Owners of dangerous dogs will be put on notice and would face liability if their animal injures a person under a bill passed by the state House.
House Bill 685 provides definitions and hearing procedures for determining whether a dog is dangerous or vicious. It defines procedures for handling and keeping them, including muzzling and keeping locked away. If a dog has been defined as vicious, the owner must carry $50,000 in insurance and the dog must have a microchip inserted in it.
A dog owner may face up to a year in prison if the designated dog injures a person on a second occasion.
Rep. Edward Linsey, R-Atlanta, easily got his bill passed that would allow people who report state Medicaid fraud to share in some of the cash that the convicted must return.
House Bill 822 passed on a 165-0 vote.
The Georgia House passed a bill that would require some of the poorest recipients of public aid in Georgia to pass drug tests before receiving payments.
House Bill 861 sparked passionate debate about whether it would help or hurt Georgia's poorest children and families who receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and if it would help identify drug users so they could get help. Families in the program get on average less than $300 a month.
Those opposing the bill said it was more political than practical, giving its proponents a "get tough" issue to campaign on back home.
Rep. Charlice Byrd, R-Woodstock, pointed out that recipients of TANF in Florida dropped out when a similar law was enacted.
Rep. Rashad Taylor, D-Atlanta, reacted strongly, saying that was the real intent of the bill, to cut the number of people receiving public benefits.
"This bill is abut a stereotype," he said. "If you are poor, you are going to be strung out on drugs."
Taylor argued that if supporters were serious about getting help for drug users, the bill would have included law to help send those identified to treatment programs.
House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, said it was unconscionable that Georgia gives millions of dollars to companies that bring businesses here and to other development projects, but that bill supporters were not demanding personal accountability from them.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Michael Harden, R-Toccoa, pitched the bill as helping children. If parents are identified as drug users, the children of those parents will get sent to another caretaker who can receive the TANF funds and use them as intended for food and shelter, he said.
"It's going to protect the taxpayers of this state, to insure that their dollars are being used as intended," he said.
MARTA would be subject to new regulations and the way board members get appointed would shift under two bills passed by the Georgia House.
House Bill's 1051 and 1052, sponsored by Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, would shift two of Fulton County's three board appointments to mayors from North Fulton County. The proposal would require contracts for professional and consulting services to go through a requests-for-proposals or other transparent process.
House Bill 1052 would also stagger the terms of board members, which currently all begin and end at the same time, and make MARTA use 10-year benchmarks on budgeting when making capital improvements.
Assisting someone in committing suicide would become a felony in Georgia under the just-passed House Bill 1114.
Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, argued the new law is needed because the Georgia Supreme Court struck down Georgia's previous assisted-suicide law as unconstitutional. Setzler said he and the committee who crafted the bill took great pains to make sure that typical end-of-life medical decisions, such as withholding food in terminal cases, are not affected by the law. He said it only would affect those who take specific actions to help someone kill themselves.
It passed 124-45
Georgia will get a touch of tax reform with a new court that specializes in taxes under House Bill 100.
Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, told representatives that establishing a tax court would help make Georgia more business friendly. The idea was recommended by a special committee studying tax reform in Georgia.
The bill passed 165-0.
The state House approved 115-49 a bill that will allow Georgia to establish charter schools.
House Bill 797 would approve money for the schools from the state, and charter schools could also apply for transportation and nutrition funding.
Republicans have largely been pushing for the law and a constitutional amendment, House Resolution 1162, because they believe local school systems have been intransigent in approving local charter schools. There are 160 locally approved charter schools in Georgia, and 20 were chartered by a commission the state had set up but which was struck down by a Georgia Supreme Court ruling last year.
Rep. Rashad Taylor, D-Atlanta, said the number of locally approved charter schools shows there is no emergency, as Republicans have styled it, in founding charter schools. House Bill 797 would allow parallel school systems to be created, "one managed and funded by local school systems, and one managed and funded by the state," he said.
House in recess for lunch
The Georgia House has adjourned for lunch and will reconvene at 1:15 p.m.
The chamber voted on 11 of the original 34 bills on its calendar for the day in its morning session, including the 2013 budget. Upcoming in the afternoon are bills addressing vicious dogs, charter schools and MARTA.
House budget includes money for North Fulton college campus
After an hour-long presentation from the budget committee, the Georgia House approved a budget for fiscal year 2013 Wednesday that includes $12.5 million in bonds for a proposed Gwinnett Technical College campus in north Fulton County.
House Bill 742 passed the chamber 151-24 at 12:15 p.m.
The $19.2 billion budget slightly increases spending from what Gov. Nathan Deal recommended earlier this year, though it follows much of his spending blueprint as the state recovers from a recession that prompted years of billion-dollar cuts. “Reductions are still prevalent, but it is clear we are slowly moving out of this recessionary stand,” said House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn.
Funding for the technical college is on the list recommended by the state board that oversees Georgia technical colleges.
A North Fulton campus of Gwinnett Tech is among 11 projects recommended by the state board overseeing Georgia's technical colleges. Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Roswell and Sandy Springs have all offered potential sites for the campus once funding is in place.
The budget now heads to the state Senate for its review.
Budget discussion beginning
At 11:10 a.m., House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told all of the members to take their seats for debate about the budget.
"There is nothing more important," Ralston said of House Bill 742.
Debate is beginning. The budget is the sole piece of legislation the General Assembly must pass each year.
Brownfield redevelopments get longer time for break
At 10:40 a.m., the House approved a bill 157-0 that extends the time for brownfield redevelopment projects to get preferential tax treatment. House Bill 994 continues a chance for developers to get 10 years of breaks for their projects but gives them 15 years to qualify for the help. House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, said that should help developers of more than 400 redevelopment projects if their work stalled because of the economic downturn.
Grandparents get legal rights under House bill
Just before 10:30 a.m., the House approved House Bill 1198, which would give grandparents a chance to appeal to a court so they can see their grandchildren if the parents are unable or unwilling to allow it. The measure passed 154-0.
House Rules Committee Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, said the bill still gives parents deference but gives chances for review in the court system.
“Over the past many years, I don’t know how many requests I have had for something that is basically grandparents’ rights,” Meadows said. “It’s just trying to get grandparents who’ve done nothing wrong an opportunity for them to see their grandchildren.”
Lawmaker proposes Georgia get out of “sex business”
A DeKalb County lawmaker took the well at 10:15 a.m. for morning orders and immediately captured everyone’s attention by talking about sex.
Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler said she was seeking bipartisan support for a bill that would no longer allow Georgia to cover erectile dysfunction drugs in its employee health insurance.
“We spent $3 million alone last year for unmarried people using Viagara and Cialis,” said Dawkins-Haigler, D-Lithonia. “This is a very serious bill. This state should get out of the sex business.”
Despite the tongue-in-cheek claim, there was no rush of lawmakers seeking to add their names as sponsors.
Vicious dog penalties may get a new look
At 10:04 a.m., the House voted 119-24 to reconsider House Bill 717, a measure that would allow prosecutors to pursue felony charges against dog owners when their animals severely injure or kill in an attack. The measure, sponsored by Penny Houston, R-Nashville in response to several high-profile dog attacks across the state, narrowly failed earlier this week. With Wednesday morning's vote, the bill is now eligible to be added for a second vote if a supplemental calendar is submitted later in the day.
House Action Underway
By 9:50 a.m., the Georgia House had convened and made it through its morning prayer. The House Clerk is handling first reads for the next few minutes as representatives get ready for a busy day. The chamber will vote on 34 bills on the initial calendar, and a supplemental calendar is expected to be added later today.
“We have got a long day ahead of us here,” Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, jokingly told lawmakers. “We may be here after 5 o’clock today.”