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Gold Dome Report – Legislative Day 11 (2024)
Monday, January 29, 2024

The Georgia State Capitol neared capacity on Monday as two considerable constituent groups crowded the hallways and galleries. Local government officials donned red scarves and converged for the Georgia Municipal Association’s “Cities United Day at the Capitol,” while the sisters of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. celebrated “Delta Day at the Capitol” in their red dresses and suits. With all that red running around, it’s a wonder no one called the fire department — or at least the fire marshal — to put out the crowd.

Notwithstanding all the members of the public obstructing the staircases, legislators carried on with a full day of floor action and committee meetings. The House signed off on HB 881, the rework of the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission that was created last year but scuttled by the Georgia Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Senate passed SB 354, allowing shampooing without a license. That’s just the start of it; there’s much more inside this #GoldDomeReport

In this Report:

  • Floor Notes
  • Committee Reports
  • New Legislation
  • What’s Next

Floor Notes

The House took up the following measures on Legislative Day 11:

  • HB 881 - Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission; standards of conduct and rules; provisions - PASSED 95-75

The Senate took up the following measures on Legislative Day 11:

  • SB 337 - Georgia Colonel; appoint honorary title for life; authorize the Governor - PASSED 51-1
  • SB 342 - Child Abuse Records; child abuse and neglect registries; authorize the disclosure - PASSED 52-0
  • SB 353 - Highways, Bridges, and Ferries; duties when death results from an accident upon a highway in certain instances; allow for delegation - PASSED 51-1
  • SB 354 - Cosmetologists and Barbers; persons performing certain limited responsibilities; exempt from licensure - PASSED 38-15
  • HB 130 - Georgia Student Finance Authority; student loan repayment for peace officers; provide - PASSED 52-0
  • HB 455 - Professions and businesses; professional programs to address career fatigue and wellness in healthcare professionals; provisions - PASSED 51-0

Committee Reports

House Education Committee – Policy Subcommittee

The Policy Subcommittee of the House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), met on Monday to consider the following measures:

  • HB 846, authored by Representative Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), amends Title 20 to require school systems to annually notify employees of their taxes being withheld. After learning that some government entities do not have to file social security benefits. The measure, LC 49 1718S, adds a provision for a notice to be generated, and it is not retroactive. The measure will only apply to new employees.

Representative Will Wade (R-Dawsonville) expressed concern over creating a “paperwork headache” for smaller systems, particularly with systems where one person might have several roles within the system. He mentioned it might be better to do it every five years instead of annually. Margaret Ciccarelli from the Professional Association of Georgia Educators expressed support for the measure.

No action was taken on the measure. A substitute is expected at the next meeting.

  • HB 941, authored by Representative Chris Erwin (R-Homer), amends Title 20 to provide that capital outlay funds may be used for educational facilities for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs provided by a school system. Specifically, the bill allows Pre-K classrooms to be counted in the consideration for capital outlay funds for K-12 school construction.

Chairman Erwin presented the bill to the subcommittee, explaining that schools are currently penalized from a capital outlay standpoint when classrooms are used for Pre-K. The bill is intended to encourage schools to continue participating in Pre-K and provide more access to the programs. Erwin proposed an amendment to clarify that Pre-K programs be provided and operated by the local school system as part of the Georgia Pre-K program.

A motion to amend the measure as explained by legislative counsel passed. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation as amended, and the bill moves to the full Education Committee.

  • HB 987, authored by Representative Chas Cannon (R-Colquitt), amends Code Section 20-2-165 to accommodate rising property values and reduce rollbacks. A substitute was presented. The measure reduces the mileage rate to at least 10 mills. Representative Cannon explained that in 2015, there was a baseline rate of 12, which changed in 2019 to 14 mills. Since 2019, there has been an increase in property tax digest, a $115 billion increase. Coupled with record sales tax revenue, a school system is bumping against rolling back the mileage rate. Some systems have rolled back, but there is no real punishment for those. The substitute would penalize rollbacks by taking 25% of equalization funds to keep school systems in line across the state.

Representative Brent Cox (R-Dawsonville) asked why 10 was the threshold. This limit puts everyone back in compliance. It gives systems space to roll back over time.

The measure received a DO PASS recommendation, and the bill moves on to the full Education Committee.

House Education Committee – Curriculum Subcommittee

The Curriculum Subcommittee of the House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Bethany Ballard (R-Warner Robins), met on Monday to hear one measure:

  • HB 822, authored by Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), amends Title 20 regarding sex education. LC 49 1638S updates sex education to be medically accurate, the AIDS definition to include HIV, and discusses consent. The measure does not change the conversation on abstinence.

Representative Hilton asked about age-appropriate and medically accurate implies some systems are not providing that. Carpenter felt most systems were but that this would create a baseline. Representative Karlton Howard (D-Augusta) asked about the subjective nature of age-appropriate and who decides that. The local school system will decide on age-appropriate, but the Department of Education also develops a curriculum. Representative David Clark (R-Buford) asked for examples of how current curriculum fails to teach appropriate boundaries. Carpenter highlighted a document provided to the committee.

Dr. Keri McDonald-Hill from the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential, Sydney Wilson, and others spoke in favor of the measure. Mary Clossen, a registered nurse, expressed concern over the measure.

No action was taken on the measure.

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee – Hong Subcommittee

The Hong Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, chaired by Representative Soo Hong (R-Lawrenceville), met to consider the following measures on Monday:

  • HB 590, authored by Representative Mike Cameron (R-Rossville), amends Title 16 to provide for the offense of online menacing (also known as doxxing) of a peace officer. Specifically, the bill prohibits the online posting of personal information of a peace officer or immediate family member of a peace officer with criminal intent. The offense would be a felony.

Representative Cameron presented the bill alongside John Fowler of the Attorney General’s Office, which is requesting the bill. Terry Norris of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association spoke in support of the measure. Mazie Lynn Guertin expressed concerns with the measure. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the full Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

  • HB 909, authored by Representative Leesa Hagan (R-Lyons), amends Titles 35 and 42 to provide for the restriction and seal of First Offender Act sentences until such status is revoked. Specifically, the bill requires the restriction and sealing of related records at time of sentencing, subject to reversal if the sentence is not successfully completed. The bill was presented as a Substitute that incorporates edits requested by the Department of Community Supervision and Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Representative Hagan presented the bill alongside Wade Askew of the Georgia Justice Project, explaining that the legislation is intended to “modernize” the First Offender Act to ensure that the promise that individuals can move on from their records is kept. Another amendment was proposed to address GBI concerns, and the amendment was adopted. The Subcommittee recommended the bill DO PASS by committee substitute as amended and be sent to the full Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

  • HB 922, authored by Representative Ken Vance (R-Milledgeville), amends Title 16 to provide that entrance upon property of another without consent shall be an offense of criminal trespass. Specifically, the bill amends Georgia’s criminal trespass law to clarify that one who enters upon the land or premises of another person or into any part of any vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft of another person without consent of the owner or rightful occupant commits criminal trespass.

Representative Vance presented the bill to the subcommittee, explaining that the bill is being sought by his sheriff to close a loophole where criminal trespass cannot be charged without the trespassing individual being put on notice that they are trespassing. Terry Norris of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association spoke in support of the measure and committed to help address issues raised by the subcommittee to improve the bill. Mazie Lynn Guertin expressed concerns with the measure. Ben Lynde of the ACLU of Georgia also expressed concerns with the legislation. No action was taken on the legislation.

House Regulated Industries Committee – Professional Licensing Subcommittee

This subcommittee, chaired by Representative Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth), took up these bills this afternoon:

  • HB 650, authored by Representative Al Williams (D-Midway), seeks to amend the current law relating to barbers and cosmetologists and to allow a licensed master barber or barber II to operate a mobile barber shop under certain conditions. No vote was taken on this proposal this afternoon as it is still being perfected.
  • HB 793, authored by Representative Matt Barton (R-Calhoun), seeks to amend Title 43 regarding the law concerning licensed clinical social workers and allow applicants who are enrolled in a master’s degree program to take the master’s social work licensing examination. Only testimony was presented today; no vote was taken.
  • HB 154, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D- Rex), seeks to enact the Cosmetology Licensure Compact in Chapter 10 of Title 43. No action was taken today on this bill.
  • HB 390, authored by Representative Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta), seeks to enact the “Safe Cosmetics Act” in Chapter 3 of Title 26. It would require a manufacturer to disclose ingredients, chemicals of concern, and restricted substances found in a cosmetic distributed, sold, or offered for sale in this state. No action was taken on this legislation at today’s meeting.

House Health Committee

Chairman Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) called the House Health Committee to order Monday afternoon to discuss the following measures:

  • HB 809, authored by Representative Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), amends Title 43 regarding occupational licensing. The measure changes the scope of practice to allow occupational therapists to perform dry needling on patients provided they meet certain criteria.

The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 874, authored by Chairman Hawkins, amends Title relating to defibrillators in schools. The measure requires K-12 schools to create an emergency plan and a team.

An amendment on line 47 after “plan” added “adheres to nationally recognized standards,” which passed unanimously. A second amendment on line 58 to correct it to the 2025-2026 school year, which will match line 28, which also passed unanimously.

The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 576, Representative Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas), amends Title 31 regarding organ transplants. The measure seeks to prevent discrimination against potential organ transplant recipients based on COVID vaccination status.

Members of the public spoke in favor of the measure, and some expressed a desire to expand the measure to include other vaccines.

The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

House Insurance Committee – Life & Health Subcommittee

The Health and Life Subcommittee of House Insurance, chaired by Representative Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), held a hearing on this year’s version of the “white bagging” permitting hospital pharmacies to fill and administer specialized infusion medicines without any steering of the prescription to an in-network pharmacy by the insurer. Representative Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), this year’s sponsor of HB 924 urged the patient’s right to choose who fills the prescription and administers the medicine. The Georgia Hospital Association testified in support of the bill, which was opposed by the Georgia Association of Health Plans (GAHP). GAHP wishes to protect the in-network pharmacy provisions of health plans with their negotiated price and utilization review provisions. Kaiser Permanente asked for an amendment to honor its selection of its in-network and owned pharmacies for provider-administered medications. Ballinger and Taylor supported the amendment, and it will be incorporated into a full committee substitute bill. GAHP opposed the bill outright and urged that It would increase the cost of medicines since many infusion drugs are higher in hospital-based pharmacies. Several questions were asked that indicated opposition to the bill because it erodes in-network pharmacy pricing by the health insurers. No vote was taken on the bill.

Senate Health & Human Services Committee

After a panel discussion hosted by VOICES for Georgia’s Children on child welfare where Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) was a panelist, the Senate Health and Human Services continued its discussion on child welfare by taking up SB 377, authored by Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia). The legislation amends Titles 15 and 49 in an effort to provide for the licensing of qualified residential treatment programs. It revises the definition of a childcare institution to include a qualified residential treatment program. The commissioners from the Departments of Human Services (Candice Broce) and Community Health (Russel Carlson) were on hand to respond to committee members’ questions. The two departments have worked together to make things more accessible for children to access services, providing a fill to a gap in services presently. Senator Tillery presented his legislation as a relatively simple proposal and likely not, as he said, “hit the news cycle.” Senator Kirkpatrick noted it was the “quick trips.” There are current ambiguities, and the bill will help the state access Title IV-E dollars and allow for another option to provide services for subacute care for children. Jeff Breedlove waived the right to speak and indicated he supported the proposal. Kirkpatrick made the motion do pass. The legislation received a unanimous DO PASS recommendation. The bill moves to the Senate Rules Committee

Senate Finance Committee

Chairman Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) and the Finance Committee took up the following proposals Monday afternoon:

  • HB 82, authored by Representative Mack Jackson (D-Sandersville), amends O.C.G.A. 48-7-29, relating to tax credits for rural physicians. The legislation moves forward dates in the bill, applying to rural physicians as of May 15, 2023, and repealing the proposal to Dec. 31, 2029, rather than 2028. It also clarifies the sunset date. The legislation, as amended, received a DO PASS recommendation. It moves to the Senate Rules Committee.
  • SB 344, authored by Senator Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), seeks to create a Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday in O.C.G.A. 48-8-3. It specifically exempts sales tax of firearms, ammunition, gun safes, trigger locks (added by amendment), and related accessories during a five day period each year. Originally, the legislation proposed an 11 day period of time. Senator Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro) noted that sales were around $250,000-$500,000 per day — it was his idea to reduce the time frame to five days. Senator Anavitarte indicated this “holiday” would commence the second Monday before deer hunting season. Further, he noted that this holiday would help the state curb the population of white-tailed deer and would assist agricultural interests and keep deer at “healthy levels.” Senator Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) argued that there was a growing appetite by citizens to see fewer guns, and she raised concerns about implementing a sales tax exemption on those items. Anavitarte countered that this would be beneficial for lawful weapons holders. Senator Jason Estevez (D-Atlanta) inquired about safe gun storage and preventing less theft. He also asked about the return on investment for a sales tax holiday, comparing that with the eliminated school tax holiday. It was noted that there was $1 billion in gun retail sales made. The amendments for 1) change to 5 days from 11 days; 2) addition of trigger locks (the desire of Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens)); and 3) sunset date of June 30, 2029, all were adopted. An amendment to minimize impacts on local governments failed. The bill received a DO PASS as amended and moves forward to the Senate Rules Committee.
  • SB 364, authored by Senator John Albers (R-Roswell), seeks to create the “Property Tax Relief Act of 2024” in Chapter 5 of Title 48. The legislation received a HEARING ONLY this afternoon. Senator Albers remarked that the property tax system is broken and very arbitrary. Citizens are seeing large increases in values, and this legislation attempts to make some clean ups to the current system by providing changes to notice and transparency on a tax bill. It also seeks a cap to any increase to the CPI inflation rate or 3 percent, whichever is lower. Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), remarked that the system should be treated like capital gains (when sales occur). Senator Albers noted that a study of the system needed to be conducted. ACCG indicated that it had concerns about locking values at five years rather than three years; the Georgia School Board Association also raised concerns and (Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega)) asked what the windfalls were to school systems and which systems had rolled back (there were 110 systems which have done rollbacks. Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming) noted that the school systems had more money in the bank than the state).

New Legislation

The following new legislation of interest has been introduced in the House:

H.B.1050 Professions and businesses; licensure as a professional counselor or associate professional counselor; change certain education requirements Rep. Karen Mathiak (R-074) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66399
H.B.1051 Mortgages; senior and disabled persons foreclosure protection fund and project; provide Rep. Rhonda Burnough (D-077) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66400
H.B.1054 Motor vehicles; issuance of refusal to sign citation; provide Rep. Yasmin Neal (D-079) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66421
H.B.1055 Georgia Eviction Records Restriction Act; enact Rep. Yasmin Neal (D-079) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66422
H.R.912 Career and Technical Education Month; February 2024; Georgia Career and Technical Student Organizations Day at the state capitol; February 22, 2024; recognize Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-015) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66413

The following new legislation of interest has been introduced in the Senate:

S.B.409 "Bridging the Gap for ALS and Chronic Kidney Disease Act of 2024"; enact Sen. John Albers (R-056) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66396

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 12 on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 10 a.m.

The House is expected to take up the following measures on Legislative Day 11:

  • HB 878 - Uniform rules of the road; proper procedure for passing a postal service vehicle; provide
  • HB 884 - Douglas Judicial Circuit; provide for a fourth judge
  • HB 905 - Zoning procedures; provisions authorizing administrative officers to exercise zoning powers; repeal
  • HB 906 - Tifton Judicial Circuit; provide for a third judge
  • HB 976 - Elections; ballots used in optical scan voting systems shall use paper with a visible watermark security feature; provide
  • HB 985 - Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation; abolish

The Senate is expected to take up the following measures on Legislative Day 11:

  • SB 85 - "Speaker David Ralston Veterans' Retirement Act"; enact
  • SB 151 - "First Responders Appreciation Day"; designate September 11 of each year
  • SB 348 - Notification of Suspicious or Unusual Deaths; individual had not been seen by a physician prior to death; revise the period
  • SB 352 - Motor Vehicle Equipment and Inspection; standards for the alteration and operation of motor vehicles with modified suspension systems; provide
  • SB 366 - "Tax Expenditures Transparency Act of 2024"; enact

See our coverage of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, and Day 10.

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