March 23, 2018

The legislature was in session three days this week and adjourned around the dinner hour today. They will be in session Tuesday and Thursday next week for the final two days of this legislative session.

This morning the Capitol was filled with the sad news of former Governor Zell Miller’s passing.  Speaker Ralston gave a special tribute from the well of the House and both chambers passed resolutions honoring him.  Zell Miller had a long political career by serving the state in the senate, then as Lt. Governor, Governor, and also U.S. Senator.  One of his most memorable accomplishments was creating the HOPE scholarship program.

The Senate passed their version of the $26 billion FY 2019 budget, also commonly referred to as the “big budget,” earlier today.  As with the House version, most of the new spending is for schools, public health, and construction projects.  However, there are differences that will have to be worked out between the two chambers before sine die.  The Senate removed the House request for a one-time bonus for retirees, but they added $3M for grants to local governments to increase the pay for law enforcement, $10M in grants for school safety, and funding for a statewide drug task force to focus on the opioid crisis.  The Senate also doubled the House-recommended funding to expand the Savannah convention center and to renovate the Evergreen conference center at Stone Mountain.  The House has objected to the Senate version and a conference committee has been appointed to work out the differences in these two versions.

Today conference committees were also appointed to work out House and Senate differences in the broadband expansion bills and the bills creating a comprehensive transit plan for the metro Atlanta region.

After some debate, “surprise billing” bills were passed by the House (SB 8) and Senate (HB 314) to deal with the unexpected bills that patients receive after medical procedures, even when they have insurance.

After lengthy debate that pitted local control advocates and the timber industry, the Senate passed a bill to prohibit local governments from banning wood in constructing multi-story commercial and residential buildings (HB 876).  The Senate also passed sales tax exemptions (HB 793) for constructing an addition to the Ga. Aquarium and for constructing an automobile history museum in Cartersville.

The House almost unanimously passed a bill that would allow lottery winners of prizes over $250,000 to remain anonymous (SB 331).  The House also passed a resolution calling for the permanent closure of Mitchell Street, which runs between the Capitol and Coverdell Legislative Office Building, for security purposes (SR 537).

Senate Judiciary passed 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.

Along with political dignitaries and beauty queens who visited the Capitol to be recognized, former Braves player Chipper Jones was a special guest in the House and Senate on Wednesday.  Chipper was honored for his accomplishments and congratulated on his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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