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Gold Dome Report – Legislative Day 25 (2023)
Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Members of the public flooded the State Capitol again on Tuesday. The day’s most visible group was Mothers Demand Action, members of which crowded the halls in a sea of red as they advocated lawmakers for gun control measures. But they weren’t the only ones demanding action under the Gold Dome. With two legislative days remaining until Crossover Day, legislators and lobbyists spent all afternoon in committee meetings begging, pleading, and sometimes demanding their legislation be advanced. We share which entreaties worked in this #GoldDomeReport

Floor activity reached a new peak on Tuesday with the House taking up a Rules Calendar lengthy enough to require a lunch break (a first this year). And it only gets busier from here. The House Rules Calendar for Wednesday contains more than 20 measures for debate even though the Committee sent several bills back to their original committees for further perfection. The Senate will also be busy on Wednesday, but the chamber is not scheduled to convene until 1:00 p.m. We’ll see if the Senate can finish its calendar of 10 bills before the House adjourns despite the lower chamber’s three-hour head start.

In this Report:

  • Floor Action

  • Committee Reports

  • New Legislation

  • What’s Next

Floor Action

The House took up the following measures on the floor on Legislative Day 25:

  • HB 73 - Public utilities; written disclosure statement with any agreement for sale or financing of distributed energy generation systems; provisions (Substitute)(EU&T-19th). The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 125-44.

  • HB 84 - Commerce and trade; provide for commercial financing disclosures (Substitute)(B&B-124th). The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 101-68.

  • HB 88 - Coleman-Baker Act; enact (Substitute)(JudyNC-120th). The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 168-1.

  • HB 155 - Professions and businesses; issuance of licenses by endorsement for spouses of firefighters, healthcare providers, and law enforcement officers who relocate to Georgia; provide (Substitute) (RegI-49th). The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 168-0.

  • HB 187 - Crimes and offenses; authorize for-profit credit repair services (Substitute) (A&CA-123rd). The bill was RECOMMITTED to the House Rules Committee.

  • HB 204 - Georgia Municipal Court Clerks’ Council; create (Judy-152nd). The bill passed by a vote of 168-2.

  • HB 212 - Niche-Beauty Services Opportunity Act; enact (Substitute) (RegI-136th). This bill was POSTPONED until the next legislative day.

  • HB 269 - Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act; authorize local workforce development boards to conduct meetings via teleconference (GAff-146th).  The bill passed with a vote of 153-0.

  • HB 291 - Guardian and ward; add to the list of providers who are authorized to participate in the processes for appointment of a guardian for an adult (Substitute) (JuvJ-14th). The Committee Substitute passed by Substitute with a vote of 165-0.

  • HB 301 - Motor vehicles and traffic; revise amount of civil monetary penalty for violations of improperly passing a school bus or speeding in a school zone (Substitute) (MotV-6th). The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 163-0.

  • HB 306 - Education; energy cost savings measures; revise definition (Substitute) (FAff-114th). The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 170-1.

  • HB 309 - Health; financial stability requirements for applicants and licensees of personal care homes and assisted living communities; revise provisions (HumR-45th)

  • HB 332 - Controlled substances; Schedule I, IV, and V; provide certain provisions (JudyNC-158th). The bill passed by a vote of 164-0.

  • HB 396 - Oconee River Greenway Authority; add president of Georgia College and State University (NR&E-158th). The bill passed by a vote of 171-0.

  • HB 414 - Mental health; grant program to aid service members, veterans, and their families; provide (Substitute)(Hth-146th). The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 167-0.

  • HB 416 - Pharmacies; authorize qualified pharmacy technicians to administer certain vaccines (Hth-53rd). The bill passed by a vote of 164-2.

  • HB 475 - Code Revisions Commission; revise, modernize and correct errors in omissions (CR-18th). The bill passed by a vote of 168-0.

  • HB 497 - Health; use of certified medication aides in penal institutions; authorize (Substitute)(HumR-175th). The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 167-0.

  • HB 518 - Labor and industrial relations; employment security; change certain provisions (Substitute)(I&L-1st). The Committee Substitute passed by a vote of 105-64.

The Senate took up the following measures on the floor on Legislative Day 25:

  • SB 19 - Courts; collection of passport application and processing fees by clerks of superior courts and probate court judges; provide (Substitute)(GvtO-32nd). The Committee Substitute as amended passed by a vote of 32-19.

  • SB 83 - Stalking; eligibility for restraining orders; revise (Judy-41st). The bill passed with a vote of 51-3.

  • SB 128 - Peace Officers' Annuity and Benefit Fund; the total percentage of funds that can be invested in alternative investments; raise the limit (Substitute)(Ret-56th). The Committee Substitute passed with a vote of 49-3.

  • SB 149 - "Georgia Door-to-Door Sales Act"; enact (Substitute)(RI&U-56th). The bill passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 51-3.

  • SB 169 - Public Schools; extension of hearing dates for student discipline tribunals; provide for limits (Substitute)(ED&Y-54th).  The bill passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 53-0.

  • SB 170 - "Students and Teachers SPEAK Act"; enact (ED&Y-56th). The bill passed by a vote of 50-0.

Committee Reports

House and Senate Conference Committee on the Amended FY23 Budget

The House and Senate Budget Conferees met this afternoon for an initial meeting on HB 18, the FY 2023 Amended Budget. The Conferees noted that there were 10 percent differences between the bodies on the proposal. Among differences are final funding for learning loss efforts, which the governor originally proposed. Conferees for the budget are: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia); Senate President Pro Tem John Kennedy (R-Macon); Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega); House Appropriations Committee Chairman Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin); House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) and House Majority Leader Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula). 

House Public Health Committee

Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) and the Public Health Committee took up these bills:

  • HB 226, authored by Cooper, addresses Medicaid treatment of individuals with HIV.  The legislation previously passed out of the committee. It moves those who are HIV positive to be moved onto the Medicaid program (individuals would be 100 percent of federal poverty level). The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation to the substitute, moving the legislation forward to the House Rules Committee.

  • HB 453, authored by Representative Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), addresses ambulance services and the payment of annual license fees in Title 31. Cooper presented the initiative in the absence of Hilton. Fees were paid for federal matching funds so that this would help fund ambulance services across Georgia. The funds raised were not being provided to ambulance services. The legislation eliminates the tax. Josh Mackey supported the legislation; the fee has been paid for 20 years without any direct return — the funding has gone to indigent care in general. Every single ambulance service pays — it is around $4 million paid annually. Cooper indicated that the hospitals across the state have been made whole so there is no excuse to have to pay the tax. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving the initiative to the House Rules Committee.

  • HB 557, authored by Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), addresses the authority of certain nurses and physician assistants to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances in Chapter 34 of Title 43. This addresses physician’s assistants and APRNs to prescribe a short course of medicine, C-II drugs. It is modeled after a South Carolina law. Schedule IIs are prohibited to be prescribed in Georgia and Oklahoma. There are other states with other permissions for controlled II drugs. The Composite Medical Board has some challenges with its job descriptions. Delays in licensing and protocols further exacerbate the state's workforce issues. It is necessary to clear the clogs to get these folks' licensing and protocols cleared as quickly as possible. The bill has direct language from the Health Care Workforce Commission’s report. The APRNs must have one year of experience to write prescriptions for five days' supply. The APRN has to have direct contact with the patient.  If patients are under the age of 18, the only medications allowed are hydrocodone or ADD. The APRN is also required to have added continuing education. The Composite Medical Board duties are streamlined as well. The nurses are licensed by the nursing board and then get permission from the Composite Medical Board  presently, there is a six-month lag for the protocols to be approved. Stephens asked that language be struck regarding APRNs and physicians’ assistants prescribing hydrocodone medications for individuals under age of 18. In approving the protocols, there is no reference that the nurse’s license would be in good standing according to Cooper (insert at line 37 and line ), and that language will be added for both the APRN and physicians’ assistant. Representative Michelle Au, MD (D-Johns Creek) explained her concerns — the last thing that the state needs is more individuals to have the ability to prescribe opioids. Even a five-day course can increase addiction.  Deaths have increased more than 62 percent over the last three years with overdoses. Stephens explained how they determined problems but now NPI numbers, and it can be almost instantaneous if they write a prescription (utilizing both the nurse/PA’s number and the physician’s NPI number). His amendment eliminates the nurse or physician’s assistant's ability to write hydrocodone under age 18. Representative Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs) noted her concerns; her physician husband wants to see the patient in person. Representative Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) asked about the clarification to limit opioids only to those 18 and older. Cooper asked how many APRNS would be possibly prescribing — less than 18,000. Cooper is also concerned that much of the education for APRNs is online, and they do not have good clinicals. Representative Jodi Lott (R-Evans) asked whether these APRNs or physician assistants were directly under a physician; Stephens indicated they would be under a protocol agreement. Representative Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn) expressed that he liked the bill. The opioid addiction issues are not the bad actors being addressed in this legislation. Adding additional prescribers will necessarily provoke more. Is this access to healthcare or access to opioids — it allows more readiness to write more opioid prescriptions, according to Au. Representative Teddy Reese (D-Columbus) indicated his physician wife was pleased with the legislation. He wants to see the state and country get a handle on opioid abuse but the state and country also need to balance the needs of healthcare. Representative Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna) stated that APRNS are underutilized in Georgia. Representative Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) moved DO PASS substitute LC 33 9429. An amendment was offered to strike hydrocodone for those under the age of 18 which was adopted. Lines 38 and 127 were also amended to address the good standing of the license of the APRN and physician’s assistant. The substitute as amended was DO PASSED, moving the bill to the House Rules Committee. There were two no votes.

  • HB 565, authored by Representative Tyler Paul Smith (R-Bremen), addresses temporary assistance for needy families and seeks to increase access to benefits in Chapter 4 of Title 49.  This bill was held until Wednesday at the author’s request.

  • HB 520, authored by Representative Todd Jones (R-Cumming), was before the Committee as a Substitute, LC 33 9452S.  Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) offered a variety of amendments to the Committee for consideration. At the time of the publication of this report, the Committee was still meeting.

Senate Insurance and Labor Committee

Chairman Larry Walker, III (R-Perry) and his Insurance and Labor Committee discussed the following measures in an early morning meeting:

  • SB 20, authored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta), is the amendment to the “Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act” in Title 33. The goal is to provide language on “network adequacy.” The legislation was reported out of the Subcommittee in a substitute version, but Walker had some additional questions and concerns, and a new committee substitute was before the committee for review this morning. No testimony was allowed at the meeting this morning. The legislation, as described by Kirkpatrick, is “complex.” It exempts the HMOs from the legislation and it tightens the definition of what is an HMO; it addresses adequate networks; provides the Department of Insurance criteria in looking at network adequacy; inserts telehealth parameters; permits the Department of Insurance the ability to make rules; allows the Department to monitor; provides for annual reports and allows the Department to do data calls and audit insurers as well as assess penalties for violations. Walker indicated that the legislation was a step forward for Georgia consumers. There were questions about the HMOs — Senator Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson) asked if Kaiser Permanente was excluded; the entity is excluded along with other HMOs. The legislation does not deal with the state’s marketplace for insurance coverage — it impacts group health plans and the employers who are purchasing plans for their employees. The committee gave a DO PASS recommendation to the legislation, moving it forward to the Senate Rules Committee.

  • SB 186, authored by Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), seeks to enact the “Georgia Landowners Protection Act” in Chapter 3 of Title 51. Dolezal indicated that the legislation was intended to address “Georgia’s judicial hell hole.” It proposes to limit landowner liability regarding invitees, licensees, and trespassers; provide for no landowner liability due to alleged constructive notice of prior crimes or violent nature; and provide for apportionment of fault. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving it forward to the Senate Rules Committee.

  • SB 225, authored by Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone), seeks to add at O.C.G.A. 33-25-14 requirements for an insurer to conduct a quarterly search of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' policy locator and to require for annual reporting to the Commissioner of Insurance. The issue is that several policies are purchased, the insured dies, and the beneficiaries are unaware of the existence of policies and sometimes do not know of the deaths of the insureds. This is not the first time that Harbin has offered this legislation. Bobby Potter, with the American Council of Life Insurers, opposed the bill indicating that its requirements were redundant with Georgia law. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, moving the measure forward to the Senate Rules Committee.

  • SB 142, authored by Senator Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown), seeks to redefine the definition of “dangerous dog” at O.C.G.A. 4-8-27. Further, the legislation seeks to require that owners of “dangerous dogs” must maintain minimum liability insurance coverage.  Further, the legislation seeks to create criminal penalties for an owner's failure to maintain minimum liability insurance coverage for a dangerous or vicious dog and add language for imputable negligence, so as to provide an additional ground for proving vicious propensity in tort actions relating to the liability of owners or keepers of vicious or dangerous animals for injuries caused by such animals. An attorney, Claudine Wilkins, spoke to the specifics of the bill, noting in part that many counties do not realize that they are required to have a designated individual for rabies and dog control in their jurisdictions. She did acknowledge that it is difficult to evaluate an animal’s propensity of aggression and veterinarians do not wish to be involved. The Committee had several questions about the bill, and Walker indicated that he thought the legislation may have been best reviewed by the Judiciary Committee. A motion was made to table the legislation which was bipartisan; the motion carried and the bill was tabled.

Senate Children and Families Committee

Chairman Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) and the Children and Families Committee took up these measures:

  • SB 64, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), seeks to add new language in O.C.G.A. 31-10-14  to provide for the issuance of a copy of the original birth certificate to certain adult persons (those over the age of 18) who were adopted for a fee. Robertson explained LC 33 9460S. It removes restrictions from individuals involved in closed adoptions so that when they get to the age of 18, they may petition the state for their original birth certificate upon payment of fees. Some were concerned about closed adoption cases. It is about understanding and knowing who they are. The Department is neutral about the legislation. There were concerns about public safety but Robertson feels those are not warranted. Senator Derek Mallow (D-Savannah) asked to clarify that it is possible to obtain a copy of one’s birth certificate if you have means to do so. The original bill had a date and this substitute removed the date. It applies to individuals who were born in Georgia. Senator Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia) moved to DO PASS. Kirkpatrick noted a number of letters from individuals that senators received supporting this idea. The legislation received a unanimous DO PASS recommendation.

  • SB 230, authored by Senator Matt Brass (R-Newnan), amends Chapter 5 of Title 49.  The legislation proposes to revise provisions relating to the foster parents bill of rights.  The legislation also provides for definitions and that such rights include relative caregivers and fictive kin. Brass explained this as an update which was originally passed 20 years ago. Foster care parents can seek advice from attorneys or certified volunteer advocates. It adds “reasonable and prudent parent” standard in the Code. Tom Rawlings was invited to speak but he declined. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation on LC 33 9329; the bill moves forward to the Senate Rules Committee.

  • HB 129, authored by Representative Soo Hong (R-Lawrenceville),amends Chapter 4 of Title 49 to expand temporary assistance for needy families’ eligibility criteria to pregnant women. The legislation also revises definitions and repeals a provision relating to elimination of increment in benefits. Hong explained her legislation LC 33 9271-EC. It is the governor’s bill, expanding TANF eligibility to pregnant women. Now, women can only get TANF after the birth of the child. It does not change the 48 month cap. Merritt asked about limitations on services that a pregnant women can receive; no, it is the same benefits that a woman now may receive. Senator Jason Estevez (D-Atlanta) asked about the income cap amount; the income limits vary based on the family size. It is lower than Medicaid. On average, for a family of three, the benefits are $280 per month which they may receive. Taylor Hawkins, with Front Line Policy Council, supported the legislation. The bill received a unanimous DO PASS recommendation, moving now to the Senate Rules Committee. Senator Mike Hodges (R-Brunswick) will carry the legislation in the Senate.

Senate Education & Youth Committee

The Senate Education & Youth Committee, chaired by Senator Clint Dixon (R-Gwinnett), met on Tuesday to consider the following legislation:

  • SB 211, authored by Senator Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro), amends Title 20 to establish the Georgia Council on Literacy. The bill also requires local school systems to develop and implement five-year literacy plans and individual literacy plans for students in kindergarten through grade five.

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

  • SB 204, authored by Senator Dolezal (R-Cumming), amends Title 20 to provide for the recognition of certain accrediting agencies as evaluators of the quality of education offered in public schools in this state.

Dolezal presented the bill to the Committee, explaining that he has worked with advocates for Cognia, the largest accreditation organization, and they are agreeable to the bill. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 233, authored by Dolezal, is the “Georgia Promise Scholarship Act.” The bill amends Title 20 to provide for the establishment of promise scholarship accounts to be funded by the state in the amount of $6,000.00 per school year for each participating student.

Dolezal presented the bill alongside Jamie Lord, who represents the Georgia Center for Opportunity and is promoting the legislation. The Committee was presented with a Substitute that provides that funding for scholarships is frozen in years when QBE is not fully funded, remaining funds after high school graduation are refunded to the State, and funds may be used for instructional technology. Questions from Committee members included inquiries as to eligibility of current private school students, student assessment and comparability, and the amount of funding to be provided.

Speakers in support of the legislation included Buzz Brockway of the Georgia Center for Opportunity; Holly Terry, a self-described product of school choice; Molly Guerro, a mother of eight children including a special needs child; Amanda McGee, a parent and her son; and Taylor Hawkins of Frontline Policy Action.

Speakers in opposition of the legislation included Cindy Battles of The Peoples’ Agenda, Lisa Morgan of the Georgia Association of Educators.

Public testimony was suspended before other proponents and opponents were allowed to testify. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

The Committee delayed SB 208 until Wednesday’s meeting.

House Education - Curriculum Subcommittee

Chair Bethany Ballard (R-Warner Robins) called the committee to order to discuss the following:

  • HB 538, authored by Ballard, amends Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the O.C.G.A. This measure, also known as the Georgia Early Literacy Act, seeks to improve literacy for Georgia’s students from birth to third grade. Representative Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia) asked how this would be paid for and if it would be statewide. Ballard said this would be statewide and that school districts have funds to pay for approved curriculum. Representative Segun Adeyina (D-Grayson) asked about those who are not native English speakers. Representative Lauren Daniel (R-Locust Grove) expressed support of the measure and if there were any statistics on removing phonics from the curriculum. Ballard noted she did not but Mississippi has better scores than Georgia.

Buddy Costley from the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, Georgia Association of Educators, Catherine Duly from Voice for Georgia’s Children, Margaret Ciccarelli from the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, Jack Powers, John Zauner from the Georgia School Superintendent Association, and Michael O’Sullivan expressed support of the measure. Some testimony included

The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 537, authored by Representative Becky Evans (D-Atlanta), seeks to amend Title 20 of the O.C.G.A., which also addresses literacy instruction. The measure includes child learning centers and requires them to stay up to date on evidence-based literacy instruction. The measure also includes updates for teachers being certified and re-certified that their testing is aligned with evidence-based literacy instruction. A substitute was presented that removes learning styles under differentiated instruction because it is not evidence-based. Representative Carter asked if both bills pass what it means for teachers. Evans noted first teachers will be tested on evidenced-based literacy instruction.

Dr. Amy Sharma from Science for Georgia and Ellen Reynold from the Georgia Childcare Association expressed support for the measure.

The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 340, authored by Representative John Corbett (R-Lake Park), amends subpart 2 of Part 6 of Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the O.C.G.A. to address teacher burnout. The measure seeks to create a daily planning period for teachers of grades six through 12. Additionally, this measure requires teachers to review safety plans regularly and allows teachers to supervise students once a week during this period. Provisions are included for duty-free lunch periods for kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers. Carter expressed concern over some parts of the bill. Corbett felt that some of the extreme conditions Carter was concerned over the language, which allows teachers to scrap their period should an emergency occur. He used the example of an intruder or some other event. Representative Daniel asked if high school teachers were exempted from duty-free lunches. Representative Chris Erwin (R-Homer) acknowledged that, generally, high school teachers do not have to watch their students like teachers of younger students do.

John Zauner from the Georgia School Superintendent Association and represented the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, Tiffany Taylor from the Georgia Department of Education, and DeAnna Harris from Educators First expressed support for the measure.

Jeff Hubbard from the Georgia Association of Educators and Margaret Ciccarelli from the Professional Association of Georgia Educators expressed support and suggested a change to ensure the planning time cannot be waivered.

The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 506, authored by Representative Ginny Ehrhart (R-Marietta), seeks to amend Title 20 of the O.C.G.A. to change school accrediting laws. She explained the value of accreditation includes being eligible for the HOPE scholarship and admission to some colleges, and that it is viewed as a stamp of approval. COGNIA is the largest accreditor in our state and is a third-party organization with no oversight by a state governing body despite receiving public funds, nor does it have an appeals process. A substitute was presented, which creates guardrails for the accrediting process. The bill creates a new Article in the O.C.G.A. to define a recognized accrediting agency and establish accrediting criteria by DOE with 80% on student achievement and gap closure and progress and 20% on the financial viability of the school district. Provisions for due process measures which include hearing, right to appeal, and schools to be represented by counsel, are included. It would create limits on agencies selling materials to schools. If a dispute arises between the agency and the school, a dispute resolution process is created. Erwin asked if the author was amenable to changing the criteria to 35% for financials and 65% for student achievement. Ehrhart accepted the change. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation as amended.

House Insurance Committee

Chairman Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee) called the Committee to order early Tuesday morning to discuss the following measures.

  • HB 384, authored by Representative Sharon Henderson (D-Covington), amends Code Section 33-29-3.2 of the O.C.G.A. to have insurance providers notify their subscribers of coverage for annual prostate antigen testing at age 45. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 529, authored by Representative Noel Williams (R-Cordele), seeks to amend Titles 33 and 40 of the O.C.G.A. to change the limits on uninsured or underinsured motorists. This measure specifically is to address taxi services and includes Uber and Lyft. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), met late Monday to consider the following legislation:

  • SB 74, authored by Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), amends Titles 10, 15, and 51 to prohibit false advertising related to legal services. The bill also prohibits persons ineligible to provide legal services from holding themselves out as attorneys and prohibits liability for the misrepresentation of the practice of law. Violations could be punished as misdemeanors, and the bill provides for a private right of action.

Tillery presented the bill to the Committee, explaining that it is intended to address “puffery” in legal advertising that Tillery believes has gone too far. After Tillery outlined the bill, the Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 157, authored by Strickland (R-McDonough), amends multiple titles to create a preclearance process in the licensing of individuals with criminal records who make an application to or are investigated by certain licensing boards and commissions and provide other procedural protections for these individuals.

Strickland presented the bill to the Committee, explaining that the bill emerged from an informal working group of legislators and other stakeholders intended to build on the work of criminal justice reform in Georgia. Strickland explained that the bill is intended to reduce barriers for Georgians with criminal records who have paid their debt to society and want to reengage meaningfully in society. The legislation provides consistency in what licensing agencies consider and how they evaluate applicants with criminal records. For licensing boards under the Secretary of State and independent licensing boards, this includes providing for a licensing predetermination process, a burden of proof on boards in considering criminal records, rights to present evidence and witnesses, and an appeals process.

Senator Hatchett (R-Cornelia) asked about the definition of “directly related”, asking whether it needed to clarify that the direct relation is to the licensure being sought. Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) inquired about the felonies listed and implications for an individual who may have participated in rehab or a diversion program not resulting in a conviction.

Wade Askew and Emmy Williams of the Georgia Justice Project appeared in support of the legislation. Senator Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) asked whether the State Bar should be included in the bill, to which Mr. Askew explained that constitutional issues preclude the State Bar’s inclusion. Mr. Askew also noted that the bill does cover all professions under Title 43. Setzler also expressed general support for opening licensure to individuals with records, but he drew a line between professions like barbers and estheticians and roles like public accounting. A client of Ms. Williams spoke to his experience around licensing with a moving personal story. The Georgia Center for Opportunity, Georgia Faith and Freedom, Small Business Majority, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank all appeared in support of the legislation.

The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 182, authored by Senator Sonya Halpern (D-Atlanta), amends Title 16 to provide for the offense of doxxing. The bill defines doxxing as “publish[ing] private or identifying information about a particular person on social media with malicious purpose”. The offense may be punished as a misdemeanor or as a felony for subsequent offenses or if serious physical injury is inflicted.

Halpern presented the bill to the Committee, which recommended that the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 185, authored by Senator Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville), amends Title 15 to provide for the appointment of additional assistant district attorneys in judicial circuits with multiple detention facilities.

Williams presented the bill to the Committee, explaining that judicial circuits with multiple state detention facilities are strained with prosecutions of offenses occurring in the facilities in addition to offenses occurring in the public. Two district attorneys spoke in support of the legislation. Mazie Lynn Guertin of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers expressed support for the legislation but asked that the Committee consider also providing for additional public defenders in the judicial circuits where additional assistant district attorneys are being sought. Strickland expressed an interest in moving the legislation but encouraged GACDL to work with Williams to try and work out an amendment if they can.

The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 201, authored by Senator Jason Esteves (D-Atlanta), amends Title 51 to provide for the revival of claims for damages available to victims of human trafficking. Specifically, the bill provides a two-year window beginning on July 1, 2023, for individuals with currently time-barred claims to bring suit.

Halpern presented the bill to the Committee, which recommended that the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 219, authored by Senator Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Title 16 to provide for an exception to the definition of firearm in relation to possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of or attempt to commit certain crimes and Brady Law regulations.

Robertson presented the bill to the Committee, explaining that the bill is intended to clarify that, in the hands of a law enforcement officer, a taser or stun gun is not a firearm. Senators John Kennedy (R-Macon) and Harold Jones II (D-Augusta) expressed confusion and concern over the need and purpose of the bill. Mazie Lynn Guertin and Arturo Corso of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers expressed similar concerns on the legislation. GACDL explained that the bill would provide a shield for a law enforcement officer who is already being charged with a felony.

The Committee deferred action on the bill.

Senate Public Safety Committee

Chairman John Albers (R-Roswell) was called to order late Monday afternoon to discuss the following measures:

  • SB 218, authored by Senator Michael ‘Doc’ Rhett (D-Marietta), amends Article 5 of Chapter 5 of Title 40 of the O.C.C.G.A. to require the Department of Drivers Services provide an identification card to those who are leaving incarceration. This does not apply to county jails only individuals leaving Department of Corrections custody. Robertson clarified that the individual would receive an ID card and a driver’s license —permitted they passed all required testing for the driver’s license. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • SB 237, authored by Senator Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia), amends Part 3 of Article 7 of Chapter 3 of Title 20 to create a loan repayment process for full-time peace officers. This is a Governor's Bill. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • SB 38, authored by Senator Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Code Section 40-14-18 relating to school zones. This measure was moved off the table and received a DO PASS recommendation.

House Ways & Means - Tax Revision Subcommittee

Chair Mark Newton (R-Augusta) called the Subcommittee to order to discuss one measure.

  • HB 100, originally authored by Representative Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), seeks to amend Chapter 7 of Title 48 of the O.C.G.A. A substitute was presented. The originally bill was stripped, and LC 43 2743S was presented. Representative Clint Crowe (R-Jackson) added definitions for rural hospital. It also raises limits for partnerships such as LLCs and SCorps to $25,000 with an aggregate amount of $80 million per year. It was also allowed for contributions to be made to the cap. This credit would sunset December 31, 2028. Additionally, Crowe included the GOAL Scholarship Program credit which changes the aggregate amount of $130 million in 2024. If used, the amount increases by $10 million per year until it gets to $150 million and stops. The sunset for this will also be in December 31, 2028. The last change is to montage loan originators credits and allows for $10 million aggregate with $2 million per year. Individual contributors can give $5,000 per year, $10,000 for married couples per year, and $10,000 for partnerships. There is a December 31, 2028 sunset included.

New Legislation

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


Georgia Crime Information Center; criminal history record information restrictions for certain persons convicted of certain criminal offenses; provide

Rep. Tyler Smith (R-018)



Audit and Accounts, Department of; require certain financial disclosures from entities performing work related to fiscal notes

Rep. Mike Cheokas (R-151)



Crimes and offenses; online menacing of a peace officer; provide for offense

Rep. Mike Cameron (R-001)



State government; remove exemption of administrative review from Board of Corrections and its penal institutions

Rep. Kim Schofield (D-063)



Juvenile Code; termination of parental rights involving parental incapacity and child maltreatment; expedite and prioritize processes

Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-121)



Persons and their rights; life from the moment of conception is accorded same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons; provide

Rep. Charlice Byrd (R-020)



REACH Scholarship; victims of human trafficking are eligible; provide

Rep. Robert Dickey (R-145)



State health planning and development; certificate of need; revise definitions

Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-045)



Education; revise definition of Zell Miller Scholarship Scholar by changing ACT score requirement for certain students

Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-169)



Budgetary and financial affairs; disposition of state funds derived from certain legal judgments or settlements; provide

Rep. James Burchett (R-176)



Coweta County; State Court; add additional judge

Rep. Lynn Smith (R-070)



State government; consider antisemitism when determining whether an alleged criminal act was motivated by discriminatory intent; require state agencies

Rep. Becky Evans (D-089)



House Study Committee on the Jobs Tax Credit Tier System; create

Rep. Penny Houston (R-170)


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


Georgia Child Advocate for the Protection of Children Act; additional duties regarding legal representation of children and parents; provide

Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-050)



Superior Court of Banks County; move from the Piedmont Judicial Circuit to the Mountain Judicial Circuit

Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-050)



"Georgia Electric Vehicle Future Act"; enact

Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-050)



Education; postsecondary educational institutions, local school systems; prohibit the use of political litmus tests

Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-027)



Notaries Public; electronic notarization of certain notarial acts using real time audio-video communication technology; provide

Sen. Blake Tillery (R-019)



Retirement and Pensions; fiduciary duty to invest retirement assets solely in the financial interests of participants and their beneficiaries; provide

Sen. Marty Harbin (R-016)



Surgical or Diagnostic Procedures; certain examinations on  an anesthetized or unconscious patient without prior informed consent; prohibit

Sen. Nabilah Islam (D-007)



Education; waiver and variance requests by local school systems requesting flexibility; provide for limitations

Sen. Nabilah Islam (D-007)



Firearms; transfer or purchase of a firearm in proximity of a school safety zone or hospital; prohibit

Sen. Nabilah Islam (D-007)



Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority; in-person electronic execution of notarial certificates; authorize

Sen. John Albers (R-056)



Courts; supplement the duties of administrative judges; Criminal Case Data Exchange Board; reestablish

Sen. John Kennedy (R-018)


What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 26 on Wednesday, March 1. The House will convene at 10:00 a.m. and the Senate will convene at 1:00 p.m.

The House is expected to consider the following measures on Legislative Day 26:

  • HB 43 - Council on American Indian Concerns; revise membership (SP&CA-46th)

  • HB 51 - Education; local boards of education use vehicles other than school buses for transport of students; authorize (Substitute)(Ed-169th)

  • HB 63 - Insurance; insurers providing policies for groups of 20 or more to furnish claims experience at the request of a group policyholder; require (Ins-148th)

  • HB 130 -Georgia Student Finance Authority; student loan repayment for peace officers; provide (Substitute)(HEd-15th)

  • HB 185 - Education; provide for HOPE Inclusive Postsecondary Education (IPSE) grants (Substitute)(HEd-120th)

  • HB 244 - Board of Natural Resources; effective date for certain rules and regulations; extend (Substitute)(GF&P-166th)

  • HB 273 - Board of Natural Resources; extend date by which rules and regulations must be in effect for purposes of establishing criminal violations (NR&E-167th)

  • HB 295 - Insurance; consumer protections against surprise billing; revise certain procedures (Ins-27th)

  • HB 298 - Courts; exemptions or deferment from jury services for natural or adoptive mothers of children six months of age or younger; provide (Substitute)(Judy-117th)

  • HB 308 - Revenue and taxation; certain medical preceptor rotations; revise tax credit (W&M-127th)

  • HB 311 - Ad valorem tax; option temporary tax relief to certain properties located in nationally declared federal disaster areas; provide (W&M-70th)

  • HB 318 - Education; reestablishment of Office of Charter School Compliance under State Charter Schools Commission (Substitute)(Ed-48th)

  • HB 336 - Building and housing; prohibit Georgia state minimum standards codes from prohibiting use of certain refrigerants (NR&E-28th)

  • HB 338 - Student Technology Protection Act; enact (Substitute)(Ed-32nd)

  • HB 362 - Insurance; benefit provider to disclose certain payments to a treating healthcare provider; provide (Ins-74th)

  • HB 402 - Education; water safety education information to parents of students under 18 years of age and to students 18 years of age and older; provide (Substitute)(ED-48th)

  • HB 406 - Georgia Public Service Commission; regulation of provision of certain electricity used as a motor fuel in electric vehicles; provide (Substitute)(T&II-11th)

  • HB 436 - Surface mining; revise maximum criminal penalties for violations (NR&E-174th)

  • HB 460 - Courts; child’s right to legal representation in legitimation cases; provide (Substitute)(JuvJ-23rd)

  • HB 500 - Crimes and offenses; offense of arson of law enforcement vehicle; provide (PS&HS-151st)

  • Crimes and offenses; riot; provide for a felony penalty (PS&HS-151st)

  • HB 508 - Crimes and offenses; orders be served on a respondent within 24 hours of the court’s issuance of such order; provide (JuvJ-23rd)

  • HB 509 - Crimes and offenses; burglary; include an act of family violence (Substitute) (JuvJ-23rd)

The Senate is expected to consider the following measures on Legislative Day 26:

  • SB 32 - "Alyssa's Law" (Substitute)(E&Y-31st)

  • SB 46 - Control of Sexually Transmitted Disease; physicians and healthcare providers to test all pregnant women for HIV and syphilis at the first prenatal visit, at 28–32 weeks' gestation, and at delivery; require (Substitute)(H&HS-52nd)

  • SB 86 - Superior Courts; Atlantic Judicial Circuit; additional judge; provide (Judy-4th)

  • SB 107 - "Izzy's Law"; Depart. of Public Health shall develop and make available for download from its internet website a model aquatic safety plan based on national standards for private swim instructors; provide (C&F-23rd)

  • SB 131 - Permanent Guardianship; service by publication; provide (Substitute)(C&F-19th)

  • SB 133 - Juvenile Code; a uniform process to assume custody of children as a result of disposition orders; create (Substitute)(C&F-17th)

  • SB 134 - Evidence; that a child witness be deemed competent to testify without taking the oath; provide (C&F-46th)

  • SB 135 - Paternity; Uniform Parentage Act of 2017; align evidentiary medical and genetic testing (Substitute)(C&F-32nd)

  • SB 216 - Children and Youth Services; respite care for foster parents for longer periods of time pursuant to circumstances; authorize (C&F-28th)

  • SR 175 - Joint Study Committee on Dual Enrollment for Highly Skilled Talent at Younger Ages; create (Rules-28th)

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