The Union Recorder

April 4, 2013

State legislative session wrap-up

From staff reports
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Georgia 2013 Session of the Legislature ended March 28, 2013 at 11:50 p.m. The following is a brief summary from State Representative Rusty Kidd of some of the major issues that were acted on by the House this session.

Appropriations & Fiscal Affairs

HB 105 (Supplemental Appropriations): The Amended Fiscal Year 2013 budget totals $19.3 billion in state funds and provides for a Mid-year adjustment for Education of $172.7 million. The revenue estimate for this cycle has been reduced by $26.3 million in state funds to reflect an estimated 3.9% growth in revenues for the year ending June 30, 2013. Several cuts, including ones to school nutrition programs and medical education, were restored. Status: Signed by the Governor on March 27.

HB 106 (FY 2014 Budget): The Fiscal Year 2014 budget appropriates $19.8 billion in state funds. The budget fully funds Quality Basic Education for the first time and restores the sparsity grants for education. It also funds elder protective services and child protective services at higher levels than originally proposed in the Governor's budget. However, it fails to address the continued $1 billion deficit in education funding that has led to more than 60 percent of classrooms having shortened school days and years and over-sized classes. It also continues to increase the employee share of healthcare costs, while failing to authorize a cost-of-living adjustment for the 5th consecutive year. The conference committee approved additional funding for several colleges and universities, as well as funding for Grady Hospital and the Morehouse School of Medicine. Status: Awaiting signature of the Governor.

   

HR 107 (Joint Study Committee on Medicaid Reform):  Creates a joint 18-member study committee for the purposes of evaluating the state's Medicaid program, examining other states' best practices and planning for future actions necessary to sustain appropriate levels of services and funding. Status: Awaiting signature from the Governor.

 

SB 24 (Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act): Provides the Board of Community Health the authority to set the rate, to assess and to collect a “provider payment” from hospitals. The funds will be kept in an account separate from the General Fund and may only be used to qualify for federal Medicaid financial assistance. While the General Assembly retains appropriation authority over the provider payment account, any appropriations are limited to use for federal Medicaid financial assistance. The Board’s authority sunsets on June 30, 2017. The authority also ends if the federal Medicaid financial assistance is no longer available, or the Department of Community Health reduces Medicaid payments to hospitals.  Status: Signed by Governor on Feb 13.

Children and Youth

HB 350 (Group-care Facility Operators): Subjects all day care employees to national and state fingerprint checks. Current law only requires day care directors to be subject to national fingerprint checks and exempts employees altogether. Status: Awaiting signature from the Governor.

 

HB 242 (Juvenile Proceedings): The Juvenile Justice Reform bill substantially, revises, supersedes and modernizes provisions relating to juvenile proceedings and enacts comprehensive juvenile justice reforms recommended by the Council. Specifically, the legislation supports programs that focus on early intervention and effective alternatives to automatic detention. Also upgrades two specific areas of the law.  “Status offenders” are those children who skip school, run away from home or violate curfew. These are crimes only because of the age of the children. The new law would limit the circumstances under which these children would be held in a detention center and expand the services to help them find a path in life other than crime. In addition, in “delinquency” cases, which can involve serious offenses, the courts will be given wider latitude to determine appropriate next steps for each child. Status: Awaiting signature from the Governor.

  

Education

HB 372 (HOPE Grant for Technical Colleges): This bill was originally introduced by the Democratic Caucus and reduces the required grade point average from a 3.0 to a 2.0 to qualify for the HOPE grant restoring 2010 standards. Status: Awaiting signature from the Governor. 

Ethics

HB 142 (Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission): 

· Allows the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to adopt any rules and regulations necessary and appropriate except they cannot require the reporting or disclosure of more information than required by law.

· Prohibits lobbyists from making expenditures for tickets to admission to athletic, sporting, recreational, musical concert or other entertainment events, unless consideration of equal or greater than face value is received. It also prohibits lobbyists from a reimbursement or payment of expenses for recreational or leisure activities.

· A lobbyist can make expenditure for food and beverages to the House or Senate, standing committees and subcommittees, caucuses of members of the majority or minority political parties of the House or Senate and other approved caucuses. Limits expenses for meals and gifts to $75 per occurrence.

· Permits lobbyists to reimburse or pay for actual and reasonable expenses for the member or support staff related to transportation except airfare, lodging, travel, registration, food, and beverages for attending meetings that directly relate to the office duties of a public officer.

· Permits lobbyists to pay for admission for members of the General Assembly to a collegiate athletic event if the team is part of the University System of Georgia or a private university or college accredited in Georgia and the event is offered to all members of the General Assembly.

· HB 142 defines “lobbyist” as someone for compensation or pro bono advocates a position or agenda on behalf of someone else at a state building, for the purpose of influencing the decision maker who receives compensation or reimbursement in excess of $250. The registration fee for a lobbyist is eliminated and now includes an identification card.

· An individual does not have to register as a lobbyist if he or she communicates personal views, interests or personal opinions to any public officer. An individual does not have to register if they are not paid to lobby and do it no more than 5 days in a year. If an individual is invited to appear before a committee and clearly identifies the interested party on whose behalf her or she is testifying. If someone is required to register they cannot meet at a state building unless they are wearing their lobbyist badge. Status: Awaiting signature from the Governor.

 

HB 143 (Campaign contributions, disclosure reports): Changes the signing and filing requirements for candidates for county or municipal offices. Instead of filing them with the commission, candidates for county office will now file the required disclosure reports with the election superintendent in the county and candidates for municipal office will file the reports with the municipal clerk in the municipality or the chief executive officer of the municipality if there is no clerk. Status: Awaiting signature from the Governor.

HB 61 (Lobbyist registration / Ethics): Kidd introduced this bill that would mandate that all elected officials disclose what a lobbyist or other individual spent to influence a vote or veto. Did not get a hearing in lieu of HB 142 and HB 143.

General

HB 150 (Mug shot Restrictions): Prohibits companies from charging for removal of mug shot photos from websites or other media.  Status: Awaiting signature from the Governor.

 

HB 657 (Solar): Pending hearings this summer. Would mandate the Public Service Commission work with the Solar Energy industry to develop the use of solar energy for communities or businesses who wish to cut their utility bills. 

 

Judicial and Public Safety

HB 78 (Elder Abuse): Expands criminal protection for elder and disabled adults against sexual abuse and exploitation by updating the relevant language in Georgia law. Enhances law enforcement’s ability to respond to reports of abuse by moving relevant crimes against elder and disabled adults into the criminal code section most frequently used by law enforcement. Expands and clarifies the mandatory reporting requirements for abuse and exploitation of elder and disabled adults in order to provide a better reporting process and better response by adult protective services and law enforcement. Status: Awaiting signature from the Governor.

 

SB 160 (previously HB 125) (Immigration Changes): Redefines the 'physical performance of services' and allows for an exception from e-verify reporting for contracts smaller than $2,499.99. Streamlines the business license process for renewals by only requiring the business submit its federal work authorization user number. It adds to the definition of public benefit by adding retirement benefits and state issued drivers’ licenses. Updates the citizenship verification process for government benefits by only requiring that verification be provided upon initial application for a government benefit or service. Prohibits use of foreign passports without additional documentation. Creates a new Code section to establish guidelines for the annual immigration compliance report which each agency and political subdivision is required to send to the Department of Audits and Accounts. Status: Awaiting signature from the Governor.

  

HB 4 (Georgia and Tennessee Boundary): HR 4 urges the State of Tennessee to accept a settlement of the boundary dispute between the State of Georgia and the State of Tennessee. The settlement reflects the flawed 1818 survey as the boundary line along with a metes and bounds exception, which would be made a part of the State of Georgia so that Georgia can exercise its riparian water rights to the Tennessee River at Nickajack. The resolution further authorizes the Governor to enter into any necessary negotiations with the State of Tennessee to resolve this dispute. As amended, it also calls for a lawsuit against Tennessee in 2014 if no action is taken by that state to resolve the issue. Status: Awaiting signature from the Governor.

 

Labor and Employment

HB 361 (Right to Work): Reaffirms Georgia as a "right to work" state. It provides that no employer shall deduct from the wages or other earnings of any employee any fee assessment or other sum of money whatsoever to be held for or to be paid over to a labor organization except on the annual written authorization from the employee, which shall not exceed a period greater than one year. Such authorization may be revoked at any time at the request of the employee. Was amended in Senate to prohibit unemployment benefits for seasonal workers.  Provision removed in House.  STATUS: Awaiting signature from the Governor.

  

HB 393 (Georgia Workforce Investment Board): Grants the State Workforce Investment Board the authority to remove local workforce area board chairs and directors who are deemed ineffective, not meeting performance standards, or having conflicts of interest; provides the State Workforce investment Board the authority to remove fiscal agents based on a lack of sound financial policies and recognized accounting standards; sets an approval requirement for expenditures exceeding $5,000 to a single vendor/sub-recipient/grantee in a local workforce area. Status: Passed the House.

 

Tax Policy

HB 266 (Car Tax Fix): Persons who buy a new or used car as of March 1, 2013 no longer pay an annual personal property tax on the vehicle. New purchases will be subject to a one-time title tax, which includes the sales tax and a title registration fee. HB 266 amended a provision that required drivers who lease a car to pay both the title fee and a monthly sales tax on the lease. Status: Signed by Governor

HB 650 (Sales Tax): Pending hearing, would state no sales tax on products made in Georgia, a 4.5% percent sales tax on products made in U.S. and 12 percent tax on all items made outside of U.S.

Local

HB 75 (GMC Stipend): Would allow GMC students who wanted to go into military after graduation to be able to apply for a yearly stipend to help offset tuition. Set for study commission this summer.

HB 185 (Distillery): Held for hearing and would permit distilleries like Georgia Distillery in Milledgeville to retail it’s products on the premises where it is made.

HB 177 (Greenway Authority): Adds two additional members to the Baldwin County Greenway Authority. Status: Awaiting signature of the Governor.

 

Bills to watch in 2014

SB 101/HB 512 (Expansion of Concealed Carry Locations): Amends multiple sections of Georgia’s weapons Code to allow for expanded carry rights for license holders and to clean up and clarify language regarding weapons law in this state. Allows for carry in places of worship, bars, on college campuses, in certain government buildings and in K-12 schools for certain school personnel. It also gives more discretion to determine eligibility of an applicant after a mental health waiver is signed. The legislation makes unknowingly carrying a weapon in a non-restricted area of a commercial airport a misdemeanor offense. Finally, the bill gives the power to regulate weapons law to the state legislature. This Act is known as the “Safe Carry Protection Act”. STATUS: Did not pass.

Call Rusty Kidd at 478-452-1354 or email to rustykidd@gmail.com with any questions or need for additional information.