HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS
The General Assembly has been in recess, and we will resume on April 11 for the 38th legislative day. Day 39 will be April 12 and the House will adjourn, Sine Die, on the 40th legislative day – April 14. To date, the House has taken action on the following items:
- HB 265:Would create a Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for citizens of Georgia. The bill also creates the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Criminal Justice Reform. The Special Council would study Georgia’s current criminal justice structure and report its findings and recommendations for legislation by January 9, 2012. There would be 11 members, with each being nominated by each branch of the government and one from each party. The Special Joint Committee would have 17 members and the Chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee would introduce legislation based on recommendations of the Council during the 2012 session. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 390: Would authorize the state or local government the right of direct appeal rather than seeking a certificate for immediate review with a defendant’s motion for a new trial or extraordinary motion of a new trial, when a the defendant challenges a conviction based upon newly discovered evidence, is granted. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 149: Currently, magistrates are appointed and serve a designated term after being elected. Would allow an alternative for chief magistrates to go through the chief superior court judge to remove an appointed magistrate. This means that although the magistrate was elected, the superior court judge would now be able to unilaterally remove a magistrate judge. PASSED on a vote of 115 to 57. I opposed this bill because it granted extraordinary authority to one elected official to remove another from office.
- HB 203: Would change the notification process for initiating an investigation of a peace officer for possible disciplinary action or upon disciplining a peace officer. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 415:Would require the Department of Driver’s Services and the Secretary of State to provide certain information to the Council of Superior Court Clerks and to the Administrative Office of the Courts. The Council will screen drivers’ license records, vital records, and voter registration records to create an inclusive source list of eligible jurors. Duplicates would be erased, along with bad addresses and the names of felons and deceased persons. The list would then be distributed to each County Board of Jury Commissioners and a fee not to exceed 3 cents per name on the list would be charged. The hope is that the bill would make jury service a more uniform procedure among citizens. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 421: Would revise current criminal procedures for determination of whether an accused criminal defendant is incompetent to stand trial. The bill would also create a new section to codify case law and the current practice of Superior Courts raising the question of an accused’s competency to stand trial. Further, the Department of Behavior Health and Development Disabilities would be solicited to assist in determining the competency of the accused. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 503: Would revise the sections relating to victim compensation involving the crimes of alleged rape, sodomy and aggravated sodomy. When evidence of these crimes is collected, the Georgia Crime Victims emergency fund would be responsible for the cost of the medical examination for the limited purpose of collecting evidence. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- SB 30: Will require municipal court judges to be attorneys licensed in the State. The bill also includes a grandfather clause for existing judges who are not attorneys. The committee substitute adds that the attorney must be an active member. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- SB 94: The House substituted the original version of this bill with the “Runaway Safety Act” relating to the interference with lawful custody of a minor by creating an exception for service providers. The bill creates a limited exception to criminal liability for knowingly harboring any child or committed person to allow community based programs to provide shelter and services to a runaway or homeless youth so long as the child abuse report is made, the child will not disclose who his/her guardian is, and the child’s guardian cannot be reached. Finally, the bill creates a limited exception to the offense of contributing to the unruliness of a minor so long as one of the three above conditions is met. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 168: Would update the state tax code to conform to the federal Internal Revenue Code for tax year 2010. Additionally this bill contains definitions to clarify the Streamline Sales Tax agreement, which will allow Georgia to continue to collect sales taxes for internet sales. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 197:Would provide limitations on certain medical charges by hospitals that provide emergency care to inmates who are confined in a city or county facility. The effect will be to lower the cost of inmate care for local governments. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 228:Would eliminate the sunset on a provision granting authority to the commissioner of the Department of Revenue to distribute identifiable sales and use tax proceeds. Under current law, when a dealer makes a return with insufficient information to identify proceeds a being attributable to retail sales or purchases, rentals, storage, use or consumption occurring within a particular country or special district, the commissioner must make reasonable efforts to obtain this information. If the commissioner cannot find this information, they must allocate the unidentifiable proceeds among the state, special districts, counties, and cities in the same proportion of the sales and use taxes as otherwise allocated and distributed. The authorized pro rata share must be the same as the share as the unidentifiable proceeds. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 234: Would remove the sunset on materials used for maintenance of aircraft that are repaired or maintained in Georgia, but registered elsewhere. The sunset date is June 30, 2011. PASSED. I opposed this bill because it extends a tax exemption during an economic crisis and outside the tax reform structure, and because it fails to reflect the proper fiscal priorities of the state.
- HB 325:Extends publicly funded private school scholarships and clarifies definitions and administrative actions relating to the Student Scholarship Organizations (SSO). Specifically, if a secondary, primary or pre-kindergarten student is current eligible, then he or she must continue to qualify for a scholarship until the age of 20. Additionally, student scholarship organizations would be obligated 90% of the donations to scholarship or tuition grants. Further, the SSO is only required to report the number of scholarships awarded if family income is below federal poverty level and if the eligible student’s family income exceeds 200% of the federal poverty income level. The reports provided by the SSO would also now be considered confidential taxpayer information, whether it relates to the donor or the SSO. Finally, the Department would be prohibited from taking any adverse action against a donor to the SSO if the Commissioner pre-approved a tax credit to the donor. PASSED. I opposed this bill because it authorizes $50 million in public funding for private schools, during a time of extraordinary financial crisis for public schools.
- HB 389:Would require that interest be paid for over payment of sales tax, until the taxpayer has filed a complete refund claim. At which time a complete claim is filed, interest at 1% per month will be paid while the claim is under review. If the claim is to be deemed incomplete by the department, the department must respond within 30 days of filing and if the taxpayer does not respond within 30 days thereafter, the statute of limitations will to continue to run on the claim. FAILED on a vote of 83 to 87. I opposed the bill because it could have captured smaller businesses unintentionally.
- HB 322:Would allow an extension to Delta airlines. Specifically, the airlines would receive a discount per gallon on all fuel purchased in the state. The bill has an estimated $13 billion loss to Clayton County. PASSED. I opposed this bill because Delta Airlines initially received the tax exemption due to the potential bankruptcy of the company. It is now showing substantial profit and should no longer receive tax exemptions that could be better directed to address core governmental obligations.
- HB 110: Would provide uniform standards for local government required of owners to register vacant real property. Specifically, local governments would be able to change a fee of no more than $25 in each instance to register or remove a vacant property from the registry. The registry would include the property owner’s name, street address, phone/fax and email address, street and parcel number and recording information of the deed. An owner of vacant property may request exemption of the registration and may challenge the county’s determination. A county or municipalities sole remedy for a property owner’s failure to register would be to institute a civil action against the owner. If the owner resides outside of the state, he or she must provide an authorized agent who resides within the state to accept service of process. PASSED. I opposed this bill because it reduces the amount collected by larger jurisdictions with substantial amounts of vacant properties due to high foreclosure rates.
- HB 332: Would amend the Georgia Code relating to the Universal Access Fund. Specifically, it prevents local exchange companies from establishing a surcharge on customers’ bills without first receiving approval from the Public Service Commission. Data must be submitted to the commission showing that surcharge does not result in a net rate increases. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 274:Would limit the number of permits a waste management company may have within a particular licensing area. Also allows for local governments to permit the co-mingling of yard waste and C&D debris. PASSED. I supported this legislation because it provides local control of expanded bio-collection options at landfills. Neither DeKalb County nor the City of Atlanta nor Decatur are likely to utilize these provisions.
- HB 240: Would provide that the county and use tax would apply to infeasible projects to the extent the project has, in the judgment of the governing authority as expressed in the resolution or ordinance, required by subsection (b) of this Code section, become impracticable, unserviceable, unrealistic, or otherwise not in the best interests of the citizens of the special district or the municipality. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- SB 86: Would revise the definition of qualified local government to mean a county or municipality which has adopted a basic local plan, and must upon request by the locality, be developed by the state’s regional commissions utilizing existing resources. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 147: Would provide patients with a way to determine whether or not a physician carries malpractice coverage. The information would be added to the other demographic and professional information already contained in the system. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 307:Would define a Burn Trauma center as a facility designated by the Department of Community Health that admits at least 300 patients annually. These injuries must be consistent with the burn specific principal diagnosis codes that are published by the International Classifications of Diseases and includes these facilities within the Georgia Trauma Center Network. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 457:Would provide that the method and manner by which a pharmacist may dispense medications using a remote; automated medication system. The bill would also provide that the State Board of Pharmacy must regulate the use and operation of such devices. Finally the bill seeks to clarify that such device is not a vending machine. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 46: Would require that the state enter into a “compact” with other states specifically asking that federal monies be given to states and the states decide how to use the money for those purposes. This is an attempt to circumvent the federal national healthcare law. PASSED on a vote of 108/63. I opposed this legislation because it will require presidential authorization, and it attempts to avoid compliance with the national healthcare laws.
- SB 36: Would set up a database of all controlled substances dispensed in the state that would be accessible by prescribers and dispensers only by secure passwords. If enacted, the bill would require law enforcement to have a superior court subpoena to have access to the data.PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 158: Would change the date when nonpartisan elections are held. The bill would change that date to coincide with the General Primary Election. Currently, they are held in conjunction with the General Election of November. Essentially, this change would take the election process back to the format as existed prior to the 2010 elections. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 164: Would clarify definitions regarding Class A and Class B machines that are used for gaming purposes. Additionally, this bill defines gift card and gift certificates for use in winnings from gaming machines. Finally, this legislation clarifies the new regulations set forth last year for the coin operated amusement machine industry. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 454:Would provide that in each year in which a presidential election is to be conducted on a date selected by the Secretary of State which shall not be later than the second Tuesday in June in such year. The Secretary of State must select the date no later than December 1 of the year immediately preceding such primary. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 500: Would establish the Employment Readiness Program for Georgia’s unemployed and encourages participation in the Employment Readiness Program by persons receiving extended unemployment compensation benefits. The program will be administered by the Department of Labor and will be funded by federal funds received by the state to implement the Georgia Work Ready initiative and other funding sources. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- HB 277: Would allow a hunter to put bait out for deer and feral and would allow the hunter to shoot the animal once it feeds on the bait. Currently, a hunter must follow particular guidelines of distance/range and may not use bait. PASSED. I voted in favor of this bill.
- SB 122: Would allow public-private partnerships for the development of reservoirs and other water-related infrastructure, where the local government would retain ownership and control of the water resource. PASSED. I voted in favor of the bill; however, I have concerns about a provision that may violate the constitutional prohibition against gratuities.
BILLS TO WATCH – STATUS
- HB 200: Human Trafficking: Awaiting the Governor’s Signature.
- HB 87: Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011: Two versions have been adopted, HB 87 by the House and SB 40 by the Senate. Both the House and Senate have made substantial changes to the bill from the other chamber.
- HB 91: Felon Designation on Licenses: Awaiting a vote by the Senate.
- HB 78: FY 2012 Budget: Currently in conference committee to resolve House/Senate disagreements.
- HB 79: Would allow the Governor to remove board members on the Atlanta Public School Board. Would change the composition of the DeKalb County School Board to reduce its size from 9 to 7. Would change the term of office for Chatham County School Board members. I oppose the legislation. As the Governor’s liaison to the Atlanta Public School system, I requested the position of SACS, the accrediting agency. The agency strong opposes the legislation as “counter-productive” and “reactionary.” For these reasons, I will oppose the bill.
- HB 388: Would revise the current income tax structure and increase certain sales taxes. I have not been able to review the proposed bill. Because the prior two versions have both raised taxes on the lower and middle income groups, I cannot support a revised version that I have not been allowed to review and study.