Georgia’s Gold Dome Legislative Report: Day 18 – The National Law Review

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Today’s work, as lawmakers close on the sixth week since the session’s opening, focused on local legislative initiatives in the House while there was more variety of subjects taken up by the Senate. There was also a pause of sorts as House members heard from Representative Terry England (R-Auburn), who announced that he would not seek re-election. England is the current Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee overseeing the State’s purse. As lawmakers focused on their Rules Calendars and upcoming Committee meetings, there was also at least one high profile visitor under the Dome earlier today as legislators hosted Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Recaps of Thursday’s floor action and committee meetings from yesterday and today in this #GoldDomeReport.

In this Report:

  • Floor Action

  • Committee Reports

  • New Legislation

  • What’s Next

Floor Action

The House of Representatives took up the following measures on Thursday:

  • SB 369 – Board of Education of Gwinnett County; future elections for members of the board of education shall be nonpartisan; provide – PASSED (95-61)

  • SB 386 – Board of Commissioners of Meriwether County; description of the commissioner districts; change – PASSED (142-7)

  • SB 387 – Meriwether County Board of Education; description of the education districts; change – PASSED (142-5)

  • SB 437 – Board of Commissioners of Fulton County; future elections for the office of county commissioner shall be nonpartisan elections; provide – PASSED (97-62)

  • SB 457 – Richmond County and the City of Augusta; description of the commission districts; change – PASSED (97-63)

  • SB 458 – County of Richmond; description of the school board districts; change – PASSED (97-63)

The Senate took up the following measures on Thursday:

  • SB 331 – “Protecting Georgia Businesses and Workers Act”; enact – PASSED (31-21)

  • SB 346 – Department of Administrative Services; companies owned or operated by China to bid on or submit a proposal for a state contract; prohibit – PASSED (32-20)

  • SB 360 – “Colton’s Law”; enact – PASSED (49-0)

  • SB 404 – Emergency Medical Services Personnel; Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to retain certain fingerprints under certain conditions; authorize – PASSED (53-0)

  • HB 826 – Lost Mountain, City of; incorporate – PASSED (33-19)

Committee Reports

House Committee on Ways and Means

Chairman Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) and the Ways and Means Committee met early this morning and took up the following bills:

  • HB 1064, authored by Representative Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), adds a new paragraph at O.C.G.A. 48-7-27(a) to exclude certain income for retired military individuals who are 62 years of age and older from state income taxation.  It passed and signed into law, this exclusion would apply for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2022.  A similar initiative has also been championed on the Senate side by Senator Ed Harbison (D-Columbus).  The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation and now moves forward to the House Rules Committee.

  • HB 896, authored by Representative Clint Crowe (R-Jackson), seeks to add an update to the population bracket for individuals who have lease lots on Lake Jackson so that they may continue to receive a homestead exemption in O.C.G.A. 48-5-40(3)(L).  This moves the population from the 2010 census to the 2020 census. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation and now moves forward to the House Rules Committee.

  • HB 1034, authored by Representative Marcus Weidower (R-Watkinsville), amends O.C.G.A. 48-8-3 in order to extend a sales tax exemption for sales of non-recurring major sporting events to include the FIFA World Cup to the list.  It also extends the time for this section to be repealed from December 31, 2022 to December 31, 2031.  The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation and now moves forward to the House Rules Committee.

  • HB 1320, authored by Representative David Knight (R-Griffin), which is Georgia’s annual Internal Revenue Code update.  Representative Knight noted that the overall fiscal impact to the legislation was $2 million over five years.  Among changes are:

    • Language to address an extension of time to file returns during a federally declared disaster in O.C.G.A. 48-2-36(b).

    • Changes to bond exemptions.

    • Interest rate smoothing for defined benefit plans.

The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation and now moves forward to the House Rules Committee.

  • HB 500, authored by Representative James Burchette (R-Waycross), amends O.C.G.A. 33-1-25, the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act, to permit a second round of funding with a date change from 2021 to 2022.  The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation to the Committee Substitute and now moves forward to the House Rules Committee.

House Subcommittee on Academic Support

Subcommittee Chairman Will Wade (R-Dawsonville) called the meeting to order on Wednesday to discuss one bill.

  • HB 1295, LC 49 0813, by Representative John Corbett (R-Lake Park), amends Part 6 of Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20. The author’s goal is to reduce the 47% turnover rate for teachers that are in the first five years of their careers and to try to retain and develop highly effective teachers. The bill removes “needs development” from code to reduce punitive measures in the assessment process. Currently, if a teacher receives two assessments within five years that show “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” they can lose their teaching certificate. However, these categories would remain on the assessment forms. Secondly, the bill allows the Department of Education the latitude to create a new assessment pilot program for teachers. This will only be implemented in 10 school systems chosen by the Superintendent, varying in urban, rural, and suburban settings. Finally, it requires the Department of Education to submit a yearly report to the House and Senate Education Committees.

Representative Jasperse expressed concern that the issue was teachers were not receiving some form of training or education and Representative Doreen Carter asked if there was a training program that could help specifically with classroom management. The authors of the measure and Matt Cardoza from the Department of Education responded with the issues is with mentorship and the hope is that this pilot program will help the department develop not only better programs for teachers but also help the legislature codify the proper laws.

Representative Dominic LaRiccia (R-Douglas) came to the meeting to speak in favor of the legislation. President Lisa Morgan of the Georgia Association of Educators, Josh Stephens from the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, and Michael O’Sullivan from GeorgiaCAN all expressed support of the measure. The measure received a DO PASS recommendation from Representative Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville).

House Education Committee

The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville), met on Wednesday to consider the following legislation:

  • HB 1215, authored by Representative Brad Thomas (R-Holly Springs), was originally introduced as a proposition to remove a provision in Title 20 that reduced the amount of certain funding provided to state charter schools that offer virtual instruction.

Representative Thomas presented the bill to the Committee after Chairman Dubnik explained that the bill as introduced was the wrong bill. According to Chairman Dubnik, the legislation should have been a “charter school clean-up bill”. Representative Thomas presented the Substitute (LC 49 0831S). Section 1 refines the “state charter school” definition to “better align it” with the federal definition, according to the author. Section 2 prevents local school districts from prohibiting students from leaving a traditional public school for a charter school midyear. Students can already transfer from a charter school to a traditional public school midyear under current law. Section 3 “closes a loophole” related to school funding.

Chairman Dubnik proposed an amendment requested by the Department of Audits and Accounts to repeal O.C.G.A. Secs. 20-2-2076 and 20-2-2093 to shift the data reporting requirements in these Code sections from the Department to the covered schools offering virtual instruction. According to the Department, this change will allow the Department to do additional special investigations for the General Assembly, and the schools have agreed to assume the burden to report the required data. The amendment was adopted, and the Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee. No public testimony was taken.

  • HB 1217, authored by Representative Chris Erwin (R-Gainesville), seeks to update Georgia’s current law on promoting safe and appropriate use of technology and responsible digital citizenship in Chapter 2 of Title 20. The legislation will be known as the “Student Technology Protection Act” and is an update to the law originally placed on the books in 2006 (HB 1055).

Representative Erwin presented the bill to the Committee, which received a thorough hearing in the subcommittee. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • HB 1295, authored by Representative John Corbett (R-Lake Park), amends Title 20 to remove the needs development rating from the group of performance evaluation ratings which may adversely impact an educator’s ability to obtain a renewable certificate from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

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

  • HR 650, authored by Representative Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville), creates the House Study Committee on Literacy Instruction.

Representative Gambill presented the resolution to the Committee, explaining the foundational nature of reading to education and working and the need to study the best practices for teaching reading in school. Dr. Amy Sharma of Science for Georgia explained the need for the study committee by highlighting statistics around literacy in Georgia. She noted that there are many evidence-based literacy programs and groups working on literacy, but Georgia is lacking coordination and guardrails on how reading is taught. Malcolm Mitchell also spoke in support of the resolution.

Representative Will Wade (R-Dawsonville) proposed an amendment to expand the study committee from seven to nine members and provide that the additional two members represent a classroom teacher specializing in literacy and a representative from a non-profit who is focused on literacy education. The amendment was adopted, and the Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee

The Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee, chaired by Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White), met on Wednesday for a hearing only on one bill:

  • SB 379, authored by Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), amends Title 20 to provide for the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia to establish a program to promote the creation and expansion of registered apprenticeship programs in the state. Specifically, the bill creates the High-demand Career Initiatives Program within the Office of Workforce Development, to incentivize small- and medium-sized apprenticeship sponsors to establish new or additional registered apprenticeship programs. The Program will be established subject to appropriations and allow employers to sponsor up to five apprenticeships per year and receive a contract completion award of up to $10,000 per apprentice.

Senator Strickland presented the bill to the Committee, noting that his legislation allows Georgia to expand upon the federal registered apprenticeship program. He further explained that these apprenticeships are already happening, but his legislation would allow Georgia to “double down” and grow them in Georgia.

Representatives of the German Apprenticeship Program in Coweta County spoke on their experience with apprenticeship programs and expressed support for this legislation. The Associated General Contractors also spoke on behalf of the bill. The Georgia Association of Manufacturers expressed support of the bill but asked that it be amended to cover any size employer, delete the word “and graduate” after “successfully complete”, and adding a sentence at line 73 to ensure that the high-demand jobs in the program also be included in the HOPE Grant eligibility list.

The author will be working on a Substitute that incorporates minor changes proposed by advocates that will be considered by the Committee at a future meeting.

House Regulated Industries Regulatory Subcommittee

Subcommittee Chairwoman Ginny Ehrhart (R-Marietta) called the meeting to order to consider the following legislation:

  • HB 994, by Representative Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven), amends Part 6 of Article 1 of Chapter 2 of Title 8 to change the elevator inspection requirements and fines. The bill comes after the tragic death at a local high school. The student passed away because of an elevator that had missed inspections for the past two years. Current law requires passenger elevators to be inspected every year for a simple inspection and every five years for deeper inspection. This legislation increases the penalty for failure to have an elevator inspected and gives the state department more authority. Currently, property owners have a 60 day window to schedule an inspection, if they fail to schedule within the 60 days they will receive a $2,500 fine and the department will schedule an inspection. On the day of the department scheduled inspection, if the homeowner is unable to have the investigation that day, they will receive another $2,500 fine per elevator. Upon another scheduled inspection, if the property owner continues to be unavailable on the day of inspection, the fine increases to $5,000 per elevator. All fines could be waived at the discretion of the Insurance Commissioner based on unavoidable or due to the action or inaction of the department. The measure also includes requirements for the Department to keep records of waived fines. Since this was a hearing only, no committee action was taken.

  • HB 1231, sponsored by Representative Beth Camp (R-Concord), amends Chapter 10 of Title 43 to allow individuals providing niche-beauty services to be able to work without a Cosmetology License. Niche-beauty services include blow-drying, braiding, threading, and the application of cosmetics. The author pointed out that these are all activities a lay person can do on their own. Representative Camp attended a special event where she learned that an unlicensed make-up artist providing services was considered unlawful. She aims to rectify this so more small businesses can be in accordance with the law.

There were many questions on this measure. Representative Collins asked if this could be a standalone business and the author agreed it can be and the local business license rules would have precedent. Representative Williams asked if she had spoken to the Cosmetology Licensing Board and the author said they had spoken to one board member who did not have a concern regarding special events but did for lack of oversight for potential standalone businesses. Representative Williamson gave a hypothetical for street fairs where people braid hair. Representative Camp noted that this would not affect people who braided hair.

Tony West from Americans for Prosperity spoke in favor of the measure. While Andrea Hall a member of the Cosmetology and Barbering Licensing Board and Jacqueline Jones an cosmetology instructor expressed concerns. Both communicated health concerns.

The measure narrowly passed the subcommittee and is headed to the full committee.

Senate Retirement Committee

Chairman Randy Robertson (R-Catuala) called the hearing only meeting to order. No votes were held and all bills remain in the committee.

  • SB 41, authored by Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), amends Titles 47 and 48 to include roughly 79 commissioners in a retirement program. It creates the Tax Commissioners Retirement Fund of Georgia. Most commissioners are either under the state or included in their counties’ programs. The fiscal impact of this would be about $627,000. Senator Hufstetler mentioned he was negotiating funds and is waiting for the Amended FY22 Budget to pass through.

  • SB 267, by Senator Sheikh Rahman (D-Lawrenceville), is a bipartisan measure to amend Chapter 3 of Title 47. The author provided the following anecdote this measure aims to correct. A person who has retired and elected their children as beneficiaries and the retiree marries or re-marries, the retiree cannot re-elect their new spouse as the beneficiary.

  • HB 263, by Representative Mitchell Scoggins (R-Cartersville), LC 43 3244 S amends code section 47-11-71 to update the current mortality table for Probate Court Judges. The table currently used is from the 1950s.

  • HB 385, by Representative Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), LC 43 2127 ECS amends  Article 7 of Chapter 3 of Title 47  to allow for retired teachers to return to full-time teaching positive only in one of the three highest need areas within a RESA. This would be after a teacher has completed 30 years of credible service and had a 12 month waiting period. During the waiting period, retirees would receive benefits and also would continue to receive benefits if they return to teaching full-time. The employer would continue to pay into TRS as well.

  • HB 780, by Representative Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), amends Title 47 and would move the Statewide Business Court from the Judicial Retirement System to the State Employee Retirement System. The author contended that this is the system they should have initially been placed in.

House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee

Chairman Don Parsons (R-Marietta) called the hearing only committee meeting to order.

  • HB 966, by Representative Mandisha Thomas (D-South Fulton), also known as the “Solar Consumer Awareness Act”, amends Chapter 3 of Title 46 to educate consumers on solar panels. The measure requires the Public Service Commission to create an educational video on ongoing costs, maintenance, current state laws relating to installation, metering, and connection to service providers relating to solar technologies. This educational presentation must be viewed by a customer. This is an effort to educate the consumer prior to installation to not only deter bad actors but to improve consumer awareness. The measure was assigned to subcommittee.

  • HB 1307, authored by Representative Penny Houston (R-Nashville), amends Title 25. This measure is at the request of the Federal Government. It would require an excavator to call 911 if they strike or damage a pipeline. No action was taken on this measure.

  • HB 1322 is legislation by Representative Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), which amends Title 36. This bill creates a framework “to foster the rapid installation and widespread use” of electric vehicle charging equipment. It requires an electric light and power company that supplies electric chagrin equipment to operate through a separate entity. Electric suppliers can file a tariff with the Public Service Commission to set rates for electricity sales to charging providers to operate charging equipment. Rates cannot discriminate between charging providers, and the same rate will apply to the supplier’s separate entity. Finally, all electric membership corporations and municipalities that provide electric services within Georgia are recommended to develop a tax for private electric vehicle chagrin providers that follow the motivations in this bill. The author had several people speak to the measure, including Jeff Pratt, Green Power EMC; Stephanie Gossman and Larry Leg, Georgia Power; and Angela Holland, Georgia Association of Convenience Stores. The measure was assigned to subcommittee.

New Legislation

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

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

What’s Next

The General Assembly is in adjournment on Friday and Monday and will reconvene for Legislative Day 19 on Tuesday, February 22.

The House is expected to consider the following propositions on Legislative Day 19:

  • HB 1086 – Health; influenza vaccinations for discharged patients; lower age to 50

  • HB 1092 – Georgia Women’s CARE (Child Care Alternatives, Resources, and Education) Act, enact

  • HB 1146 – Motor vehicles; law enforcement vehicles be equipped with primarily blue flashing or revolving lights; provide

  • HB 1148 – Game and fish; possession of cervid carcasses; remove definitions; provisions

  • HB 1192 – Social services; treatment services under Medicaid to persons with HIV; provisions

  • HB 1195 – Local government; audits of funds may be conducted in accordance with statutory accounting principles; provide

The Senate is expected to consider the following propositions on Legislative Day 19:

  • HB 840 – Vinings, City of; incorporate

  • SB 395 – Mountain Judicial Circuit; third judge of the superior courts; provide

  • SB 449 – Education; protection of the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their minor children from undue infringement by a state or local government entity; provide

  • SB 469 – Watercraft; certain watercraft to have day and night visual distress signals on board when on coastal waters of Georgia; require

  • SR 395 – Self-Care Awareness Month; recognize February 2022

Copyright ©2022 Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 48