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Highlights of Bills that Passed 2017 Georgia Session

ATLANTA - April 7, 2017

Itís been a week since the bang of the gavel on Sine Die that marked the end of 2017 legislative session. The term "Sine Die" is Latin for "without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing,Ē which means the General Assembly has adjourned until January 2018. Legislators and staff worked hard until well past the midnight deadline to thoroughly discuss dozens of pieces of legislation for the benefit of all Georgians.

Below are a few brief summaries of Senate and House bills that received final passage during the 2017 legislative session:
SB 16 would expand the list of conditions that can be treated with medical cannabis oil to include autism, epidermolysis bullosa and severe cases of Alzheimerís disease, Touretteís syndrome, and immune deficiency syndrome. Under a compromise with the House version of this bill, the amount of THC allowed in medical cannabis oil would remain at five percent.

SB 18 would allow any certified peace officer employed by any state entity, who retired in good standing, to retain their badge and weapon as compensation. SB 18 would also allow retired a Georgia resident who served as a law enforcement officer for at least 10 years to carry a handgun anywhere in the state.
SB 69 would repeal a provision that requires those who produce, process, distribute or handle any organic product to register with the GDOA. These entities must still register with the USDA.

SB 85 would allow breweries to sell malt beverages and distilleries to sell distilled beverage directly to consumers for on and off premises consumption. Breweries will be able to sell up to 288 ounces per consumer per day for off premises consumption and will be permitted to sell up to 3,000 barrels per year for consumption both on and off premises. Distilleries sales are limited at 26,500 gallons per year, and no single buyer may purchase more than 2.25 liters of liquor in a day.  Beverages can be sold any time or day so long as alcohol sales are permitted by the county or municipality.

SB 87 would provide procedural guidelines for debtors to cancel judgments against property that is exempt due to either federal or state bankruptcy statutes.
SB 88 would regulate Narcotic Treatment Programs (NTC) in Georgia. Anyone operating a NTC program is required to have a valid license or provisional license. In order to qualify for licensing one must prove they need to be in the community.

SB 128 would allow the Department of Driver Services to share the personal information of a driver with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in an effort to help prevent fraudulent applications and permits from being approved by the DNR.

SB 147 would allow cemeteries and cemetery companies to distribute income from perpetual care trust funds through unitrust distribution methods. This would allow for them to use up to four percent of the net fair market value of the perpetual care trust fund for grounds maintenance.
SB 211 would introduce new requirements for research-based student assessments for students in the first and second grade. Specifically, SB 211 would require input from local school systems in how a research assessment is prepared and would require access to real-time data to help measure a studentís progress throughout the year. SB 211 also  provides for a comparability study to determine and establish the concordance of nationally recognized academic assessments with content standards and assessments in grades nine through 12.

HB 1 would minimize the tort liability for space flight activity operators when a participant is injured during space flight operations and a written waiver was signed, except in the case of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Under this bill, Georgia law would also govern any lawsuit pertaining to space flight activities.
To see a review of many bills that passed this session, see the opposing column which has been posted  after all of the agree and disagree motions and final votes were reviewed by the Secretary of the Senate. Although the session has come to a close, I will continue to work on issues that are important to the District. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time if you have any questions or concerns.
HB 37 would require that private, postsecondary institutions do not adopt sanctuary policies. Under HB 37, if they do adopt or implement these policies, their funding, grants, loans or scholarships may be revoked.

HB 88 would revise the current qualifications to serve as a superior or state court judge to include that individuals must be in good standing with the State Bar of Georgia. It would also require superior court judges to vacate their position upon disbarment.

HB 154 would allow dental hygienists to perform certain delegated duties without a licensed dentist on site. Under HB 154, the scope of practice for dental hygienists in private office and school settings is addressed.
HB 241 would add Krabbe disease to the list of metabolic and genetic conditions a baby could be tested for during the newborn screening conducted by the Department of Public Health. Under HB 241, the parent(s) of the newborn child would have the option to ask for the test separately from other screenings.

HB 250 would remove the requirement that a person who works with foster children must have an additional background check if they received a satisfactory fingerprint check within the last 12 months.

HB 280 would allow Georgia concealed weapons carry license holders to possess handguns on certain parts of public college campuses. HB 280 would prohibit carrying a concealed weapon in student housing, fraternity or sorority housing, sporting events, within any area used for the education of high school students, and certain areas used for preschool care.
HB 391 which would expand the locations where newborn babies up to 30 days old can be left to include police and fire stations. Under HB 391, mothers may decline to provide any personal identifying information when the newborn is left in the custody of these facilities.

HB 406 would recognize weapons carry license reciprocity between Georgia and any other state whose weapon carry laws are in line with Georgia, under certain conditions. HB 406 would grant the Attorney General the authority to maintain the list of states with reciprocal weapons carry laws with Georgia.
Sine Die!

ATLANTA - March 30, 2017

The Georgia General Assembly has officially adjourned Sine Die, which means our official lawmaking duties are over. I am pleased to report that the Senate held firm against bringing any of the gambling bills up for a vote. Sometimes, victories are not just the bills that passed, but the bills that did not make it through the legislature. However, these bills that would usher in casino gambling and daily fantasy sports gambling are still viable for the 2018 legislative session, which is the second and final year of the two-year process.

Protecting Georgians from domestic terrorism attacks has been a top priority for the Senate majority caucus this year. Although the Senate effort began with Senate Bill 1, the House failed to pass the legislation. Therefore, we amended House Bill 452 to accomplish the task.
The underlying language of HB 452 requires the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to post on their website the information of illegal aliens who have committed serious crimes and have been released in Georgia from federal custody. The Senate language which we added to the bill provides enhanced penalties and definitions for domestic terrorism, something Georgia law has lacked.

HB 452 also provides for the current Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency to be divided into two separate entities: the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Department of Homeland Security. The Georgia Department of Homeland Security will be responsible for overseeing all risk and threat assessments and coordinate all plans for timely and complete responses through a network of state, local and federal organizations. The Department is also responsible for identifying, acquiring and planning the use of resources needed to anticipate, prevent or resolve a threat or act of domestic terrorism. This legislation helps empower our security personnel and systems with the ability to stop acts of terror before they happen and be better prepared if they do. 
House Bill 430, which passed both chambers, would require the State Board of Education and State Charter Schools Commission to create a code of principles for authorizing charter schools. HB 430 would also require the State Board of Education to provide annual reviews of local boards of education by independent parties. Furthermore, HB 430 would create a grant program that would provide facility funding to charter schools to make them more comparable to traditional public schools and create a program to plan, implement, improve and provide grants for community schools.

One issue that will require further work before next session is the adoption process modernization legislation. This bill in its original form, House Bill 159, passed out of the House and moved to the Senate where it was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. During the committee process, I offered an amendment that would have allowed all adoption agencies to continue their long-standing practices of working within the parameters of their mission statements. Unfortunately, that common sense amendment, treating all adoption agencies alike, came under fierce opposition by those who oppose the religious liberty of faith-based adoption agencies.
When the Senate Judiciary Committee realized that the original 100 page bill was complex and that the House had been working on it two years without involving the Senate, we decided to hold the bill until next year. As a result, members of the House decided on another attempt to pass their original bill by adding it to Senate Bill 130. When that bill came back over to the Senate from the House, it did not include my amendment language, and debate began after midnight.

As it became obvious that several other senators wanted to offer late night amendments on the floor of the Senate in addition to the one I planned to offer again, I made a motion to recommit SB 130 to committee for further review. We took a vote, and the chamber agreed. Since the Senate had only a week and a half to consider this bill compared to the two years it has been under review in the House, I am grateful that my Senate colleagues agreed that we needed more time to study the legislation rather than trying to pass something hastily on the floor. Iím hoping that the Senate can take time during the interim to work out the finer details of this legislation so we can approve a much needed update to our state adoption laws next year.
HB 413 would establish a two-step application process for companies who wish to build a petroleum pipeline in Georgia. The application process would require companies to obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Georgia Department of Transportation and a permit approval from Environmental Protection Division.

HB 434 establishes a process to allow municipalities to deal with blighted properties. If a property meets the definition of blight through court proceedings, it is subject to eminent domain.  In such event, the property can be put to public use. If the municipality were to sell the property, it cannot be rezoned from residential property to commercial property or vice-versa for five years.
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