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Week Beginning 2/20/2024
As we delve into the intricate matters of the legislative landscape, I am pleased to present a comprehensive overview of the notable achievements and milestones from the seventh week of our 2024 legislative session.
1. Safeguarding Minors: House Bill 993
The House unanimously passed House Bill 993, marking a significant stride in the protection of Georgia's vulnerable citizens. This legislation introduces criminal penalties for individuals engaged in knowingly and intentionally grooming minors through electronic means for sexual offenses or human trafficking. This decisive action reinforces our commitment to justice, dignity, and the protection of human rights.
2. Addressing the Opioid Crisis: House Bill 1170
In an effort to confront the opioid crisis, the House passed House Bill 1170, requiring government buildings with Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to stock opioid antagonists. This bipartisan initiative aims to provide timely assistance during opioid overdoses and underscores our commitment to public health and safety.
3. Election Security: House Bill 986
The House advanced House Bill 986, known as the "AI Transparency Protection Act." This groundbreaking legislation addresses election interference through artificial intelligence-generated deep fake technology. The bill introduces felony offenses for the creation and solicitation of deep fake content in campaign advertisements, ensuring the integrity of our democratic processes.
4. Educational Opportunities: House Bill 995
House Bill 995 received passage, mandating public school systems to administer a nationally recognized multiple-aptitude battery assessment. Focused on 11th and 12th grade students, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery aims to guide students towards military career paths, aligning their abilities with opportunities in the National Guard and armed forces.
5. Behavioral Healthcare Initiative: House Bill 1077
To enhance behavioral healthcare in Georgia, the House focused on House Bill 1077. This legislation establishes a student loan repayment initiative for behavioral health practitioners, incentivizing their engagement and addressing the shortage of mental health providers, particularly those accepting Medicaid patients.
6. Additional Legislative Achievements
In addition to the aforementioned bills, the House passed several others covering diverse areas such as disability benefits, special needs scholarships, social work licensing, alcohol sales regulations, and more.
As we approach "Crossover Day" on February 29, the deadline for legislation eligibility this year, I invite your valuable insights and concerns. Your input plays a pivotal role in shaping the legislative discourse. Feel free to reach out to my Capitol office at 404-656-7855 or via email at email@example.com.
Thank you for your continued engagement, and I look forward to representing your interests diligently.
Week beginning Feb 12, 2024
Forgive this being a week late. I am diligently working on a number of bills trying to get them through the House before Cross Over on 2/29. The Georgia House of Representatives kicked off the sixth week of the 2024 legislative session on Monday, February 12. We convened in the House Chamber for four days and made significant progress as we passed 34 bills and resolutions by the end of the week to send to our Senate counterparts. By Tuesday, we reached Legislative Day 20, which means we are now more than halfway through our 40-day session. With “Crossover Day” looming on Legislative Day 28, we are focused on perfecting legislation for consideration and advancing notable measures on the House floor.
The House voted on an important measure this week, House Bill 1037, which would create the Georgia Commission on Maternal and Infant Health. The commission would be assigned to the Georgia Department of Public Health and consist of 14 members, and the appointees would include an obstetrician, either a pediatrician or neonatologist, a midwife and a representative of a perinatal facility. The commission would be charged with soliciting views from perinatal facilities, healthcare providers and related professional associations on the state of Georgia’s perinatal care and give consideration to the current recommendations of medical and scientific organizations working on perinatal care. The commission would also be tasked with making policy recommendations regarding perinatal care programs and establishing a way to measure the quality and effectiveness of perinatal care in Georgia. Under HB 1037, the commission would submit state-wide policy recommendations based on its findings no later than June 30, 2026. Through this commission, this legislation aims to examine the causes of maternal and infant deaths in our state and provide policymakers with a more holistic view of these issues so that we can continue our work to improve maternal and infant health in Georgia.
Continuing our commitment to Georgia’s families, the House also took up legislation this week to expand parental leave for our state employees and teachers. The House first led the way on this issue in 2020, and, subsequently, House Bill 146 was signed into law in 2021 to provide state employees and teachers with up to 120 hours, or three weeks, of paid parental leave after the birth of their child or after an adoptive or foster child is first placed in their home. House Bill 1010, which passed in the House on Thursday, would modify the current law by extending paid parental leave for state employees to six weeks, doubling the amount of time state employees currently receive. If both parents are state employees, they would each be entitled to six weeks of paid leave, with the flexibility to split these weeks over a twelve-month period. Recognizing that the current three-week period following the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child often falls short for many parents, HB 1010 would address this by granting parents additional time at home with their families. Also, by expanding this crucial benefit to our state employees and teachers, our state could also retain and recruit the best and brightest workforce.
My colleagues and I also gave unanimous passage to House Bill 1022, the Colton-McNeill Act, which would fortify protections for disabled minors by elevating penalties for acts of cruelty against them. The legislation would address a critical gap in existing laws, seeking to impose harsher consequences for perpetrators who target vulnerable children. Under this bill, the severity of the offense would determine the length of imprisonment, with the first degree of cruelty to a disabled minor carrying a sentence ranging from 15 to 30 years, and the second degree of the crime would result in imprisonment between 10 and 30 years. By increasing penalties, the bill would send a clear message that our state will not tolerate the mistreatment of disabled children, striving to safeguard their well-being and ensure justice for those who suffer from such reprehensible acts.
The House also turned its attention toward our state’s education system and its workforce with the passage of House Bill 282. This legislation would provide a significant step to enhance career preparedness among middle and high school students in Georgia. By clarifying that the career course mandated by the State Board of Education must prioritize career readiness, HB 282 would underscore the importance of practical instruction and training experiences. With a focus on equipping students with essential skills for the workforce, the Department of Education would be tasked with assembling comprehensive resources and materials on career readiness and employability, ensuring that state public schools have access to vital tools for student success. With the minimum course of study slated for implementation by July 1, 2024, this legislation would pave the way for a more robust and effective approach in preparing our youth for future career paths.
This week, we also passed House Bill 874, a bill that would require every public school in Georgia to have a functional automated external defibrillator (AED) machine on the premises of school grounds at all times and during school-related functions. This crucial legislation highlights the importance of safeguarding the well-being of Georgia’s students by ensuring teachers and school staff have access to this vital, lifesaving equipment. Additionally, HB 847 would require schools in Georgia to create a written emergency action plan, conduct at least two emergency action practice drills annually and designate an internal response team to provide necessary training to team members and potential users of an AED. By guaranteeing the presence of AEDs and establishing protocols for their use, HB 874 would empower teachers and school staff to respond effectively in emergency situations. This bipartisan measure would align with Georgia’s commitment to prioritizing Georgia’s students and creating environments where timely medical intervention can significantly increase the chances of saving young lives.
We also passed the following House bills, resolutions and Senate bill during the sixth week of session:
• House Bill 53, which would remove the State Board of Registration for Foresters from within the Secretary of State and would establish the board as a separate entity administratively attached to the State Forestry Commission, beginning on January 1, 2025. Individuals nominated to the board by the governor would be required to be confirmed by the Senate. The board may issue cease and desist orders, as well as impose a fine of no more than $500 for violations. The bill would set the registration fee for a license at $200 and would allow for the amount to be adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index;
• House Bill 300, which would require solar power facility agreements to provide procedures for the decommissioning of a solar power facility;
• House Bill 409, which would authorize specified local authorities that operate public water or sewer systems to dispose of or grant easements in specified instances;
• House Bill 461,which would update current law relating to the imposition of regulatory fees by local governments to require the proceeds of regulatory fees collected by a local government to be used for the related regulatory activity and not the general operations of the local government. HB 461 would eliminate the ability for a local government to impose a fee for construction projects classified as renovation based on the cost of the project and instead would require the use of square feet for the calculation of a fee for an "extensive renovation project," which is defined as a project valued at $75,000 or more to renovate an existing structure;
• House Bill 516, which would increase the minimum amount for a public road construction or maintenance contract that prohibits negotiation to $500,000. The bill would allow for exemption of the requirement to accept written public comment for 30 days in the event that the public has been afforded the opportunity for comment during the environmental phase of a public-private partnership. If the public is afforded the opportunity for comment during the environmental phase of a public-private partnership, the requirement that the department hold a public hearing would also be waived. HB 516 would provide an exception to final approval of projects by the board when it has previously approved the proposal based on a determination that the proposal provided the apparent best value to the state. HB 516 would also amend current law governing the length of modular unit transporters to allow for an increased length from 80 feet to 84 feet when a permit is purchased;
• House Bill 546, which would amend the definition of "pharmacy care" within the Georgia Pharmacy Practice Act to allow for changes to a prescription drug order. The bill would allow a pharmacist to adapt a prescription drug order, under certain circumstances, by changing the quantity of medication prescribed, changing the dosage form of the prescription and completing missing information on a prescription drug order. Adaptions would be required to be documented and done with patient consent;
• House Bill 576, which would prohibit an individual's vaccine status from being used to determine priority status on an organ transplant waiting list;
• House Bill 809, which would allow occupational therapists to perform dry needling;
• House Bill 814, which would amend current law relating to computation of taxable net income to exclude any grants for investments in broadband infrastructure received as part of 47 U.S.C. 1702, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, or the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This change would be applicable to all tax years beginning on January 1, 2022;
• House Bill 872, which would allow for dental students to be eligible for the service cancelable loan program when they agree to practice in rural counties with a population of 50,000 or less;
• House Bill 873, which would codify the ability of juvenile courts to establish a juvenile treatment court division as an alternative to the traditional judicial system for juvenile delinquency cases or child in need of services (CHINS) cases. A case may be assigned to these new courts: 1) if the prosecutor or other petitioner consents prior to the entry of adjudication or disposition; 2) as part of a disposition in a case; or 3) upon modification or revocation of probation or a new petition. Each new juvenile treatment court division would establish a planning group to develop a work plan. Planning groups would be required to include: judges, prosecutors, sheriffs, public defenders, community supervision officers and probation officers. The Council of Accountability Court judges would establish standards and practices for these divisions, taking into account current research and findings published by experts on children's health needs/treatment options. The council would also create and manage a certification/peer review process to ensure local divisions are adhering to standards/practices. Further, they would create a waiver process that divisions would need to apply for if they want an exception to standards/practices. The council would also create a certification process to allow a court to demonstrate a need for additional state grant funds for one or more part-time judges to operate these divisions. Divisions established on and after July 1, 2026, would be certified or receive a waiver if they have good cause. The council would also be required to develop and manage an electronic system for performance measurement that accepts data in a consistent manner. On or around July 1, 2026, and every three years afterward, the council would conduct a performance peer review of the divisions to improve the polices/practices. The court that institutes the division could request that one or more prosecutors and one or more defense attorneys serve in the division, and the clerk of the juvenile court would serve as the clerk of the division. The act would become effective on July 1, 2024;
• House Bill 909, which would automatically restrict and seal the record of an individual’s offense after July 1, 2024, who was sentenced under the First Offenders Act. If first offender status is revoked, then a court would unseal the records, and courts, law enforcement agencies, jails and detention centers could disseminate the records. Those who were exonerated of guilt and discharged as a first offender prior to July 1, 2024, could petition the court to have the records sealed, and those records would be automatically sealed;
• House Bill 912, which would update current law relating to the definitions of motor vehicles and traffic to change the definition of "multipurpose off-highway vehicle" to mean any self-propelled, motorized vehicle originally intended for off-highway use and to not include any all-terrain vehicles, low-speed vehicles, passenger cars or personal transportation vehicles. Additionally, HB 912 would create an exemption for multipurpose off-highway vehicles from ad valorem taxation, beginning on January 1, 2025;
• House Bill 925, or the "Protecting Religious Assembly in States of Emergency (PRAISE) Act," which would prohibit any governmental entity from discriminating against and closing a place of worship during an emergency or health or safety determination. It would afford to religious institutions and places of worship the same degree of freedom to meet as is afforded to the most favored entity or set of entities. HB 925 would provide for civil action for relief for any person or entity burdened or impaired by violations of this law;
• House Bill 947, which would revise judicial compensation so that the base salary for judges is related to the annual salary fixed for judges of the U.S. district court for the northern district of Georgia on July 1st of the second proceeding state fiscal year. Each supreme court justice would receive a maximum of 100 percent of the federal district judge's salary; each court of appeals judge would receive a maximum of 95 percent of the base salary; the judge of the state-wide business court would receive a maximum of 92 percent of the base salary; and each superior court judge would receive a maximum of 90 percent of the base salary. Locality pay may be provided to judges in lieu of and not in addition to any prior county supplements, but in no event would the annual locality pay exceed 10 percent of the state annual salary. Each superior court judge in office on July 1, 2024, could opt-in to the new salary framework, as well as any existing locality pay by October 1, 2024, through filing written notification to the council of superior court judges and the governing authority of each county comprising the judge's judicial circuit. From July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025, all local laws providing compensation for a state or local official that tie that compensation to a superior court judge's compensation would be suspended with respect to any compensation increase. None of the provisions of HB 947 would repeal or amend any local law. As of July 1, 2025, that suspension would be terminated and would not entitle any official to retroactive compensation;
• House Bill 977, which would set the risk-limiting audit probability limit at a decreasing percentage beginning with eight percent in 2024 and concluding with a rate of two percent in 2030. The bill would clarify which contests, in addition to specified top of the ballot contests, must be selected for a risk-limiting audit and how they are selected;
• House Bill 984, which would allow certified law enforcement officers within the Department of Insurance and the office of the safety fire commissioner to use a department vehicle while off-duty under certain circumstances. The bill would also allow for developmentally or physically disabled individuals to remain on their parent or guardian's insurance beyond the cutoff age;
• House Bill 988, which would define the term "artificial intelligence" and revise the responsibilities of the Georgia Technology Authority. It would require the authority to conduct an inventory of all systems that utilize artificial intelligence and are in use by any agency. Inventory would include information such as the system's name, vendor details, general capabilities, independence in decision-making and whether impact assessments were conducted before implementation. The authority would be mandated to develop and establish procedures that govern the development, implementation and assessment of artificial intelligence systems used by agencies to prevent unlawful discrimination against individuals or groups. The authority would be required to prepare an annual report regarding the inventory of artificial intelligence systems in use by agencies and to make this report available to certain state offices;
• House Bill 991, which would reauthorize the Hospital Medicaid Financing program until June 30, 2030;
• House Bill 997, which would require an individual disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle by notice from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to be reinstated only when they have received notification from the FMCSA;
• House Bill 1033, or the “Utility Worker Protection Act,” which would add enhanced penalties for protection of utility workers harmed while acting within the course/scope of their employment or while performing official duties. The bill includes a definition for "utility worker," which includes independent contractors and would apply to both private and public entities. The sentencing enhancement is added to the following crimes: simple assault, making it a high and aggravated misdemeanor; aggravated assault, making the term of imprisonment between three and 20 years; simple battery, making it a high and aggravated misdemeanor; and aggravated battery, making the term of imprisonment between one and 20 years. These enhancements would apply to all offenses committed on or after July 1, 2024;
• House Bill 1044, which would increase the contract value amount from $100,000 or less to $250,000 or less for specified contracts that are exempt from specified contracting and bidding requirements;
• House Bill 1058, which would address federal regulations for safe operations for drivers and vehicles transporting hazardous materials and would change an effective date from January 1, 2023, to January 1, 2024;
• House Bill 1083, which would extend deadlines for the implementation of updated adult mental health licensure rules and regulations;
• House Bill 1162, which would amend current law relating to income tax definitions by providing an update to the definition of "Internal Revenue Code" to include provisions from the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 and the Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act of 2022, which was signed into law on January 5, 2023;
• House Resolution 449, which would recognize the fourth Wednesday in February as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Awareness Day;
• House Resolution 804, which would propose an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to change the payable date of temporary loans for counties and municipalities from December 31 of each year to within 12 months of the initial funding;
• House Resolution 1019, which would establish the Georgia House of Representatives' support for increased protection for America's borders in the pursuit of ending illegal immigration;
• Senate Bill 353, which would allow for the call of a caucus for a Department of Transportation board election to be sent via email rather than by mail. The bill would clarify language relating to contracting for public-private partnerships and alternative contracting methods. The bill would amend current law governing the length of modular unit transporters to allow for an increased length from 80 feet to 84 feet when a permit is purchased. Current law would be amended to allow any coroner or county medical examiner to delegate to medical personnel the power to perform the duties of the coroner or county medical examiner when an accident on an interstate highway or limited-access road results in a death and a significant disruption to the flow of traffic. The Department of Transportation would be added to the code section relating to when public disclosure is not required by a state agency and would add the data of vehicle information or personally identifiable information to those records that are not required to be disclosed.
The Georgia House of Representatives will reconvene for our seventh week of session on Tuesday, February 20. I invite you to share any questions or concerns you have about any legislation under consideration. Feel free to arrange a phone call or visit to the State Capitol to discuss issues that are important to you and your family. You can reach my Capitol office at 404-656-7855 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Beginning Feb 5, 2024
Please forgive the delay! Our days are certainly getting longer and busier as we move further along in the session. It seems Session and committee meetings are filling most of my days here Under the Gold Dome. I will post a Week Six update this weekend.
The Georgia General Assembly returned to the State Capitol on Tuesday, February 6 for a busy fifth week of the 2024 legislative session. During this week, we successfully gave passage to several bills and also continued our committee work each day. Some highlights of the week include the passage of the House’s version of the Amended Fiscal Year 2024 budget (AFY 2024), among other bills, as well as the convening of a joint legislative session for the annual State of the Judiciary address.
The Amended Fiscal Year 2024 budget, or House Bill 915, is set at a revenue estimate of approximately $37.5 billion. Governor Kemp’s estimate for the amended budget includes $2 billion in surplus funds, bringing the total to $5 billion, and marking a 15.6 percent increase from the original estimate. The Amended FY 2024 budget provides substantial investments in technology, capital improvements, safety and security initiatives, economic development projects and human capital enhancements.
The House’s amended budget continues to prioritize economic development in our state and has aligned with the governor’s proposal to allocate funding for several key economic development initiatives. In the House’s version of the AFY 2024 budget, $23.9 million is designated to the Rural Workforce Housing program, aimed at enhancing and expanding the availability of workforce housing. Additionally, the House’s amended budget would provide $250 million for low-interest loans to the Georgia Fund, which would be dedicated to water and wastewater infrastructure development in local communities. Moreover, the House agrees with the governor to provide $100 million for economic development initiatives through the Regional Economic Business Assistance program, as well as another $100 million to the OneGeorgia Authority for rural economic development and site enhancement projects. Both of these important programs work to make our state more attractive to businesses that are considering expanding or relocating in Georgia.
In addition, the House’s amended budget directs $178 million toward establishing a new dental school at Georgia Southern University in Savannah and $50 million for the construction of the Medical School at the University of Georgia. HB 915 also provides $4.75 million to support necessary funding for staff and facility operations within the Quick Start program; this program addresses the growing workforce needs of our state by providing customized workforce training. The Amended FY 2024 budget includes $19.5 million for the Technical Education program within the Technical College System of Georgia to fund renovation and start-up costs for three Workforce Accelerator site locations in order to sustain the electric vehicle industry in the state.
My colleagues and I remain committed to prioritizing our state’s education system, recognizing its crucial role in shaping the future of Georgia’s students. The House’s AFY 2024 budget includes a $102.5 million allocation to the Department of Education (DOE) for the midterm adjustment of the Quality Basic Education Formula, reflecting an increase of 825 students from the previous year. As our student population grows, it’s imperative to furnish the DOE with the necessary resources to effectively support our students’ needs. HB 915 also proposes $1.57 million to expand the Communities in Schools program, which is dedicated to supporting students in areas like attendance, behavior, academic performance, retention and graduation. Furthermore, this amended budget includes $8.9 million in lottery funds to sustain the Summer Transition Program through the Department of Early Care and Learning to provide support to rising Pre-K and kindergarten students in subjects like language, literacy and math to ensure they are better prepared for academic success.
The House also provided important funding in this amended budget to support transportation projects and initiatives throughout the state. As such, HB 915 includes $3.9 billion for transportation infrastructure, and, of this, $509 million is dedicated to the new Freight Infrastructure Projects program to enhance Georgia’s growing freight network. Additionally, $200 million is allocated as a one-time deposit for the Local Road Assistance Administration Program to improve local transportation infrastructure projects statewide. Furthermore, the House appropriated $4.25 million in this budget to continue upgrading the state-owned rail lines to Class II standards, facilitating faster train speeds and improved integration of lines.
There are several other noteworthy appropriations contained in the House’s amended budget. HB 915 earmarks $110,000 for the implementation of visible watermarks on all paper ballots to enhance election security, which is a result of the House’s recent passage of House Bill 881. Retired and current state employees also receive special attention in our amended budget; HB 915 appropriates $500 million to improve the health and funding ratio for the Employees Retirement System of Georgia, as well as $300 million for a one-time salary supplement of $1,000 for state employees and teachers. The House also acknowledges the prevalence of mental health challenges among Georgians by allocating $2 million to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to implement alternative transportation methods for those facing a mental health crisis, and $1 million is designated for the Georgia Department of Veterans Services to support the Veterans Mental Health Services Program. Additionally, the Georgia Department of Corrections would receive $4.6 million to establish 400 transitional beds at the Metro Re-entry Center, which offers crucial resources to former inmates upon release, including employment assistance, access to social services, housing support and programming for family reunification. The House’s version of the AFY 2024 budget now heads to the Senate and will likely undergo changes before receiving final passage.
In addition to voting on the amended budget this week, the House also gave unanimous passage to a legislative package aimed at providing Georgians and their families with much-needed tax relief. On Thursday, the House took up House Bills 1015, 1019 and 1021. First, HB 1015 would lower the individual income tax rate effective on January 1, 2024, from 5.49 percent to 5.39 percent, which would return another $1 billion to Georgia taxpayers. Next, HB 1019 would increase the statewide homestead exemption from $2,000 to $4,000, provided the owner resides in the home as their primary residence. Lastly, HB 1021 would increase the child tax deduction from $3,000 to $4,000. With rising childcare costs, this legislation would allow for an extra $1,000 deduction per child, which could help alleviate some of those costs for parents. Each of these measures would help foster Georgia’s economic success story by returning more dollars back into the pockets of our taxpayers.
My colleagues and I also unanimously passed House Bill 1035, bipartisan legislation that would allow for the sale and supply of opioid antagonists, like Narcan, in vending machines, while protecting those who dispense, supply and administer these opioid-overdose reversal drugs from liability when they act in good faith. This legislation would build on Georgia’s 911 Medical Amnesty Law, legislation enacted nearly a decade ago that provides immunity from arrest, charge or prosecution for possession of certain drugs, alcohol and drug paraphernalia for any person who seeks medical assistance in good faith for someone experiencing an overdose. Under current law, pharmacists could face charges for distributing drugs like Narcan via vending machines, but this bill would change current law to protect pharmacists in these situations. This measure is not intended to encourage the use of drugs or participate in illegal drinking, but rather, the legislation would give Georgians, especially college students, a lifesaving opportunity should they need it. These vending machines would first be installed on Emory University’s campuses with other college campuses sure to follow. Finally, this legislation would allow our state’s public health commissioner to expand standing orders to allow new opioid antagonist drugs to be made available over the counter. This bill would certainly save lives in Georgia by expanding access to these critical overdose reversal drugs.
This week, we also focused our efforts on passing legislation that would maintain and expand the eligibility and update funding mechanisms for the Realizing Education Achievement Can Happen (REACH) scholarship. First, the legislation, House Bill 970, would expand eligibility of the scholarship to victims of human trafficking. Also, this bill would authorize REACH participating school systems to designate REACH scholars each school year to receive the $10,000 scholarship without a limit on the number of recipients from each school, subject to available appropriations. Finally, HB 970 would realign state and local funding by requiring REACH participating school systems to provide $1,000 toward the funding of the scholarship, and the state would be responsible for appropriating the remaining $9,000 toward the scholarship through Georgia Student Finance Authority. I was proud to support this important measure that would encourage and expand higher education opportunities for our students.
We also passed the following House and Senate bills during the fifth week of session:
• House Bill 158, which would rename the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit, which is comprised of DeKalb County, to the DeKalb County Judicial Circuit, effective January 1, 2025;
• House Bill 385, which would expand the definition of “uniformed services” to include the U.S. Space Force and Space Force Reserves. It would allow members serving in the Space Force or Space Force Reserves to obtain creditable service for any period of time in which their membership in a public retirement system or fund was interrupted. The employee and employer would be required to pay their respective contribution for the period of service time. The bill is certified by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts as a fiscal retirement bill, and an actuarial investigation determined there would be no cost to enact this legislation;
• House Bill 456, which would increase the term for municipal court judges from one year to two years, unless the municipal charter provides for a longer term. If the term is memorialized in a written agreement, the agreement would not include a geographic limitation on the judge’s eligibility to serve and would not contain any provision that a judge serve in an at-will capacity;
• House Bill 871, which would amend current law relating to homestead exemptions for qualified disabled veterans to allow the un-remarried surviving spouse or minor children of a disabled veteran to continue receiving the homestead exemption granted to the disabled veteran, regardless of whether the un-remarried surviving spouse or minor children relocate to any other county in the state;
• House Bill 876, which is the annual housekeeping bill for the Department of Banking and Finance to modernize Georgia’s banking laws. This bill would provide revisions to and would update terminology and definitions in Georgia banking law. HB 876 would add language relevant to departmental approval of transactions and acquisitions so that unless the department has objected to the transaction, the department would forward written confirmation to the Secretary of State that the legal requirements have been satisfied. The bill would add annual registration requirements with the Secretary of State for foreign banks and would include definitions relevant to merchant acquirer limited purpose banks. HB 876 would repeal language with respect to 'registrants' and 'registration requirements' while maintaining 'licensees' and 'license requirements' in code;
• House Bill 883, which would authorize county boards of health to conduct meetings by teleconference;
• House Bill 945, which would require state health plan insurers to continue coverage when a hospital that is in-network becomes out-of-network with the insurer before the end of the plan year. This would apply to contracts on and after July 1, 2024;
• House Bill 959, which would update the Spencer Pass Law to provide guidelines when drivers are approaching and passing a stationary motor vehicle when individuals are present outside of the vehicle or the vehicle is flashing its hazard lights;
• House Bill 982, which would authorize the State Workforce Development Board to develop and approve a high-demand career list;
• House Bill 992, which would increase the number of superior court judges for the Houston Circuit from three to four, with the additional judge being appointed for a term beginning July 1, 2024, and the first election for that judgeship taking place at the 2026 nonpartisan judicial election;
• House Bill 1026, which would designate the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby in Lyons, Georgia as the official soap box derby of the State of Georgia;
• House Bill 1034, which would designate the fourth Friday in November as National Sugarcane Syrup Day;
• House Bill 1048, which would designate cornbread as the official state bread;
• Senate Bill 333, which would authorize a local referendum for the creation of the city of Mulberry. The referendum would be voted on by call of the Gwinnett County election superintendent in a special election on the date of the general primary election in 2024. The call would be made at least 30 days prior to the election date. The government for the city would be composed of a city council consisting of five council members each serving four-year terms. The mayor would be appointed from and by the city council. The city council members would be elected through a non-partisan municipal general election in odd numbered years held every four years. Council members would not serve more than two consecutive four-year terms. The city council would be authorized to appoint directors of departments and agencies. The charter would create the Municipal Court of the City of Mulberry to be presided over by a chief judge.
The pace under the Gold Dome is surely picking up as we approach the looming “Crossover Day” deadline. Crossover Day is the last day that a bill can pass out of its chamber of origin and still be eligible for consideration this session. As we approach this deadline, I encourage you to reach out with your questions or concerns regarding any legislation that we are considering. You are welcome to schedule a phone call or plan a visit to the State Capitol to discuss matters that are important to you and your family. You can reach my Capitol office at 404-656-7855 and via email at email@example.com.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Week beginning 1/29/2024
On Monday, January 29, the Georgia General Assembly reconvened at the State Capitol for the fourth week of the 2024 legislative session. The House convened for four days reaching Legislative Day 14 by the end of our week, which means we are now almost a third of the way through the legislative session. Tuesday morning, my colleagues and I learned the heartbreaking news that we had lost one of our own, a dedicated statesman, the honorable House Rules Chairman, Richard Smith (R-Columbus). While we mourned the loss of our friend and colleague, we continued our legislative work as Chairman Smith would have wanted and gave passage to several bills this week. Governor Kemp signed one of the first bills into law from this session Wednesday.
Chairman Richard Smith was a member of the Georgia General Assembly for 20 years and a dedicated representative to his constituents. On Tuesday morning, Governor Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp joined us in the House Chamber to reflect on Chairman Smith’s life and service to our state and his community. Speaker of the House Jon Burns also recounted his admiration and respect for Chairman Smith, and members of the Columbus House Delegation reflected on his leadership and service to the community. With a heavy heart, we bowed our heads to remember Chairman Smith and his family during this time.
Following this news, the House adopted a revised adjournment resolution, House Resolution 978, that amends the current schedule for the legislative session. This update to our session schedule was made to allow members of both the House and Senate to attend Chairman Smith’s funeral and pay our respects. With that, the House will not be in session on Monday, February 5, 2024, and will now be in session on Friday, February 16, 2024, to make up for this change.
As we carried on with our legislative business for the week, the House took up House Bill 878 to provide the proper procedure for motorists passing a United States Postal Service (USPS) vehicle. Current law includes procedures that motorists should take when passing sanitation vehicles, but this bill would update current law to include procedures for passing USPS vehicles that are in the process of delivering mail. Due to a number of accidents in these situations, HB 878 would require a motorist to slow down and, if safe, pass on the left adjacent lane as they approach a postal service vehicle with its flashing lights on. If the motorist is unable to pass the USPS vehicle, this legislation would require them to slow down, stop and wait for the postal service vehicle to re-commence its route. This change in our law would provide greater safety for our postal service workers, as well as other drivers on our roadways. This bill passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 165-1.
On Wednesday, House Bill 976 passed almost unanimously to address concerns related to election security. This bill would require all election ballots to be printed on paper that includes a visible watermark security feature, and this visible watermark would identify the ballot as an official Georgia ballot. Currently, all ballots have an invisible watermark that is not visible to the human eye, but this bill would ensure that a watermark security feature would be visible to the naked eye. If this bill receives final passage and is signed into law, this enhanced security feature would be implemented in time for the general election in November 2024, and the low, one-time cost to implement this change would be included in this year’s amended budget. Election security continues to be a topic of discussion amongst the Georgia General Assembly and Georgia’s voters, and this legislation seeks to address some of those concerns and restore confidence in our elections.
We also passed the following House bills during the fourth week of session:
• House Bill 881, which would amend the provisions that govern the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission (PAQC) to remove the requirement that the Supreme Court of Georgia review and approve the rules and regulations of the PAQC. The grounds for discipline would also be amended to clarify that a mental or physical incapacity must adversely affect the performance of the district attorney's (DA) or solicitor general's (SG) duties in order to be punishable. Further, medical leaves of absence would only qualify as a ground for discipline if the absence, or the aggregate time of the absences, is at least 10 months or more in a 12-month period. The bill would clarify that decisions by the PAQC hearing panel are appealable to the superior court of the county or counties in which the DA or SG practices or practiced in, with the appeal using an arbitrary, capricious or abuse of discretion standard. That decision could be immediately appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia;
• House Bill 884, which would increase the number of superior court judges in the Douglas Judicial Circuit from three to four. The fourth judge would be appointed for a term beginning July 1, 2024, continuing through December 31, 2026. Their successor would be elected at the nonpartisan judicial election in 2026;
• House Bill 905, which would remove the authority for administrative officers and quasi-judicial officers to exercise zoning powers in specified circumstances. The bill would remove the authority for quasi-judicial boards or agencies to hear and render decisions on special administrative permits and conditional use permits;
• House Bill 906, which would increase the number of superior court judges in the Tifton Judicial Circuit from two to three. The third judge would be appointed for a term beginning July 1, 2024, continuing through December 31, 2026. Their successor would be elected at the nonpartisan judicial election in 2026.
In addition to voting on the bills mentioned above, my colleagues and I also joined Governor Brian Kemp as he signed House Bill 30, legislation addressing antisemitism in our state and adding antisemitism as a category covered by our hate crimes law, on Wednesday. This was an important step for the Jewish community in Georgia, many of whom were on hand at the Capitol for this historic bill signing ceremony. This bill immediately became law upon Gov. Kemp’s signature.
Also, this week, my colleagues and I took time to recognize and honor our United States Armed Forces who gave the ultimate sacrifice to serve our country and protect its citizens. On Sunday, January 28, three Army reservists stationed at Fort Moore, just south of Columbus, Georgia, lost their lives in a drone attack while stationed overseas in Jordan near the Syrian border. Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah; Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton; and Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, all Georgia residents, gave their lives in service to our great nation. On Wednesday morning, my House colleagues and I paused for a moment of silence to remember these three brave Georgians whose legacies shall not be forgotten. On that same day, the House also recognized the Third Infantry Division of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, one of the most decorated infantry divisions in the history of the United States, during a special invitation resolution in the House Chamber. The Third Infantry Division has one of the most successful combat records of any United States Army division and has served terms in both world wars, Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq. Brigadier General Jeremy Wilson, Deputy Commanding General for Maneuvers, addressed the House to express his gratitude to the State of Georgia for their continued and consistent support of our men and women in the United States Armed Forces. House Resolution 907 was read and presented to the Third Infantry Division, recognizing January 31, 2024, as Third Infantry Division Day at the State Capitol.
I was honored this week to see several leaders from the District including Thomaston Police Chief Mike Richardson, Pike County IDA Director Kyle Fletcher, Lamar County IDA Director Kathy Oxford, Upson County Probate Judge Danielle McRae, Barnesville City Manager Tim Turner and Barnesville Mayor Kelly Hughes. It is always a better day when I get to spend time with folks from home. The Capitol is truly the “People’s House”.
The Georgia House of Representatives will resume its legislative work on Tuesday, February 6 to begin our fifth week of session. The pace under the Gold Dome is surely picking up, and next week promises to be another busy week on Capitol Hill. As your state representative, I hope that you will reach out with your questions or concerns regarding any legislation that we are considering before session ends on March 28. You are welcome to schedule a phone call or plan a visit to the State Capitol to discuss matters that are important to you and your family. You can reach my Capitol office at 404-656-7855 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Week 3 Update
Beginning Jan 22, 2024
The Georgia House of Representatives returned to the Gold Dome for the third week of the 2024 legislative session Monday, January 22. It was an action-packed week as the House Rules Committee held its first meeting, voted on our first set of bills of the session, and several House committees held meetings. As we are now in the second year of the 157th Georgia General Assembly, or the second year of the biennial, any bills that did not receive passage during the 2023 legislative session are still eligible for consideration.
Friday, the House passed House Bill 502, or the “Georgia Cosmetic Laser Services Act.” HB 502 would update the definition of “cosmetic laser services” in state law because of the development of new dermatological procedures that were not encompassed in the previous definition, including energy-based medical procedures using an ultrasound, cryolipolysis, microwave or radio frequency devices. In addition, HB 502 would revise the supervision requirements by allowing cosmetic laser practitioners at the assistant laser practitioner level to practice without the on-site supervision of a senior laser practitioner; however, a senior laser practitioner would still provide a supervisory role to these assistant laser practitioners. This bill passed almost unanimously by a vote of 153-1.
House Bill 804 passed unanimously in the House this week. This legislation would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue two distinct license plates to ambulance and hearse owners: one for ambulances that indicates “Ambulance” and one for funeral vehicles that indicates “Hearse.” Currently, the license plates issued for both vehicles read “Hearse/Ambulance.” Many years ago, hearses were used to transport people to both hospitals and funeral homes. Today, ambulances and hearses serve separate purposes, so this legislation would confirm their distinctive transport roles. For each motor driven hearse and each motor driven ambulance, the cost for the license plates would remain at $20 annually. If passed and signed into law, this bill would become effective on January 1, 2025.
The House also voted on House Bill 434, which would create the licensure of radiologist assistants in our state. Under this bill, the Georgia Composite Medical Board would establish criteria for licensure and licensure renewal for radiologist assistants, as well as establishing rules and regulations related to the qualifications, scope of practice and supervision of these healthcare workers. Radiologist assistants work alongside radiologists, and their work assists in improving efficiency and productivity for radiologists. By creating this licensure, this legislation would help to recruit and retain the healthcare workforce in Georgia, while also improving healthcare delivery and shortening patient wait times. This bill passed by a vote of 152-2.
Lastly, the House gave final passage this week to an important measure previously introduced and passed by the House during the 2023 legislative session. House Bill 30 addresses antisemitism in our state and would add antisemitism as a category covered by our hate crimes law. Under HB 30, the internationally recognized definition of “antisemitism,” as adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), would become part of state law. Additionally, this bill would require all state agencies that enforce criminal or noncriminal law or regulation that prohibits discrimination to consider the definition of antisemitism during that enforcement. The final passage of this bill is a victory for our friends in the Jewish community and was especially timely given the rise in antisemitic acts in our state and across the country. I was proud to vote in favor of this legislation and proud of the House for leading on this vital effort. HB 30 now heads to Governor Kemp’s desk to be signed into law.
Aside from our work in committees and on the House floor, it was a busy week under the Gold Dome with many events, activities and recognition of special guests. It was my honor to host two youth groups from District 135: Youth Leadership Upson and CrossPoint Christian Academy. It is always wonder to see people from home at the Capitol. These students were amazing and so interested in the work that takes place under the Gold Dome. Additionally this week, the Japanese Consulate in Atlanta held a 50-year celebration at the Capitol and received a special recognition while the House was in session. My colleagues and I also welcomed guests for Korean American Day who were recognized by the House during session. Events were also held at the Capitol this week for Addiction Recovery Awareness Day and Mental Health Day to raise awareness for these important initiatives. Finally, we honored National Guard Day in the House with a special invitation resolution recognizing January 25 as National Guard Day at the State Capitol. Members of Georgia’s National Guard joined us on the floor of the House Chamber and were honored for their heroic acts and selfless service to our state and nation.
We will return to the State Capitol on Monday, January 29 for our fourth week of session. My colleagues and I will continue to consider legislation that best serves Georgians, and I will be sure to update you about our legislative work. As we continue through the session, I hope that you will reach out with your questions or concerns regarding legislation and the issues that are significant to you and your family. You are welcome to schedule a phone call or plan a visit to the State Capitol to discuss matters that are important to you and our community. You can reach me at 404-656-7855 and via email at email@example.com.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Week 1- January 8, 2024
The 157th Georgia General Assembly convened for the 2024 legislative session on Monday, January 8, 2024, which marked the start of the second year of our biennial General Assembly. With only 40 legislative days to accomplish the people’s business, my colleagues and I did not waste any time at the State Capitol this week. In addition to convening in the House Chamber each day this week, our House committees also began holding meetings to consider legislation that carried over from the 2023 legislative session, as well as new legislation that has been introduced. Many of my colleagues and I attended the Georgia Chamber’s annual Eggs & Issues legislative event, and Governor Brian Kemp presented his annual State of the State address before a joint session of the House and Senate.
Much to my surprise and delight, my colleagues and friends graciously helped me celebrate my birthday on January 10th. It was a special birthday with many wonderful memories made at the Capitol.
As committee chair of Intergovernmental Coordination, my team & I organized a Lunch & Learn for House members to further understand best practices on handling local bills on Wednesday as well. More than 50 members attended and resoundingly agreed they are better prepared to move forward with legislation important to their communities. My thanks to Stuart Morelli of Legislative Counsel, Michael Bozeman of the House Clerk’s office, and Michael Satterfield of the House Budget & Research Office for presenting essential information clearly.
On Thursday, members of the House and Senate gathered in the House Chamber to convene for a joint session to welcome Gov. Kemp as he presented his assessment on the current condition of our state government in his annual State of the State Address. This gathering provides a unique opportunity for our governor to reflect on the foundation of the state, as well as present his legislative priorities for the year ahead, which include implementing tax cuts, fostering a strong workforce through enhancing educational opportunities, as well as maintaining safe, effective learning environments for all Georgia students and teachers, among other things. You can watch a video archive of the governor’s address here, and I will share a few highlights below.
Prior to discussing his priorities for the session, the governor reflected on the progress our state has experienced since his last address. Over the last year, Georgia’s government has provided nearly $5 billion of direct relief to taxpayers in the form of tax refunds, gas tax suspensions and homestead tax exemptions. The governor applauded the state’s work to maintain a Triple-A bond rating, while simultaneously creating more than 171,000 new jobs and approximately $74.5 billion of investment over the last five years. To build off of this job growth and economic prosperity, the governor announced his plans to speed up the implementation of the largest tax cut in state history. This proposed tax cut would decrease our state income tax to 5.39 percent starting this year and represent a savings of $3 billion for Georgia taxpayers over the next decade.
In his address, Gov. Kemp discussed his desire to prioritize school safety across the state. The governor remarked that since 2019, Georgia’s government has allotted $185 million to all Georgia schools to help ensure the highest level of safety. To build on that investment, the governor is proposing a permanent appropriation in the state budget for school security, and Gov. Kemp indicated that his budget proposal includes $104 million, specifically for school safety improvements. With these funds, schools will be able to determine how to use that money in order to best meet the security needs of their individual schools.
Not only is school safety a primary issue for the governor, but public safety also remains a top priority. The governor stressed the importance of supporting our law enforcement as they sacrifice their lives every day to protect our own. Last year, the governor signed a budget that included a $6,000 pay raise for all state law enforcement officers, and this year, the governor intends to work with the General Assembly to provide a pay raise for state law enforcement officers. To that end, the governor announced that his budget proposal includes a request for a $3,000 pay raise for State Patrol officers, as well as Georgia’s correctional officers and other state law enforcement agencies.
Similarly, the governor urged my colleagues and I to follow through on last year’s efforts to pass legislation for the peace officer loan repayment program. Peace officers play a vital role in supporting the safety and security of Georgia’s residents. The governor also plans to continue efforts to combat human trafficking in Georgia. Under the leadership of First Lady Marty Kemp and the GRACE Commission, eight pieces of legislation that target traffickers, while also supporting victims, have been signed into law. These efforts have enabled Georgia’s GBI HEAT unit to investigate 369 cases of human trafficking since its creation. I will update you throughout the session of any legislative action regarding these two important initiatives.
The governor went on to outline his priorities surrounding health care, recapping the strides made to lower health care costs, expand access, and incentivize more health care providers to give care. Gov. Kemp also touted the achievements of the Mental Health Parity Act, a fitting capstone to the late Speaker David Ralston’s years of service to the Georgia House of Representatives. As a result of this legislation, Commissioner Kevin Tanner and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) carried out Speaker Ralston’s legacy with the 9-8-8 crisis hotline campaign, which gave more Georgians access to the services and help they need. To build on this achievement, the governor is proposing a total increase of $205 million for DBHDD and other entities that address mental health in our state. With these appropriations, Georgia will be spending $1.6 billion on mental health care – more than ever before.
Finally, Gov. Kemp discussed his plans to bolster retention and recruitment efforts across the state by proposing pay increases for all state employees and teachers. In his remarks, Gov. Kemp highlighted the importance of maintaining an efficient state government, while staying ahead of Georgia’s continued economic growth – none of which would be possible without the dedication and workmanship of Georgia’s state employees and teachers. To that end, Georgia’s state workers and teachers would see a four percent pay increase under the governor’s proposal. In addition to supporting Georgia’s current employees, the governor intends to allocate $500 million to shore up the state retiree fund, ensuring our state keeps its promise to our retirees and maintains solid financial footing. The governor closed his remarks with applauding the state of our state for being strong, growing, and full of opportunity.
The House voted to adopt an Adjournment Resolution, House Resolution 779, to set our calendar for this legislative session. Each session is comprised of 40 non-consecutive days, and this year’s calendar sets our final day of session, or “Sine Die,” on Thursday, March 28. We have an aggressive schedule this year and much work to be done prior to the final swing of the gavel. You can find a copy of our complete legislative calendar here.
Week 2- Jan 15, 2023
We reviewed these recommendations as the House and Senate Appropriations committees heard directly from the Governor, Constitutional Officers, and state agency directors discussing his recommendations Tuesday thru Friday last week. The Appropriations committees and House and Senate members met to discuss budget requests from our state agency heads in public meetings which are available for public view on the House website. The budget process is the only constitutionally mandated item the General Assembly is required to do each session. The budget will likely not be available for several weeks for House & Senate members to view, but will be viewable by the public when it does come available
As our House committee meetings get underway throughout the session, you can attend these meetings in person or watch live streams of all official House committee and subcommittee meetings on the House website. You can always find the meeting schedule and live streams at https://www.legis.ga.gov/schedule/house.
The official House Facebook and Twitteraccounts also provide useful information and daily updates throughout the session, including press releases, meeting announcements and legislative actions from the House floor. These valuable resources can help you stay engaged and informed on our work while we are in session.
I look forward to hosting two youth groups from the District at the Capitol on January 24 and 25. Stay tuned for photos and more details. The Capitol is a public building that truly belongs to the citizens of Georgia. It is open for touring Monday-Friday from 8 am to 5 pm and is free to visit. Make sure to check out the two headed cow in the 4th floor. You are welcome to stop by my office Suite 401.
I welcome you to reach out to me with your thoughts and opinions on issues or policies as we move throughout the 2024 session. You can reach my Capitol office at 404-656-7855, or you may email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative for House District 135.