Copyright 2018. Not to be reproduced in whole or part without permission.  
Nonpartisan News from the Georgia Capitol
 Published by the Education Fund of 
League of Women Voters of Georgia 
Legislation Reporting: Sally Fitzgerald, LWVAF member 
Editor: Marla Bexley-Lovell, LWVGA staff
Other Contributors:  Caleb Head, LWVGA intern
                             Tracy Adkison, LWVGA President
                               Edna Kopetz, LWVGA Member
                     Elizabeth Poythress, LWVGA Board   
Elisabeth MacNamara, LWVGA Board Advisor 

 Empowering Voters.  Defending Democracy.  
Week Seven: Crossover  & Considerations
Crossover Day is on Day 28 (2.28), the day a bill must exit its chamber of origin to be considered for passage this session.  Until Crossover, each chamber has handled its own legislation; after Crossover, each chamber begins to focus on the other chamber 's legislation.  Local legislation is not bound by Crossover Day rules.
Close up of the Gold Dome 
An incredible amount of legislation gets passed out of committee in the few days prior to Crossover.  Some of it is just bad.  Why is such a thing is allowed?  Perhaps the committee chairs feel an obligation to their colleagues to give them the chance, or perhaps they just get tired of being bugged by the sponsors.  
The Rules Committees become more important in being another filter.  Even if the Rules Committee passes on the bill to the floor, the presiding officer can defer legislation or simply fail to call up the bill.  Despite the urban rumor, there are a lot of eyes and minds reviewing legislation. Most of what is passed is considered to be important for the welfare of the state 's citizens, or for a political advantage in an election year.

Election Legislation News
Voting Machines, Special Elections & Foreign Collusion
Submittted by Elisabeth MacNamara, LWVGA 
This is a big election year in Georgia. Every statewide office, the entire General Assembly, all U.S House members and most county-level offices will be on the ballot. Last year was a big election year for a different reason. Starting with a special election in Congressional District 6, 2017 was the year of special elections. Over the past year, there have also been allegations of foreign interference in a presidential election. Closer to home, there has been legal action against the state for the purging of voters from the rolls contrary to the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act. To make matters more interesting, our Direct Record Electronic voting machines are rapidly reaching their 'sell by ' date.  Read more about this session's Election Bill News.  
2018 General Session
Issue 7
February 26, 2018

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General Assembly 2018 Calendar  
The General Assembly met for four days last week, completing Day 26.   This week they return for 3 more days, which will include CrossOver Day on Day 28. 
Day 27: February 26
Day 28: February 28 
Day 29: March 1 
Check out the Session Schedule, set each year by resolution.  
Committee Meeting Schedules are set by each Chamber, and can be found below.
Quick Links 


Report from the Capitol, Week 7
Submitted by Sally Fitzgerald, Capitol Reporter

Session Cheat Sheet  
HB = House Bill                                        SB = Senate Bill 
HR= House Resolution                             SR = Senate Resolution
NNS = Needs No Signature                      TGFS = To Governor for Signature
DV = Differing Versions                             DOE = Department of Education
CA = Constitutional Amendment*              BOLD Bill Number = final passage
* Requires a 2/3s vote in each chamber and a majority      
SB 330  Wilkinson - 50     PASSED Senate    
Georgia Agriculture Education Act.  Agriculture education will be based on a nationally recognized model with 3 parts, daily instruction, hands on real-world learning through supervised agriculture experience (SAE), with leadership and learning opportunities through Future Farmers of America participation.  DOE shall develop the curriculum with input from agriculture education teachers.  A pilot program will begin in 2019-2020 to provide agriculture education in 6 elementary schools, one in each Agriculture Education region, which shall be evaluated at the end of the third year with a report to legislative Education committees.  Professional Standards Commission shall extend the agriculture education in-field certification to elementary school (K-5) teachers.
SB 401  Tippins - 37     PASSED Senate    
Career oriented aptitudes and career interests will be used as factors when middle school students are selecting high school courses.  In 2018, school counselor roles in grades 6-12 will be reviewed by DOE and a report prepared for the state board of education and the General Assembly by 12-31-2018.  The report shall include recommendations for changes to ensure student success.  This study is effective for 2018 only.
HB 743  Clark - 98     PASSED House    
Students participating in interscholastic sports in grades 9-12 are to be informed about the nature and warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest.  The Department of Education shall develop and post on its website guidelines and other materials to inform students about sudden cardiac arrest.  Students and parents will sign annually that such materials have been reviewed.  Does not apply to intramural sports.
HB 787  Hilton - 95     PASSED House    
State charter schools may be members of RESAs, Regional Education Service Agencies, and utilize services provided to membership.  Changes the state charter school funding formula to be based on a state-wide average, currently an average of the 5 lowest wealthy school systems. Virtual charters will get funding for the hardware provided to students and the servers to handle them.  A fiscal note indicates the cost of changing the funding basis will cost $17 million in the first year.  State charter schools will get forward funding for expected enrollment over 2%, but traditional schools must wait until the midterm budget to get paid for the number of students who have enrolled over the previous year.  Traditional schools get no money for computer hardware.  There are 90,000 students enrolled in state charter schools; traditional schools have 1.7 million.
HB 853  Dempsey - 13     PASSED House    
No student placed in a psychiatric residential treatment facility by the parent pursuant to a physician's order can be charged tuition.  There are 6 such facilities in the state.  A student who is admitted will continue the student's educational program.  If there is an IEP, it will also follow the student.  Funds will be supplied by the home school for the duration of the stay.
HB 907  Fleming - 121     PASSED House
If there is a vacancy in the office of district attorney with 27 months or less left in the term, the governor shall appoint a successor.  A special election is to be called for the next state wide general election to fill that term.
HB 161  Price - 48     PASSED House    
Exempts persons employed by harm reduction organizations from laws prohibiting distribution of hypodermic syringes or needles.  A harm reduction organization works to reduce the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases among intravenous drug users.  Pharmacists and their interns and externs are already exempted. There are 38 states that have some sort of needle exchange service.  It slows down the transmission of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C, both of which can be costly to treat.
HB 646  Dempsey - 13     PASSED House    
Reinstates a pilot program with a postsecondary institution for obesity patients who have bariatric surgery.  The program will last for another 3 years and have up to 100 participants who are members for at least two years in the state health benefit plan.  Participants must have a body mass index greater than 40, or greater than 35 with comorbidities.  The program will keep data on the progress of each of these patients, reporting them to the House and Senate Health & Human Services committees.  The pilot program and this code section will end on June 30, 2022.
HB 327  Powell - 171     PASSED House     S.Finance
The title tax fee on automobiles is 6.75%, down from 7%; the fee for vehicles brought into the state is 4%, currently 7%; leased vehicles are valued at the amount to be paid under the contract; used cars are valued at the price paid, not the book value which is usually lower.  The fees are remitted to the county tag agent in the county the vehicle is to be housed, which withholds its share and forwards the rest to the state. The schedule for what is retained for the county and school district, and city if there is one, is outlined in the bill.  Effective 7-1-18.
SB 371 Anderson--24     PASSED Senate     H.Ways & Means
Department of Revenue will furnish to cities a list of businesses within that collect sales taxes.  The city may know of other businesses within that should be collecting sales taxes.
HB 697  Taylor - 173     PASSED House     S.Finance
A sales tax exemption until 2019 for purchases by non-profit health centers and volunteer health clinics.  Current exemptions sunset on 6-30-18.  The original proposal was for a 5 year extension.  The legislature is waiting for information to extend for the additional 4 years.
HB 735  Bentley - 139     PASSED House     S.Finance
An income tax credit for expenditures on the maintenance of a railroad track owned or leased by a Class III railroad as of 1-1-18.  Credit is 50% of the total expenditures up to $3500 per mile of track owned or leased by that railroad.  Any credit claimed reduces the costs basis of the track.  Effective 1-1-2019.  Repealed 1-1-29.  A Class III railroad is a short line, such as the sight- seeing train that leaves out of Blue Ridge and goes to the North Carolina border and back.
HB 840  Hitchins - 161     PASSED House    
A taxpayer on active military duty in a combat zone shall not incur any penalties or fines for business and occupational taxes not received on time.  Such tax and fees are to be paid within 60 days of return from military service.
HB 918  Efstration - 104     PASSED House    
The revision of the tax code prompted by the changes in the federal tax code.  Standard exemption is doubled for state income taxes for all taxpayers.  The top income tax rate is lowered to 5.75% for tax year 2019, down from 6%.  If the General Assembly agrees and the new governor signs, it will be further lowered to 5.5% for 2020 and beyond.  Waives motor vehicle title tag fees for vehicles 15 years and older.  Exempts jet fuel from most sales taxes.  The governor's proposal to rebate to taxpayers the increase in state income taxes expected from the change in federal tax code.  He estimates the windfall without changes would be over $5 Billion over 5 years.  The requirement remains to file state taxes using either itemized or standard deduction, the same as was used in the federal return.
SB 319  Albers - 56     PASSED Senate    
Creates the Department of Public Safety with a commissioner of fire safety and a 17 member Fire Safety Board.  It assumes the responsibilities for much of the State Fire Marshall, the Georgia Fire Academy, GA Firefighter Standards and Training Council.  Effective 7-1-19. This 177 page bill reassigns responsibilities but doesn't change any requirements.  All current rules and regulations continue in effect until they expire or are explicitly revoked or amended.
HB 816  Gravely - 67     PASSED House     
Fingerprinting and criminal records checks shall be required to become an employee of Department of Revenue. Records will be renewed every 10 years. HB 816 will apply to contractors and subcontractors.
HB 717  Kelley - 16     PASSED House      S.Transportation
Consumer protection laws for motor vehicles shall also apply to autonomous motor vehicles.
SB 457  Tate - 38     DO PASS in S.Education & Youth
Requires schools to practice the response to risks as defined in their safety plans on a schedule recommended by GEMA.  Safety plans are already required for GEMA oversight.  This proposal will require that GEMA set a schedule for each school to practice the responses defined in those plans so all will know what to do.  Fire and tornado drills already are required to be done on a required schedule.  A student brought this proposal to the sponsor before the latest school shooting in FL and came to the Capitol to testify before the committee.
HB 718  Scott - 76     DO PASS in H.Education
Up to 5 excused absences each year for two years are to be allowed for students of active or former military on extended active duty for the student to attend individual or group therapy as recommended by a licensed physician or psychologist. 
HB 844  Houston - 170     DO PASS in H.Education
The Georgia Commission for Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing is the new name for the existing GA Commission of Hearing Impaired and Deaf Persons.  Membership is increased to 10, from 7, and includes those who are deaf or hard of hearing, use American Sign Language or Spoken English or a combination.  A task force with this commission shall make recommendations to the governor and General Assembly regarding improvements to services to these populations from birth through literacy at the end of grade 3.  Establishes coordination between Departments of Education, Early Care and Learning, and Health.
HR 1036  Kendrick - 93     NNS     DO PASS in H.Education
Encourages schools to offer computer skills, and to ensure access to them by all students.  Computing jobs are the number one source of new wages in the U.S., the average salary for such jobs is almost twice the average salary for all jobs, and there are 20,000 open computing jobs now in the state.
SB 339  Ligon - 3     DO PASS in S.Higher Education
Requires University System of GA and its institutions to adopt policies to allow free speech on any subject and any speaker invited by students, student groups, or faculty to orate in public areas of the campus.  Restrictions of speech would be allowed if it achieves a compelling government interest, is the least disruptive means of furthering such governmental interest, leaves open other opportunities to engage in expressive conduct, and provides for spontaneous assembly and distribution of literature.  Restrictions of student speech allowed only for activity not protected by the First Amendment, such as violations of state or federal law, defamation, harassment, threats, invasion of privacy, or action that unlawfully disrupts the function of the institution.
HB 392  Fleming - 121     DO PASS in H.Higher Education
Students enrolled in Move On When Ready at eligible postsecondary institutions which have five terms per academic year, the state payment for those courses would be aligned with the number of terms.
SB 405  Millar - 40     DO PASS in S.Higher Education
A grant for students in an institution of the University System, if appropriated by the General Assembly, of $1500/semester if several conditions are met:  family income is $48,000 or under, students is receiving a federal PELL grant but not a HOPE scholarship, has a high school GPA of at least 2.3, and either ACT scores of 21 or higher, SAT scores of 480 or higher on the reading-writing portion and 530 or higher on math, earned a 3 or better on at least 2 Advanced Placement courses, 4 or higher on at least 2 International Baccalaureate exams, or passed an end-of-gateway assessment under the Carl Perkins Act.  Additionally, the student must work 15 hours/week during the semester and maintain a GPA of at least 2.3.  Sponsor has advocated for a long time for financial help for students without sufficient resources and not eligible for HOPE.
HB 702  Clark - 147     DO PASS in H.Higher Education
Students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields who agree to work as a civil service employee at a defense installation in GA for 1 year past their eligibility for loan repayments, up to five years, may become eligible for a  loan repayment assistance administered by Student Finance Commission.  Funds will come from state appropriations and private contributions.
SB 309  McKoon - 29     DO PASS in S.Ethics
Eliminates the provision that the City of Atlanta may hold polls open until 8 p.m. for municipal elections.  Requires the call for a special primary to be made within 45 days of the vacancy, previously 60 days.  A U.S. Senate vacancy with 12 or more months remaining in the term shall have a replacement filled with a special primary and election.  If less time left in the term, the governor will appoint a replacement.  Vacancies in the U.S. House of Representatives shall be filled with a special primary and election.  For General Assembly vacancies, if more than 12 months left in term, the replacement shall be by primary and election.  If less than 12 months, the issuance of a writ of election will be at the discretion of the governor.  If a General Assembly vacancy exists when a special session is called, and 12 months or less are in the term, the governor shall call for a special primary and election if the governor feels there is sufficient time to conduct such elections through a possible runoff prior to the conclusion of the special session.  Currently, these vacancies filled by election do not have a primary.  GOP and DEM candidates run on the same ballot and the top two vote getters go into a runoff if no one gets 50% + 1 votes.  The proposal requires a GOP and DEM primary, each with the possibility of a runoff, the winners to go to an election along with 3rd party candidates, and a possible runoff before a new representative is determined. The proposal thus eliminates the possibility of two persons of the same party going into a runoff, as happened in a 2017 senatorial election.
SB 363  Brass - 28     DO PASS in S.Ethics
Allows advanced voting ballots cast on the voting machines to begin tabulation at 6 p.m.  Restricts precinct hours in all polling locations on election day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., eliminating the exception for the City of Atlanta in municipal elections to hold their precincts open until 8 p.m.  Because of the large volume of early votes, Fulton County has wanted to count advanced voting ballots beginning at the same time that mail in absentee ballots can be counted.  This bill does not give that kind of flexibility, but does allow an early start.  Results cannot be disclosed until after the polls close.
SR 752  Harbin - 16     NNS     DO PASS in S.Finance
Senate urges Congress to repeal the Johnson amendment for houses of worship.  Currently, houses of worship are treated like any other non-profit in that none can support or oppose a political candidate or party.  It was named after LBJ who carried it in the U.S. Senate.  This resolution asks that houses of worship be able to support or oppose candidates or political parties from the pulpit and still retain their non-profit status.
SB 325  Kirkpatrick - 32     DO PASS in S.Health & Human Services
Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Act is to be administered by the Georgia Composite Medical Board.  The compact allows expedited licensure of doctors licensed by other state within the compact.  Outlines the authority of the compact board on the member states.
SB 351  Unterman - 45     DO PASS in S.Health & Human Services    
Authorizes the Board of Nurses to promulgate rules for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses to engage as a licensed independent practitioner in rural counties (under 50,000 excluding military personnel) in GA.
SB 420  Rhett - 33     DO PASS in S.Health & Human Services
Requires health clubs with at least 100 clients to have one functioning automated external defibrillator on site.
HR 447  Rakestraw -  19     DO PASS in H.Health & Human Services
Pornography is a health crisis leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.  Porn normalizes violence and abuse of women and children and increases demand for sex trafficking prostitution, and child sexual abuse.
HB 755  Cannon - 58     DO PASS in H.Health & Human Services
Establishes a 3-year pilot program to provide pre-exposure prophylaxis drug assistance or services to persons at risk of being infected with HIV.  Counties at risk of HIV outbreaks shall be identified by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention.  Participants shall be subject to clinical guidelines of CDC.
HB 81  McCall - 33     DO PASS in H.Ways & Means
Adds hospital organizations to the list of government entities to whom taxpayers may owe debts and which the entities may capture income tax refunds to those taxpayers to satisfy such debt.
SR 104  Heath - 31     DO PASS in S.Finance
CA to prohibit the levy of a state wide property tax.  Currently, this is not collected by law.  When imposed, this tax was one quarter of a mill, about $20 a year on property worth $200,000 with no exemptions. Those opposed said that it is a tool in the tool box if the state needs it, so why put it in the constitution and make it harder to access.  In 2017, this bill FAILED to get a constitutional super majority in the Senate. It was RECONSIDERED and recommitted to committee.
HB 696  Kelley - 16    DO PASS in H.Ways & Means
A sales tax exemption until 2028 for computer equipment sold or leased for use in high-technology data centers if the firm does not get a tax abatement, if there is a $20 million bond filed, and if the business does not leave the state or cease to exist during the period.  A high-technology data center means $250 million in aggregate costs for design, construction, and equipment over 10 years.
HB 811  Powell - 171     DO PASS in H.Ways & Means
Allows the Department of Revenue to release taxpayer information to contractors to analyze further taxpayer delinquencies.  Contractors will be compensated with a portion of the funds collected.  All data shared with the contractor is to be kept confidential, and destroyed after the analysis is made.
HB 820  Beskin - 54     DO PASS in H.Ways & Means
Establishes the procedure to be used by a county when their tax digest is not approved in 2017.  All signers are from Fulton County which encountered little guidance when the 2017 tax digest was rejected by DOR.
HB 886  Watson - 176     DO PASS in H.Agriculture & Community Affairs
The sales tax exemption for agriculture purchases is increased to $5000, from $2500.  Adds 'livestock' to the products grown over several years where the amount of sales can be averaged for tax purposes.  Fees increased to $150 for a three year exemption certificate.  Requires greater oversight to insure the exemption is not misused.
HB 309  Barr - 103     PASSED  House     DO PASS in S.Veterans, Military & Homeland Security
The state shall incur no liability when an organized militia is engaged in state or federal duty or training except for vehicle accidents.  Same for the GA National Guard.
HB 866  Turner - 21    DO PASS in H.Banks & Banking
Bans consumer credit reporting agencies from charging a fee for placing or removing a security freeze on a customer's account.  Currently, fees of $3 to $10 are allowed for each action.
SB 402  Gooch - 51     DO PASS in S.Regulated Industries & Utilities
Broadband and other communications technologies may be deployed on interstate highway rights of way if enabled by DOT.  DOT in consultation with Georgia Technology Authority will plan for, establish, and implement a long-term policy regarding use of interstate highway rights of way and state owned roads for such purposes.  The Department of Community Affairs will establish a Georgia Broadband Ready Community Site designation.  Grants, if appropriated, will be available for broadband underserved communities.  Creates a sales tax exemption for purchase of broadband equipment to serve these underserved communities.  Will this allow power poles to line our interstates?
HB 689  Williams - 145     DO PASS in H.Insurance
Deceased depositors without a will have up to $10,000 of the amount on deposit used for funeral expenses and expenses of the last illness paid in the order they are received.  Same criteria for insurance proceeds when no beneficiary is named or the beneficiary is deceased.
HR 943  Morris - 2     PASSED House     DO PASS in S.Rules
Creates the 6 member Joint Georgia-North Carolina and Georgia-Tennessee Boundary Line Commission, 3 legislators from each chamber.  The boundary is to lie at the 35th parallel, north of the southernmost bank of the Tennessee River.  A flawed survey of 1818 erroneously marked the 35th parallel south of its actual location and the survey was never accepted by Georgia.  Several attempts have been made to adjust the borders to the true location of the 35th parallel but none have been successful.  Georgia wants the 35th parallel accurately defined so it can access water from the Tennessee River.
HB 336  Parsons - 44     DO PASS in H.Energy, Utilities, & Telecommunications
Counties, cities, and consolidated governments may apply to be a broadband ready community through Department of Economic Development.  The broadband must have a capacity of at least 10 millisecond downloads and 1 millisecond uploads.  Aimed to make broadband more accessible to rural or remote areas.
HB 703  Hitchens - 161     DO PASS in H.Public Safety and Homeland Security
Creates the Governor's Office of Public Safety Support to provide counseling and support to law enforcement, firefighters, prison guards, first responders, and their families. The director is appointed by the governor and shall have experience as a public safety officer.  The office shall respond to requests to provide counseling services or any other critical incident support services for any incident including death or other tragedies.  May use chaplains, mental health professionals and trained public safety officer personnel.  The office shall develop and hold training courses in critical incident stress management.  Sponsor, a former GA State Patrol officer, indicates there is data to show that such support provided within the first 48 to 72 hours can keep officers from getting PTSD.
HB 732  Silcox - 52     DO PASS in H.Judiciary Non-Civil
Expands the offense of trafficking a person for sexual servitude to include patronizing such person in addition to solicitation of that person.
HB 765  Thomas - 56     DO PASS in H.Judiciary Non-Civil
Increases the penalties for hit-and-run so that it is a felony if a person loses a member of his/her body, loses the use of a body member, has serious disfigurement, or organic brain damage.
HB 803  Willard - 41     DO PASS in H.Judiciary Non-Civil
Prohibits trafficking of a disabled adult, elder person or resident or of any taking of the property or money of such person for use by someone other than such person.  Establishes penalties for such felonies.
HB 810  McCall - 33     DO PASS in H.Government Affairs
Authorizes local workforce development boards or their committees and their associated local elected officials' organizations and their committees to conduct meetings by teleconference.  Currently, only agencies with state-wide jurisdictions or its committees are so authorized.  This is a single signer bill and may not get much traction.
SB 391  Beach - 21     DO PASS in S.Transportation
Vehicles owned or operated by a transit authority are exempt from requirement for identification and regulations of motor vehicles.
HB 401  Clark - 98     DO PASS in H.Motor Vehicles
Persons operating a motor vehicle may not wear any device which impairs a person's vision. 
HB 673  Carson - 46     DO PASS in H.Judiciary Non-Civil
Use of wireless telecommunication devices while driving must be with a hands-free accessory.  Bans any actions which distract the driver while operating a motor vehicle.  Wireless telecommunication device use while driving will lose 3 points on the driver ' s license, 4 points for a second or subsequent violation.  Exceptions for use are when: the motor vehicle is lawfully parked; reporting on some type of emergency; used by a public safety employee within the scope of employment; used by a public utility employee or contractor within the scope of employment while responding to a public utility emergency.  Fines collected are to deposited in the state general fund and used for trauma care.  Violation of this law which results in a death is punishable by imprisonment of at least 3 - 15 years.
HB 774  Powell - 32     DO PASS in H.Public Safety & Homeland Security
Allows trespassing vehicles to be booted.  Those operating vehicle immobilization services are to be licensed annually through the Department of Public Safety.   Those booting vehicles shall have ID cards on them while they are engaged in that activity.  Sets the maximum fees of $65 that can be charged for removal of the boots and for storage of a vehicle.  Local governments may regulate such services within their borders.
HB 940  Cauble - 111     DO PASS in H.Motor Vehicles
The requirement for Department of Driver Services to mark and return surrendered licenses and personal identification cards to the applicant is changed to be discretionary on the part of DDS.

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