April 5, 2018

The legislature met two days last week to complete the 40-day session.  The House and Senate adjourned sine die last Thursday, March 29, shortly after their self-imposed midnight deadline.  Both Day 39 and 40 were long ones and it has been reported that hundreds of bills were debated, amended, passed, lost, agreed to, disagreed to, or affected by other actions on the final two session days.

Thursday was Lt. Governor Casey Cagle’s last day to preside over the Senate because he is running for Governor in this fall’s elections.  It was a nostalgic day that had some surprises as Lt. Gov. Cagle was honored with a Senate Resolution, joined on the Senate rostrum by former Lt. Governors Pierre Howard and Mark Taylor, and visited in the Senate chamber by House Speaker David Ralston.

There were many farewell speeches given on the last two session days due to the retirement of many House and Senate members, including the House Chairs for the Education, Regulated Industries, Motor Vehicles, and two Judiciary Committees.

The final $26.2B budget for fiscal year 2019 was agreed to by the House and Senate.  For the first time in many years, this budget contains full QBE funding for education and it also includes $100M in bonds for transit projects.

The House and Senate also agreed to a regional transit bill (HB 930) that creates a new board to manage the construction and funding of projects in the region.  Contingent upon voter approval, counties in the 13-county metro area would be able to impose a sales tax of up to 1% for mass transit.  The overall goal is to coordinate transit services across the metro region and create a seamless transit system for the region.

Other bills that received final passage last week include:  a constitutional amendment to create a statewide business court (HR 993), Governor Deal’s criminal justice reform (SB 407) that allows judges to consider a defendant’s ability to pay when setting bail, distracted driving (HB 673), speed cameras in school zones (HB 978), internet sales tax (HB 61), compensation for health insurance agents (HB 64), free credit freezes and thaws for consumers (SB 376), changes in vehicle title/ad valorem tax (HB 329), Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act to set up a grant program for expanding broadband into rural areas (SB 402), creation of the Health Coordination and Innovation Council (SB 357) that was championed by Lt. Gov. Cagle, comprehensive revisions to the 9-1-1 Service Act (HB 751), recommendations from the House Rural Development Council (HB 769), and an expansion of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana to include PTSD and intractable pain (HB 65).