Georgia Gold Dome Report Legislative Day 17

Related Practices & Jurisdictions

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The General Assembly marked another day off the legislative calendar on Tuesday, and opossums and raccoons moved one step closer to being knocked off any time of the year in Georgia. HB 1147, allowing year-round hunting of the critters, passed the House by a 141-17 vote, sending it scurrying across the hall to the Senate for further consideration. Legislators also took up a number of weightier measures, including several insurance propositions and property conveyances in the House. The Senate was slated to consider SB 403, the “Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act”, but the proposition was tabled for later consideration. Details on the rest of the day’s floor action and committee considerations in this #GoldDomeReport.

In terms of personnel notes, the long-serving senator from the 37th Senate District, Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) announced that he will not seek re-election today. We thank the longtime education leader for his legislative efforts, in his own words, to “take care of the kids.”

In this Report:

  • Floor Action

  • Committee Reports

  • New Legislation

  • What’s Next

Floor Action

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


  • HR 683 – Property; granting of nonexclusive easements; authorize – PASSED (157-0)

  • HB 893 – Conservation and natural resources; extend date for hazardous waste fees – PASSED (163-1)

  • HB 969 – Insurance; update regulation of company holding systems – PASSED (163-0)

  • HB 1021 – Insurance; minimum nonforfeiture interest rate for individual deferred annuities; decrease – PASSED (153-2)

  • HB 1044 – Local government; creation of regional development authorities; provide – PASSED (165-0)

  • HB 1059 – Insurance; unfair trade practices and unlawful inducements; provide for exclusions – RECOMMITTED

  • HB 1147 – Game and fish; hunting and trapping of raccoons and opossum year round; authorize – PASSED (141-17)

  • HB 1223 – Sales and use tax; exemption for sale or lease of computer equipment of high-technology companies; extend sunset date – PASSED (154-6)

  • HB 1275 – Local government; appointment and removal of municipal court judges; revise provisions – PASSED (152-10)

The Senate took up the following measures on Tuesday:

  • SR 345 – Shortline Trail; renaming to the Bill and Dustie MacKay Trail; support – PASSED (52-0)

  • SB 374 – Georgia Data Analytic Center; establish as an agent of all executive state agencies; definitions; provide – PASSED (53-0)

  • SB 403 – “Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act”; enact – TABLED

  • SB 438 – Contracts; certain provisions relating to retainage of progress payments; change – PASSED (52-0)

  • SB 445 – National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974; civil penalties; revise – PASSED (53-0)

  • SB 461 – Bails, Bonds; human trafficking as a bailable offense; add the offense – PASSED (54-0)

Committee Reports

Senate Appropriations – Human Development and Public Health Subcommittee

Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) and the Human Development and Public Health Subcommittee met to look more closely at the House version of the FY 2022 Amended budget, HB 910.  Presentations were made by the following with some highlights noted below:

  • Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities – Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald accented five areas for the Subcommittee including the statewide changes of $57 million for the $5,000 raise for full-time employees with benefits.  The five areas are: 1) Adult Developmental Disabilities – $400,000 added for Georgia Options; 2) Adult Developmental Disabilities – removed funds for a contract which was not finalized; 3) Adult Mental Health – addition of $310,000 for Georgia Crisis and Access Line to address technical enhancements to ready for implementing the 9-8-8 line in July; 4) Children and Adolescents Developmental Disabilities – restoration of $16,875 for Matthew Reardon Center contract; and 5) Direct Care – additional $5 million for maintenance and repairs for the state’s five hospital campuses and those buildings.  Commissioner Fitzgerald fielded questions regarding how the CSBs will “fit” in the 9-8-8 implementation; GCAL will answer the mental health crisis calls and the CSBs will provide a place to go for the patient to receive services.  The 9-8-8 line is a requirement by federal law. 

  • Office of Child Advocate – Director Jerry Bruce spoke about his office’s statutory duties which includes investigating complaints involving DFCS.  In the first six months of 2021, his agency screened out 75 percent of the complaints and now has found that there were too many screened out cases.  His staff has 61 cases per investigator.  The standard is 20-30 cases.  He asked that the Subcommittee fund his office for more investigators.

  • Department of Human Services – Commissioner Candice Broce accented the added funds for raises across her agency.  Further, she noted a number of other changes including a reduction in the Adoptions program of $2.1 million (because of federal fund availability); After School program cut of $2.3 million due to the delayed implementation of a contract for children’s education loss during COVID; Department Administration reduction of $514,000 due to workforce vacancies; Department Administration $2.6 million cut for high-need youth (which Director Broce indicated would be best placed in the Out-of-Home Care budget as that was where the $6.7 million was included); and Elder Community addition of $1.4 million to draw down federal funds for funding clients in the community (home-delivered meals and services).

  • Department of Public Health – Commissioner Kathleen Toomey noted the pay raises across her agency which also includes employees within the county boards of health.  She also asked that the Subcommittee fund the AIDS Drug Assistance funding of $9.9 million.  These funds will help prevent individuals from being on the waiting list for drugs.  Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) asked for an update on the state’s software modernization; the General Assembly previously provided $27 million in funding for Georgia to have an updated surveillance system and GRITS (vaccination registry).   A request for proposal will be coming forth within a few weeks for this system upgrade.

Senate Appropriations – Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee

Chairman Larry Walker (R-Perry) called one of the first meetings of the day to order. The Subcommittee heard presentations from various departments, agencies, and educational institutions on the Amended FY 2022 Budget and the House’s changes to the Governors propositions.

  • First to report was given by Stephen Rogers, CFO of the Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority. He thanked all the legislators and the Governor for the increased funds of $4.6 million and especially for pay raises. Mr. Rogers continued to give a report on the new hotel being added to the National Fair Grounds which will have 126 beds and will be attached to the Miller Murphy Howard Building on the grounds. He further added that over the next few years they would be requesting funds for various “facelift” projects. One included roof replacement for several of the buildings, adding that many of them are over 30 years old. Mr. Rogers mentioned that there are issues with stormwater both in the parking lots and behind the livestock facilities. The budget adds $4.6 million for repairs which will not complete all projects in the original Authority ask of $7.9 million. He then provided the Subcommittee with a full list of projects.

  • Next in the hot seat was Mitch Adaway from Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission. He continued the sentiment of thanks for the added funds for recruitment and retention adding that the biggest issue they have is training people who quickly leave due to higher-paying private sector positions. This budget added $122,625 in pay raises and $17,686 in adjustments for employees initially left out of the pay raises – the House corrected this omission. Amended FY 2022 also includes $169,350 for six vehicles, four four-wheel-drive trucks and three passenger vehicles. Money from the Commission was returned to the General Fund for a position hired later than expected. Members asked a few questions relating to the Commission’s retention rates and their career training efforts for students. Mr. Adaway noted that while they have seen issues with vacancies and turnover, he does the raises to help. He added that there is natural resources week-long workshop for rising juniors and seniors and there is a year-long Envirothon that pairs high school and middle school students to team up to study natural resources which culminates in a two-day competition. Currently, they do not offer training courses but would look into it.

  • The Georgia Forestry Commission updated members on their 550 employees and their mission. They have implemented new pay reimbursemnet measures in order to combat retention issues and have worked to increase safety by moving the Safety Officer under the Deputy Director and are working on a new safety manual. The Amended Budget has $2.8 million in pay raises with an additional $24,221 that the House added for salary adjustments for Nursery Operators. The House also moved $1.035 million in bond funds to the Commission for maintenance improvements.

  • Commissioner Williams from the Department of Natural Resources reported on the $1.2 million to replace 45 vehicles, $14 million to renovate facilities in the state parks, $5 million for the construction of a safety complex on Jekyll Island, and the $4.9 million in pay raises with $2.4 million in pay adjustments.

  • Director Dunn from the Environmental Protection Division reported the $1.1 million in pay raises for employees and $1.7 million in salary adjustments for state employee’s salaries funded by the federal government. Director Dunn also mentioned the need for $1.42 million for vehicles and over $700,000 for lab equipment, two specifically to meet federal regulatory requirements. He also mentioned the Lake Lanier storage agreement with a cost of $2.8 million.

  • Dean Nick Place of the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences thanked legislators for the pay raises for eligible staff. He also referenced the Institute of Integrated Precision Agriculture, $1.15 million, of which $250,000 would be for seed grants for faculty to apply towards federal grants. Questions were asked regarding the Georgia Grown program and internship opportunities for students. Dean Place responded by saying they do work with Georgia Grown and are always happy to see students in intern and externships regardless of whether it is with big businesess or farms.

  • University of Georgia’s School of Forestry and Veterinary Medicine separately thanked members and the Governor for the pay increases. The School of Veterinary Medicine also touted the diagnostic lab’s faster COVID test result turnaround times and are preparing for the high path avian influenza.

  • Commissioner Gary Black from the Department of Agriculture noted pay increases said there was more to be done on the issue. $177,000 was returned to the General Fund for money not spent on the Hemp or Soil Amendments. Underneath departmental administration, $985,000 for HVAC replacement and a transfer from the marketing department to the tune of $382,000.

  • Dr. Zavala from the Poultry Lab Network thanked everyone and reminded members that while there was nothing in the Amended Budget, there will be funds in the FY 2023 Budget. She followed up on Commissioner Black’s comments regarding the high path avian influenza outbreak in Kentucky and noted that the lab was ready to test.

House Judiciary Committee

Chairman Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) called the meeting to order.

  • HB 1361, by Representative Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), amends Title 9 so the Office of the Attorney General has the authority to intervene on acts of the General Assembly. Representative Leverett mentioned this bill was a long time coming and seeks to clarify the broad authority of the Attorney General. The measure unanimously passed with no questions.

  • HB 1294, authored by Representative John Corbett (R-Lake Park), amends codes section 44-7-113 to provide a three-day window for a landowner to send the notice for derelict of a mobile home on their property. The original bill passed three years ago required the landowner to send the notice on the same day of determination. This will allow landowners more time to comply with the law and have the home removed from their home. After no question or comments from the audience, the measure passed unanimously.

  • HB 1088, by Representative Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville), amends Part 7 of Article 5 of Chapter 3 of Title 44 to address lien priority for non-judicial foreclosures on time-share estates. A substitute, LC 44 1956S, was presented which prioritizes the holder that finances the lien. The measure passed and is on to Rules.

  • HB 974 is legislation by Representative Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas), which amend Chapter 2 of Title 44. This bill was recommitted for a substitute to change three lines. It still requires Superior Court Clerks to accept e-filings, but it will allow a person to file in person as well. The Council of Superior Court Clerks spoke in favor, and with no questions, the measure passed unanimously.

  • HB 1321, by Representative James Burchett (R-Waycross), amends Article 1 of Chapter 3 of Title 46 to bar litigation by a state entity once the state enters into the opioid settlements. Representative Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) asked what the expected fiscal impact towards the state budget will be at which point the author said $450 million without the litigation bar and an additional $88 million with a litigation bar. Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) asked if the funds could be directed to pay for HB 1013. Representative Burchett said he would look into that and would discuss that further but to his knowledge settlement money can only be used for the mitigation of the opioid pandemic. Seeing no other questions and no one from the audience signed up to speak, the measure received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HR 707 (LC 48 0548S), by Representative Bill Werkheiser, is a House Study Committee on Homicide Cold Case Resources. The author said the impetus for this committee is to address the GBIs backlogs. Representative Scott Holcomb asked if preservation of evidence was included in the scope of the study and Representative Werkheiser noted that it was and when he was drafting the legislation he automatically thought of his colleague on this issue. The measure was passed on to Rules.

House Industry and Labor Committee

Chairman Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville) and the Industry and Labor Committee members took up these bills:

  • HB 397, the bill by Representative Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), came to the Committee by substitute LC 36 5155S.   It seeks changes in O.C.G.A. 34-7-6. John Walraven, a lobbyist for NAPEO, opposed the legislation. The legislation essentially now requires that professional employer organizations be the payer of last resort for workers compensation – it will place Georgia in a position of being the only state having a law like this.  The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 1037, the bill by Representative Bill Boddie (D-East Point), seeks to create the “Georgia Peer Workforce Navigator Pilot Program Act” at O.C.G.A. 34-8-72.1.  Representative Boddie explained that this legislation would create a program like the state of Maine passed last year and began implementing in January 2022.  It would work to help individuals meet their basic needs and expand employment opportunities.  It would help those for instance with especially low and moderate income jobs, people of color, individuals living in rural areas, those with lower education levels, and those who are homeless. The goal is to get individuals in employment with liveable wages.  The three-year pilot program would be funded with APRA funds.  The Department of Labor is supposedly opposed to the legislation.  The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers supported the legislation.  No action was taken on the legislation.

  • HB 389, the bill by Representative Todd Jones (R-Cumming), seeks amendments in O.C.G.A. 34-8-35 by changing the definition of employment to include services performed by an individual for wages unless the Department of Labor makes a contrary determination based upon evidence that such individual has been, and will continue to be, free from control or direction over the performance of such services. This bill received a DO PASS recommendation.

House Health and Human Services Committee

Chairman Sharon Cooper and the Health Committee took up several pieces of legislation:

  • HB 1276, authored by Representative Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), seeks to address in O.C.G.A. 31-2-17 a problem that individuals have in determining what insurance covers.  The legislation does so without meddling in contracts between parties.  Representative Hawkins indicated he had worked with Jesse Wethington, a lobbyist for the health plans, on the bill so as to require that biannual updates will be made on the Department of Community Health website about the types of providers, county level data, hospital utilization, membership enrollment, prescription drug spending data, long-term care data, and other pieces of information.  This will allow individuals to better know what is available and what are the gaps for Medicaid, PeachCare, and State Health Benefit Plan programs.  There were questions as to whether there would be added administrative costs to the Department; no fiscal note was required as the costs would be minimal. There was no opposition to the legislation.  The Committee gave the bill a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 1186, authored by Representative Penny Houston (R-Nashville), seeks to amend O.C.G.A. 43-44-7 to allow individuals who are not licensed audiologists to use otoacoustic emissions or auditory brainstem response technology as part of a screening process for the initial identification of communication disorders in individuals up to age 22.  The current law allows these individuals to make the screenings in infants under the age of three months; this changes the ability for the screens to be done from birth through age 22 so as to help more children to be identified earlier.  There is also added language that individuals are to comply with the notifiable disease reporting requirements promulgated by the Department of Public Health in O.C.G.A. 31-12-2.  The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation to the committee substitute.

  • HB 1219, authored by Representative Penny Houston (R-Nashville), seeks to address a problem she has seen with access to dental services.  However, in reading the legislation, the new substitute LC 33 9012S, seeks to increase the composition of members of the Georgia Board of Dentistry from 11 members to 17 members (13 dentists, 1 non-dentist, 1 individual who has direct knowledge of the education of dental students in the state and appointed by the Board of Regents; and 2 dental hygienists).  There was a question concerning the costs for the increases in these numbers; the costs are minimal.  There were other questions concerning whether the Dental Board is adversarial to the Medical College of Georgia’s dental program.  There have been issues regarding requirements for dental board applicants to use live patients in the examination process where other states allow the use of mannequins.  During the public health emergency, the Governor overrode this so as to allow applicants to test using mannequins. The committee substitute received a DO PASS recommendation.

  • HB 629, authored by Representative Mark Newton (R-Augusta), caused a lot of consternation and questions around when an “in person” assessment is needed to be performed on a patient and when or if such visits could be done using telehealth in O.C.G.A. 31-12-12.  In the end, the legislation was TABLED.  The bill is a “fight” between physicians and optometrists and how contact lenses are prescribed and dispensed to patients. Chairman Cooper asked that the parties go back to work on the legislation and see if a compromise was possible.

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 Wednesday for a committee work day. The legislature will reconvene for Legislative Day 18 on Thursday, February 17 at 10 AM.

The House Rules Committee did not meet today to set a calendar for Legislative Day 18.

The Senate is expected to consider the following propositions on Legislative Day 18:

  • SB 331 – “Protecting Georgia Businesses and Workers Act”; enact

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

  • SB 360 – “Colton’s Law”; enact

  • SB 404 – Emergency Medical Services Personnel; Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to retain certain fingerprints under certain conditions; authorize

  • HB 826 – Lost Mountain, City of; incorporate

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National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 46