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Gold Dome Report – Legislative Day 17 (2024)
Thursday, February 8, 2024

It may not be shooting fish in a barrel, but nabbing catfish with a bow and arrow will soon be legal if one Georgia legislator has his way. Representative Jason Ridley (R-Chatsworth) introduced House Bill 1173 on Thursday, legalizing the taking of any species of catfish from the waters of the state at any time of day or night with a bow and arrow. We'll see a TLC reality series coming if the bill passes, but legislators should also consider legalizing the currently prohibited poisonous and exploding arrowheads for catfishing — if they really want to blow the ratings out of the water.

The House and Senate floors were both active on Legislative Day 17 with legislators on both sides of the building engaging in vigorous debate on bills. In the House, the incorporation of the City of Mulberry (SB 333) was the main draw. In the Senate, a lengthy debate on Governor Brian Kemp’s labor union legislation (SB 362) had to be paused so Senators could take a lunch break. And in a metaphor for how most lawmakers and lobbyists feel one month into the 2024 Legislative Session, Speaker Jon Burns (R-Newington) broke his gavel. Still, we soldier on 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 17:

  • HB 871 - Ad valorem tax; qualified disabled veterans; clarify applicability of homestead exemption to spouses and minor children — PASSED 168-0
  • HB 945 - State employees' health insurance plan; protection for covered persons when an in-network hospital becomes out-of-network prior to the end of year plan; provide — PASSED 167-1
  • HB 970 - Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen (REACH) Scholarship; victims of human trafficking are eligible; provide — PASSED 165-0
  • HB 982 - State Workforce Development Board; publish a High-demand Career List most critical to the state's current and future workforce needs; require — PASSED 161-0
  • HB 1015 - Income tax; reduce rate of tax — PASSED 165-0
  • HB 1019 - Revenue and taxation; statewide homestead exemption from certain ad valorem taxes; increase — PASSED 162-0
  • HB 1021 - Income tax; increase amount of dependent exemption — PASSED 165-0
  • SB 333 - City of Mulberry; incorporate — PASSED 101-63

The Senate took up the following measures on Legislative Day 17:

  • SB 26 - State Government; meetings and public hearings of development authorities and community improvement districts to be held by teleconference; permit — PASSED 51-1
  • SB 205 - Funeral Directors and Embalmers; reinstatement of a lapsed funeral director's license; change provisions — PASSED 52-0
  • SB 362 - State Government; employee representation by a labor organization for employers to receive certain economic development incentives from the state; provide requirements — PASSED 31-23
  • SB 406 - First Responder Building Mapping Information System; grant program to fund the creation of school mapping data; establish — PASSED 52-0
  • SB 410 - Licensing of Veterinarians; certain sterilization services performed by out-of-state veterinarians from licensing requirements; exempt — PASSED 52-10
  • HB 166 - Courts; provide for qualification of constables — PASSED 51-1

Committee Reports

House Education Committee

The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Chris Erwin (R-Homer), convened on Thursday to consider one measure:

  • HB 995, authored by Representative Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville), amends Title 20 to require the administration of a nationally recognized multiple-aptitude battery assessment that measures developed abilities and helps predict future academic and occupational success in the military to public school students in grades 11 and 12 who choose to participate. The bill allows parents to opt their children out of such assessments, and it prohibits the use of assessment results in any educational accountability assessment program.

Bonner presented the bill to the committee, which recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

House Ways and Means Committee

Chairman Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) called the full Ways and Means Committee to order to discuss the following measures:

  • HB 946, authored by Representative Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesvile), amends Title 48 relating to intergovernmental agreements. It creates a process for local municipalities to develop a SPLOST without requiring 100% of the municipalities' approval. There would still be a county-wide referendum, and municipalities that do not opt into the intergovernmental agreement would receive funds based on the percentage of population in the county within their city limits. LC 50 0730S received a DO PASS recommendation.
  • HB 814, authored by Representative Beth Camp (R-Concord), amends Title 48 regarding qualified investment properties. LC 50 0721S seeks to exempt from sales tax those awarded grants from the American Rescue Plan or the Broadband Digital Equity Act. The measure is retroactive. The committee substitute received a DO PASS recommendation.
  • HB 1031, authored by Representative Dale Washburn (R-Macon), amends Title 48. The measure creates more transparency in the tax appraisal and assessment process. It would require reassessment every three years. When there is a higher level of revenue from the reassessment, the local government must explain that on a bill. An amendment was offered and approved, which made changes to the taxing authority. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation as amended.
  • HB 1162, authored by Representative David Knight (R-Griffin), amends Title 48. This is the annual IRC update bill. The measure only updates the date from 2022 to 2023 since there were no federal changes required. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

House Appropriations Committee

Chairman Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) and the Appropriations Committee met for a short meeting this afternoon to address funding for Georgia’s Medicaid program. Representative Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) presented HB 991 regarding the Hospital Medicaid Financing Program and specifically extending the current sunset date on that program. Currently, the hospital provider tax is to expire on June 30, 2025. The proceeds of this tax are used as matching funds to draw down federal funds for Georgia’s Medicaid program. Blackmon’s bill moves that date to June 30, 2030, as found in O.C.G.A. 31-8-179.6. The committee took no testimony and gave the legislation a DO PASS recommendation, moving it forward to the House Rules Committee.

Senate Health and Human Services Committee

Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) and members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee met at 5 p.m. on Wednesday to address the following:

  • HB 181, authored by Representative Townsend (R-Brunswick), addresses revisions to Chapter 13 of Title 16 to regulate kratom products. The legislation was before the committee in the form of a new committee substitute, presented by Senator Matt Brass (R-Newnan). 52 0420S was the version the committee reviewed. Initially, the bill was introduced in 2023 and has been the subject of several hearings since. There were concerns at the retail level with aggressive penalties, and many of the changes in the substitute are addressing those penalties. Brass indicated that the industry needs to be cleaned up, and regulation is necessary. Lines 27-30 broke out processor (manufacturer) and retailer (point of sale). To buy, one must be 21 with a proper ID. They eliminated vaping. Lines 66-68 require sales to be behind the counter (away from energy drinks). There are penalties for any offense depending on the violation: First offense is $250; second offense is $500; and the third offense is $1000. Section 3 of the bill addresses the labeling of the products. At line 104, the processor must be registered with the Secretary of State (with a registered agent). In line 127, the penalties are enumerated. It includes criminal negligence or knowingly committing an act that is held as a misdemeanor. In line 148, the retailer is given protection for placing behind the counter and labeling. Senator David Lucas (D-Macon) asked about the effective date and whether that would impact retail sales. He was concerned that the law should be effective perhaps later in the year to give stores the opportunity to understand the new law. Senator Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) asked about the retailer and whether the language applies also to the owner and/or the person who works at night. The retailer requirements would cover the owner as well as the clerk. There are carve-outs for store employees of retailers. Senator Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain) asked about the definition of "adulterated" kratom as the newer version, in line 19, appears to be narrowed. Kratom, when mixed with certain things, can make it deadly. There were questions too about maintaining the products. Who is the enforcement body? It will depend on the county — it could be the local police department or other local law enforcement. Senator Mike Hodges (R-Brunswick) moved DO PASS on the substitute. Senator Shelly Echols (R-Gainsville) seconded the motion. They moved the effective date from July 1, 2024, to Jan. 1, 2025. The substitute, as amended (with the new effective date), received a unanimous DO PASS. The legislation moves to the Senate Rules Committee.
  • SB 331, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), was held due to more work to be done on this legislation addressing drug abuse and education programs.
  • HB 502, authored by Representative Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs), updates Chapter 34 of Title 43 and the definition of cosmetic laser services (to include “energy-based medical procedures using an ultrasound, cryolipolysis, microwave, or radio frequency device that is not expected or intended to remove, burn, or vaporize the live epidermal surface of the skin, but may damage underlying tissue if used inappropriately”) and revises the supervision requirements by eliminating the requirement of a senior laser practitioner from being onsite. Dr. Gross, also a member of the Composite Medical Board, was present and supported the proposal to update the law. The legislation originated from the Medical Board. Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) asked about the enumeration of the procedures outlined in the law — but it could be amended to allow for updated devices as determined by the board (to keep up with new technologies). Senator Jackson asked about the supervision requirements. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation. No changes were made. Kirkpatrick will carry the bill in the Senate.

New Legislation

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

H.B.1170 Public Health, Department of; require certain state government buildings, courthouses, and university buildings maintain and make accessible opioid antagonists Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-027) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66760
H.B.1171 Sales and use tax; clothing and school related supplies during the last two weeks of July each year; exempt Rep. James Burchett (R-176) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66761
H.B.1175 Physical therapists; granting licenses and disciplining licensees; revise provisions Rep. Chas Cannon (R-172) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66765
H.B.1176 Insurance; coverage of infant formula when a woman is medically unable to breastfeed; provide Rep. Trey Kelley (R-016) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66771
H.B.1177 Revenue and taxation; statewide homestead exemption from ad valorem taxes when current year assessed value exceeds base year value; provide Rep. Ron Stephens (R-164) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66772
H.B.1178 Georgia Utility Transparency Act; enact Rep. Becky Evans (D-089) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66773
H.B.1179 Insurance; step therapy protocols may not be required for medications prescribed for the treatment of serious mental illness under health benefit plans; provide Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-045) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66774
H.B.1180 Income tax credit; film, gaming, video, or digital production; revise a definition Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-004) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66775
H.B.1181 Income tax; limit carry-forward periods of certain income tax credits Rep. Chuck Martin (R-049) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66776
H.B.1182 Income tax; low-income housing tax credits; revise Rep. Clint Crowe (R-118) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66778
H.B.1183 Education; local school systems to provide certain information to parents and guardians of students in grades six through 12 on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes; require Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-013) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66779
H.B.1184 Evidence; privilege for participation in victim centered programs; provide Rep. Teri Anulewicz (D-042) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66780
H.B.1185 Revenue and taxation; statewide homestead exemption from ad valorem taxes when current year assessed value exceeds the inflation rate; provide Rep. Beth Camp (R-135) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66781
H.B.1186 Education Coordinating Council; school and school system ratings; provisions Rep. Scott Hilton (R-048) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66782
H.B.1187 Crimes and offenses; change references to assistance and guide dogs to service dogs Rep. Brad Thomas (R-021) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66783
H.R.1021 Local government; option to offer a state-wide homestead exemption from ad valorem taxes when current year assessed value exceeds base year value; provide - CA Rep. Ron Stephens (R-164) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66777
H.R.1022 Local government; option to offer a state-wide homestead exemption from ad valorem taxes when current year assessed value exceeds the inflation rate; provide - CA Rep. Beth Camp (R-135) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66784
H.R.1034 Georgia's Community Service Boards; Community Service Boards Day at the state capitol; February 13, 2024; recognize Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-013) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66796

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

S.B.464 School Supplies for Teachers Program; establish Sen. Clint Dixon (R-045) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66770
S.B.465 Homicide; the felony offense of aggravated involuntary manslaughter; provide Sen. Russell "Russ" Goodman (R-008) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66769
S.B.466 Obscenity and Related Offenses; limitations of defense that a sexually exploitive visual medium is digitally altered; provide Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-050) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66803
S.R.570 Senate Supporting Safety and Welfare of All Individuals in Department of Corrections Facilities Study Committee; create Sen. Randy Robertson (R-029) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66759

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 18 on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, at 9 a.m.

The House is expected to take up the following measures on Legislative Day 18:

  • HB 959 - Motor vehicles; procedure for passing stationary vehicles on certain highways; provide
  • HB 1026 - State government; Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as official soap box derby of the State of Georgia; designate
  • HB 1034 - State holidays; fourth Friday in November as National Sugarcane Syrup Day; designate
  • HB 1048 - State symbols; cornbread as official state bread; designate

The Senate has not set a Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 18. 

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, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15, and Day 16

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