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Gold Dome Report – Legislative Day 8 (2024)
Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Georgia State Senate has gone to the dogs — purebred dogs, to be exact. The upper chamber adopted Senate Resolution 344 on Tuesday, recognizing May 1, 2024, as Purebred Dog Day in Georgia. No word yet on whether the House will counter with a resolution demonstrating feline fidelity, but it would certainly be symbolic of the many perennial fights between the two legislative bodies. And if it happens, we’ll obviously cover it in the #GoldDomeReport.

Tuesday also marked Mental Health Day at the Capitol, celebrated by lawmakers and lobbyists committed to expanding access to mental health care in Georgia. Several legislators acknowledged the day from the House and Senate floors while advocates fanned out to share their own personal stories and call more attention to the pressing public health need.

In this Report:

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

Floor Notes

The Senate took up the following measures on Legislative Day 8:

  • SB 338 - Board of Education of Cobb County; education districts; change the description - PASSED 32-19
  • SR 323 - Senate Study Committee on Improving Family Caregiver Services; create - PASSED 48-1
  • SR 344 - Purebred Dog Day; recognize May 1, 2024 - PASSED 48-1

Committee Reports

House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Representative J. Collins (R-Villa Rica), was called to order Wednesday afternoon to discuss one measure.

  • HB 451, authored by Representative Devan Seabaugh (R-Marietta), amends Title 45 of the O.C.G.A. relating to public entity benefits. It adds post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of covered conditions for first responders. The measure passed the committee during the 2023 session but ultimately was a casualty of the calendar.

Representative Becky Evans (D-Atlanta) clarified that 676 first responders lost their lives to suicide nationally. That is correct. Representative Jodi Lott (R-Evans) asked who would pay the premium. Under this measure, the state, cities, and counties would pay the cost. Representative Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) asked if a qualified diagnostician required a medical doctor and asked about the cost. A doctor, a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant, a psychiatrist, and a psychologist are included as qualified diagnosticians. The cost will be about $155 per first responder per year. Representative Gloria Frazier (D-Augusta) asked about the list of first responders and if the 911 dispatchers were included in the communications. They are included. Representative Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) asked how many carriers will provide this. One has because one has been able to file for occupational PTSD. Some have similar programs but do not have the desire to file. Representative Scott Holcomb (D-Decatur) asked about the diagnosis timeline. In some situations, the carrier will work with the diagnostician and determine the claim. The carrier is largely responsible for compiling information, not the patient.

Ashley Wilson, Butch Ayers, and Gary Clark expressed support for the measure. Gabriel Carter with ACCG expressed concern over the measure.

The measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

House Higher Education Committee

The House Higher Education Committee, chaired by Representative Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) met to consider the following measures on Wednesday:

  • HB 970, authored by Representative Robert Dickey (R-Musella), amends Title 20 to provide that victims of human trafficking are eligible for the Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen (REACH) Scholarship. The bill also adjusts the funding model for the REACH Scholarship to provide $9,000 and require a $1,000 match for local schools.

Representative Dickey presented the bill to the committee, which took no action on the bill.

  • HB 982, authored by Representative Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville), amends Title 34 to require the State Workforce Development Board to develop, approve, and annually publish a high-demand career list identifying those careers most critical to the state's current and future workforce needs. The bill also requires the Office of Student Achievement to work in consultation with the State Workforce Development Board to audit and report on the effectiveness of employment, wage attainment, and retention of students in programs that align with the high-demand career list.

Representative Gambill presented the bill to the committee, explaining that there are currently several lists of high-demand careers created by different agencies that are causing confusion. HB 982 would remove this confusion by centralizing it to one list. The list may include region-specific careers, metrics used to determine what is in high demand, and the procedure for requesting field addition or removal from the list. The Metro Atlanta Chamber is in full support of the legislation.

No action was taken on the bill.

  • HB 985, authored by Representative Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), amends Title 20 to abolish the Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation (GHEAC).

Chairman Martin presented the bill to the committee, noting that it passed the House last session as HB 319 and will return millions of dollars back into the state that can be used for another higher education purpose. Lynne Riley, President of the Georgia Student Finance Commission, explained that HB 319 was vetoed last year because of additions made to it. She noted that there is currently $28 million in reserves for GHEAC that could be repurposed.

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

House Industry and Labor Committee

Chairman Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville) called the House Industry and Labor Committee to order Wednesday afternoon to discuss two measures:

  • HB 501, authored by Representative Debra Silcox (R-Sandy Springs), amends Title 39 of the O.C.G.A. relating to employment. LC 36 5550S prohibits employers from discriminating based on age 40 or older. The second section would allow minors 14 years and older the ability to work during vacation from school.

Representative Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville) asked about homeschooled individuals. This is not restricted to those who are homeschooled. Representative Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) expressed concern over undermining child labor laws. Bad actors can be reported. Representative Leesa Hagan (R-Lyons) would like to see the clarification that the author and Representative Bonner discussed. Representative Dewey McClain (D-Lawrenceville) was concerned about equipment training. Representative Silcox felt that was the employer's responsibility. Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) clarified that the department can regulate how many hours a minor can work. The problem was that, specifically during the summer, there were extra barriers because the school was closed, and students had to fill out forms to be employed. Representative Greg Kennard (D-Lawrenceville) asked if the bill could be held until the department could review the measure. Chair Werkheiser felt it was not necessary.

A representative from the carpenters association expressed concern.

The measure was amended on line 49, replacing “months of vacation” with “outside of school.” The measure passed 6-5 as amended.

  • HB 738, authored by Representative Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), amends Title 34 of the O.C.G.A. to create the Task Force on Workforce and Safety Net Integration within the Department of Labor. The composition of the task force would include a chair appointed by the governor, two appointed by the speaker of the House, two appointed by the president of the Senate, and the chair of the Workforce Development Board or their designee. Their duties would include determining how workforce development programs and safety net programs can best serve Georgians, exploring potential benefits of merging agencies or departments, exploring the integration of state workforce development and safety net programs, and creating a delivery strategy.

Representative Sam Park asked about drawing down federal funds. Currently, the state is drawing down funds through WIOA. Representative Mandisha Thomas (D-South Fulton) asked about the Goodwill Career Center and similar offices. That will be up to the task force and will help legislators better understand how to operate those.

An amendment includes date changes and approved. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation as amended.

Senate Insurance and Labor Committee

The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee, chaired by Senator Larry Walker (R-Perry), was called to order Wednesday afternoon to discuss four measures:

  • HB 63, authored by Representative Noel Williams (R-Cordele), amends O.C.G.A 33-30-13.1 relating to insurance claims. The measure reduces claims experience to 20 or more. LC 52 0174

Senator Randy Robertson (R-Catuala) asked why 20. It was decided it would be best to be 20 and above. Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) asked if confidential data could be aggregated. It cannot be, and no one can be excluded. Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) asked about loss ratios. Those have already been received. It will have the conditions, claims, and appeals. Senator Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson) asked if larger companies would be able to comply. There are roughly only four companies now.

An amendment changed the date from 2023 to 2024. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation as amended. Senator Harbin will carry the measure forward.

  • HB 279, authored by Representative Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville), amends Title 33 of the O.C.G.A. relating to insurance premium discounts. The measure allows insurers to give discounted rates to those who use fortified construction materials to build dwellings. The rates will continue to be actuarially sound.

Bobby Potter from State Farm expressed support for the measure.

An amendment was offered to change the dates to 2025. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation as amended. Senator Robertson will carry the measure in the Senate.

  • HB 362, authored by Representative Karen Mathiak (R-Griffin), amends Title 33 of the O.C.G.A. relating to explanation of benefits. The measure increases transparency between hospitals and insurance bills. Specifically, the measure seeks fuller explanations in writing from insurers of payments and reimbursements to any treating provider upon request.

Senator Ed Harbison (D-Columbus) asked about EOBs. They are explanations of benefits. Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) needed clarification for adding this to the settlement. Aubrey Villines mentioned legislative counsel suggested adding this to this code section because it is a bill received by a provider.

The measure passed 5-2. Senator Harbin will carry the measure.

Senate Finance Committee

Chairman Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) called the Senate Finance Committee to order to discuss the following measures Wednesday evening:

  • SB 340, authored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta), amends O.C.G.A. 48-8-3 to sales tax exemptions. The measure seeks to create a sales tax exemption for firearm safes and safety devices. The measure passed with one dissent.
  • SB 366, authored by Chair Hufstetler, amends Title 28 of the O.C.G.A. and is known as the “Tax Expenditure Transparency Act of 2024”. The measure would allow the Senate to amend the budget similarly to the House. It increases the number of economic analyses the House and Senate can request to six and enables the Department of Audits to share an analysis preliminarily. It ensures that the legislature would review these in the odd-numbered years with the Joint Committee on Taxation and Economic Development.

Senator Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro) asked about increasing from five to six. This was a request from leadership. Senator Jason Esteves (D-Atlanta) appreciated the comment period and asked about the committee's composition possibly being partisan. Chairman Hufstetler does want the future committee to be bipartisan. Senator Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) asked what could be done to accomplish bipartisan composition. Hufstetler was favorable to looking at an amendment to achieve that.

A representative from Americans for Prosperity spoke in favor of the measure.

Senator Esteves amended lines 102-104 to include one member from both the majority and minority parties from both chambers. The amendment passed unanimously. The measure passed unanimously.

  • HB 82 was removed from the agenda.

New Legislation

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

H.B.991 Hospital Medicaid Financing Program; extend sunset provision Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-146) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66209
H.B.992 Houston Judicial Circuit; provide for fourth judge Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-146) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66210
H.B.993 Crimes and offenses; grooming a minor for indecent purposes; provide for offense Rep. Alan Powell (R-033) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66211
H.B.995 Education; administration of a nationally recognized multiple-aptitude battery assessment that predicts success in the military to certain public school students; require Rep. Josh Bonner (R-073) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66213
H.B.996 Penal institutions; provide jailers with arrest powers Rep. Kenneth "Ken" Vance (R-133) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66214
H.B.997 Motor vehicles; require disqualification to operate a commercial motor vehicle upon receipt of notification from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of a positive drug test Rep. John Corbett (R-174) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66215
H.B.1000 Revenue and taxation; taxes for educational purposes shall be excluded in computing the limitation on the total amount of local sales and use taxes which may be levied; provide Rep. Victor Anderson (R-010) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66218
H.B.1001 Motor vehicles; presentation of a driver's license in a certain electronic format satisfies the requirement to possess a driver's license while operating a motor vehicle; provide Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-169) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66219
H.B.1002 Lottery for education; bona fide coin operated amusement machines; provide redemption through gift cards at automated kiosks under certain conditions Rep. Beth Camp (R-135) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66220
H.B.1005 Insurance; every health benefit policy shall provide coverage for rabies immune globulin and vaccinations administered after potential exposure to rabies; require Rep. Marvin Lim (D-098) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66223
H.B.1006 Education; local school systems or public schools issuing identification cards to include certain information regarding suicide prevention resources; require Rep. Marvin Lim (D-098) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66224
H.R.836 Reproductive freedom; provide that every individual has the right and such right shall not be denied by a state interest - CA Rep. Kim Schofield (D-063) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66207
H.R.843 Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Association; commend Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-015) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66230
H.R.850 Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination of the Task Force for Global Health; headquartered in Decatur, Georgia; commitment to eliminating viral hepatitis as a health threat for Georgians, the United States, and globally; commend Rep. Becky Evans (D-089) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66237

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

S.B.373 Licensure in Marriage and Family Therapy; issuance of expedited licenses by endorsement for marriage and family therapists; provide Sen. Larry Walker (R-020) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66201
S.B.374 "Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Act of 2021"; land surveyor interns and professional land surveyors; change provisions Sen. Larry Walker (R-020) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66202
S.B.375 Behavioral Health Coordinating Council; add commissioner of veterans service Sen. Brian Strickland (R-017) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66203
S.B.376 Juvenile Code; improve timely permanent placement of a child removed from their home; clarify requirements Sen. Blake Tillery (R-019) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66204
S.B.377 Courts and Social Services; licensing of qualified residential treatment programs; provide Sen. Blake Tillery (R-019) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66206
S.B.378 Trafficking of Persons; increased sentences for persons convicted of trafficking a minor or a developmentally disabled person for sexual servitude; provide Sen. Marty Harbin (R-016) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66245
S.B.379 "School Chaplains Act"; enact Sen. Marty Harbin (R-016) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66247

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 9 on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 10:00 a.m.

The Senate is expected to take up the following measures on Legislative Day 9:

  • HB 30 - State government; definition of antisemitism; provide
  • SR 158 - Northwest Georgia Logistics Corridor; designate as an official logistics growth corridor in Georgia
  • SR 443 - State Election Board; appoint Rick Jeffares

 

See our coverage of Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6, and Day 7.

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