January 17, 2020

The House and Senate convened on Monday, January 13, to begin the 2020 General Assembly Session.  On Day 1, Speaker Ralston went to the well of the House and delivered a heartfelt tribute for Rep. Jay Powell, his good friend and Chairman of the Rules Committee, who died in November.

There are currently two vacant seats in the legislature.  There will be a special election on January 28, with a run-off on February 25 if necessary, for the seat held by Rep. Jay Powell in House District 171.  There will also be a special election on February 4 for Senate District 13, the seat held by Sen. Greg Kirk who died in December, with a run-off on March 3 if necessary.

Prior to the session starting, Speaker Ralston appointed Rep. Richard Smith as the new House Rules Chair, Rep. Eddie Lumsden as the new Insurance Chair and Rep. Bonnie Rich as the new Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Chair. Information on House Committees and Senate Committees can be found on the state’s website.

This week the House and Senate appointed a conference committee to work out a compromise between House and Senate versions of HB 276, a bill that carried over from the 2019 session and deals with internet sales tax collections and marketplace facilitators. This compromise was passed yesterday by the Senate with a vote of 40-9 and by the House with a vote of 111-54.  The House and Senate sponsors of the bill have stated that at least $100M more in tax dollars will be collected as a result of its passage.

Governor Kemp gave his State of the State speech in the House Chamber yesterday morning.  He noted that our current 3.3% unemployment rate has set a record as the lowest in the state’s history.  Gov. Kemp also touted that Georgia has been recognized as “the best for business” for the 7th year in a row.  He focused on education and called for full funding of QBE again this year as well as a $2000 pay raise for teachers. This pay raise, in addition to the $3000 that passed last year, would fulfill his campaign promise to increase teacher pay by $5000.  He talked about introducing legislation to reduce surprise billing and increase transparency in healthcare billing. He called for legislation that would increase the penalties for gang activity and noted successes of his Anti-Gang Task Force.  He also called for legislation to close loopholes that continue to allow human trafficking, and he recognized the efforts of his wife, Marty, and the GRACE Commission in helping these victims. Gov. Kemp wants to further reform adoption laws and said he wants to triple the adoption tax credit and lower the age from 25 to 21 so that younger persons can adopt.  Former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson attended the speech and was recognized for his long service to the state.  In honor of Sen. Isakson, Gov. Kemp announced an Isakson Professorship for Parkinson’s Research at UGA.

The Governor released his FY 2021 and Amended FY 2020 budget report yesterday.  The Appropriations Committee budget hearings will be held next week starting on Tuesday morning.

The legislature will reconvene on Monday, January 27, for the 5th Legislative Day.  An adjournment resolution (HR 879) that sets the schedule through Feb. 10 has passed the House and Senate.