Georgia Gold Dome Report Legislative Day 24

Related Practices & Jurisdictions

Legislators wrapped up the week with busy floor calendars on Friday that are sure to provide plenty to talk about back in their districts this weekend — and well into election season. The House took up and passed a trio of controversial education measures, including Governor Kemp’s Parents’ Bill of Rights (HB 1178), Representative Will Wade’s (R-Dawsonville) bill aimed at divisive concepts in schools (HB 1084), and Representative Josh Bonner’s (R-Peachtree City) Forming Open and Robust University Minds Act (HB 1). Each bill passed with votes largely along party lines. Not to miss out on the opportunity to gin up some campaign fodder, the Senate also approved a measure prohibiting state and local governments from conditioning access to facilities or services on COVID-19 vaccination status (SB 345). The General Assembly closed the day with Representative Dexter Sharper (D-Valdosta) singing “Happy Birthday” to members from the House floor before the eventual adjournment, which was music to everyone’s ears.

Although floor debate was testy at times on Friday, the House and Senate hoppers provided some amusement. Newly introduced SB 596 would create an aptly named “Georgia Cyberforce,” charged with protecting this state’s citizens and assets from cyberattacks, cyberfraud, and other cybercrimes. And the House took the first step toward recognizing November 22 as “Kimchi Day in Georgia” with HB 1506. More on the rest of Friday’s new legislation and floor action 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 Friday:

  • HB 1 – Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act; enact – PASSED (93-62)

  • HB 1084 – Education; curricula or training programs which encourage certain concepts; prevent use of – PASSED (92-63)

  • HB 1178 – Parents’ Bill of Rights; enact – PASSED (98-68)

  • HB 1183 – Criminal procedure; increase time allotted to try a criminal case in judicial emergencies; provide – PASSED (157-0)

  • HB 1351 – Community Health, Department of; pharmacy benefits management for Medicaid program; provide – POSTPONED

  • HB 1352 – Property; provide for handling of certain wills – PASSED (115-47)

  • HB 1377 – Income tax; equitable relief regarding failure of employers to comply with revenue provisions regarding employees; authorize private causes of action – PASSED (157-4)

  • SB 472 – Public Service Commission; description of the election districts for members; change – PASSED (97-68)

The Senate took up the following measures on Friday:

  • SB 345 – State Government; state and local governments from mandating vaccine passports; prohibit – PASSED (31-19)

  • SB 382 – Child Molestation; misdemeanor convictions for the offense of aggravated child molestation by raising the minimum age of victims from 13 to 14; revise provisions – PASSED (45-1)

  • SB 474 – Property Tax Exemptions; state-wide exemption; ad valorem taxes for aircraft used for the aerial application of fertilizers or other agricultural products; provide – FAILED (17-31)

  • SB 486 – Agricultural Commodity Commission for Propane; full or partial remote communication with regard to public hearings; provide – PASSED (49-0)

  • SB 493 – Time-Share Projects and Programs; nonjudicial foreclosure of time-share estates; authorize – PASSED (47-0)

  • SB 529 – Cable and Video Services; definition of video service relative to the “Consumer Choice for Television Act”; change – PASSED (49-0)

  • SR 319 – Electoral College; recognize – PASSED (31-19)

  • SR 479 – Taiwan; relations with the United States and the State of Georgia; commend – PASSED (48-0)

Committee Reports

House Education Committee

The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville), met to consider several propositions on Friday morning:

  • HB 1005, authored by Representative Mesha Mainor (D-Atlanta), amends Title 20 to to require local school systems to conduct suicide screenings on all students age eight through 18. The requirement would become effective in the 2022-2023 school year. The bill requires the Department of Education to work with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Suicide Prevention Program to identify one or more age-appropriate screening tools.

    Representative Mainor presented the bill to the Committee, noting that she has personal experience with suicide — her younger brother committed suicide. According to Mainor, in Georgia, suicides among children are most common in white males from 15-18 years of age. She also cited a survey showing that 118,000 youth have considered seriously harming themselves, and over 60,000 have harmed themselves. Representative Mainor explained that the proposed screening could be done with four questions.

    Chairman Dubnik thanked Representative Mainor for her presentation and committed to “bring resources to the table” to perfect the bill so that it can be fully considered. Representative Randy Nix (R-LaGrange) asked if there would be an ability for parents to opt-out of this screening, to which Representative Mainor said yes. In response to a question from Representative Becky Evans (D-Atlanta), Representative Mainor noted that the screening tools use different words based on age (e.g., for younger students, “harm themselves”; for older students, “take your own life”). Representative Dominic LaRiccia (R-Douglas) expressed his concern that discussions about suicide should be had between a parent and child but committed to working with the author to help improve the bill. Representative Miriam Paris (D-Macon) asked whether this would just add “another layer” for educators to work through that could lead to more burnout. Representative Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia) asked who would implement these screenings, to which Representative Mainor explained the NIH recommends it be a school counselor, school social worker, school psychologist, or school nurse. Representative Chris Erwin (R-Homer) explained that, from his experience as a school superintendent, suicide training for all educators was key to identifying and addressing student concerns. The Committee took no action on the bill, but Chairman Dubnik committed to working together to “find a path forward” for the bill.

  • HB 1184, authored by Representative Al Williams (D-Midway), amends Title 20 to require administration of a nationally recognized college entrance exam to public school students in grade 11 who choose to participate. The exam would be required to be administered on regular school days during regular school hours.

    Representative Williams presented the bill to the Committee, explaining that it is intended to allow more students to take these exams, particularly those in rural areas and who cannot travel distances necessary to take a test on the weekend. There was some discussion among the Committee about the cost of this proposition, which Representative Williams suggested would be around $5 million in state funds. Representative Chris Erwin (R-Homer) asked whether Representative Williams would be amenable to an amendment that would allow students to opt-in to taking a test rather than requiring the test, to which Representative Williams indicated he would be open to such an amendment. Representative Becky Evans (D-Atlanta) asked if the superintendents or school boards association had been consulted on this bill. Representative Williams explained that he has talked to his local education leaders, who don’t see a problem. The Committee took no action on the bill, but Chairman Dubnik encouraged Representative Williams to work with Representative Benton on a substitute that addresses cost and other concerns.

  • HB 1283, authored by Representative Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge), amends Title 20 to provide for recess for students in kindergarten and grades one through five. The bill requires that each elementary school schedule recess every school day but provides flexibility on the length of such recess and implementation. A school need not provide recess on days a student participates in physical education or when “reasonable circumstances impede such recess.”

    Representative Douglas presented the bill to the Committee, previously passed by the General Assembly and subsequently vetoed by Governor Kemp. Representatives Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven), Dominic LaRiccia (R-Douglas), Mesha Mainor (D-Atlanta), and Will Wade (R-Dawsonville) spoke in support of the legislation. The Committee took no action on the bill.

  • 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 bill was previously passed out of Committee this session, but it was recommitted to remove Section 2, which allowed the Department of Education to create a new assessment pilot program for teachers. Chairman Dubnik explained that the Department already has this authority, and removing this Section is the only change to the bill. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent back to the Rules Committee.

  • HB 1357, authored by Representative Tyler Paul Smith (R-Bremen), amends Title 20 to require the Professional Standards Commission to consider teacher certification programs from outside the state that are accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and regardless of whether such programs are provided by for-profit or not for-profit entities.

    Representative Smith presented the bill to the Committee as a Substitute (LC 49 0894S), noting that this legislation will help advance the State’s commitment to teachers by allowing more appropriately-trained teachers to be certified. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

    Chairman Dubnik closed the meeting by noting he expects to have two committee meetings next week, to be scheduled.

House Ways and Means Income Tax Subcommittee

Chairman Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) called a late Thursday afternoon subcommittee meeting to order for a hearing on three measures.

  • HB 1189, by Chairman Bruce Williamson, amends Article 2 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 to add mining and mining facilities to the qualified investment properties. The properties with this distinction receive tax credits. This addition to the statute will cost the state $900,000 to $2.3 million. Representatives from the mining industry spoke in favor of the bill. The committee did not take action on the measure.

  • HB 1330, authored by Representative Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), amends Article 2 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 to edit the Georgia Music and Theatre Jobs Recovery Act. The author aims to help sustain and retain the music industry and promote more entertainment in second and third-tier cities. This measure works towards parity with the film industry by lowing the threshold to qualify, aggregating the minimum threshold, increasing the credit, allowing the credit to be transferable, and extending the sunset.

    Representatives from the Georgia Music Partners, the Recording Academy, Columbus Rivercenter for Performing Arts, the Recording Industry Association of America, Recording Academy: Atlanta Chapter, and Chuck Leavell spoke in favor of the bill.

  • HB 1437, by Representative Shaw Blackmon, amends Chapter 7 of Title 48. This bill is the Speakers and Chairman of Ways and Mean’s income tax reduction bill, which was announced earlier this week in the AJC. The measure removes the tax brackets from statutes and imposes a maximum tax at a flat 5.25%, a 0.5% reduction. Deductions would be eliminated, except for charitable contributions, including the current $5,400 standard deduction for single filers and $7,100 for joint-filers. The measure increases the standard exemption for single filers, from $2,700 to $12,000, for those joint-filing from $7,400 to $24,000. Exemptions for dependents would remain at $3,000, and exemptions for retirees would not change either. Some legislators had a few questions about whether this would tie the state’s hands for the future, which it was decided that any future General Assembly could change this. No action was taken on the measure, and the author mentioned a few changes would be made.

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 Monday and will reconvene for Legislative Day 25 on Tuesday, March 8 at 10 a.m.

The House is expected to consider the following propositions on Legislative Day 25:

  • HB 1013 – Mental Health Parity Act; enact

  • HB 1039 – Income tax; expenditures on maintenance for Class III railroads; extend tax credit

  • HB 1040 – Social services; community action agencies to submit audit reports and IRS forms before any contracts are made with DHS; require

  • HB 1042 – OneGeorgia Authority Act; grant program to establish primary care medical facilities in health professional shortage areas; provide

  • HB 1304 – Georgia Caregivers Act; create

  • HB 1319 – Georgia Student Finance Authority; provide for Georgia LEO Scholarship grant

  • HB 1344 – Public officers and employees; updated language regarding spouses of armed forces service members; provide

The Senate is expected to consider the following propositions on Legislative Day 25:

  • SB 379 – State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia; establish a program to promote the creation and expansion of registered apprenticeship programs in the state; provide

  • SB 381 – Pimping and Pandering; penalty provisions; increase

  • SB 393 – ‘Common Carrier Non-Discrimination Act’; enact

  • SB 441 – Courts; reestablishment of the Criminal Case Data Exchange Board as an advisory board to The Council of Superior Court Clerks of Georgia; provide

  • HB 342 – Professions and businesses; certain advertisements related to plumbing; prohibit

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National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 64