February 9, 2018

The General Assembly was in session Monday through Thursday this week and has now completed 18 legislative days.  Two major legislative acts this week were the Senate passing the adoption bill and the House passing the amended FY 2018 budget.

One of the sticking points so far this session has been the House and Senate disagreement over provisions in the adoption bill (HB 159).  This bill, authored by Rep. Bert Reeves, passed the House unanimously with a vote of 168-0 last Thursday then passed the Senate on Monday by a vote of 53-2.  This is a major revision of the state’s adoption laws that have not been updated since 1990.  Among other things, this bill will reduce the time a birth mother can change her mind about placing her baby for adoption from 10 days to 4 days and it will allow adopting parents who use private adoption services to reimburse the birth mother for approved living expenses.  HB 159 will now go to Governor Deal for his signature.

The amended FY 2018 budget passed the House on Tuesday with a vote of 167-8.  This mid-year budget adds about $300M to the current year budget that runs through June 30, 2018.  Most of these added funds are due to a larger than anticipated increase in K-12 student enrollment.  There is also additional funding for land preservation grants, beach re-nourishment, runway expansion at regional airports, and school bus purchases.

The Public Safety and Homeland Security committee passed Rep. Alan Powell’s comprehensive revision to the state’s 9-1-1 emergency communications system (HB 751).  The bill is now in the House Rules committee waiting to be put on the calendar for a full House vote.

Senator Brandon Beach introduced a bill (SB 386) to consolidate transit planning and construction for metro Atlanta and would allow metro Atlanta counties to impose a 1% SPLOST for transit if they let MARTA run their transit systems.

The House and Senate have now appointed a conference committee to work out the different versions of Rep. John Carson’s HB 217 which would increase the tax credits available to taxpayers who contribute to a Student Scholarship Organization (SSO). The current cap for the program is $58M, but the Senate has proposed increasing the amount to $65M and the House has proposed $85M.

The Senate passed three healthcare bills on Wednesday.  SB 118 increases a child’s maximum age from 6 years to 12 years for autism coverage by private insurers. The two other bills, SB 357 and SB 352, came from Lt. Governor Cagle’s healthcare task force.  SB 357 by Senator Dean Burke creates a Health Coordination and Innovation Council to set healthcare priorities for the state and coordinate the state’s functions regarding healthcare.  SB 352 by Sen. Renee Unterman addresses the opioid crisis and prohibits “patient brokering.” The bill also creates a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery to be overseen by a “drug czar” who would be appointed by Governor Deal.

The legislature will reconvene on Monday, February 12, and be in session Monday through Thursday next week.