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Gold Dome Report – Legislative Day 14 (2024)
Thursday, February 1, 2024

All bets were off in the Georgia State Senate on Thursday as the upper chamber took up SB 386, authorizing sports wagering in the state to be overseen by the Georgia Lottery Corporation. The bill originally allowed for sports betting under the existing constitutional permission for a “lottery" — then a long shot floor amendment was proposed to require a constitutional amendment, which must be approved by voters before bets could be made. The gambit paid off in spades, with the floor amendment being adopted before the Senate passed the entire measure by a 34-7 vote. The bill moves on to the House, where its odds are yet unknown.

In other news, while National Wear Red Day is Feb. 2, 2024, lawmakers opted to observe the day a tad early on Thursday. Many observed the iconic day of American Heart Month by sporting various red dresses, jackets, and ties. The General Assembly also adjusted its adjournment schedule to allow lawmakers to pay their respects on Monday to the late House Rules Chairman Richard Smith. Lawmakers will be in adjournment on Monday, Feb. 5, which was previously slated to be Legislative Day 15. Legislators “swapped” Monday for Friday, Feb.16 (a day which had previously been a day in adjournment). More on other actions from Legislative Day 14 in 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 14:

  • HB 905 - Zoning procedures; provisions authorizing administrative officers to exercise zoning powers; repeal — POSTPONED
  • HB 985 - Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation; abolish — POSTPONED

The Senate took up the following measures on Legislative Day 14:

  • SB 333 - City of Mulberry; incorporate — PASSED 33-15
  • SB 377 - Courts and Social Services; licensing of qualified residential treatment programs; provide — PASSED 50-1
  • SB 386 - State Government; regulation and taxation of sports betting in this state; authorize and provide — PASSED AS AMENDED 34-7

The Senate also took up special action on a bill passed last year, SB 63, which needed action on a Conference Committee Report to hammer out differences on the setting of bonds and schedules of bail. The Senate adopted the Conference Committee Report by a vote of 30-17.

Committee Reports

House Education Committee

Chairman Chris Erwin (R-Homer) called the House Education Committee to order Thursday afternoon to discuss the following measures:

  • HB 941, authored by Erwin, amends Code Section 20-2-260 regarding capital outlay funds. Currently, schools cannot receive capital outlay money for pre-K classrooms, and this measure seeks to rectify that. The substitute, LC 49 1724S, adds clarification to the definition of capital outlay money going to public schools. Chairman Erwin contended pre-K will continue to be funded by the lottery but will be allowed to qualify for capital outlay funds.

Representative Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) asked why they were not already included. It was omitted in the 1980s when the Quality Basic Act was written. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 987, authored by Representative Chas Cannon (R-Colquitt), amends Code Section 20-2-165 relating to equalization grants. The measure seeks to accommodate the rise in property values by reducing the millage rate to 10 mills. Some systems have already lowered their rate below the threshold of 14 mills. This measure adds language for systems that go below the threshold, and they will be penalized with a 25% reduction in equalization funding.

Erwin asked how many schools received equalization funds. Currently, about 128 school systems do. Committee members asked how many schools were at 11 mills. Dawson is at 10.8, Hart is at 10.9, and Crisp is at 10.4. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

House Ways and Means Committee

Chairman Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) called the House Committee to order Thursday afternoon to discuss the following measures:

  • HB 363, authored by Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta), amends Titles 31 and 48 to extend the sunset on the Rural Hospital Tax Credit by five years and increases the tax credit limit amounts for contributions by corporate donors. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.
  • HB 461, authored by Representative Brad Thomas (R-Holly Springs), amends Title 48 to require regulatory fee proceeds to be used for the intended regulatory activity, specific to trade and construction fees. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.
  • HB 912, authored by Representative Victor Anderson (R-Cornelia), amends Code Section 40-1-1, exempting multipurpose, off-vehicles from ad valorem taxation. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.
  • HB 871, authored by Representative Clay Pirkle (R-Marietta), amends Code Section 48-5-48 to clarify homestead exemption regarding the death of a spouse. This is aimed at helping surviving spouses of qualified disabled veterans to be able to relocate to another homestead and retain their exemption. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.
  • HB 1015, authored by Representative Lauren McDonald (R-Cumming), amends Title 48 to accelerate the state income tax reduction. This bill further reduces the state income tax rate by 10 basis points, moving it to 5.39%, equaling $300 million. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.
  • HB 1019, authored by Representative Matt Reeves (R-Duluth), amends Title 48 to double the statewide homestead exemption. This change would increase the exemption amount from $2,000 to $4,000. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.
  • HB 1021, authored by Representative Lauren Daniel (R-Locust Grove), amends Title 48 to increase the dependent deduction amount on income taxes for children from $3,000 to $4,000. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

House Governmental Affairs Committee

The House Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta), met on Wednesday to consider the following measures:

  • HB 409, authored by Representative Lauren Daniel (R-Locust Grove), amends Title 36 relating to local government. The measure seeks to allow only water and sewer authorities power to remove real property. This is to give more flexibility to the landowner. It creates a process for governing authorities to determine if an easement no longer serves a public purpose or benefit. The measure also requires the governing authority to compile a summary of easements disposed of and granted annually. The measure passed unanimously.
  • HB 585, authored by Representative Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth), amends Title 36 regarding development impact fees. This measure was heard previously in the 2023 session. The measure is the enabling legislation, which permits high-growth school systems to levy educational development impact fees. The measure is narrowly tailored to only apply to Forsyth County’s school system at this time. There were a few questions on the composition of the advisory committee and if this could apply to other systems. Jones added that the entire Forsyth delegation supports this bill. The bill passed.
  • HR 303, also authored by Jones, is the Constitutional Amendment to HB 585 to create a referendum to allow local school boards to levy educational development impact fees. The measure passed.
  • HB 974, authored by Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta), amends Title 21 regarding elections. A substitute was presented requiring the Secretary of State to maintain a database for digital scans of ballots. There were questions about resolution, cost, and availability to citizens. The measure passed with one no vote.
  • HB 977, also authored by LaHood, amends Title 21 relating to elections. A substitute was presented, which makes changes to risk-limiting audits. Amendments were offered to include legislative races and add members to the board that chooses which elections to audit; both failed. The measure passed as introduced.
  • HB 1044, authored by Representative Victor Anderson (R-Cornelia), amends Title 13 relating to public works contracts. The original bill was vetoed by the governor in 2023 because it did not include public purchasing limit increases for state contracts. This new version includes both local and state entities. The measure unanimously passed.

Senate Committee on Children & Families

Chairman Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) discussed the bill by Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), SB 376. The legislation addresses the notice requirements of dependent children when a relative demonstrates an active and present interest in and the willingness to provide a permanent home for the child and termination of parental rights of such children in Chapter 11 of Title 15. Today, they reviewed LC 52 0246S. Other amendments were offered in the committee as well. Professor Emma Hetherington’s (UGA School of Law) made suggested changes per Tillery, but he had not examined them closely. This substitute addresses some of the concerns raised at the last meeting, including those by Senator Matt Brass (R-Newnan). Senator Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain) asked who determines what “substantial” progress on the child’s case plan — that will be a judicial decision. Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) also asked about “substantial” if there was a formula for the term; it is not defined. In prior code, it is the standard of compliance per Tillery. There are opportunities to make a finding on each item in the plan. Hetherington spoke to lines 238 et seq. She reminded the committee that the guardian ad litem is to look after the best interests of the child — she suggested that they make it clear about the right to the child’s right to an attorney and if a guardian ad litem attorney has the right to file a petition if in the best interests of the child. Senator Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia) asked for clarification about the requirement, as written, of the guardian ad litem of filing the petition of termination of parental rights. Hetherington indicated that a party to the case needs to file the petition. Brass proposed an amendment to the proposal at lines 243 after ad litem adding, “who may, after his or her own determination, may file a petition to terminate parental rights.” Juvenile court judges reviewed the legislation and were not opposed to the legislation and were fine with the amendment. The substitute legislation, after much discussion and the amendment was adopted, received a DO PASS recommendation, moving the bill forward to the Senate Rules Committee.

New Legislation

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

H.B.1099 Crimes and offenses; knowing entry upon land or premises of another that has been marked with purple paint; provide for the crime of criminal trespass Rep. David Huddleston (R-072) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66556
H.B.1102 Sanctuary State Deportation Act; enact Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-017) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66561
H.B.1104 Quality Basic Education Act; address mental health risks for student athletes Rep. Omari Crawford (D-084) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66567
H.B.1105 The Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act of 2024; enact Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-166) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66568
H.B.1107 Mental health; provide notice of admission and daily updates from a facility to the parent or legal guardian of involuntary minor patient under 12 years of age Rep. Mesha Mainor (R-056) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66570
H.B.1109 Civil practice; provide for surviving relatives in wrongful death actions Rep. Omari Crawford (D-084) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66573
H.B.1110 Crimes and offenses; dating violence protective orders; provide Rep. Omari Crawford (D-084) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66574
H.B.1111 Crimes and offenses; storage of a firearm within motor vehicle or vessel; provisions Rep. Omari Crawford (D-084) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66575
H.R.950 Georgia Psychological Association; commend Rep. Spencer Frye (D-122) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66580

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

S.B.437 Department of Agriculture; enforce certain criminal laws; authorize Sen. Randy Robertson (R-029) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66548
S.B.438 Georgia Public Schools; to operate or facilitate separate teams for members of each gender where selection for such teams is based upon competitive fairness or student safety; authorize Sen. Carden Summers (R-013) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66560
S.B.440 'Accelerated Career Diploma Program'; ACE Grants pilot program; establish and provide Sen. Matt Brass (R-028) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66563
S.B.441 Controlled Substances; notification requirements for prescribers prescribing opioids; revise Sen. Nikki Merritt (D-009) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66564
S.B.442 State Health Planning and Development; after a certain date, certificate of need requirements shall not apply to institutional health services; provide Sen. David Lucas (D-026) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66565
S.R.536 Georgia Hearing Day; recognize February 20, 2024 Sen. Carden Summers (R-013) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66559
S.R.538 Sports Betting; Georgia General Assembly provide by law for sports betting and casino gambling in this state by July 2, 2025; authorize and require Sen. Carden Summers (R-013) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66610

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 15 on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 10 a.m.

In the meantime, please watch for the groundhog to make the determination on whether it will be an early spring!

The Senate will take up the following measures on Legislative Day 15:

  • SB 189 - Elections; text portions of ballots shall be counted for vote tabulation and recounts purposes; provide
  • SB 332 - Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission; promulgate standards of conduct and rules for the commission's governance; provide
  • SB 344 - Sales and Use Taxes; firearms, ammunition, gun safes, and related accessories during an 11-day period each year; exempt
  • SB 373 - Licensure in Marriage and Family Therapy; issuance of expedited licenses by endorsement for marriage and family therapists; provide
  • SB 405 - "Completion Special Schools Act"; certain students to be enrolled in a completion special school; lower the age of eligibility

See our coverage of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, Day 12, and Day 13

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