Gold Dome Report - January 22, 2016
Lawmakers worked feverishly in an effort to conclude Day 8 of the Legislative Session and in advance of any bad weather. Governor Deal had already announced that the State offices and Capitol would close at noon. The General Assembly returns on Monday, January 25, 2016 for Day 9.
Chairman Randy Nix (R-LaGrange) offered the House devotion as the preacher of the day could not make it to the Capitol. He was described by Speaker Ralston as much like the Apostle Paul with his wide and varied background. Chairman Nix recited a poem to provide a "reality check" for his colleagues to open the day's activities.
The second, and final, adjournment Resolution was taken up on the Floor this morning. HR 1114 was adopted, setting the schedule for the remainder of the Session. Day 30, Crossover Day, is slated for February 29, 2016 and Day 40, Sine Die!, will be March 24, 2016.
HB 718, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), seeks to add a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 42-1-11.3 regarding inmate policies and penal institutions. It would prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates, including handcuffs and shackles, while the inmate is experiencing labor or during delivery or post delivery recovery "unless there is a reasonable basis to believe that the use of restraints is necessary to prevent such inmate from injuring herself or others."
HB 785, by Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek), is the companion to his Resolution HR 1051. This legislation will be known as the "Georgia Township Act" and it proposes to create a new Chapter 93 in Title 36. Townships should be required of area from within one county and containing at least 200 acres of land and a minimum of 500 parcels of property that qualify for a homestead exemption and in which at least 10 percent of the local geographical area is used or is zoned for purposes other than residential use. Before any legislation to create a township by local Act of the General Assembly is passed, a feasibility study is to be conducted to look at projected annual revenues and expenses of the proposed township and determine the substantial likelihood that the projected annual revenues of the township will exceed projected annual expenses of the proposed township. If passed, any proposal by local Act creating a township would be subject to the approval in a referendum by the electors of the area to be formed into a township.
HB 790, by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), amends O.C.G.A. § 16-10-28 to amend current law concerning transmission of a false public alarm. It adds a new definition for the term, "critical infrastructure" which will mean "any building, place of assembly, or facility that is located in this state and necessary for national or public security, education or public safety." It also outlines that a person commits the offense of "transmitting a false public alarm" when that individual "transmits in any manner a report or warning knowing at the time of the transmission that there is no reasonable ground for believing such report or warning and when the report or warning relates to: (1) A destructive device or hazardous substance is located in such a place that its explosion, detonation, or release would endanger human life or cause injury or damage to property; (2) an individual who has caused or threatened to cause physical harm to himself or herself or another individual by using a deadly weapon or with any object, device, or instrument which when used offensively against a person, is likely to result in serious bodily injury; or (3) any other incident that would reasonably elicit an immediate, heightened response by law enforcement or emergency services." It further outlines punishment for these offenses in (c). At (e), it requires that law enforcement submit annual reports to the Attorney General concerning the number and nature of these offenses by December 1 of each year and then every two years the Attorney General is required to summarize the annual reports produced and transmit those to GEMA by February 1.
HB 793, by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), addresses O.C.G.A. § 48-5-41 and property exempt from taxation. It adds in (a)(15) a revision to the definition for "fraternal benefit association" and rather than such entity being one whose founding organization received its charter from the General Assembly prior to January 1, 1880 – it will require that the entity have obtained its charter from the Georgia General Assembly 125 or more years ago.
HB 795, by Rep. Bubber Epps (R-Dry Branch), transfers the Georgia Driver's Education Commission from the Department of Driver Services to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety in O.C.G.A. § 15-21-172. Under current law in O.C.G.A. § 15-21-179, it permits the imposition of an additional penalty for violations of traffic laws or ordinances of 1.5 percent of the original fine – the provisions of this law are presently to be repealed June 30, 2016 and an amendment is offered in this legislation addressing O.C.G.A. § 15-21-179(c) so that such Code Section will be repealed June 30, 2019 unless extended by an Act of the General Assembly.
HB 796, by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), addresses rights and responsibilities of individuals with disabilities who use service animals in Chapter 4 of Title 30. The changes will apply to individuals who have issues with "major life activities" (ambulating, seeing, hearing, learning, working, and interacting with others) and applies to individuals who are physically or mentally impaired and cannot perform one or more of these major life activities. It defines "service animal" in O.C.G.A. § 30-4-1(4) which is "an animal that is trained to assist, do work, or perform tasks for a physically or mentally impaired person and which is actually utilized for the purpose of aiding such person in performing one or more major life activities. Such term shall also include animals actively being trained to assist, do work, or perform tasks for a physically or mentally impaired person." Currently, Georgia law permits totally or partially blind individuals to be accompanied by guide dogs and these changes broadens the permission for service animals. It establishes a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 30-4-4 so that the Department of Human Services may authorize private service organizations that provide assistance to disabled individuals to create and issue information cards containing the Department's seal which briefly detail the rights of physically or mentally impaired persons and the penalty for denial of, or interference with, such rights. It also adds in O.C.G.A. § 30-4-5 language so that if any individual who knowingly and willfully misrepresents himself or herself as qualified to use or train a service animal in order to obtain accommodation or secure rights would be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature and upon conviction would be punished by a fine not to exceed $2,000.00, imprisonment for not more than 30 days or both. The bill also alters current law for "assistance dogs" in O.C.G.A. § 16-11-107.1, making conforming references to "service animal" and also makes it felony if someone is convicted of knowingly and intentionally destroys or causes physical harm to a service animal and sets punishment of not less than one nor more than five years, a fine not to exceed $10,000.00, or both.
HB 797, by Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), amends current law pertaining to the requirements to wear protective head and eye protection in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-315 and § 40-6-316. It requires only riders who are under the age of 18 years of age to wear protective headgear while operating a motorcycle and requires only those riders who are under 18 years of age to wear protective headgear while operating a moped. Presently, all individuals are required to wear such protection.
HB 798, by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson), amends law relating to HOPE scholarships and grants:
- Specifically, it amends O.C.G.A. § 20-3-519(27) concerning HOPE scholarships and grants and requirements for the "Zell Miller Scholarship Scholar" and adds that the individual may also qualify if he or she, as an incoming freshman, has completed a home study program meeting the requirements of subsection (c) of O.C.G.A. § 20-2-690, having received a score of at least 1,350 combined critical reading score and math score on a single administration of the SAT or an ACT composite scale score of at least 29.
- Specifically amends O.C.G.A. § 20-3-519.2, regarding eligibility requirements for a HOPE scholarship at a public postsecondary institution so as to permit a qualified student who completed a home study program and has met all requirements enumerated in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-690(c) in lieu of graduating from an eligible high school, earned a score in the seventy-fifth percentile or higher nationally on a standardized college admission test, such as the SAT or ACT the ability to qualify.
HB 801, by Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton), amends O.C.G.A. § 20-2-27 in order to revise the academic eligibility requirements to receive the HOPE scholarship by including "computer science" in the "advanced science" category. O.C.G.A. § 20-3-519.2 would be amended to require that, beginning in academic year 2017-2018, the cumulative GPA shall include weighted grades for specific science, technology, engineering, and math college courses. The grade assigned by an instructor would be increased by an additional .5, if such grade is a B, C, or D.
HB 802, by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), offers amendments to O.C.G.A. § 48-7-27(a) to revise the deduction from income for contributions to savings trust accounts permitted in Article 11 of Chapter 3 of Title 20. Currently, law permits a deduction not to exceed $2,000.00 per beneficiary if a joint return is filed; this raises the amount to $4,000.00 per beneficiary.
HB 803, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), amends O.C.G.A. § 15-11-2 to provide that a parent who causes a child to be conceived as a result of rape, incest, or trafficking for sexual servitude may have their parental rights terminated.
HB 805, by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), addresses again Georgia's laws governing taxis, limousines, and networks of drivers. It has a number of revisions:
- Amends O.C.G.A. § 40-1-154, concerning the regulation of carriers on safety of equipment and annual inspections is changed so that "Limousine carriers shall comply with the applicable provisions of Code Section 40-1-8."
- Adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 40-1-193.1 to require that each taxi service doing business or operating in Georgia will be required to register with the Department of Public Safety and the Department will issue a license to such taxi service which is to be renewed on an annual basis (and with a fee not to exceed $100.00). Additionally, each taxi service will be required to maintain a current list of all drivers it utilizes in Georgia and whether they are employees or independent contractors. It also outlines that the taxi service is to have a zero tolerance with regard to the use of drugs or alcohol while a driver is on duty and it further addresses required insurance coverage.
- Amends O.C.G.A. § 48-8-3(25), concerning Georgia's sales tax exemptions, so as to include that fares of taxi services, limousine carriers, and ride share networks or drivers are exempt from such taxes.
HB 806, by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), addresses renewals of driver's licenses and identification cards. Specifically, it changes in O.C.G.A. § 40-5-32 that driver's licenses now expiring on the licensee's birthday in the fifth year following the issuance of such license is to now expire on the eighth year. It also eliminates the option currently in place for applicants for Class C, E, F, or M non-commercial driver's licenses who are under the age of 60. It also alters law regarding the renewal of veteran's, honorary or distinctive licenses – striking the renewal provision up to age 65 and reverting to five year renewals – thus requiring those to renew every eight years. It further amends O.C.G.A. § 40-5-54(b) concerning the reporting of convictions to the Department so that reports of convictions to the Department two or more years after the date of final disposition will be required to be noted on the person's driving record but that the conviction shall not result in the suspension of a driver's license – there are exceptions, such as for individuals who are habitual violators or for convictions of violations of Article & of Chapter 7 of Title 40 which will disqualify the person from obtaining a commercial driver's license, commercial driver instruction permit or commercial driving privileges. O.C.G.A. § 40-5-150(g) is also proposed to be amended so that commercial driver's licenses would also have eight rather than five year renewals. In O.C.G.A. § 40-5-172(a), it amends renewals for identification cards for individuals with disabilities, changing it from five year renewals to eight year renewals.
HB 808, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), addresses judicial qualifications. It adds a new Code Section at O.C.G.A. § 15-1-12.1 to create a new seven-member Judicial Qualification Commission which would have the power to discipline, remove and cause involuntary retirement of judges. The proposal also adds a change in Georgia's open meetings and records laws in O.C.G.A. § 50-13-3(c) so as to exclude the proceedings of this Judicial Qualifications Commission from open meetings and records provisions.
HR 961, by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), proposes an amendment to Georgia's Constitution at Article III, Section IX, Paragraph VI, adding a new subparagraph (o) to provide by law for the dedication of existing fees and assessments for the purpose of funding driver education and training courses in public schools (grades nine through twelve). Revenues dedicated to this purpose would not lapse. If passed, it requires approval by voters.
HR 1091, by Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), proposes a Constitutional amendment at Article I, Section I by inserting a new Paragraph XXVIIIA to recognize "paramount right to life" of all human beings as persons at any stage of development. This amendment, if passed by the General Assembly, will require voter approval.
HR 1093, by Rep. Kimberly Alexander (D-Hiram), proposes a Joint Study Committee on Mental Illness Initiative, Reform, Public Health, and Safety. The focus is on the adult system and citizens suffering from mental illness in the several different settings, such as prisons and jails, as well as the state hospitals and community based programs. It identifies a review of the county and city infrastructure for services including housing and congregate care housing options and appears to encourage the development of additional housing and services options.
HR 1098, by Reps. Joe Wilkinson (R-Atlanta) and Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), establishes November as National Epilepsy Month.
HR 1099, also by Reps. Wilkinson (R-Atlanta) and Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), recognizes April as Parkinson’s Disease Month.
HR 1112, by Rep. David Stover (R-Newnan), proposes an amendment to Georgia's Constitution at Article VIII, Section IV at Paragraph 1(a) to provide for the election of members of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Currently, the Governor makes those appointments with an individual from each of the congressional districts; this proposal would require elections of individuals in each of the congressional districts and an additional five members who would be members at-large.
HR 1113, by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), is the companion to HB 808. This Resolution proposes a Constitutional amendment at Section VII of Article VI paragraph VI to abolish the current Judicial Qualifications Commission and create a new Commission. Currently, there are two judges of any court of record selected by the Supreme Court; three members of the State Bar who have been active members of the State Bar for at least ten years and selected by its board of governors; and two citizens (non-lawyers) who are appointed by the Governor.
SB 251, by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), exempts schools buses from the levy of an excise tax on motor fuels in O.C.G.A. § 48-9-3(b)(11). Previously this exemption was time limited from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015.
SB 252, by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), repeals O.C.G.A. § 48-13-50.3 which is the excise tax on hotel and motel room rentals which was previously enacted by the passage of HB 170 in 2015 and imposed an added $5.00 per night to the customer on rooms.
SB 253, by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), amends O.C.G.A. § 48-9-3(b) concerning excise taxes on motor fuels. It exempts school systems, counties, and municipalities from this levy – it clarifies that sales of motor fuel to public school systems in Georgia for the exclusive use of the school system in operating its school buses when the motor fuel is purchased and paid for by the school system or when the sales of motor fuel to a county or municipality for the exclusive use of such county or municipality when the motor fuel is purchased and paid for by such county or municipality are exempt.
SB 278, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), addresses penalties for the crimes of pimping and pandering and Georgia's Sexual Offender Registry. Her legislation amends O.C.G.A. § 16-6-13 creating additional offenses for such activities and associated punishments and adds additional offenses in O.C.G.A. § 42-1-12(a)(10(B.1) to the current offenses when individuals must register with the State Sexual Offender Registry including convictions of "dangerous sexual offenses" after June 30, 2016.
SB 279, Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla), addresses the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council at O.C.G.A. § 35-8-3. Currently, this Council is comprised of 20 members; this moves the voting membership to 22 members and adds the Commissioner of Juvenile Justice or his or her designee to be a member of this Council as well as the Commissioner of Natural Resources or his or her designee.
SB 280, by Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), eliminates itemized adjustments to Georgia's taxable net income except for limited mortgage deductions, charitable contributions and medical expenses and it further increases the personal exemption from State income tax. It also repeals the corporate net worth tax, if passed, on or after January 1, 2017. If passed, this measure will be known as the "Tax Relief Act of 2016." At O.C.G.A. § 48-7-20(c), it establishes that beginning on or after January 1, 2017, the rate of income tax imposed will be 5.4 percent. The personal exemptions, found in O.C.G.A. § 48-7-26, would be: joint filing increases from $7,400 to $11,400; single increases from $2,700 to $4,700; and each dependent rises from $3,000 to $5,000. Mortgage interest, non-cash charitable deductions and medical deductions are proposed to be capped at $25,000 (total).
SB 282, by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro), adds a new Part 7 in Article 15 of Chapter 1 of Title 10 which if passed will be known as the "Georgia Firearms Industry Nondiscrimination Act." Specifically, one of its provisions included at O.C.G.A. § 10-1-439.2 makes it an "unlawful discriminatory practice for any person to refuse to provide credit or financial services of any kind to, to refrain from continuing an existing credit or financial services relationship with, to terminate an existing credit or financial services relationship with, or to otherwise discriminate in the provision of credit or financial services against a person or trade association solely because such person or trade association is engaged in the lawful commerce of firearms or ammunition products and is licensed pursuant to Chapter 44 of Title 18 of the United States Code or is a trade association."
SB 283, by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), provides for multibank pooling of depositories for the acceptance of deposits of public funds from public bodies (See O.C.G.A. § 45-8-13.1). In O.C.G.A. § 45-8-1, it amends current law concerning definitions used in accounting for public funds and adds definitions for the terms, "commissioner," and "covered depository." At O.C.G.A. § 45-8-13(c), it requires covered depositories secure public funds from public bodies and outlines how such occurs (if the multibank pooled method is used, each covered depository shall guarantee the deposits of the public body against loss caused by the default of other depositories within the multibank pool).
SB 284, by Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus), is a proposal which he mirrored after federal legislation by Sens. David Purdue and Johnny Isakson. This legislation will be known, if passed, as the "First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia." It is written as a new Chapter 15A in Title 50 to prohibit discriminatory action against a person who believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such marriage. If an individual asserts a violation of this Chapter as a claim or defense in a judicial, agency, or other proceeding and then he or she may obtain special damages, a declaratory judgment or injunctive or other appropriate relief against a government.
SB 285, by Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), proposes changes to bail in homicide cases at O.C.G.A. § 17-6-1(f)(5) so as to include as a condition of bail or other release the prohibition of an individual to operate a motor vehicle until the disposition of the offense. Additionally, it seeks to amend law governing the duties of the Georgia Crime Information Center in O.C.G.A. § 35-3-33(a) by also requiring that it receive and store information from courts of inquiry regarding conditions of bail or other release from custody that are issued pursuant to paragraph (5) of subsection (f) of Code Section 17-6-1 for violations of Code Section 40-6-393. Such information is to be made available to criminal justice agencies and the Department of Driver Services to ensure compliance with such conditions in relation to operation of a motor vehicle.
SB 286, by Sen. Tommie Williams (R-Lyons), seeks to amend O.C.G.A. § 33-8-8.3(a)(1) and the insurance tax proceeds used by county governing authorities in the provision of services to unincorporated areas of the counties. In part, it alters current law permitting curbside or on-site residential or commercial garbage and solid waste collection to the funding for garbage and solid waste collection and disposal, including recycling. It also permits these counties to provide "any service or services as may be determined in the discretion of the county governing authority, regardless of whether such service or services are similar to or different from a service or services described in any other subparagraph of this paragraph."
SB 287, by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), revises and adds new language at O.C.G.A. § 20-2-308, regarding "other educational programs," to require that a specialized home room class be available to any student who is "at-risk" (characterized by poverty, high absenteeism, academic failure, pregnancy, disruptive behavior, or other dysfunctions). Special tutoring, mentoring, career path coaching or other support services are to be provided to this at-risk home room class of students which will encourage successful completion of high school requirements for a diploma. The student's participation in the at-risk home room class, though, is to be voluntary.
SR 675, by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), proposes an amendment to Georgia's Constitution at Article I, Section II by adding a new Paragraph X to declare English as the official language of the State of Georgia and to also provide that official state actions be in English. It also prohibits any requirement that any language other than English be used in any documents, regulations, orders, transactions, proceedings, meetings, programs or publications and prohibits discrimination, penalties or other limits on participation against persons who speak only English. It does allow the State and its political subdivisions to use a language other than English for these purposes: 1) to teach or encourage the learning of languages other than English; 2) to protect the public health or safety; 3) to teach English to those who are not fluent in the language; 4) to permit the use of American Sign Language and to comply with any other applicable federal law; 5) to protect the rights of victims of crime and criminal defendants; 6) to ensure equality of access to a court of competent jurisdiction; 7) to promote diplomacy, trade, commerce, and tourism; 8) to create or promote State or agency mottos, inscribe public monuments, and perform other acts involving the customary use of language other than English; and 9) to utilize terms of art or terms of phrases from other languages which are commonly used in communications otherwise in English.
SR 736, by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton), proposes the creation of a Senate Work and Save Study Committee to examine whether Georgia should enact a Work and Save plan to allow residents to save for retirement via payroll deduction.
SR 756, by Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), seeks to amend the State's Constitution at Article III, Section IX adding a new Paragraph V-A to provide for prioritized funding requirements and grants the General Assembly authority to appropriate those revenues. It states in part:
- On or after January 1, 2017, if the net amount of revenue deposited in the general fund in the preceding fiscal year exceeds $23 billion, and the general reserves fund holds at least 7 percent of that amount, the individual State income tax on all taxpayers subject to such tax shall decrease by .2 percent. Thereafter, once the net amount of revenue deposited in the general fund collected in the preceding fiscal year exceeds $23.6 billion and the general reserves fund holds at least 7 percent of that amount, the individual State income tax on all taxpayers subject to such tax shall decrease by an additional .2 percent until it reaches 5 percent.
SR 794, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), recognizes January 26, 2016 as "Human Trafficking Awareness Day" at the Capitol.
SR 808, by Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), recognizes February 2, 2016 as "Stop Violence Against Women Day" at Georgia's Capitol.
Our 2015 Georgia Capitol team consists of Stan Jones, Chuck Clay, Helen Sloat, and Logan Fletcher. We will also try our hand at tweeting this year – so follow us! @GDR_Live
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.