian.  House and Senate leadership continued negotiating points of the adoption bill on and off all afternoon, but ultimately the Senate adjourned for the day without taking any action on the bill.

The House Appropriations committee passed the amended 2018 budget on Wednesday morning.  It is now awaiting action in the Rules committee to place it on the calendar for a full House vote.  The committee made only a few changes from the Governor’s recommended budget; one of these changes was to increase the amount of funding for school buses by $500,000.

The House approved last session’s conference committee report on HB 205.  This bill by Chairman John Meadows was known as the anti-fracking bill and dealt with gas and oil extraction.  If the Senate also adopts the conference committee report, the bill will then go to Governor Deal for his signature or veto.

The distracted driving bill (HB 673) authored by Rep. John Carson was heard in the House Judiciary Non-civil committee on Monday then assigned to Rep. Bert Reeves’ subcommittee.  Rep. Reeves has scheduled a meeting for this bill on Monday, February 5.

A comprehensive revision to the state’s 9-1-1 Service Act (HB 751) was first read in the House on Monday and assigned to the Public Safety and Homeland Security committee. The bill is authored by Rep. Alan Powell who chairs that Public Safety committee.

Two healthcare bills that came about as a result of Lt. Governor Cagle’s healthcare task force were introduced in the Senate this week and are on a Senate fast track.  Legislation by Senator Dean Burke would create a Health Coordination and Innovation Council (SB 357) to help coordinate the state’s functions regarding healthcare, and legislation by Sen. Renee Unterman would create a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery (SB 352).  Yesterday, both of these bills passed the Senate Health and Human Services committee which is chaired by Sen. Unterman.

Two other healthcare bills were dropped this week that deal with emergency care and out-of-network hospitals, (SB 359) by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and (HB 799) by Rep. Sharon Cooper.  SB 359 has been assigned to the Senate Health & Human Services committee.  HB 799 is in the House hopper; it will be read on Monday, February 5 and assigned to a committee.

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance committee passed HB 61 that carried over from last session.  The bill is authored by House Ways & Means Chairman Jay Powell and sets up rules for collecting sales taxes on online purchases.  The bill now goes to the Senate Rules committee to await placement on the Senate calendar for a full Senate vote.

The legislature will reconvene on Monday, February 5, and work through Thursday of next week.

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