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Gold Dome Report – Legislative Day 3 (2024)
Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Governor Kemp previews his budget and policy priorities for the 2024 Legislative Session at the Georgia Chamber’s Eggs & Issues breakfast at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Thursday.

Hundreds of lawmakers, lobbyists, and businesspeople from around the state gathered before dawn on Wednesday for breakfast with a side of politics on the field of Mercedes Benz Stadium. This year’s edition of the Georgia Chamber’s annual Eggs & Issues event featured a new location, improved eggs, and a preview of the priorities that Governor Brian Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, and Speaker of the House Jon Burns are bringing to the 2024 legislative session. In short, everyone’s focused on improving the state’s infrastructure and workforce so that Georgia can keep its coveted #1 State to Do Business badge on LinkedIn. More details on the leaders’ priorities and pet projects for 2024 in this #GoldDomeReport

After breakfast, the General Assembly convened for Legislative Day 3, but each chamber gaveled in and out with relative haste. No significant floor action was taken, although several committees did meet to begin work on legislation. All eyes will return to the House floor on Thursday when Governor Kemp delivers his State of the State address at 11:00 a.m. Follow along with our team using the hashtag #GoldDomeReport on whatever we call that microblogging platform these days.

And for those wondering — no, we still don’t have an adjournment resolution.

In this Report:

  • State Leaders Preview Priorities at Eggs & Issues
  • Committee Reports
  • New Legislation
  • What’s Next

State Leaders Preview Priorities at Eggs & Issues

From the field of Mercedes Benz Stadium, state leaders unveiled parts of their playbooks for the 2024 legislative session on Wednesday morning at the Georgia Chamber’s annual Eggs & Issues breakfast. While hundreds of legislators, lobbyists, and businesspeople enjoyed some of the most expensive egg frittatas and Chick-fil-A biscuits they are likely to ever consume, Governor Brian Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, and Speaker of the House Jon Burns highlighted what they are focusing on under the Gold Dome this spring.

Kicking off the presentations, Speaker Burns zeroed in on healthcare, immediately piquing the interest of listeners when he affirmed that House leaders would “continue to gather facts” on a private option for Medicaid expansion in Georgia. Recently discussed as a potential complement to Certificate of Need reform, Burns' comments added additional weight to the conversation. Burns also emphasized his commitment to school safety through school safety grants and public safety with additional investments in state law enforcement. He also discussed election security as a likely topic for consideration this spring.

Lieutenant Governor Jones acknowledged some of the successes from his first legislative session as president of the state senate before turning to unfinished business and priorities ahead. School choice loomed large with Jones pointing the finger at the Georgia House of Representatives for failing to pass Senate Bill 233 in 2023, saying “I know they will” move on it in 2024. He also highlighted his "Red Tape Rollback," a platform aimed at improving government efficiency for Georgians.

Governor Kemp rounded out the remarks by moderating his position on tort reform and announcing big spending plans for some of the state’s record surplus. Kemp acknowledged that tort reform is going to be a multi-year effort, but announced that he would be proposing legislation to “stabilize the market” for insurers and consumers this year. He also gave a peak at his budget proposals likely to be released later this week, announcing $1.5 billion in investment in infrastructure around the state. More details on the budget and the governor’s policy priorities are expected in Thursday’s State of the State address.

Committee Reports

House Higher Education Committee

Chairman Chuck Martin (R-Marietta) called the House Higher Education Committee for a presentation from the Georgia Student Finance Commission on the Completion Grant Program Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report. Chairman Martin explained his goal for this legislative session is to change the code to ensure readability.

Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) asked for clarification on a chart. President Riley explained that 70% of recipients completed their program. Representative Betsy Holland (D-Atlanta) asked about changing the threshold to 75% and her opinions. Based on the survey, Georgia Student Finance Commission President Lynne Riley believes there need to be different thresholds for two-year or less programs. Chairman Martin explained a bill was offered last year but did not make it through sine die. Representative Jasmine Clark (D-Lilburn) asked for clarification on utilization. President Riley explained it is primarily a threshold concern. Representative Edna Jackson (D-Savannah) asked for a copy with a breakdown by each university. Riley explained it was included in the handout. Representative Carter Barrett (R-Cumming) asked for any historical program context. Martin explained the history. Representative Clark asked what office was in charge of this program at the schools and Riley explained who was the individual campuses' office of financial aid. They are in charge of identifying students and administering the funds.

Chairman Martin opened the floor to members to discuss issues and bills they wanted to focus on. Representative Carpenter highlighted HB 131. Representative Lydia Glaize (D-Fairburn) discussed need-based financial aid for students who were victims of crimes. Representative Jackson mentioned that money is allocated based on enrollment. Representative Barrett discussed retired citizens returning to certificate programs. Representative Robert Dickey (R-Musella) highlighted HB 605. The chair introduced the staff and then adjourned the meeting.

House Health Committee

The House Health Committee, under the leadership of Representative Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), met Wednesday afternoon to take up three matters:

  • A hearing only was held on Representative Karen Mathiak’s (R-Griffin) upcoming proposal to amend Georgia’s law on newborn screening in order to add Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy to the current listing of diseases. Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy testified on the rationale for adding this disease to the screenings. It is the most common neuromuscular disease, and it is commonly diagnosed in children at age five. The disease affects mostly males, and the skeletal muscles are primarily impacted. The disease is a progressive condition and 100% life-limiting. Most individuals with this disease die by their late 20s. Niki Armstrong, associate vice president of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, talked about the diagnostic odyssey parents are facing with this disease. Most children begin displaying symptoms by the age of two. There are currently seven FDA-approved therapies (mostly steroids but there is a gene therapy offered only for children ages four to five) for these children who are diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and it is seen in approximately one in 5,000 males. A simple blood test can provide a diagnosis of the disease and assist parents in getting help for their children sooner. In addition to getting children the approved therapies, parents are also provided opportunities to get their children early intervention services (such as physical therapy) for cognitive delays, autistic issues, language delays, etc. While the disease is rare, it is common, and they recited that perhaps as many as 12 children born in Georgia in 2021 had the disease. Other states have adopted laws to require genetic testing for the disease, and the costs associated with the blood test will depend on the algorithm selected by the state but it generally is around $8 per baby. The costs to the family for delaying the testing can be as much as $200,000 (such as medical costs, ER visits, productivity costs, etc.). Ohio and New York recently started screenings, and other states have legislation that has been filed.
  • HB 434 was presented by lobbyist Becky Ryles. The legislation is authored by Chairman Hawkins. It seeks to provide in Chapter 34 of Title 43 for the licensing of radiology assistants. A hearing had been held last session on this idea which will allow a radiology technician to become a radiology assistant with additional training (two years). The bill was requested by radiologists to help provide quicker results to patients. It will increase the workforce, and the Composite Medical Board will set the parameters under which these individuals will work. This legislation received a DO PASS recommendation and moves to the House Rules Committee.
  • HB 502, authored by Representative Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs), amends Article 9 of Chapter 34 of Title 43, the “Georgia Cosmetic Laser Services Act.” It updates the definition of “cosmetic laser services” and addresses supervision requirements, eliminating the requirement for a senior cosmetic laser services practitioner to be “on-site”. The bill was requested by the Georgia Dermatologists Association. There were comments that this legislation was also known as the “Melting Fat Bill” as it includes crilipolysis in the list of services. The legislation also received a DO PASS recommendation and moves to the House Rules Committee.

Chairman Hawkins also noted that for the coming days of this session, all amendments and substitutes are to be provided to Morgan Hall 24 hours in advance of a meeting. Additionally, anyone wishing to make a public comment is to inform the chairman’s office before any meetings. Finally, he noted that a committee dinner would be held on January 23.

Senate Health and Human Services Committee

Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) called the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to order with a prayer by Senator Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain).

  • HB 571, authored by Representative Silcox, amends Article 8 of Chapter 6 of Title 49 of the O.C.G.A. relating to the Alzheimer's and Related Dementias State Plan. The bill changes the reporting requirements, and the advisory council will submit a midpoint report on the state plan.

The committee unanimously recommended that this bill DO PASS and be sent to Senate Rules. Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) will carry the measure forward.

Senate Finance Committee

Chair Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) called the Senate Finance Committee to order to hear one measure.

  • HB 290, authored by Representative Mitchell Scoggins (R-Cartersville), amends Article 6 of Chapter 5 of Title 48 of the O.C.G.A. relating to a tax commissioner's salary and fee system. L.C. 50 0445S allows tax commissioners to create a three-party agreement between the county, commissioner, and the municipality. The measure caps the amount a tax commissioner can receive on top of their salary at 50% of their salary and appropriates any additional funds to the contracting municipality.

The committee voted to pass the committee substitute, which Chairman Hufstetler will carry

New Legislation

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

H.B.880 Professions and businesses; military spouses to use an existing license in good standing from another state; allow Rep. Bethany Ballard (R-147) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65964
H.B.881 Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission; standards of conduct and rules; provisions Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-019) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65965
H.B.882 Law enforcement officers and agencies; prohibit posting of booking photograph until individual is convicted Rep. Roger Bruce (D-061) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65966
H.B.883 State government; county boards of health to conduct meetings via teleconference; authorize Rep. Devan Seabaugh (R-034) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65967
H.B.885 Community Association Transparency and Protection Act; enact Rep. Kimberly Alexander (D-066) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65969
H.B.887 Insurance; use of artificial intelligence in making certain decisions regarding coverage; prohibit Rep. Mandisha Thomas (D-065) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65973
H.B.889 Parental Waiver Save My Young Life Act; enact Rep. Mandisha Thomas (D-065) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65975
H.B.890 Laws and statutes; artificial intelligence and automated decision tools; provide for protections against discrimination Rep. Mandisha Thomas (D-065) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65976
H.B.891 Income tax; certain social extracurricular expenses for home school students; provide tax credit Rep. Mandisha Thomas (D-065) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65977

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

S.B.342 Child Abuse Records; child abuse and neglect registries; authorize the disclosure Sen. Randy Robertson (R-029) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65959
S.R.436 Together Georgia; recognize Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-032) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/65956

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 4 on Thursday, Jan. 11 at 10:00 a.m.

See our coverage of Day 1 here.

See our coverage of Day 2 here.

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