Last week the Senate completed our last full week of the 2019 session. We are set to Sine Die Tuesday, April 2, 2019, with over 25 bills left to debate in the Senate and at least three conference committee reports to review and thoroughly vet before voting on them. While there is still a lot of work to be done, I want to commend all of my colleagues for their hard work last week when we efficiently debated and voted on over 80 pieces of legislation. We moved legislation forward that addresses a variety of key issues that will have an impact on every Georgian.
Along with debating legislation, I had the honor of welcoming the Atlanta Braves team and manager Brian Snitker to the Senate where we honored team management and players for their 18th division title and other accolades during the 2018 Major League Baseball season. It was great to have them in the chamber and I wish them the best of luck tonight during their season opener.
Below are some bills I would like to highlight from last week:
Senate Resolutions –
• Senate Resolution 24 urges the United States Congress to amend the federal Highway Trust Fund allocation process to allow states to retain 10 cents of the 18.4 cents per gallon gasoline tax for state infrastructure projects.
• Senate Resolution 465 which codifies the Senate rules for the 2019- 2020 Georgia General Assembly. Changes were made to the rules in order to establish traditional practices and alter certain Senate committee rules and procedures.
House Bills –
• House Bill 83 would require recess to be scheduled for students in grades Kindergarten through fifth, with certain exceptions for weather and other scheduled activities.
• House Bill 186 would alter certain provisions regarding the Certificates of Need (CON) program. This includes raising the capital expenditure requirement threshold from $2.5 million to $10 million and allowing ‘destination cancer hospitals’ to apply to be a ‘general cancer hospital,’ which would change the requirements for in-state and out-of-state patient numbers. Additionally, HB 186 would update provisions in the Rural Hospital Organization Tax Credit regarding annual reporting and ranking hospitals in order of financial need. Lastly, HB 186 would establish the Office of Health Strategy and Coordination which would allow for state officials and experts to share information and develop innovative approaches to accessible care.
• House Bill 228 would raise the minimum age for marriage in Georgia from 16 years of age to 17, as long as the minor has been emancipated and has completed a premarital education program. The bill would also require the Department of Public Health to develop educational materials that include information on the legal rights of married individuals and resources for victims of abuse.
• House Bill 315 would require the submission of certain documents from consultants who enter into contracts with counties, municipalities and other local entities. HB 315 would outline requirements for bids and requests for proposals and procurement orders.
• House Bill 321 which would require hospitals to disclose certain information on its website including federal and state disclosures. Hospitals that do not comply with this would be barred from receiving state funds or funds from the Qualified Rural Hospital Organization Expense Tax Credit. Additionally, the bill makes changes related to the definition of ‘rural hospital organizations’ under the Qualified Rural Hospital Organization Expense Tax Credit and updates the fund allocation process. Lastly, it would extend the sunset on the Medicaid financing program.
• House Bill 344 would provide for a constitutional referendum for voters to decide if the state should create a property tax exemption on charity-owned property for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes.
• House Bill 382, which I carried, would make several updates to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act including adding “constituted recreation authorities” as a qualified funding entity, removing the deadline for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund Board of Trustees to receive funding applications and would allow money in the trust fund to cover up to five percent of the cost of the program.
• House Bill 446 would provide an additional avenue for claiming the income tax credit on timberland damaged by Hurricane Michael. Currently, someone who has damaged timberland can claim the credit upon replanting the trees. This bill would allow an individual to claim the credit upon ‘restoration’ or cleaning up the land damaged by the hurricane.
• House Bill 456 which would update when local governments need to perform an annual audit report of their budget. For any local governments spending less than $550,000 annually, an audit would need to be completed every two years. Those with an expenditure amount over this threshold would be required to perform an audit every year.
• House Bill 472 would make several updates to the Foster Care System and Juvenile Code in Georgia. Under HB 472, the definition of “fictive kin” would be updated to include those who are not related to the child but have a relationship with them prior to their placement. Additionally, “temporary alternatives to foster care” would be added as another option for juvenile courts to place children. HB 472 would update code so that no staff member from the Department of Juvenile Justice could serve as a juvenile court intake officer and add options courts can consider when removing a child from their home, among other updates.
• House Bill 527 would update the weights in the formula used to determine Quality Basic Education funding.
House Resolution –
• House Resolution 37 would create the Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics. The Commission would be composed of 22 members and would analyze funding and policy priorities that would enhance Georgia’s logistics industry.
For a full summary of last week and a complete overview of everything that passed, please follow this link: http://www.senate.ga.gov/spo/Documents/UpperChamberReport/2019/WeeklyChamberReport3_25thru3_29.pdf
After we adjourn tomorrow, I will be providing a complete overview of what passed this session, what didn’t make it and some issues to look forward to during the interim and 2020 session. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if we can help with anything. Our office door is always open!
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.