March 16, 2018

The legislature met on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday this week and had a long day of committee meetings on Tuesday.

After debate, the House passed the “brunch bill” (SB 17) that would allow earlier sales of alcohol in restaurants on Sundays by moving the start time from 12:30 to 11:00 a.m.  The time change would have to be approved by voters in local referendums and it would not affect alcohol sales times in stores.  The final vote was 97-64.  The House unanimously passed legislation expanding insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorder (SB 118) to allow coverage up to age 20 and increase the annual coverage amount to $35,000.

The Senate passed the 9-1-1 emergency communication update bill (HB 751) that would create the Ga. Emergency Communications Authority to provide statewide oversight and increase the prepaid wireless charge to $1.50.  The Senate also passed HB 769 that has been amended to include several provisions.  The bill establishes a Center for Rural Healthcare Innovation, allows creation of “micro hospitals,” and increases tax credits to 100% for contributions to rural hospital organizations.

The Senate Judiciary committee held hearings this week on the distracted driving bill (HB 673) and the Hidden Predator Act (HB 605) that would extend the time period when a sexual abuse victim may file suit against an alleged perpetrator and would allow the victim to sue the entity with which the perpetrator was associated.

House and Senate committees are still working on two major issues:  a comprehensive metro Atlanta transit plan and a strategy for expanding broadband into rural unserved and under-served areas.

The qualifying period for persons interested in running for office in the 2018 elections ended last Friday.  A list of qualifiers for the full General Assembly, statewide constitutional offices, U.S. House seats, District Attorneys, and judges in Superior Courts, Ga. Court of Appeals and Ga. Supreme Court can be found at the Secretary of State’s website.  There are three Senators and 17 Representatives who are not seeking reelection to their current seats either because they are retiring or because they are running for another office.  Of the non-returning House members, ten are committee chairs or Appropriations subcommittee chairs. Some of the committees that will be losing their chairmen include Education, Regulated Industries, and both Judiciary committees.

There are five days left in this legislative session.  The General Assembly will reconvene on March 19 and is scheduled to meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week.

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