February 6, 2020

The House and Senate passed a revised adjournment resolution (SR 712) yesterday which calls for them to be in recess for the remainder of this week, all of next week and Monday, Feb. 17.  This recess is necessary because the Appropriations committees needed more time to work on the budget.  After being in session three days this week, they have now completed 12 legislative days.  They will reconvene on Tuesday, February 18.

On January 30, Governor Kemp signed legislation calling for the collection of internet sales taxes by marketplace facilitators (HB 276).  The law becomes effective 4/1/2020, and it has been estimated that this tax collection will result in at least $100M in additional tax dollars to the state.

In the special election held on February 4 for Senate District 13, two Republicans were the top vote-getters.  Only 110 votes separated Carden Summers, former Crisp County Commissioner (43%), and Jim Quinn, former Mayor of Leesburg (42%).  They will face each other in a runoff on March 3.

The House Rules committee voted to recommit HB 757 that would have affected the race for U.S. Sen. Isakson’s seat by adding a primary election to the process to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.

The House Public Safety Committee considered Rep. John Carson’s HB 113 to increase fines for distracted driving.  The bill revises the hands-free law that Rep. Carson sponsored a couple of session’s ago which required drivers to use blue-tooth or other technology so they are not holding a phone (hands free) while driving.  Two major provisions of this bill include doubling current fines and eliminating the ability of first-time offenders to have the ticket removed if they sign an affidavit and provide proof that they now have hands-free technology.  Several committee members were skeptical of the need for such a drastic increase in fines and suggested community service and/or mandated driver education courses as effective deterrents to discourage illegal cellphone use while driving.  The committee has not yet voted on the bill.

The House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care approved Rep. Mark Newton’s bill that seeks to make more information available to patients in order to curtail surprise bills (HB 789). Insurers would be required to put information on their website to indicate which providers are in-network.  The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee passed Sen. Ben Watson’s “Ga. Right to Shop” bill (SB 303) that would require insurers to post prices of procedures and quality ratings of providers on their websites.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed Sen. Renée Unterman’s bill that aims to reduce e-cigarette and tobacco use by minors (SB 298) by licensing e-cigarette vendors and creating a penalty system for selling vaping products to minors like the one for selling alcohol to minors. It also bans flavored vape pods and requires schools to include effects of tobacco use and vaping in their drug and alcohol education programs.

Yesterday Rep. Kevin Tanner presented his transit bill, HB 511, to the Senate Transportation Committee.  The bill passed the House last session but met with opposition from GDOT because the bill would have created a new agency.  GDOT is now supportive of the bill because this version calls for a new “division of transit and mobility innovations” within GDOT to oversee these rural transit programs rather than adding a new agency. The bill would divide the state outside the Atlanta metro area into eight regions for transit planning and funding.  It would impose a 50-cent per trip fee on taxis and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, with the fees going to pay for pilot programs to help create transportation options in underserved areas, like transit subsidies for unemployed persons in rural counties or grants for companies that provide vanpool services for their employees.  The committee did not vote on the bill.