The Georgia legislature met Monday through Thursday this week and has now completed 16 legislative days. Next week they will be in session on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This schedule was set in the Adjournment Resolution (SR 82) adopted by the House and Senate on Feb. 9.
On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed its version of a $26.5B supplemental 2021 budget. The House and Senate were able to come to an agreement on the differences between their two versions and both chambers approved the final supplemental budget yesterday morning. It passed the Senate unanimously and it passed the House with only four dissenting votes. In the final version, just over $40M was appropriated for 520 new school buses, $27M for the Department of Public Health to modernize its computer system to track immunizations and fund five new positions, an additional $4M for the Governor’s emergency fund, an increase of $127,000 for the Ga. Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, and a one-time payment of $1,000 for state employees making less than $80,000.
Senator Jeff Mullis introduced a sports betting bill (SB 142) this week with bipartisan support. Other signers on the bill are Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller and Democrat Senators Elena Parent and Harold Jones. One of the ways this bill differs from Rep. Ron Stephens’ sports betting bill (HB 86) is that the Senate version calls for a 10% tax on sports betting companies’ income while the House version calls for 14%. SB 142 is scheduled to be heard next week in Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities.
Senator Mullis also introduced a bill to place a monument at the State Capitol for the late Zell Miller who has served the state in a variety of capacities from state senator (4 years) to Lt. Governor (16 years), Governor (8 years), and U.S. Senator (5 years).
Another bill introduced in the Senate this week would create a governor-appointed position of Chief Labor Officer within the Department of Labor (SB 156). Funding for this position was included in the supplemental budget that was approved yesterday.
The House passed legislation to extend until July 2022 immunity for businesses from frivolous COVID lawsuits (HB 112), regulations for the offering and issuance of travel insurance (HB 205), and an increase in fees for limited driving permits and replacements for lost driver’s licenses (HB 246).
The House Health & Human Services Committee (HB 163) passed a bill that calls for the Department of Community Health to create an “express lane” for enrolling uninsured children by automatically adding children receiving food stamps to the Medicaid program.
There was a special election on Tuesday to fill the seat in House District 90 that was vacated by Rep. Pam Stephenson for health reasons. The top two vote-getters from the field of six candidates were Democrats Stan Watson (28% of the vote) and Angela Moore (17%). Stan Watson is a former state representative and DeKalb County commissioner. Angela Moore is a public relations specialist. The run-off election for this seat will be held on March 9.
Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Duncan and Speaker Ralston held a press conference on Monday announcing a joint broadband project between Central Georgia EMC and Southern Rivers Energy that would bring fiber internet to 80,000 homes and businesses in middle Georgia at a cost of around $210M.