February 16, 2018

The legislature has completed 22 legislative days and has passed the halfway point of this 40-day session.

Republican John LaHood defeated three other candidates to win a special election on Tuesday to fill the vacated seat in House District 175.  He will be sworn in as soon as the election is certified.

Governor Deal’s response to the federal tax changes was introduced this week.  This bill (HB 918) allows Georgia taxpayers to take the increased standard deduction at the federal level but take either the standard or itemized deductions at the state level, and it has a 25% increase in personal exemptions for individuals and married couples.

The House passed Rep. Richard Smith’s “surprise billing” legislation (HB 678) that was introduced to help patients avoid unexpected medical bills that occur when patients think they have engaged doctors and healthcare facilities that are in network only to discover that some aspects of their treatment or care were performed by out-of-network providers.  For example, when patients select a doctor and hospital because they are in their insurance network, then are surprised when an out-of-network anesthesiologist sends a shockingly high bill for their services.  This legislation does not apply to emergency situations, but it does apply to scheduled procedures and it requires that patients receive bills from out-of-network providers within 90 days and then have 90 days to work out payment with the provider which could be determined with or without dispute resolution.

The House also passed the comprehensive revision to the state’s 9-1-1 emergency communications system (HB 751) authored by Rep. Alan Powell.

The Senate passed its version of the supplemental 2018 budget yesterday.  It is pretty consistent with the House version, but a conference committee will work out any differences.

Sen. Steve Gooch twice presented his “Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act,” SB 402, to Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities, which passed a substitute version of the bill yesterday.  The bill proposes using rights of way on Georgia’s highways for broadband lines.  It also authorizes One Georgia to dispense grants of state and federal funds, calls for local governments to streamline the permitting process for broadband providers, and provides a tax exemption on equipment purchased by broadband providers for rural counties that are unserved or underserved.  It was noted that DOT could use broadband lines along right-of-way corridors for traffic cameras, autonomous vehicle technologies, etc.  Sen. Gooch introduced another broadband bill this week, SB 426, “Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act”; this is the Senate version of House BILD legislation, HB 533, which was introduced by Rep. Brett Harrell last session.

Senate Transportation held two hearings on Sen. Brandon Beach’s bill to consolidate metro Atlanta’s transit planning and construction (SB 386).  It would allow 13 metro Atlanta counties to impose a 1% SPLOST for transit if they let MARTA run their transit systems that would operate under the new name “ATL” for Atlanta –region Transit Link.  Sen. Beach is working on a committee substitute to the bill and will present it at the next meeting on Feb. 20. With a press conference and great fanfare, the House introduced their version of a transit funding bill authored by Rep. Kevin Tanner (HB 930) on Tuesday.

Comments are closed.