Yesterday was Crossover Day, the 28th day of the 40-day session. Generally, a bill has to pass from one chamber to the other by Crossover Day to become law that session. Sine Die, the official end to the 2018 Legislative Session is scheduled for March 29. As the General Assembly wraps up, we continue to closely monitor key pieces of legislation that could impact Georgia consumers. You can keep up-to-date on all the bills we're following on our
Here are some important highlights:
Passed in the Senate
State Senator Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, is taking action to protect Georgia consumers from future out of control nuclear construction costs in light of Georgia Power’s nuclear Plant Vogtle. Construction at Vogtle 3 & 4 is now more than five years behind schedule, the cost has nearly doubled to $23.4 billion, and yet Georgia Power will profit an additional $5 billion from the mismanaged project! Due to 2009 legislation allowing Georgia Power to collect project financing costs during construction, customers have already paid more than $2 billion, nearly half of which is the Company’s profit. Georgia Watch supports Senate Bill 355 to amend the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act to sunset this year so that it cannot be applied to any future nuclear projects Georgia Power might propose.
We are happy to report that SB 355 passed the Senate on February 26 and moves to the House for consideration.
SB 376 and HB 866 Passed the Senate and House
Georgia Watch has long encouraged Georgians to protect themselves from identity theft by placing a
on their credit reports. Now, in the wake last year's massive Equifax hack which exposed personal information belonging to nearly
5 million Georgians
and almost 150 million Americans, Georgia legislators are working to make it easier to protect yourself and your family from identity theft. Presently, in order to place a credit freeze on a credit report, Georgians must pay $3 per credit bureau. They must also pay $3 per bureau each time they wish to "thaw" the freeze for a new loan or line of credit. These small fees add up and for many Georgians they are prohibitive, leaving their information exposed to identity thieves.
Senate Bill 376
, introduced by State Senator David Shafer, R-Duluth, along with
House Bill 866
, introduced by State Representative Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs, would prohibit the credit reporting agencies from charging fees on Georgians for placing or removing credit freezes on their account. This is a significant consumer protection and would make protecting oneself from identity theft a little easier in Georgia.
Last week, Clark Howard joined Georgia Watch to testify at the State Capitol in favor of these bills and on February 26, both passed their respective chambers!
Georgia Watch supports legislation that removes fees for credit freezes and looks forward to this becoming the law in Georgia.
SB 359 Passed in the Senate
Senate Bill 359, sponsored by State Senator Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, would protect Georgia consumers from surprise out-of-network medical bills in emergencies. A surprise bill can occur when a patient seeks care in an emergency room at a hospital that is in-network with their insurance plan, but the consumer receives services from contracted providers that are outside of their insurance plan network. This can result in hundreds or thousands of dollars in unexpected medical expenses for consumers.
Georgia Watch supports SB 359 and is happy to report that this legislation will move to the House for consideration.
HB 924 Does Not Pass
House Bill 924 was considered by the Georgia House Ways and Means Committee on February 23. The Bill would amend Georgia code to allow exemptions for local governments to issue revenue bonds for electric utility projects without first seeking a vote of approval from local residents. The electric utility for the City of Dalton, a co-owner in the Plant Vogtle project, is seeking this exemption, which could allow them to raise rates to cover higher Vogtle costs without any advance notice to or vote of approval from Dalton residents! Other Georgia Municipal electric utilities could follow.
Georgia Watch testified against this Bill, and we are happy to report that HB 924 did not pass out of Committee.
HB 81 Passed in the House
House Bill 81, sponsored by State Representative Tom McCall, R-Elberton, would allow county authority operated hospitals to collect medical debts from consumers with a tax refund offset. Georgia Watch opposes allowing hospitals to use income tax refund offsets for the collection of medical bills because medical debt is already a leading cause of bankruptcy for consumers in Georgia, and errors and disputes can arise when it comes to hospital bills.
Georgia Watch opposes HB 81 and will work to stop this legislation in the Senate.
Other bills we are watching:
Georgia Watch was also pleased to see
Senate Bill 358
pass in the Senate which would establish "banking improvement zones" in areas underserved by financial institutions such as banks and credit unions. In addition, we were glad to see
House Bill 834
pass in the House which would allow survivors of domestic violence to terminate a rental agreement without financial penalty when they need to relocate for safety reasons. You can find out about other bills we are tracking on our