Although the General Assembly was in adjournment today, legislative committees were hard at work. With less than 24 hours remaining for propositions to emerge from committee in the Senate and still be considered this year, legislators jockeyed to get their bills out. The result was a five-hour Senate Judiciary Committee meeting and a plethora of frazzled nerves. Details on this meeting and all the efforts to perfect legislation today in this special Committee Day edition of the #GoldDomeReport.
In today’s Report:
- Committee Reports
- Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 26
House Human Relations and Aging Committee Chairman Petrea and his Committee met into the evening on March 1 and the following are notes from those discussions which were not fully covered in the March 1 Gold Dome Report.
- HB 290, authored by Representative Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), cleared the Committee with a DO PASS recommendation in the form of a committee substitute with several amendments attached. This legislation creates the Patient and Resident Representation and Visitation Act in Chapter 7 of Title 31. Hospitals remained opposed to the legislation and it is likely more changes will be made as this bill moves along.
- HB 605, authored by Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), also came before the Committee in a new committee substitute LC 33 8718S. Representative Cooper indicated that the pandemic has made it more important for families to see their loved ones in long-term care settings in order to reassure them about their safety. This legislation allows transparent and open access for video cameras and: protects patients privacy; helps ensure safe quality care for seniors; and does not unduly burden the long-term care facilities. Representative Cooper indicated her goal is to promote patient safety. She reminded the committee that these facilities are needed for individuals who cannot live independently and may have nowhere else to go. Changes since the last meeting were language changes for more than one roommate and changed “designated agent” and allows facilities to provide WIFI and charge a reasonable fee for the service. The state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman was consulted about the legislation and disagreed with Representative Cooper on the completion of forms that will be completed – to allow video or not to allow video. There were no check boxes for turning off during a bath, when a spouse visited, or when a physician did an examination. These issues have been addressed in the substitute and have also included changes for situations involving roommates and their privacy rights and the sharing of video. It makes clear not to sign off rights for film to be used in a court of law. The trial lawyers have entered into the discussions lately and have asked for further changes. Representative Cooper noted that CMS has rules about moving patients. It should be patient or their family that wants the video to be responsible. Chairman Petrea supported the version before the Committee. There were questions posed by the Committee, including one by Representative Byrd who asked if this was a mandate on nursing facilities to put cameras in? No. It is an option. If a person wants one, it is the family’s responsibility and they let the facility know and be responsible for installation and pay for WIFI. Representative LaHood stated that there is no standard that all long-term care facilities have WIFI – some may provide and some may not. It may require a facility to subscribe to greater bandwidth if a lot of residents want electronic monitoring. Attorney Josh Belinfante indicated he has worked on the legislation with Chairman Cooper. GTLA noted that the bill is a result of a resident’s experience at a facility in Atlanta. In that case, the chart for the resident indicated he died in his sleep; but there were incidents where he asked for assistance and the nurses did nothing to provide assistance. The video helped show what really happened to the resident. GTLA noted that existing law does not permit taping without consent unless in a public place. A recent court case, though, is the impetus for the bill. It was clarified that there are no “patients” in long term care facilities; that is their “residence” – it is their home. Due to being concerned about your safety, you can record in your home. There are also questions regarding “authorization” for cameras by a family if the patient has cognition issues and that cannot generally be done until a physician assessment which is within 30 days of admission. The Committee provided a DO PASS recommendation on the substitute to HB 605, and it now moves to the House Rules Committee.
House Education Committee The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville), met to consider the following legislation today:
- HB 517, authored by Representative John Carson (R-Marietta), amends Title 20 to include interest earned on deposits and investments in the calculation of minimum revenue obligations for scholarships and tuition grants. Representative Carson presented the bill to the Committee, who explained that this legislation is intended to increase transparency and disclosure for student scholarship organizations in response to the Department of Audits and Accounts report from last year. He noted that the bill does not increase the size of the SSO program but only provides for more transparency and accountability. Representative Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven) expressed concern that the bill is more than a transparency bill because it doubles the individual tax credit provided under the SSO program. Representative Carson stated that it is not an expansion because the existing $100M cap is not being increased, and Chairman Dubnik said that the changes in the bill were the result of the DAA audit. Representative Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) asked the author if he would be amenable to an amendment to extend the $100M cap sunset for another 10 years, to which Representative Carson said that was not the original intent of the bill but would leave that choice to the committee. Representative Setzler offered the amendment, which was approved by an 8-6 vote. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute as amended by a 9-7 vote. The bill proceeds to the Rules Committee.
- HB 545, authored by Representative John Carson (R-Marietta), amends Title 20 to allow home school students to participate in extracurricular activities in their resident school district. This bill was referred to the House Education Committee. Representative Carson presented the bill to the Committee, which recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee by a 14-3 vote.
- HB 589, authored by Representative Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville), amends Title 20 to create the Georgia Commission on Civics Education. Representative Gambill presented the bill to the Committee. An amendment was offered to add representatives of GMA and ACCG to the Commission, and the amendment was accepted. Representative Becky Evans (D-Atlanta) offered an amendment to include a representative from the ACLU of Georgia to the Commission, but the amendment was lost. The Committee voted unanimously that the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.
- HB 606, authored by Representative Randy Nix (R-LaGrange), amends Title 20 to include the Georgia Independent School Association as an approved accreditation agency for the HOPE scholarship. Representative Nix presented the bill to the Committee, which voted unanimously that the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
House Business Development Committee Chairman Mike Cheokas (R-Americus) and Committee heard presentations and one bill this morning. The Georgia Association of Realtors, representing 46,000 realtors statewide with 50 local boards of realty provided an update on its priorities which include protecting property rights, protecting a real estate transaction chain and addressing licensure law issues. The Association is also focused on workforce housing as there is a limited supply in Georgia which is affordable. It is also concerned about material costs which are high. Two realtors from the two sectors, commercial and residential, spoke to the Committee. Some of their highlights in their remarks included that the land and hospitality sectors in the commercial market had been hit the hardest by the pandemic. There are also now changes in industrial space - for instance, there is a high demand for cold storage facilities for groceries (now unavailable space!). Work-from-home has devastated some industries; they urged that lawmakers get folks back to work. There were comments that the office space rental rates were dropping and as much as 5 million square footage of space in the Atlanta area had been dumped on the market. In residential real estate, the market is hot and that is primarily due to low mortgage rates of 2.5 percent. However, there is also a struggle for affordable housing due to increases in housing cost appreciation.
A second presentation was done by the Association of General Contractors of Georgia, an association which has been in existence in Georgia since the early 1900s. The number one issue of concern for this Association is the availability of skilled labor to perform work. There is a need for carpenters, plumbers and electricians. Dave Moody, the current chapter president, provided testimony about his concerns for the industry which include making weekly payroll for his employees.
The Committee took up one bill, HB 611, authored by Chairman Cheokas. HB 611 adds a new definition for “small business” so as to provide for three tiers within the definition: Tier 1 is for 10 or fewer employees with $1 million or less in gross receipts; Tier 2 is for 100 or fewer employees with $10 million or less in gross receipts; and Tier 3 is for 300 or fewer employees or with gross receipts of $30 million or less in gross receipts. HB 611 received a DO PASS recommendation.
House Judiciary - Non-Civil Committee - Setzler Subcommittee Chairman Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) and his Subcommittee took action on a few proposals:
- HB 555, authored by Representative Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville), seeks to insert a new Code section at O.C.G.A. 17-7-4 so that the accused in any felony or misdemeanor case may elect in writing to be tried by the court sitting without a jury by filing such request with the clerk of court and serving such request upon the prosecuting attorney and the judge to whom the case is assigned or, if the case is not assigned, upon the chief judge of the court in which the case is pending. After a great deal of discussion around questions about “rights” jury trials and rights to speedy trials (both statutorily and constitutionally), the bill FAILED when called for a vote. The legislation had been supported by the Judicial Council and was a part of the COVID-19 Task Force as a mechanism to help address the backlog of cases in our courts due to the pandemic.
- HB 556, authored by Representative Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville), is another proposal in Chapter 7 of Title 17 which was brought in support by the Judicial Council and was a part of the COVID-19 Task Force recommendations as a mechanism to help address the backlog of cases in our courts due to the pandemic. It seeks to revise authority for trial upon accusation. The District Attorneys testified that the legislation would provide them an additional tool to help address the backlog of cases due to the pandemic. This legislation received a DO PASS recommendation and it now moves to the full Committee for review.
- HB 562, authored by Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), is a re-introduction of legislation which failed to move through the entire process in 2020 (HB 555). This legislation seeks to amend O.C.G.A. 17-4-40 It would add a DFCS case manager to the provision that allows that any warrant for the arrest of a peace officer, law enforcement officer, teacher, or school administrator for any offense alleged to have been committed while in the performance of his or her duties may be issued only by a judge of a superior court, a judge of a state court, or a judge of a probate court. DFCS Director Tom Rawlings supported this legislation as it protects staff from “swatting.” This legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, and it now moves to the full committee.
House Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) and her Committee held a lengthy meeting this afternoon to address a rather long agenda:
- HR 188, authored by Representative Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta), seeks the creation of a State Workgroup to Increase Chronic Disease Information and Screenings in Communities of Color. This resolution received a DO PASS recommendation, and the bill now moves to the House Rules Committee.
- HB 316, authored by Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), seeks to increase the numbers of pharmacy technicians which a pharmacist may supervise in O.C.G.A. 26-4-82(d). Currently, the number of technicians to pharmacists is three to one; this legislation increases the ratio to four to one as long as two of the four of the technicians are certified. Kathy Kuzava, with the Georgia Food Industry Association, spoke to the merits of the legislation which she explained would be helpful to both large and small pharmacies. Greg Reybold, with the Georgia Pharmacy Association, also spoke in favor of the proposal. Chairman Cooper asked about “oversight” of activities in pharmacies now and what types of duties that these technicians perform - Mr. Reybold indicated that they often label bottles, count medications, and put medicines in bottles. In all instances, these technicians are being overseen by a pharmacist and the technicians are not using “professional judgment.” The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, and the bill now moves to the House Rules Committee.
- HB 346, authored by Representative Dominic LaRiccia, seeks to enact “Jarom’s Act” to authorize emergency medical services personnel the ability to administration of hydrocortisone sodium succinate to patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia under certain conditions. This legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, and it now moves to the House Rules Committee.
- HB 450, authored by Representative Mark Newton (R-Augusta), seeks to amend current law regarding the registry for Low THC Oil Patients and authorizes the Department of Public Health to release de-identified data to governments for research in O.C.G.A. 31-2A-18(f). This proposal would work much like Georgia’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, and the bill moves now to the House Rules Committee.
- HB 629, authored by Representative Mark Newton (R-Augusta), seeks to address O.C.G.A. 31-12-12 pertaining to the sales and dispensing of contact lenses. All of the discussion was around what could be permitted by safely using telehealth or telemedicine. After extensive discussion on the proposal both pro and con, including opposing testimony by the Georgia Optometric Association, the bill was tabled.
- HB 591, authored by Representative Don Hogan (R-St. Simons Island), seeks to enact in Title 37 a recommendation from the Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission by permitting licensed marriage and family therapists to perform 1013s and 2013s (alcohol and drug abuse). NAMI rose in support of the legislation as did the Georgia Association of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. HB 591 received a DO PASS recommendation, and the bill now moves to the House Rules Committee.
- HB 377, authored by Representative Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), seeks enactment of the Georgia Women’s Care (Child Care, Alternatives, Resources, and Education) Act. Specifically, the legislation seeks to revise provisions relating to the arrests of pregnant women and provide that women who have been arrested are offered pregnancy testing upon detention. The goal is to get more services to pregnant women who are in jail and prison. Further, it enacts a provision regarding delayed sentencing for postpartum female inmates in Title 17. This legislation would specifically address women who are in our state’s jails as there are designated state prison facilities for pregnant women. Motherhood Beyond Bars supported this bill. This legislation also received a DO PASS recommendation and now moves to the House Rules Committee.
- HB 567, authored by Representative Sharon Cooper, which seeks to create the Newborn Screening and Genetics Advisory Committee in O.C.G.A. 31-12-6. Georgia already has a law which identifies a number of screenings to be made on newborns and this Committee would make recommendations on any new disorder to be screened as identified by the Federal Uniform Screening Panel. This legislation also received a DO PASS recommendation, and it now moves to the House Rules Committee.
Senate Government Oversight Committee Chairman Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone)
- SB 108, authored by Senator Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro), creates the Commission for the Blind and the Visually Impaired in Chapter 2 of Title 30. Now, blind vending is managed by the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency and this legislation creates a separate commission to oversee this effort. Betsy Grinovich and Danielle McIntyre spoke in favor of the legislation and remarked of the current issues with lacking of specialized counselors within the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency to assist blind and newly blind individuals. The version of the legislation was LC 33 8596 and it was provided a DO PASS recommendation.
- SB 218, authored by Senator Larry Walker, III (R-Perry), addresses suspension of compensation of an elected official who is not performing duties of the office, and has left office, until their felony indictment has been adjudicated in O.C.G.A. 45-5-6. There were no questions raised regarding the legislation which is LC 28 0213. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation, and it now moves to the Senate Rules Committee.
- SR 134, authored by Senator Larry Walker, III (R-Perry), addresses members of the General Assembly and constitutional officers who are suspended from their office due to a felony indictment and are no longer performing the duties. The example provided by Senator Walker was that an elected individual, under indictment, would have been removed from his or her position and their position would have been fulfilled by an appointment. The resolution, which would require a question on the ballot for voters, would clarify that the individual’s pay from the state would be suspended while under indictment and when another individual had been appointed to that position. The resolution received a DO PASS recommendation, and it now moves to the Senate Rules Committee.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah), met this afternoon to consider the following bills:
- HB 245, authored by Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta), amends Title 43 to require that individuals seeking to have their license to practice podiatry reinstated submit to a criminal background check. It removes the requirement for renewals. Representative LaHood presented the bill to the Committee, and Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) presented a substitute that addresses an issue in the background check requirement in the interstate medical compact. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and will be sent to the Rules Committee.
- SB 256, authored by Senator Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge), addresses the structure of the Department of Public Health and the county boards of health. Senator Burke presented a substitute to the Committee, which is substantially pared down. Specifically, the substitute now clarifies that district health directors are hired by and report to the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health and confusion in the Code regarding whether the district health director and county health director is the same role. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.
Senate Judiciary Committee In a marathon session stretching from the morning through the afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), met to consider a slate of legislation including:
- SB 197, authored by Sen. Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain), amends Title 16 to revise the state's anti-stalking laws to include the place of residence of the defendant if the victim resides in that location. Sen. Jackson presented the bill to the committee and explained that Georgia is only one of three states with the carve out for a defendant’s place of residence. After hearing from members of the public the committee recommended the bill DO PASS.
- SB 18, authored by Sen. Harold Jones (D-Augusta), amends O.C.G.A. 17-3-1 to alter the statute of limitations for offenses of rape, aggravated sodomy, or aggravated sexual battery. Offenses committed on or after July 1, 2021 may be prosecuted at any time. Offenses of rape, aggravated sodomy, or aggravated battery committed before July 1, 2021 may be prosecuted at any time if DNA evidence is used to establish the identity of the accused. Sen. Jones presented a substitute to the bill. He explained that the new version would ensure the offenses would not be ex post facto. Sen. Jones further implored the committee to trust the prosecutorial process. Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) expressed concerns with the underlying purpose of the bill including the current extension of the statute of limitations in many cases. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon) also expressed concerns with the bill, specifically regarding a prosecutors ability to determine the veracity of a claim many years after the actual date of the alleged crime. The committee took no action on the bill as the author worked to draft some new language.
- SB 160, authored by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), amends Title 9 to stipulate that the tolling of tort actions while criminal prosecution is pending only applies to felony offenses. Sen. Cowsert explained that this bill was part of a larger tort reform package that did not receive final passage last session. He further explained that the underlying code section inadvertently included minor misdemeanors which has led to large risk management assessments subsequently causing high insurance rates in the state. Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia) asked what would happen if a felony crime is pleaded down to a misdemeanor. Sen. Cowsert responded that he believed it would still be tolled according to the bill. The motion that the bill do pass FAILED by a vote of 5-4.
- SB 164, authored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), amends Titles 15, 16, and 31 to provide modernization updates to the state's laws related to HIV. Sen. Hufstetler walked the committee through the bill’s provisions. Chairman Strickland asked if the bill specifically adds a measure for the intent to transmit HIV. Sen. Hufstetler answered that this was correct. The committee recommended the bill DO PASS.
- SB 189, authored by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), amends Title 9 to provide courts with the ability to make bifurcation decisions for issues of liability and damage. Sen. Cowsert explained that this bill was also included in last year’s failed tort reform effort. He also discussed the sizable damages awarded in many civil cases, which he characterized as sometimes excessive. He further explained the need to extend existing bifurcation statutes to preserve the impartiality of juries and clear up judicial backlogs. Chairman Strickland asked if this bill could apply to cases outside of torts. Sen. Cowsert explained that other than expediting and economizing the bill does not alter any type of case other than torts. Sen. Hatchett asked if other states have similar bifurcation practices. Sen. Cowsert said that he has not studied this extensively in other states but he believes North Carolina has a similar statute. Stephanie Kindregan spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of MagMutual. She was joined by Barrett Johnson, a medical malpractice defense attorney in North Carolina. Mr. Johnson explained that North Carolina’s statute applies to cases in which the plaintiff seeks over $150,000 in damages and requires bifurcation upon motion from either party. He characterized the bill as improving both judicial economy and fairness. Sen. Hatchett expressed his concern that bifurcating the liability and damages phases could present an issue in Georgia because of its damages apportionment statute. John Pope spoke in opposition to the bill on behalf of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. He explained that there is no other state that mandates bifurcation other than North Carolina. He also characterized the bill as showing distrust in judges’ current ability to make bifurcation decisions. He also stated the bill would create more trials and increase the court backlog. Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) asked how this would lead to more delays. She brought up an example of a insurer that won many cases which would result in shorter trials overall if the bill was enacted. Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) brought up a list of other states that have bifurcation requirements. Mr. Pope explained that Georgia has these rules to allow the discretion of judges too which makes the bill unnecessary. Chairman Strickland asked if this is a common motion. Mr. Pope answered that he has only seen one motion in his 25 years of practicing; which was successful. The motion that the bill do pass FAILED by a vote of 5-4.
- SB 234, authored by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), amends Title 9 to provide new regulations for the practice of mediation in the state. Sen. Kennedy called on Rusty Sewell with the State Bar to present the bill. Mr. Sewell explained that the bill strives to protect the practice of mediation while making sure not to alter other aspects including compact language. The bill provides some consumer protections including requiring the mediator to disclose any possible conflict of interest including relationships between the mediator and lawyers of either party. The committee recommended the bill DO PASS.
- SB 238, authored by Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), amends Titles 1 and 28 to provide that only the statutory text, arrangement, and numbering of the Official Code of Georgia be given the force and effect of law. It expressly specifies that annotations, research references, and other non-statutory text does not have the force and effect of law. Chairman Strickland explained that the bill would clarify that the annotations contained in the Code is not part of the law passed by the General Assembly. The committee recommended the bill DO PASS.
- SB 226, authored by Senator Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), amends Title 16 to make the sale or distribution of harmful material to minors statute applicable to libraries operated by schools. Sen. Anavitarte explained the impetus and intent of the bill. Members of the public including a health teacher at public and private schools and concerned parent, spoke in favor of the bill. She provided a few examples of obscene material that are accessible by school children and implored the committee to take action. Chairman Strickland explained that he believed there needs to be a way to determine a standard of obscenity along with a system or mechanism to remove material that meets this standard. Mike Griffin spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. He characterized the bill as helping to prevent the sexual exploitation of minors. Gretchen Walton spoke in opposition of the bill on behalf of Cobb County Schools. She explained that the bill should be addressing Title 20 rather than Title 16. The characterized the current language as legally ambiguous and could result in significant criminal liability for school employees. Additionally, Cobb County Schools students are automatically given library cards for public libraries. These libraries continue to be exempted from the statute which creates more legal ambiguity issues. The school system already has a robust review process for material that can be initiated by a parent. Chairman Strickland asked if the school system has the ability to filter out material that is harmful. Ms. Walton explained that the information could be under the control of a third party vendor and thus outside of the direct control of the school system. Jennifer Cartier, a concerned parent, spoke in support of the bill. She objected to content in a book her high school-aged child read in a class and claimed the process for her complaint was unfair. The committee took no action on the bill in anticipation of a substitute to be heard tomorrow morning.
- SB 171, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), amends multiple Titles to create new penalties for offenses committed during unlawful assemblies. The bill also stipulates that any governing authority that reduces the budget of a law enforcement agency by 30 percent or more over one year is subject to the withholding of state or state administered federal funding. Sen. Robertson presented a substitute to the bill and walked the committee through the intent of the bill. He noted that the constitutional right to assemble is not absolute and governments may impose certain restrictions on the time and manner of a peaceful protest. This bill provides further criminal liability for individuals that participate in unlawful acts during unlawful assemblies. The bill also criminalizes the blocking of roadways as part of an unlawful assembly. The substitute includes a requirement for all governments to create a permitting process for assemblies or protests. Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick asked how a governing authority could be held liable for unlawful assemblies for which they have no knowledge. Sen. Robertson explained this would apply in situations where the governing authority knowingly prevented their public safety departments from acting. Sen. Kirkpatrick followed up by stating her belief that the current language does not contain any part stating the authority must know about the assembly. Sen. Harold Jones raised concerns about the gross negligence standard being used to remove immunity for governing authorities. Larry Ramsey spoke in opposition to the bill on behalf of ACCG. ACCG has concerns with the budgeting provisions that would make governing authorities ineligible for state and some federal funding if they lower funding for police departments. Mr. Ramsey explained that voters in the counties have elected their commissioners to make decisions regarding funding and the state should not preempt this local control. Additionally, Mr. Ramsey raised concerns with permitting provisions that he stated could put counties in a bind between following state law and possibly violating constitutional rights to free assembly. Isabel Otero spoke in opposition to the bill on behalf of SPLC Action. She explained that the bill would open the state up to numerous constitutional challenges which would be an undue expense on the taxpayer. She further explained that the bill is designed to stop a specific type of protest including protecting confederate memorials which already have protections. She also raised concerns that the bill could invite violence from far-right extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oathkeepers. Chris Bruce spoke in opposition to the bill on behalf of the Georgia ACLU. Mr. Bruce specifically addressed the ACLU’s concerns with the constitutional implications of the bill. Mazie Lynn Causey spoke in opposition to the bill on behalf of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She explained that the bill contains unnecessary criminal punishments for constitutionally protected acts. Additionally, the bill’s racketeering provisions violate the legislature’s intent when they passed initial racketeering legislation. No action was taken on the bill.
- SB 190, authored by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), amends Title 51 to limit recovery of damages for medical and health care expenses to amounts equaling the amount paid to healthcare providers on behalf of a claimant and necessary to satisfy incurred but unpaid medical expenses. Sen. Cowsert walked the committee through the bill and discussed the phenomenon of phantom damages. Sen. Bo Hatchett asked Sen. Cowsert to explain subrogation in relation to the bill. He further asked if Sen. Cowsert would be open to an amendment that would eliminate a health insurance company’s subrogation rights. Sen. Cowsert explained that he would be open to this change but would prefer it in the form of a standalone bill. John Pope spoke in opposition to the bill on behalf of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. He disagreed with Sen. Cowsert’s statement that the bill does not affect the collateral source rule. He further stated that the bill will lead to lower awards for citizens. The motion that the bill do pass FAILED by a vote of 5-4.
House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee The House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee, chaired by Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta), met this afternoon to consider a single bill.
- HB 520, authored by Rep. Phillip Singleton (R-Sharpsburg), amends Title 50 to alter the definition of “broadband services” to remove “terrestrial” as part of the definition. Rep. Singleton explained that the intent is to give the OneGeorgia Authority more avenues to pursue broadband solutions. He provided the example of StarLink which current law wouldn’t allow the state to pursue grants for. The committee recommended the bill DO PASS.
Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 26
The House is expected to consider the following measures on Wednesday for Legislative Day 26:
- HB 44 — State government; Georgia shall observe daylight savings time year round; provide (SP&CA-Cantrell-22nd)
- HB 248 — Motor vehicles; local governing body to apply for a permit to operate a traffic enforcement safety device which enforces the speed limit in a school zone by recorded image; authorize (PS&HS-Powell-32nd)
- HB 302 — Revenue and taxation; proceeds of local government regulatory fees be used to pay for regulatory activity; require (Substitute) (W&M-Momtahan-17th)
- HB 303 — Jaida Act; enact (Ins-Glanton-75th)
- HB 322 — Juvenile Code; revise definition of sexual exploitation (JuvJ-Wiedower-119th)
- HB 334 — Superior courts; clerks; notaries public; provisions (Substitute) (Judy-Gullett-19th)
- HB 355 — Georgia Carbon Sequestration Registry; inclusion of building products in construction; provisions (NR&E-Wiedower-119th)
- HB 363 — Crimes and offenses; protection of elder persons; revise definitions (JudyNC-LaHood-175th)
- HB 371 — Evidence; certain proceedings may be conducted by video conference; provide (Substitute)(JudyNC-Gunter-8th)
- HB 410 — Bingo; transfer regulatory authority from Georgia Bureau of Investigation to Secretary of State (JudyNC-Lumsden-12th)
- HB 435 — Local government; exempt certain contracts competitively procured by the state or cooperative purchasing organizations (GAff-Anderson-10th)
- HB 470 — Property; no plans are required when units are not designated by physical structures; provide (Judy-Washburn-141st)
- HB 477 — Revenue and taxation; proceeds of local government regulatory fees be used to pay for regulatory activity; require (Substitute) (W&M-Momtahan-17th)
- HB 511 — State treasury; establishment or revision of certain Trust Funds; provide (Substitute)(App-Reeves-34th)
- HB 548 — Social services; reasonable access to records concerning reports of child abuse to the Administrative Office of the Courts; provide (JuvJ-Dempsey-13th)
- HB 586 — Georgia Economic Recovery Act of 2021; enact (Substitute) (W&M-Watson-172nd)
- HB 587 — Georgia Economic Renewal Act of 2021; enact (Substitute) (W&M-Williamson-115th)(Rules Committee Substitute LC 43 1970S)
- HB 593 — Tax Relief Act of 2021; enact (W&M-Blackmon-146th)
- HR 185 — House Rural Development Council; reauthorize (ED&T-Watson-172nd)