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Gold Dome Report – Legislative Day 9 (2024)
Thursday, January 25, 2024

Activity under the Gold Dome on Thursday revolved around one of the most anticipated legislative measures of the 2024 legislative session. After stalling in a Senate committee last year, House Bill 30, which establishes a definition for antisemitism in the Georgia Code, finally made it to the Senate floor for consideration. Following a passionate and emotional debate, the bill passed the Senate by substitute with a 44-6 vote. The House quickly agreed to the measure with a 129-5 vote, sending it to Governor Brian Kemp’s desk for signature. With the final passage of this House priority, hopes are lifted for Senate legislation lingering in the House.

Several committee meetings were delayed or truncated by Thursday’s floor action, but reports from those who met are in this #GoldDomeReport.

In this Report:

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

Floor Notes

The Senate took up the following measures on Legislative Day 9:

  • HB 30 - State government; definition of antisemitism; provide - PASSED 44-6
  • SR 443 - State Election Board; appoint Rick Jeffares - PASSED 32-17

Committee Reports

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee – Hong Subcommittee

The Hong Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, chaired by Representative Soo Hong (R-Lawrenceville), met and heard testimony on one measure on Thursday:

  • HB 926, authored by Representative Matt Reeves (R-Duluth), is the Second Chance Workforce Act. The bill amends several titles to provide for issuance of certificates by a court for purposes of demonstrating rehabilitation and good moral character and automatic reinstatement of a driver's license suspended for failure to appear upon subsequent appearance or rescheduling of an appearance. The legislation makes several other changes to this process to assist individuals with accessing reinstatement.

Reeves presented the bill alongside Representative Mesha Mainor (R-Atlanta), emphasizing that the legislation is aimed to help Georgians maintain access to work and housing despite past involvement in the criminal justice system. Todd Belcore of Social Change and Jacqueline Harn of Americans for Prosperity appeared in support of the bill. Robert Smith of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council provided the subcommittee with context and highlighted the concern that, under the current language, certificates would be sought in the individual’s county of residence rather than in the county that adjudicated the individual’s original case. Mike Mitchell of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association appeared in opposition to the bill, testifying that individuals already have access to a number of tools to move on from their criminal records and another “bite at the apple” is not warranted. The author pointed out that the Sheriffs’ Association had not reached out or expressed any concern with the bill before Thursday, and Representative Tyler Paul Smith (R-Bremen) reiterated that the meeting agenda had been posted for some time.

No action was taken on the bill.

Hearings on HB 423HB 425, and HB 909 were postponed due to time constraints. These bills will be heard in subcommittee on Monday.

Senate Health & Human Services Committee

Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) held a meeting on Wednesday to take up one bill.

  • HB 343, a bill authored by Representative Mark Newton (R-Augusta), has been referred to as the “point of sale” legislation. HB 343 has been promoted in prior years but was again proposed last year, making its way to the Senate. The legislation is an attempt to address uncontrollable prescription drug costs to patients. It proposes allowing patients to obtain 50% of the negotiated rebates on specialty medications at the point of sale. Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Savannah) spoke to the legislation and asked for the committee to support the proposal. He stressed it would be extremely important to patients, noting that he has proposed several bills in Congress to also address pharmacy benefit managers and transparency in prescription drug pricing. Among those mentioned were the PBM Accountability Act and Protecting Patients Against PBMs.

NFIB openly opposed the legislation before the committee, noting that this legislation targeted small businesses and did not include the State Health Benefit Plan or other health plans offered by large employers. Michael Walker, with NFIB, indicated it would take the rebates (money that businesses had negotiated to purchase insurance for their employees) and allow the patients to receive the money from the rebates. He added that the cost of providing insurance to his small business was $60,000-$80,000 annually. Further, he noted this proposal would apply only to rebates on specialty drugs — not generics and brand drugs. Further, he noted that small businesses already have little access to tax credits and capital — noting that the legislation was discriminatory in leaving out the State Health Benefit Plan and large employer-sponsored plans. Kash Trevedi and Jesse Wethington spoke in opposition to the legislation, noting in part that the point-of-sale rebate was offered now but not utilized often (the point-of-sale plans are expensive). There were several passionate speakers in favor of the legislation and among those included Sister Love (which is an entity working with women of color who have chronic health conditions such as HIV to gain access to care and medications), a Lupus survivor (who noted the exorbitant costs of medications), Georgians for Healthy Future, and Advocates for Responsible Care. Several members of the committee asked questions, but in the end, the legislation failed with a vote of 5-8.

Senate Retirement Committee

Chairman Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville) chaired a Senate Retirement Committee meeting to hear the following measures:

  • SB 85, authored by Senator Michael Rhett (D-Marietta), passed out of the Committee with a “DO PASS recommendation. The legislation will be known as “Speaker David Ralston’s Veterans Retirement Act,” which allows for creditable service for certain military service. This legislation is of no cost to the state.
  • SB 143, authored by Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), seeks to address the retirement age of judges in the state. It moves the retirement age to age 60, putting the trial court and appellate judges at the same age. Federal and state court judges do not make the same amount of money as new associates in large law firms (which can start at $220,000). The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation.

Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities

Chairman Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) held a meeting on Thursday to consider the following measures:

  • SB 370, authored by Senator Mike Hodges (R-Brunswick), addresses eliminating human trafficking. It includes convenience stores, body art, licensed massage therapists, and businesses, which are required to post notices of human trafficking deadlines. Massage therapists have several requirements. Among those additional requirements on massage therapy practices are:
    • Requires massage therapy practices (among other businesses) to post the human trafficking hotline notice currently required in hotels and other public places.
    • Allows for surprise inspections of massage therapy practices (there is currently a “reasonable notice” requirement).
    • Requires that massage therapy licenses bear a photo of the therapist.
    • Requires that massage therapy board members receive training on human trafficking.

The Grace Commission asked that convenience stores, body art studios (tattoo parlors), and massage therapy businesses be added to the requirements to post the human trafficking notices. This legislation is a part of the governor’s legislative package and builds upon the First Lady’s work on addressing human trafficking. Senator Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) asked about the training requirements on human trafficking for massage therapy board members. He thought that a broader group should receive this training. Senator Hodges indicated that those who are licensed should understand the scope of the issue and the seriousness of human trafficking. Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) also asked about individuals who have been saved from human trafficking with recent laws passed. 

Taylor Hawkins with FrontLine Policy Council supports the legislation and the fact that human trafficking targets the most vulnerable. 9,000 illicit massage parlors are operating nationwide, and the language in the bill will address human trafficking taking place. Angela Holland supported the legislation with the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, an entity overseeing 2,000 convenience stores across the state. “In Our Backyard,” which works on eradicating human trafficking, worked with convenience stores to raise awareness of the issue. Ms. Holland noted the success that they have achieved with the number of children recovered and the arrests made. Senator Albers moved do pass, and a second to the motion was made by Senator Ginn. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, passing unanimously.

  • SB 373, authored by Senator Larry Walker, III (R-Perry), addresses licensure of marriage and family therapists. The legislation originates from the Senate Study Committee on Occupational Licensing. It is an attempt to increase the number of mental health services, as Georgia is ranked by one entity as 49th in the country in terms of access to mental health care. This legislation specifically speaks to licensure portability in O.C.G.A. 43-10A-13. The legislation is not about an interstate compact that some professions have adopted.

Georgians for a Health Future, Georgia Supportive Housing Association, NAMI, and many others have supported the legislation to allow this licensing portability, which will allow recognition of out-of-state licenses if they meet certain qualifications — allows licensure by endorsement within 30 days if an applicant meets the requirements. Kim Jones, with NAMI, rose in support of the legislation as it will allow workforce improvement. Roland Behm supported the legislation; Mr. Behm spoke to the Georgia Student Survey on suicide ideation. The legislation will allow families to access care more easily. On behalf of the Georgia Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, Elizabeth Appley spoke in support of the legislation. There are requirements like completing a criminal background check and paying necessary licensure fees. The committee gave the legislation a DO PASS recommendation, moving it forward to the Senate Rules Committee.

New Legislation

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

H.B.1010 Public officers and employees; increase number of hours permitted for paid parental leave Rep. Jan Jones (R-047) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66255
H.B.1014 Criminal procedure; pretrial proceedings when the accused has an intellectual disability in capital offense cases where the death penalty is sought; provide Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-157) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66259
H.B.1015 Income tax; reduce rate of tax Rep. Lauren McDonald (R-026) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66260
H.B.1017 Georgia Squatter Reform Act; enact Rep. Devan Seabaugh (R-034) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66263
H.B.1019 Revenue and taxation; statewide homestead exemption from certain ad valorem taxes; increase Rep. Matt Reeves (R-099) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66266
H.B.1021 Income tax; increase amount of dependent exemption Rep. Lauren Daniel (R-117) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66268
H.B.1022 Colton-McNeill Act; enact Rep. Steven Sainz (R-180) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66269
H.B.1024 Revenue Shortfall Reserve; maximum percentage of net revenue; repeal limitation Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-146) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66262
H.B.1027 Quality Basic Education Act; half-credit computer science course shall be a high school graduation requirement; require in 2026-2027 school year Rep. Bethany Ballard (R-147) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66303
H.B.1028 Education; repeal requirement of screening of public school children for scoliosis; provisions Rep. John LaHood (R-175) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66304
H.B.1029 Health; newborn screening system to include Duchenne muscular dystrophy; require Rep. Karen Mathiak (R-074) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66305
H.B.1030 Domestic relations; safe places for newborns; revise provisions Rep. Clint Crowe (R-118) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66306
H.B.1031 Ad valorem tax; property; provide mandatory reappraisal of parcels Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-146) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66307

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

S.B.384 Public Officers and Employees; development and administration of the State of Georgia as a Model Employer (GAME) Program; provide Sen. Billy Hickman (R-004) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66275
S.B.386 State Government; regulation and taxation of sports betting in this state; authorize and provide Sen. Clint Dixon (R-045) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66316
S.B.387 Identification Cards; certain applicants who are either homeless or in the legal custody of the Division of Family and Children Services do not require signatures; provide Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-032) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66282
S.B.390 To amend Titles, 20, 36, 43, and 50, related to libraries, education, governmental entities, professions and business; acceptance and use of funds from the American Library Association prohibit under certain circumstances Sen. Larry Walker (R-020) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66273
S.B.394 "Restricting Explicit and Adult-designated Educational Resources (READER) Act"; enact Sen. Clint Dixon (R-045) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66311
S.B.395 Education; the possession of opioid antagonists in schools; authorize Sen. Clint Dixon (R-045) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66312
S.R.471 Senate Study Committee on Access to Affordable Child Care; create Sen. John Albers (R-056) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66253
S.R.474 Office of the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children; quality legal representation for parents, children and youth, and child welfare agencies at all stages of child welfare proceedings; urge partnership Sen. Ben Watson (R-001) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66274
S.R.475 Easterseals and its Georgia Chapters; recognize Sen. Larry Walker (R-020) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66276
S.R.476 Senate Study Committee on Artificial Intelligence; create Sen. John Albers (R-056) https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/66281

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 10 on Friday, Jan. 26 at 9 a.m.

The House is expected to take up the following measures on Legislative Day 10:

  • HB 804 - Motor vehicles; issuance of a distinctive license plate for owners of ambulances; provide
  • HB 434 - Georgia Composite Medical Board; licensing for radiologist assistants; provide
  • HB 502 - Georgia Cosmetic Laser Services Act; revise a definition; revise a provision

The Senate is expected to take up the following measures on Legislative Day 10:

  • SB 355 - Elections and Primaries; use of ranked-choice voting; prohibit
  • SB 358 - State Election Board; remove the Secretary of State; authorize the board to investigate
  • SR 158 - Northwest Georgia Logistics Corridor; designate as an official logistics growth corridor in Georgia
  • SR 465 - Senate Special Committee on Investigations; create

See our coverage of Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6, Day 7 and Day 8.

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