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Georgia General Assembly 2018

2018 Georgia General Assembly

We have probably seen most of the bills that will be filed in the 2017-2018 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Our staff has gone through all pending legislation (almost 3,000 bills) and pulled out the ones that are of most interest to us.

Some of the bills below were introduced in 2017 and most of those are probably dead, but if they caught our eye they are included in the list. The lower the bill number, the older it is, but until the final gavel any of these could be revived. What follows is the briefest overview of each bill taken from a PowerPoint presentation. For full text visit http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/Search.aspx

HB 12 (Jeff Jones – R) – Taxing illegal aliens
Creates a fee for any out of state wire transfers
$10 for transfers below $500, 2% of total otherwise
Rep. Tom Rice tried something similar in 2006, Mexico fought hard (required proof of citizenship or hit with surcharge of 5%)
Georgia would benefit from money being wired outside the U.S. – estimates $100 million
Would not affect legal GA residents who can request a refund on State income tax form
Pre-filed in 2017 but never assigned to a committee

SB-79 (Brandon Beach – R) – Casinos in Georgia
Called the “Destination Resort” bill
Sponsored by large casinos like MGM
Scaled back to 2 sites but still failed to get out of committee in 2017
Sen Beach promised to bring it up again in 2018
Update – Dead for 2018 but will come up again next year merged with Horse Racing.

HB 324 – (Alan Powell – R) and SB 161 (Frank Ginn – R)
Georgia continues to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens
Both bills seek to make it clear that the holder of the license is not a citizen of the United States.
House bill adds the word “noncitizen”
Senate bill changes orientation of licenses
Both made it out of committee in 2017 but never voted on

HR 37 – (Michael Caldwell – R) term limits for GA Senate and House of Representatives
Proposed constitutional amendment to limit anyone to 4 consecutive terms
Can run again but they need to ‘sit out’ for a term first
Obviously not very popular with lawmakers

HB 156 – “Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2017”
Allow persons eligible for weapons carry license to lawfully carry weapon without license (changes “license holder” to “lawful weapons carrier” in GA law
“Lawful weapons carrier” – Any person not prohibited from carrying a weapon
Do not need a license to carry
Still excludes places currently off limits (jail, courthouse, etc.).
Here is some of the text from section 1 of the bill
The Georgia General Assembly finds that:
– Our founding fathers, in the unanimous Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, acknowledged that the purpose of civil government is to secure God-given rights;
– As such, civil governments are to punish the criminal acts that deprive their citizens of their God-given rights to life, liberty, and property;
– The mere potential to deprive someone of life, liberty, or property should never be considered a crime in a free and just society;
– Evil resides in the heart of the individual, not in material objects; and
– Since objects or instrumentalities in and of themselves are not dangerous or evil, in a free and just society, the civil government should not ban or restrict their possession or use.

SB 252 – (Josh McKoon – R)
An Interstate Compact, valid when target number of states and Congress ratify
Prohibit public funding of professional sports stadiums in listed states
Came out of committee with favorable report

SR 25 – (Josh McKoon – R) – eliminate state income tax
Proposed constitutional amendment to limit state income tax
5.5% starting in 2018 (may have to be changed if brought back out)
Requires be lowered by 0.5% each year until it reaches 0%
Why isn’t this getting more press?

SR 254 – (Josh McKoon – R) – Public Initiative Referendum
Allow citizens to propose an amendment to the state constitution or a new law
Need petition containing names equaling 10% of the number of people who voted in last governor’s race
If petition succeeds, initiative will be on a statewide ballot.

SB 22 – (Josh McKoon – R)
Limit Campaign Contributions from companies that do $50,000 or more of business with the State
Assigned to Ethics Committee

SB 23 – (Josh McKoon – R) – Limit Conference Committee members work with state
Conference committee member can’t get job in state government for 24 months.
In 2015 Representative Jay Roberts pushed through the huge gas tax bill
He resigned the General Assembly right after it was signed and took a cushy position with the State DOT, made $155,000 in fiscal 2016, $186,000 in 2017
All dead for 2017/2018 session.

SB 134 – (David Shafer – R) – “Save, Earn, Win Act”
Allows banks and credit unions to offer savings promotion raffle accounts
Deposits to a savings account enter depositor in a raffle.
And don’t call it gambling.
Passed Senate 48 – 2

SR 195 – (Chuck  Hufstetler – R) – Term Limits for Congress
Calls for Article V Convention to enact Congressional Term Limits
There are several Article V calls working through the States
This one is based on work done by US Term Limits
Passed Senate 31 – 19, waiting on action by the House

HR 158 (Jay Powell – R) – dedication of revenues derived from fees
Proposed Constitutional amendment lets lawmakers dedicate revenue from fees to specific funds and causes for up to 10 years
Currently some of the money collected for a specific purpose is going into the General Fund

HB 505 (Scot Turner – R) – civil asset forfeiture
Requires conclusion of criminal proceedings prior to civil forfeiture
Currently almost any property can be seized if even a weak argument can be made that it was bought with criminal proceeds
14 other states require a criminal conviction in some or all asset forfeiture cases. Nebraska, New Mexico, and North Carolina have abolished civil asset forfeiture altogether.
Dead for 2018.

SB 8 (Renee Unterman – R) Surprise Billing
Consumer Protection Bill
Very long (14 page) bill, very complicated
Allegedly stops ‘surprise billing’
Opposition coming from companies that profit from surprise billing, namely:
– Emergency room physicians and corporations who Run large practice emergency groups across the country
– Anesthesiologists
– Radiologists
– Pathologists – often lab billings
Based on bills passed in TX, IL, NY, FL and CA
If you visited an ER that takes your insurance then received a bill for $15,000 (or more) you have been hurt by Surprise Billing
Passed both chambers

HB 61 (Jay Powell – R) internet sales tax
Require online retailers who make at least $250,000 or 200 sales a year in Georgia to:
A) Collect and remit state sales taxes or
B) Send “tax due” notices to customers who spend at least $500
Could mean an extra $500 million in sales tax collections
Consumers are already supposed to pay the tax themselves (“Use Tax”)
Passed House last year, working through Senate
Because it means the government gets more of your money it is a safe bet it will pass

SB 233 (Marty Harbin – R) – RFRA
Preservation of religious freedom – Very simple bill which just says that provisions of the federal Religious Liberty law should apply to people in Georgia.
Failed in Senate last year (34-18)
Gov. Deal will probably veto (again) any Religious Liberty legislation
House Speaker David Ralston also against
Opposition citing Amazon, but most of their top states (including home state of WA) have RFRA.

BELOW WERE FILED IN 2018

SR 587 – (Josh McKoon – R) – English as the official language
Creates a referendum to Amend the Georgia Constitution and designate English as the official language of state government.
Already passed Senate Rules Committee
Names on the Resolution: (1) McKoon, Joshua 29th(2) Gooch, Steve 51st(3) Beach, Brandon 21st (4) Shafer, David 48th(5) Mullis, Jeff 53rd(6) Brass, Matt 28th

HB 667 (Patty Bentley – D) – Instant Replay
Instant replay required for high school football play-off games
Applies to any school that receives state funds
Why is this a Legislative issue?

HB 650/SB 302 (Mary Margaret Oliver – D / Elena Parent D) – Confederate monuments
Provide that local governments may relocate, remove, conceal, obscure, or alter certain monuments
State law prohibits such monuments from being “relocated, removed, concealed, obscured, or altered in any fashion” when on government property

SB 339 (William Ligon, R) – free speech policies for universities
Free speech on campus: Rallies, protests and free speech on university campuses would be allowed in public areas without many restrictions.
Protects “unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive” speech without a need to give notice of events in advance.
Anyone who infringes on someone’s First Amendment speech rights could face a fine of $1,000.

HB 680 (Scot Turner -R) – Paper ballots
Direct recording electronic voting systems shall not be used in primaries or elections in this state after January 1, 2019
Replace with a paper-based system (probably Optical Scan)
Paper ballots, used by about 70 percent of the nation, are more secure than electronic machines because they can’t be hacked
Could cost $25 million to $35 million to buy new voting equipment across the state

HB 660, HB 663 and SB 316 – Thought Crimes
All three bills add additional punishments for crimes committed against protected classes – race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, mental disability, and physical disability.
GA is one of five states without state-level “hate crimes” law
An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm. So some protests, if bystander feels threatened, could become a hate crime.
If you like the race or gender you attack will you get a lighter sentence?
All dead for 2017/2018 session.

SB 310 (Harold jones – D) – net neutrality
Follows similar legislation in about a dozen other states
Net neutrality was intended to force internet carriers to treat all content the same.
“Up to this point, the internet has really been looked on as a kind of public utility, a public good. Now, we are changing the definition, to look at it as a kind of economic utility.” – Jones
FCC would certainly sue any states that pass similar law

HB 98 (Spencer Frye – D) – electric vehicle tax credit
Tax credit expired in 2015 and EV sales dropped to 1/10 previous level
Would propose a $2,500 tax credit
Before expiration in 2015 you could actually lease a Leaf for NO money after all the tax credits and deductions.

SB 361 (Michael Williams – R) – Coach Small Religious Protection Act
Response to atheist group complaint against coach John Small, who prayed with his players after a football
Also protects students from discrimination for expressing religious viewpoints in homework, artwork and religious clubs
Sets aside a time for student speakers to talk about their religion before athletic events, opening announcements for the school day and school assemblies

SB 362 (Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle – R) – Eliminate Milestones Testing
Aims to replace them with broader measures of student achievement
Proposes a three-to-five year pilot program in which up to 10 districts would experiment with alternatives to the Milestone

HR 969 (Billy MitchelL – D) Ratify the E.R.A.
Equal Rights Amendment was introduced multiple times, finally passed in 1972
Had a 7-year time limit, extended to 10 years (so is way past deadline)
By 1982 only 35 states had ratified (need 38)
Has been reintroduced in Congress every year since, but never passed
Some have argued that time limit was unconstitutional and have continued to push 3 more states to ratify

HB 788 (Valencia Stovall – D) Select School
Parent/guardian can enroll child in school outside district if:
Provide name and address of person who resides in the district
Person in district has given permission to use their name

HB 865 (Miriam Paris – D) Change marijuana threshold for felony
Raises threshold for felony marijuana possession from 1 oz to 2 oz
Makes possession of ½ oz or less punished by just a $300 fine (currently is imprisonment for a period not to exceed 12 months and/or a fine not to exceed $1,000)

SB 400 (Michael Williams – R) Repeal GA Certificate of Need law
Georgia requires any healthcare service that wants to expand to prove that the expansion is needed
Without proof, facility is not allowed to add services
Last year CON program was upheld by GA Supreme Court

HB 696 (Trey Kelley- R) Tax Breaks for Amazon
Exempts computer equipment from sales tax for ‘qualifying’ companies
Reading the bill, the only qualifying company is Amazon
Unfortunate that this carve out is only for Amazon and not available to smaller companies just trying to compete with monsters like Amazon
Passed both chambers. Could be as high as $1 billion

HB 673 – Distracted Driving.  Would make it illegal to hold a phone in your hand, under your chin, or even place it on your leg.  The Texas A&M Transportation Institute study published in Scientific American a study showing that Hands-Free Texting Is No Safer to Use While Driving.  And neither is hands free calling. So either ban cell phone use or allow it.
Passed on second vote in house Yea(151)Nay(20).

HB 793 (Dominic LaRiccia – R) Tax Breaks for Fish and Cars
Obviously for an expansion of the GA Aquarium and the building of some car museum
Gives ‘any’ aquarium run by a non-profit and located within the state (but specifically metro Atlanta) ability to pay no tax on building materials (up to $4.5 million)
Gives the same break for a car museum up to $1 million.
Again – giving specific tax breaks to certain companies and not others. Smells fishy!
Passed both chambers, and the very next day GA Aquarium announced expansion. However in testimony made during the committee hearing the aquarium admitted they would expand even without tax break, so this give away was completely unnecessary. Except for all members who now have a free lifetime pass to the exhibits.

House Bill 978 (Chad Nimmer R) – Authorize “automated traffic enforcement safety devices” in school zones.
This would allow automatic generation of speeding tickets. First school zones, then where else?
Passed House Yea(94) Nay(76)

HB 890 (Barry Fleming – R) Unlawful to use an emergency exit after having shoplifted
The law actually says the above description in the title
And the only people who cannot use an emergency exit are people who have just shoplifted
Imagine the circumstance where the shoplifter is tempted to use the emergency exit but then is aware of this law and thinks “I better not…”
Passed House Yea(114)Nay(46)