Georgia Legislature

Yesterday In The Georgia Legislature – 03/23/21

This is an informal rundown of the legislative happenings. These bills are from the most recent legislative day – 3/22/21, or Day 36.

The following bills were voted on in the House on 3/22/21:

HB 745 – Rep. Mack Jackson

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/60407 
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Makes the Washington County Board of Education seats nonpartisan.

PASSED THE HOUSE: 149-9

SB 9 – Sen. Lee Anderson (Rep. Mark Newton)

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/200452 
Passed the Senate: 51-0
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Creates the Columbia County Judicial Circuit 
  • In the wake of an election upset in the Augusta Judicial Circuit last November when Democrat Jared Williams defeated Republican Natalie Paine, Augusta area lawmakers moved swiftly to initiate the process to isolate the Columbia County community and create a new judicial circuit
  • Splits a judicial circuit to create a new one and leaves two other counties to foot the bill for what’s left of the current one
  • Calls for a specific local salary and expenses supplement for the district attorney and judges in Columbia county in the amount that was once collected from all three counties – a notable increase in expenditures for Columbia County citizens.
  • VERY EXPENSIVE – per the FY 2022 budget that passed the House 
    • $1.3 million for new Columbia County Judicial Circuit (see 7.2 in budget)
    • Adds $25,000 to create a juvenile judgeship when the new Columbia County Judicial Circuit is created
    • $1 million in new funding for public defenders

PASSED THE HOUSE: 96-70

SB 32 – Sen. Matt Brass (Rep. Joseph Gullett)

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59032 
Passed the Senate:  48-0
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Adds additional information to the list of items not eligible for release under the Georgia Open Records Act
  • Adds personal cell phone numbers of individuals to the list of items not eligible for release
  • Clarifies that insurance information of public employees may not be released.  
  • Adds federal employees to the list of people exempt from having their information released under the Georgia Open Records Act.

PASSED THE HOUSE: 165-0

SB 114 – Sen. Randy Robertson (Rep. Martin Momtahan)

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59457 
Passed the Senate: 48-0
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Amends OCGA 43-1-19 pertaining to reasons for a state board is not allowed to use in a decision re: revoking and refusing to reinstate business/professional licenses under the Admin Procedure Act
  • Adds whether or not a person who is under supervision by a DCS officer under OCGA 42-3-1 for felony or moral turpitude crime (in Georgia or elsewhere) so long as it isn’t a felony conviction:
    • Under OCGA 16-5 which are crimes against a person (battery, assault, homicide, etc)  OR
    • A crime requring sex offender registry   

…to the list of things that cannot be considered as the SOLE reason someone’s business license is revoked or not reinstated.

This does not mean that if a person is convicted of a felony, the state licensing board won’t consider it. It just means they will take into consideration the totality of circumstances, how long it’s been, severity, rehabilitation, other factors, etc. before making a decision and that alone cannot prohibit someone from getting the license. 

PASSED THE HOUSE: 152-14

SB 145 – Sen. Matt Brass (Rep. Mandi Ballinger)

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59541 
Passed the Senate: 35-12
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • allows local jurisdictions to enact an ordinance that triggers a special election on the question of whether the local jurisdiction should allow for applications for package stores selling distilled spirits.
  • House substitute version adds that the petition can come by way of resolution or ordinance as well (more concrete than Senate version which is just ‘petition’ – and the Senate has changed HB 273 to their lax version so one of these will end up being a vehicle bill for something else)

PASSED THE HOUSE: 133-33

SB 159 – Sen. Steve Gooch (Rep. Tim Barr)

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59622 
Passed the Senate:
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Closely resembles HB 455 on school bus transportation which includes:
    • Dictating that the State Board of Education set minimum standards and requirements for transporting in smaller cars/vehicles.
      • Must include vehicle maintenance, repair, etc.
    • Requiring insurance for the vehicles and for the students traveling in the vehicles, but the amount of insurance in event of injury or death is up to the local school board
  • Varies slightly from HB 455 in that SB 159 allows students with an IEP and students without ‘an adequate nighttime residence’ to travel via 8 passenger vehicles or smaller for transportation to school related activities as well as the use of the vehicles generally
    • HB 455 just allows local school boards to use 8-passenger vehicles (or smaller) to transport students for school-related activities – no mention of IEP or homeless.

PASSED THE HOUSE: 165-0

SB 185 – Sen. Bo Hatchett (Rep. Todd Jones)

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59714 
Passed the Senate: 50-0
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Amends the code section for tax tribunals
  • Currently, in a tax tribunal or within the superior court, there is a two-pronged test to determine:
    • If the judge believes the statute in question is clear, there is no further action. 
    • If the judge determines the statute is unclear or ambiguous, the judge then looks to determine whether or not the Department of Revenue made an interpretation of the statute and, if it did, and that interpretation is reasonable, the judge must defer to the the decision/interpretation of the Dept. of Revenue regardless of whether or not the individual or corporation believes they have a better argument with regard to the statute.
    • This means that, in the event that the Department of Revenue believes there is room for interpretation, an executive agency is choosing how something is implemented as opposed to following what the legislature set forth. 
  • Jones says there is an expectation that a judge not be handcuffed when a taxpayer enters into a tax tribunal or courtroom. Says judges should be freed up in terms of what is in the best interest of the taxpayer instead of referring to an executive agency. 
  • Another issue with the current system is that the Department of Revenue is an executive agency with a head appointed by the executive branch and it’s brought before a judge at the request of the executive agency with the executive agency already having the scales tipped in their favor. This would resolve that.

PASSED THE HOUSE: 162-4

SB 247 – Sen. Lee Anderson (Rep. Steven Meeks)

LINK→ https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/60044 
Passed the Senate:
WHAT THE BILL DOES:

  • Amends code to allow meetings virtually or by telecom for market order voting as it relates to the Agriculture Commodity Commission
  • Clarifies language on the publishing of changes to the market orders to the Ag Website and The Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin
  • This is otherwise just a clean-up bill as to how the Commission operates, what meetings are public, and how votes are conducted

PASSED THE HOUSE: 165-0

Jessica Szilagyi

administrator
Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast.' Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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