Here is what is going on in the General Assembly this year (the 40 most dangerous days in Georgia). To track legislation yourself visit the General Assembly page:
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(Friday, March 3 is Crossover Day)
HB 1 Georgia Space Flight Act – (Jason Spencer – R) Brought up in 2016, it passed the House and made it through Crossover but did not pass the Senate. The idea received a boost in December of 2016 when a Senate Study Committee recommended “spaceflight legislation.” The bill aims to allow Camden County (around Cumberland Island) to build a launch site. The original bill indemnified space firms from many legal liabilities such as nuisance and noise violations, but that has been removed from the 2017 version. Provisions to require that space station workers waive the right to sue the companies they work for unless gross negligence can be proven remain. Has opposition from groups like the Sierra Club.
HB 3, the so called “Burqa Bill,” was prefiled but was later pulled. Georgia already has an anti-masking statute (intended to ban Ku Klux Klan hoods and robes) and to prohibit wearing of masks while getting a driver’s license. It turns out that the Georgia Department of Driver Services already has a policy which requires any mask be removed before a photo is taken.
HB 6 – Georgia Rail Passenger and High Speed Rail Facilities Authority Law – (Keisha Waites – D). Simply changes the name of the “Georgia Rail Passenger Authority” to the “Georgia Rail Passenger and High Speed Rail Facilities Authority.” Presumably encourages development of high speed rail (Athens to Atlanta and Atlanta to Macon) in Georgia. Democrat Keisha Waites has been pushing this for years, and brought out almost identical legislation in 2014. Previously she had tried to get high-speed rail by identifying specific counties where the trains would run, but failed because she could not get support from local governments. By moving it to a statewide law she keeps from having to get their approval. Representative Waites has also prefiled HB 7 which will allow only hands free calling while driving.
HB 10 – (Mary Margaret Oliver – D), Assault Weapons Ban. Would prohibit the possession, sale, transport, distribution, or use of certain assault weapons, large capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets. She has specified assault weapons by actually listing a large number of specific models (and more general descriptions such as “DPMS Tactical Rifles”) in the bill. Probably makes her constituents happy, but is certainly not going to pass.
HB 11 – (Keisha Waites – D) – Firearms; completion of safety training by certain persons for carry license; require. Most people who apply for (or renew) a Georgia Weapons Carry license will have to prove that they have had training within the past 3 years. Police, military and a few others are exempted. Not assigned to a committee, dead for 2017.
HB 18 – (Sandra Scott – D) – This bill would prohibit smoking inside any motor vehicle when a person who is under 18 years of age is present. Not assigned to a committee, dead for 2017.
HB 20 – (Sandra Scott – D) – Makes changes to the “Motor Voter” bill so that people who apply for, renew or change their driver’s license will be registered to vote. Currently they have the option to skip voter registration, and in some instances there is additional work on their part. If Rep. Scott has her way they will become a registered voter whether they like it or not.
HB 37 – (Earl Earhart – R) – Any college in Georgia that adopts “sanctuary” policies can be cut off from State funds.
HR 37 – (Michael Caldwell – R) – Term Limits for Georgia House and Senate. A proposed constitutional amendment to limit anyone to 4 consecutive terms. They can run again but they need to ‘sit out’ for a term first.
HB 280 – (Mandi Ballanger – R) – Campus Carry bill. Has exclusions for sporting complexes, student housing, fraternity/sorority houses and on campus daycare. Last year’s passage of HB 792, the “Stun Gun bill” authored by Republican Buzz Brockway has helped to soften the ground. Known as Campus Carry Light, there were dire predictions about what would happen if it passed, including having guys tasing each other at frat parties – none of which have come to pass. This should blunt the attacks of the critics, although opponents will be out in force. The biggest question – will the Governor sign it?
HB 286 – (Heath Clark – R) and SB 177 – (Josh McKoon – R) – “Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2017” – Allow persons eligible for weapons carry license to lawfully carry weapon without license. With “Constitutional Carry” anyone can carry a weapon unless they would be denied a weapons carry license (even if they don’t have one), except in the places currently off limits (jail, courthouse, etc.).
HB 313 – (Keisha Waites – D) – Logan’s Law – Would require the Department of Public Health to keep bite statistics on certain dog breeds (American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Chow Chow, Husky, Great Dane, Akita, Boxer, or Wolf Hybrid breed) and require that anyone transferring one of these dogs provide a copy of these statistics with the animal.
HB 324 – (Alan Powell – R) and SB 161 (Frank Ginn – R) – Since (for now, anyway) Georgia continues to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, both of these bills seek to make it clearer that the holder of the license is not a citizen of the United States. The House bill would add the word “noncitizen” to the license while the Senate bill would change the orientation of licenses held by illegal aliens. THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA. It lumps multiple classes of people together and does not identify those here ILLEGALLY. Best solution? Stop giving driver’s licenses to those in our country illegally. Next best solution? A bill that would give them something completely different for ID that clearly stated they were not in the country legally.
HB 329 – (Jay Powell – R) – Georgia has a graduated system, with rates starting at 1 percent and going up to 6 percent. This bill, which passed the House before Crossover Day, would set the State Income Tax at a flat 5.4%. There is a provision for an earned-income tax credit for low-income Georgians.
HB 452 – Create public list of illegal aliens in Georgia – (Rep. Jesse Petrea – R) – Would require jails to report the records to the GBI each month,where they would then be listed on a public database.
SB 8 – (Renee Unterman – R) – Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act. Very long (14 page) bill that, as I understand it, will keep patients who visit Emergency Rooms (primarily) from being ‘surprised’ by additional charges from doctors (mainly anesthesiologists and such) who are not in their network and charge thousands of dollars for their services. This is also known as “balance billing”. Senator Unterman is a very powerful member of the Senate and so this bill certainly has a good shot at getting out of committee – also I don’t know of any groups currently opposed. This is based on, and has some identical language to, bills that have passed in states such as Texas, Illinois, New York, Florida and California.
SB 22 – (Josh McKoon – R) – Limit Campaign Contributions from companies that do business with the State.
SB 23 – (Josh McKoon – R) – No member who serves on a conference committee shall be eligible for employment in state government for 24 months. I would love this. In 2015 after Representative Jay Roberts pushed through the huge gas tax bill he resigned the General Assembly right after it was signed for a cushy position with the State DOT – the same group where he had just sent a bunch of taxpayer money. Coincidence?
SR 24 – (Josh McKoon – R) – In Georgia our Senators can vote on legislation without anyone being able to find out how they voted. That is because some Senate votes are not recorded. SR-24 is a simple resolution that aims to fix that by requiring recorded votes in the Senate for any amendments. This was shut down quickly by Senate leadership in front of a packed committee room. Audience was not allowed to make any noise and certainly not to comment. Their only reason stated for almost a unanimous rejection was it could possibly slow things down.
SR 25 – (Josh McKoon – R) – Puts a constitutional amendment on the ballot to limit the state income tax to 5.5% starting in 2018 and requires it to be lowered by 0.5% each year until it reaches 0%. Why isn’t this getting more press?
SB 79 – (Brandon Beach – R) – Casino Gambling in Georgia. Called the “Destination Resort” bill, it was sponsored by large casinos like MGM who poured in lots of money and unleashed an army of lobbyists (as many as 60, we have heard, which is much more than the usual 2 or 3), but still the bill failed to get out of committee and is dead for 2017. The bill intend to put $2 billion in a casino resort in metro Atlanta. These people don’t like to lose, so expect to see it again in 2018. Since it was built around an amendment to the Georgia constitution it will need a 3/4 majority to pass and then go out in a referendum to the voters. Polling among Georgia’s citizens is now 53% in favor, but casinos will pump big money into advertising which will probably be enough to push the vote in their favor. In additional to money, they will bring the children into the equation by showing the benefits to the Hope Scholarship.
SR 105 – (Bill Heath – R) – Proposed constitutional amendment to allow religious institutions to receive public funding for providing social services.
SB 134 – (David Shafer – R) – “Save, Earn, Win Act” – Allows banks and credit unions to offer savings promotion raffle accounts in which deposits to a savings account enter a depositor in a raffle. And not call it gambling.
SB 233 – (Marty Harbin – R) – Preservation of religious freedom. A very simple bill which just says that provisions of the federal Religious Liberty law should apply to people in Georgia. But as the “Republican” Governor promised to veto any Religious Liberty legislation it will be interesting to see what happens if it makes it out of the house. There was a motion to Engross the bill (essentially freezing it so no amendments could be made) but that motion failed, which means it may be amended before it passes the Senate.
SB 252 – (Josh McKoon – R) – An Interstate Compact which would prohibit public funding of professional sports stadiums. Good idea.
SR 254 – (Josh McKoon – R) – Public Initiative Referendum – This would allow citizens to propose an amendment to the state constitution or a new law. If they can come up with a petition containing names equaling 10% of the number of people who voted in last governor’s election the initiative will be on a statewide ballot.
President Trump proposed allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines. Well it turns out that Georgia actually passed a law in 2011 legalizing the practice, but with pending insurance changes and the prohibitive cost of setting up insurance to sell in Georgia no insurance companies even applied. Like other states, Georgia has a list of special conditions (I believe 37 in all) that must be covered which were added by groups lobbying for their own illnesses. These special conditions are why purchasing across state lines is often illegal. If a state requires that something like acupuncture be covered, premiums would be more expensive, and people going out of state would end up with a policy that didn’t cover acupuncture, throwing the acupuncture industry and their lobbyists into a tizzy.
There is also an interest in blocking the state’s acceptance of federal money to bring refugees into Georgia. Any time you accept federal funds you have to follow their rules, and the thinking is that this would give Georgia more power to refuse these refugees. Although some in Georgia believe we could simply say ‘NO’ today, the federal funding is certainly an issue.
A clever proposal (HB-12, prefiled by Rep. Jeff Jones) would tack on a new fee for any out of state wire transfers. This would allow Georgia to reap a windfall from all the money being wired back to Mexico and other countries by those working illegally in the state. The really clever part? Anyone would be able to request a refund of all of the fees on their Georgia State Income Tax form. This bill was not even assigned to a committee and is dead for 2017.
Based on the results of the 2016 election and a Republican dominated GA House and Senate, the move to pass a National Popular Vote in Georgia is dead, at least for the foreseeable future.