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Gold Dome Report – Legislative Day 6 (2024)
Monday, January 22, 2024

The Georgia General Assembly was back in action on Monday, and a cooperative spirit was in the air. After a week together in Joint Appropriations hearings, the House and Senate returned to their respective chambers — to take up a couple of each other's bills. Legislators took a pair of special actions, with the House agreeing to the Senate amendment to the House Substitute for SB 35 (which now provides for continuous glucose monitors as a pharmacy benefit for Medicaid recipients), while the Senate receded from its disagreement with the House Substitute for SB 159 and agreed to the substitute (which prohibits wireless communications and stand-alone electronic devices behind guard lines of jails and prisons). 

The House and Senate also agreed to host the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court for his State of the Judiciary address on Feb. 7, 2024. We’ll see if Representatives and Senators are still in a cooperative mood by then or if the chief might need to mediate any disputes while he is in the building.

In this Report:

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

Floor Notes

The House took up the following measure on Legislative Day 6:

  • SB 35 - Special License Plates; specialty license plate honoring Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc; establish — AGREE TO SENATE AMENDMENT TO HOUSE SUBSTITUTE — PASSED 152-1

The Senate took up the following measures on Legislative Day 6:

  • SB 159 - Correctional Institutions of States and Counties; wireless communications and stand-alone electronic devices behind guard lines; prohibit — RECEDE FROM DISAGREEMENT TO HOUSE SUBSTITUTE AND AGREE — PASSED 43-7
  • HB 571 - Georgia Alzheimer's and Related Dementias State Plan; updated every four years; provide — PASSED 51-0

Committee Reports

House Education Committee

The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Chris Erwin (R-Homer), convened for an informational meeting on Monday. The committee heard presentations from several individuals and organizations:

  • Georgia Teacher of the Year Christy Todd opened presentations by discussing her experiences as the State’s TOTY and thanking legislators for their support of education in Georgia, including the recent teacher raises. She called for Georgia to improve upon its mantra of the Best State to Do Business to become the Best State to be a Teacher. Todd asked for continued investment in school safety, early learning, literacy, teachers supports and development, transportation, and poverty impacts. Representative Mesha Mainor (R-Atlanta) asked what parents in urban settings can do to hold schools accountable where they feel their children are not getting what they need, Todd said increase transportation and poverty investments.
  • Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) presented to the committee the recommendations of her working group on early learning. The sum of the working group’s recommendations would cost $100 million per year and include: reducing class size from 22 to 20; increasing salaries for assistant and lead teachers; increasing funds for classroom startup costs from $8,000 to $30,000 and transportation costs to the statewide K-12 average; and increasing funds for physical space. Speaker Jones reiterated that public schools currently have the most funding and reserves ever, and it is time to invest in early childhood education. In response to a question from Representative Becky Evans (D-Atlanta), Jones discussed the mechanics of applying lottery funds for the pre-k needs. All of the recommended funds would come from lottery funds other than the capital funding.
  • Dana Rickman of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education presented its Top 10 Issues in Education

Senate Health and Human Services Committee

Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) called the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to order to discuss two measures.

  • SB 348, authored by Senator Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville), amends O.C.G.A. 45-16-24 regarding the pronouncement of death. The measure reduces the time from 180 to 60 days from when the deceased person last saw their physician. This improves the timeline to receive someone's death certificate. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.
  • HB 181, authored by Representative Rick Townsend (R-Brunswick), amends Title 16 of the O.C.G.A. relating to controlled substances. Kratom is an opioid-like substance, which this measure seeks to regulate. This would create requirements on how products are labeled and who they can be sold to. A substitute version was presented.

A constituent of Representative Townsend spoke in favor of the measure. A representative from the American Kratom Association expressed support for the measure but suggested a few changes. Jeff Breedlove expressed support for the version prior to the one presented to the committee.

Senator Matt Brass (R-Newnan) clarified the definition of processor, including anyone who prepares, sells, manufactures, distributes, maintains, advertises, or represents products. Anyone under this definition could be liable for a high and aggravated misdemeanor. Senator Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) felt that the penalty was accurate because this is a “life and death” product.

Many committee members had several questions. The chairman held the bill to discuss the language further at the next meeting and adjourned.

Senate Finance Committee

Chairman Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) called the committee to order to discuss two measures.

  • HB 82, authored by Representative Mack Jackson (D-Sandersville), amends Title 48 of the O.C.G.A., also known as the “Rural Physician Tax Credit”. The measure passed the committee last year but was a Sine Die casualty. The measure sunsets on Dec. 31, 2028 and includes dentists. No action was taken on this measure.
  • SB 349, authored by Chairman Hufstetler, amends Title 48 of the O.C.G.A., known as the “Save our Homes Act”. It addresses escalating value, the estimated tax value, and tax appeals and hearings. The goal is to prevent homeowners from being taxed out of their homes. Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) inquired about individuals renovating and adding rooms to their homes and if those additions were capped at 3%. Chairman Hufstetler explained that the value addition would be added to their assessment and could have a 3% increase instead of the whole home being reevaluated. No action was taken on this measure.

New Legislation

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

H.B.928 Courts; private attorney appointed to act as district attorney pro tempore; revise compensation Rep. Jordan Ridley (R-022) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66064
H.B.930 Law enforcement agencies; prohibit posting of booking photo until convicted Rep. Jordan Ridley (R-022) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66066
H.B.931 State Ethics Commission; posting or publishing on the internet the personally identifying information of judges; prohibit Rep. Jordan Ridley (R-022) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66067
H.B.932 Crimes and offenses; offense of drug-induced homicide; provide Rep. Danny Mathis (R-149) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66068
H.B.935 Motor vehicles; standards for a conviction through the use of speed devices; provide Rep. Kenneth "Ken" Vance (R-133) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66071
H.B.936 Education; provide safety of students; require multiple occupancy restrooms and changing areas designated for exclusive use by males or females Rep. Josh Bonner (R-073) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66072
H.B.937 Motor vehicles; prohibit certain drivers from possessing weapons in ride share vehicle; preclude ride share network services Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-017) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66073
H.B.939 Motor vehicles; submission of proof of completion of certain courses by certain applicants to obtain limited driving permits; require Rep. Matt Reeves (R-099) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66075
H.B.941 Education; capital outlay funds may be used for educational facilities for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs provided by the school system; provide Rep. Chris Erwin (R-032) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66080
H.B.942 Crimes and offenses; sexual extortion; provide enhanced penalties Rep. Mesha Mainor (R-056) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66081
H.B.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 Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-027) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66084
H.B.947 Courts; compensation received by superior court judges; modify provisions; create Judicial System Compensation Commission Rep. Rob Leverett (R-123) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66089
H.R.804 Local government; temporary loans are payable from end of calendar year to 12 months of initial funding date; change date - CA Rep. Chuck Martin (R-049) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66093

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

S.B.354 Cosmetologists and Barbers; persons performing certain limited responsibilities; exempt from licensure Sen. Larry Walker (R-020) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66063
S.B.357 Health; limb salvage protocol and treatment to prevent amputation in whole or in part, due to diabetes, peripheral artery disease, or other medical conditions; provide Sen. Donzella James (D-035) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66086
S.B.359 "Protecting Georgians Act"; enact Sen. John Albers (R-056) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66097
S.B.360 Capital Outlay Funds; used for educational facilities for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs provided by the school system; provide Sen. Billy Hickman (R-004) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66098
S.R.448 Georgia Cancer Control Consortium; recognize Sen. Michael "Doc" Rhett (D-033) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66099

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 7 on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 10:00 a.m.

See our coverage of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5

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