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A Recap of the 2013 Legislative Session

Among the house bills introduced was one that incorporated changes to the new Title Ad Valorem Tax bill passed in 2012 which Gov. Deal has already signed.

The session wrap up of key bills that passed the legislature and await Gov. Nathan Deal's signature are listed below. Most of last year and the 2013 session was taken up with working on improvements and corrections to the new Title Ad Valorem Tax that went into effect March 1, 2013.  

House Bill 80 addressed 17 needed changes representing an effort to ensure that the potential for unintended consequences of HB 386 (2012) would not negatively affect vehicle buyers, sellers, leasing or rental companies.  

HB 80 received some changes in the Senate and was incorporated into HB 266. Its importance was such that it was signed into law by the Governor during the first week of March.

I also had the privilege of bringing together our manufacturers, power companies, counties and municipalities in HB 250. The bill provided enabling legislation that will reduce the cost of compliance and ease the burden resulting from some tax changes that were included in HB 386 (2012).  

Additional legislation I offered, continuing the trend of making vehicular law simpler and more business friendly, was passed in the form of HB 463.  It will encourage the registration of more interstate trucks in Georgia by removing the ad valorem tax and slightly increasing the registration fee.  The bill was supported by the Georgia Motor Trucking Association.

All in all the session was successful in that we again took steps to implement the goal of making our state provide the best services for the least cost.  Today we can be proud of the fact that we spend 18 percent less per capita than we did 10 years ago with service improvements that are continuously reevaluated for best practices.  

As you can see in the list of key bills, the subject matter varies from budgeting to health care to education to taxes to the criminal justice system and far beyond.  It is my hope that what we have done will make Georgia a particularly desirable place to raise a family, have a good job and raise up entrepreneurs all within the scope of conservative values based upon our constitution.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve the citizens of House District 95 which is made up of Berkeley Lake, part of Norcross, part of John's Creek, Peachtree Corners and part of Duluth. 

If there is anything I can do to help the citizens of House District 95 relative to state government, I am always glad to accommodate them to the best of my ability.  To reach me you can go to my website (www.tomrice.org) and use the "contact" tab or call my office at 404-656-5912.  In all communications I would appreciate you including your address since I try to answer those within House District 95 first. Have a wonderful Spring, Summer and Fall.

Below are the key bills introduced at the 2013 session and are waiting for the governor's signature.

Top 40 Bills After 40 Days

 

HB 21 – Parameters for post adoption agreements

 

This bill codifies parameters for post adoption contract agreements that are forged between biological and adoptive parents. Any disagreement over post-adoption visitation will not set aside any adoption order.  A post adoption contact agreement must contain certain warnings in bold face, be in writing and signed by all parties.  It may set forth certain privileges such as future contact and visitation with the child.

 

Any litigation expense over enforcement is borne by the party that fails to comply or files a frivolous action.

 

HB 78 – Increase Penalties for Elder Abuse

 

Approximately 84% of elder abuse incidents are not reported.  Elder abuse victims are more than twice as likely to die prematurely as older adults who are not victims of abuse.  Thirty five other states and the District of Columbia already include sexual abuse and exploitation in their statutory definitions of elder maltreatment.

 

This bill updates and modernizes Georgia's statutory definition of elder maltreatment to include both sexual abuse and exploitation (financial abuse).  It also enhances the mandatory reporting of elder maltreatment by adding additional individuals to the list of mandatory reporters. 

 

The final version of the bill also attached HB 3 to it and provides for protection of certain work product when providing testimony.

 

HB 106 – 2013/14 Budget

 

The Fiscal Year 2014 budget totals $19.9 billion in state funds, with an overall budget that amounts to $37.1 billion.  Education (K thru 12 and secondary) garnered most of the state’s appropriations, the total results in $10.6 billion, 53.4% of state spending.   

 

HB 142 & 143 – Ethics Reform

 

These bills strengthen Georgia’s ethics laws by placing limitations on lobbyist spending.  This bill grants rule-making authority to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.  It establishes a $75 cap for lobbyist gifts to individual legislators and forbids the practice of buying tickets to sporting events or paying for recreational activities such as golf.  It also restricts travel expenses. 

 

This bill does NOT infringe on a person’s individual freedom to contact an elected official and express their personal views.

 

HB 150 – Prevent the reproduction of police officer booking photos

 

This bill is intended to crack down on websites that charge fees to have people’s DUI mug shots removed from their website.  A person who publishes on his or her website arrest booking photos for purposes of commerce is deemed to be transacting business in Georgia.  An individual, who meets certain criteria, may request that his or her photo be taken down without fee or compensation.  The website is allowed 30 days to comply.

 

HB 189 – Notify local governments of DNR changes

 

This bill requires that the Department of Natural Resources to notify the chairman of the county commissioner when a change in service is being made at a state park within the county. 

 

HB 164 – Extension of Tax Exemption for aircraft repairs

 

Currently, Georgia offers an exemption of sales tax on materials used for maintenance of aircraft that are repaired or maintained within the state but are registered outside of the state.  This bill extends that exemption until June 30, 2015.

 

HB 178 – GA Pain Management Clinic

 

This bill is the “Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act.”  The abuse of legal pain medications has steadily increased, causing states to take affirmative action in regulating and licensing pain management clinics.  States such as Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas have passed measures that regulate pain management clinics.  The GBI estimates that since 2010, the number of pain management clinics has risen from 10 to 125.

 

All pain management clinics that dispense controlled substances or dangerous drugs shall be registered with the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy and shall be owned by a licensed physician or a hospital.  Exceptions will be made for hospice care providers, nursing homes, and chronic pain centers (palliative care.)

 

HB 188 – Military Veteran Licensing protocols

 

Georgia is expected to have 60,000 vacancies in the five skill trades enumerated in this bill: HVAC, plumbing, electrical work, electrical contractor, and utility foreman.

 

This bill provides for newly discharged veterans, who have received training in specialized skilled trades applicable to the above jobs, be issued an initial license by the Secretary of State.  This bill does not exempt any person from testing for certification or allow a waiver of any requirement to show financial responsibility or insurance coverage.

 

HB 242 - Juvenile Justice Reform

 

In 2012, Governor Nathan Deal reappointed the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform with the specific purpose of studying the state’s juvenile justice system and formulating ways to improve public safety and decrease the costs of services. 

 

This bill is the product of that work.  The Juvenile Justice Reform bill substantially revises, supersedes and modernizes provisions relating to juvenile proceedings and enacts comprehensive juvenile justice reforms recommended by the Council.

 

HB 244 – Teacher Evaluations

 

This bill establishes a path to create teacher evaluations.  It provides for the development of an evaluation system, no later than the 2014-2015 school year, for teachers, assistant principals and principals. This bill lists the evaluation measures as well as a rating system the State Board of Education shall adopt, although it does not mandate how elements will be weighted (i.e. student evaluations of teachers, peer evaluations, parent evaluations.)  The State School Board will make the final decision on how the evaluation is compiled.

 

Creating a single, statewide evaluation system will ensure all public school teachers and school leaders in Georgia receive the feedback they need to grow and improve in their profession.  Additionally, the systems can recognize the most effective educators while removing those found to be repeatedly ineffective.

 

The teacher’s privacy is protected from individual evaluations, which means that rankings will not be attached to a teacher’s name when the overall rankings become available to the public. 

 

HB 266 – Define Terms in the “Internal Revenue Code

 

This is the annual update bill that aligns the Georgia Revenue Code with the Internal Revenue Code, but also makes adjustments to ad valorem taxes for used cars (HB 80) to prevent unintended consequences for leased and rented vehicles.

 

The bill extends certain income tax deductions at the current levels and allows certain retirement income for airline pilots to be eligible for a refund as long as the pilot files an amended return by Nov. 15 of this year. The bill also clarifies Research and Development credits can be used beyond 2012 when the credit is earned, as the statute is currently written it is unsure if the credits are only available for 2012. 

 

HB 283 – Revise and Update Education Terminology/Funding Measures

 

This bill is a comprehensive update to Title 20 of the O.C.G.A. (the “Education” Title.)  It simplifies language relating to the Charter Advisory Commission, removes obsolete language from the federal No Child Left Behind program, and makes certain requirements for student scholarship organizations.

 

 

 

 

HB 284 – “Return to Play Act”

 

This bill enacts the “Return to Play Act of 2013” which is a direct response to the growing information that is being gathered regarding the effects of impacts to the head (concussions.)  This act places certain requirements on public and private schools that provide youth athletic activities to establish concussion management and return to play policies.  A public recreation facility will provide information to parents/guardians, when the children register, on the nature and risk of concussions and head injury.

 

HB 298 – Agriculture Commodity Commission

 

The bill creates the Agricultural Commodity Commission for Georgia Grown Products.  It provides for the operation and the function of the commodity commission and for other purposes.  The Department of Agriculture has requested this bill in an effort to provide the best possible mechanism to promote agriculture products grown in Georgia.

 

HB 349 – Recommendations from Criminal Justice Reform Council

 

This bill is a collection of recommendations of the Governor's Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform.  It empowers judges to issue fair sentences for drug related offenses, and streamlines certain aspects of the probation system so that the Department of Corrections can apply resources where they are most necessary.  The bill also creates the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform for the purpose of periodic comprehensive review of our system of criminal justice.

 

HB 361 and HB 362/SB 179 – Strengthening Georgia’s Right to Work laws

 

These bills reaffirm Georgia’s public policy as a "right to work" state.

 

Under HB 361, the right to a secret ballot in union elections is specifically recognized.  In addition, a union member who desires to leave a union can do so at any time and cease having his/her union dues deducted from their paycheck.  These measures will reduce possible intimidation in union elections and assist workers in demanding that their union is responsive to their concerns. 

 

HB 362 passed overwhelmingly in the House earlier in the session but stalled in the Senate.  As a result, it was attached to SB 179.   The bill assures that no state agency, local government, authority, department, commission, board, or similar entity that contracts for public works construction shall require private businesses they contract will to use a unionized labor force. This levels the playing field for all bidders on public contracts.   In addition, the bill clarifies when a bid bond is required on a public works contract, corrects some cross-references for payment bonds and establishes when public owners have the authority to utilize both liquidated damages and early contract completion incentives when a project schedule is deemed to have value. 

 

 

HB 372 – Lower eligibility requirement for HOPE Grant recipients

 

The HOPE grant program is different from the HOPE scholarship program.  It is made available for students at the Technical College System of Georgia and often assists technical school students who are returning to school in search of obtaining additional job skills. This bill lowers the eligibility threshold for the HOPE grant from a 3.0 to a 2.0.   It also mandates that the Technical College System of Georgia change from an enrollment-driven formula to an outcome-driven formula in its annual budget requests.  The 2.0 standard was in place prior to 2011 when it was raised because of budget concerns.  By returning to a 2.0 standard we are making it easier for people who are seeking additional job skills to return to technical schools. 

 

HB 393 – Georgia Workforce Investment Board; provide for powers and duties

 

This bill enumerates the powers and duties of the State Workforce Investment Board and provides for ways to measure local workforce areas to guarantee they are providing their areas with the best service possible.  It establishes policies regarding quorum, conflicts of interest, and contracting for services.   The State Workforce Investment Board is granted the authority to remove local workforce area board chairs and directors who are ineffective or not meeting performance standards.  Also the board can remove fiscal agents based on a lack of sound financial policies and recognized accounting standards.

 

HB 454 – Determining whether a tax break is meeting its original purpose

 

This bill adds relevant information to the tax expenditure report, so General Assembly members can determine if the tax expenditures are achieving the desired legislative intent.  Analysis is to include a detailed description of the expenditure, a review of intended legislative purpose, effect on the administration of the tax system and entities benefiting from the expenditure.

 

HB 487 – Increase Lottery Commission’s supervision for certain games

 

This bill is a comprehensive reformation of the Georgia code involving the regulation of Class B coin operated amusement machines.  These are games that can be played where participants earn points/tickets that can be refunded for items on the premises.  Unfortunately, bad actors are providing cash payouts for these machines which created cottage gambling locations throughout the state.

 

The major shift of this bill is to move the oversight responsibilities of these machines from the Department of Revenue to the GA Lottery Commission.  The GA Lottery Commission has a vested interest in eliminating these bad actors because under current law the GA Lottery is the only game method that can offer cash payouts.  Another aspect that will be allowed is lottery tickets will once more be able to be earned by participants who play on these machines. 

 

HB 499 – Preservation of State Determined Negligence/Standard of Care

 

This bill is a way to ensure that the federal Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) does not change in any way the standard of proof under which negligence or “the standard of care” or “the standard of duty” that is owed by a health care provider.

 

HR 4 – Georgia/Tennessee Boundary Dispute

 

This resolution urges the State of Tennessee to accept a settlement of the boundary dispute between the State of Georgia and the State of Tennessee.  The settlement will reflect the boundary line established by the flawed 1818 survey except a 1½  mile “inlet” which will allow access to the Tennessee River at Nickajack.  The compromise will not affect citizens residing in Tennessee, yet will allow Georgia its rightful access to the Tennessee River.

 

The resolution further authorizes the Governor to enter into any necessary negotiations with the State of Tennessee to resolve this dispute and authorizes the Attorney General to initiate a lawsuit in the United States Supreme Court if the issue is not settled by the last day of session of 2014.

 

HR 107 – Joint Study Committee on Medicaid Reform

 

This creates a joint (House and Senate) 18-member study committee for the purposes of evaluating the state's Medicaid program, examining other states' best practices and planning for future actions necessary to sustain appropriate levels of services and funding. The committee is authorized to meet for five days and report its findings by December 31, 2013, when it is abolished.

 

HR 549 – House Study Committee on Professional Licensing Board

 

This resolution creates a House Study Committee on Professional Licensing Boards.  The existing structure of licensing boards will be studied to determine elements such as whether each structure is streamlined, optimizes efficiencies of scale, provides adequate staffing needs and is effective and efficient relating to any matters associated with licensing professions in this state. 

 

SB 1 – Child’s Health Insurance Information and Records

 

This bill prohibits health insurance policies from denying a parent the right to inspect, review, or attain copies of health insurance records relating to his or her own child.  The health insurance records must be equally available to both parents unless a court order specifically removes the right of a noncustodial parent to such information or unless parental rights have been terminated.

 

SB 14 – GA Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Task Force

 

This bill creates a Georgia Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias State Plan Task Force.  The task force shall study and collect data to assess the current and future impact of the disease, identify resources available to those with the disease, review the national Alzheimer’s plan, and develop a state plan for addressing Alzheimer’s disease. 

 

The goal of the task force is to create a comprehensive state plan to address Alzheimer’s and related dementias in Georgia, which is due to the Governor and General Assembly on Mach 31, 2014.  The group then becomes an advisory council, and will meet annually to review progress of the state plan.

 

 

SB 24 - Provider Payment Fee

 

The "Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act" authorizes the Department of Community Health (DCH) to establish, assess, or discontinue provider payments on hospitals.  These payments will be utilized to garner additional federal Medicaid funds which are returned to certain hospitals for the specific purpose of offsetting the cost of providing Medicaid services.

 

The General Assembly retains the authority to override the board’s provider assessment.  Furthermore, the General Assembly retains the right, through the appropriations process, to adjust the amount of money flowing towards the hospitals.

 

The provisions of SB 24 are automatically repealed on June 30, 2017, unless reauthorized by the General Assembly.  It becomes effective upon the Governor's signature or July 1, 2013, whichever happens first.

 

SB 62 – Federal and State Funded Health Care Financing Program Overview Committee

 

This bill creates the Federal and State Funded Health Care Financing Programs Overview Committee.  It will be a joint committee of the General Assembly.  The Committee will review the actions of the Board of Community Health (the Board) and the Department of Community Health (DCH) to evaluate the success with which the board and DCH are accomplishing their statutory duties and functions. 

 

SB 76 –Returning Veteran’s Task Force

 

This bill creates the Returning Veterans Task Force which will be a part of the Department of Veterans Services. 

 

The purpose of the task force will be to meet quarterly to investigate and report to the Department ways to improve services to honorably discharged veterans.  The task force shall report specific improvement suggestions to the Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Governor by November 1st every year.

 

SB 105 – Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act

 

This bill creates an exception to the 'Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act' for non-profit organizations unless such organization was aware or participated in the fraudulent transfer.  The House substitute added a bankruptcy exemption of motor vehicles.

 

SB 113 – Personal Service of Summons, tighten who may accept

 

This bill tightens who in a business may accept a summons.  The positions of 'cashier,' 'secretary,' and 'other agent' can no longer receive service of process on behalf of a corporation.  Service is intended for management level persons.  The Judiciary Committee agreed that these positions should not receive service of process from the courts on the intended corporation.  A House floor amendment how a foreign corporation that is not properly registered to do business in the state, but is still conducting business, can be served process. 

 

 

SB 136 – BUI/DUI Changes

 

This bill lowers the legal limit for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) charges.  The legal limit for alcohol consumption will be .08 grams, currently it is .10 grams.  The presence of other illegal substances can all suffice for a BUI charge.   Appropriate penalties are established for multiple offenses of Georgia’s BUI laws.   

 

Children aged 12 through 15 years of age are allowed to operate a personal water craft (jet-ski) if he or she is accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older, or he or she has successfully completed a boating education course approved by Department of Natural Resources. 

 

SB 158 – Temporary Medical Consent Guardianship

 

This bill corrects a drafting error in Code section 29-4-18 to clarify that a Physician Order for Life-sustaining Treatment (a specific form to be developed by the Department of Public Health) is voluntarily executed by a patient or his or her authorized representative and a physician.

 

SB 160 – E-verify update and Revisions

 

This bill makes necessary updates to our Code dealing with security and immigration. 

It modifies penalties for the failure of a public employer to utilize the federal work authorization program. It also redefines the 'physical performance of services' and allows for an exception from e-verify reporting for contracts smaller than $2,499.99. 

 

Additionally, the bill adds to the definition of 'public benefit' and streamlines the citizenship verification process for government benefits or state issued licenses by only requiring that verification be provided upon initial application, and not for reauthorizations.  The state and any of its qualifying political subdivisions shall submit an annual immigration compliance report.

 

SB 170 – Medical Identity Fraud

 

This bill clarifies the definition of health care records by expanding the meaning of Identifying Information.  The House version of the bill removed language defining ‘medical identity theft victim.’ The House version still protects Georgia’s medical patient records.

 

SB 193 – Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

 

This bill updates the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) that was last revised in 1996.  The UIFSA provides the substantive and procedural framework for the establishment, modification and subsequent enforcement of child support orders among the states. 

 

This bill modernizes the UIFSA to streamline interstate cooperation and to comply with the new Hague Maintenance Convention (the agreement that governs cooperation between states and foreign countries).

 

SB 236 – Insurance Company Identifying Causes for Premium Increases

 

This bill requires health insurance companies to include an attachment on their annual premium statement identifying what percentage increase in premium cost is attributable to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 


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