As the eighth week of the 2023 Legislative Session comes to a close, the Senate is eagerly approaching Legislative Day 28, also known as Crossover Day. With Crossover Day a weekend away, the Senate has diligently worked to properly vet and hear legislation.
On Wednesday, Senate Bill 133, legislation I am proud to sponsor, was brought to the Senate floor for a final vote. SB 133 would create a uniform process for the Department of Children and Family Services to assume custody of children as a result of Children in Need of Services or delinquency disposition orders. As we discussed in committee, there are three ways a child ends up in custody of DFCS, dependency action, delinquency action or a child in need of services action. What this bill does is fill a whole in the current law where we don’t have due process set up for the parents of the child, the child itself or DFCS. We heard concerns from judges around the state about this bill, which led my colleague, Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R – Marietta) and I to amend the bill. Through our amendment we removed what I would call our findings, but kept our protocol. We appreciate the concerns of our court system and work diligently to ensure best practices are occurring throughout our great state. I am pleased to see SB 133 passed with bipartisan support and will make it’s a way to the House where it will be voted upon.
Additionally, Senate Bill 157 standardizes how criminal records are considered across all our occupational licensing boards. It makes certain that offenses directly related to the field being considered are examined and individuals are only denied licenses when individuals show they impose a safety risk in the area of employment. Additionally, it reforms the appeal process to ensure that anyone can navigate the appeal process. Lastly, this allows us to collect data on how many individuals are being denied in our state. According to data, 83% of people that go to jail in our state will one day come back into society, at the same time 1 in 7 workers in Georgia hold an occupational license. Those coming out of criminal justice system are trying to navigate through the system and while opportunities for employment may exist, but each board looks criminal records differently. Gainful employment prevents the cycle of crime and our state is currently facing workforce issues. SB 157 is the right thing to do to help strengthen our workforce, it’s the right thing to do for those that have shown they deserve a second chance. I am proud SB 157 passed unanimously and will make its way to the House.
With Crossover Day ahead on Monday, this week the Senate heard and voted upon 47 bills. One of the bills that passed in the Senate, Senate Bill 83, I had the opportunity to co-sponsor alongside the bills’ sponsor Senator Kim Jackson (D – Stone Mountain). SB 83 revises current law and the eligibility for temporary stalking law. Current law does not allow individuals to seek a temporary restraining order for stalking against an individual residing in the same home. SB 83 would allow an individual to seek a temporary restraining order against someone they live with, prioritizing safety. Studies show that most stalking is committed by someone they know. Housing shouldn’t determine the level of safety that is awarded to Georgians. I am proud this measure passed with bipartisan support.
The next several weeks will undoubtedly by packed with floor hearings filled with healthy and riveting debate; however, I am never too busy to hear any concerns from back home. Please don’t hesitate if you have any questions or concerns, or if I can be of any other assistance.
Senator Brian Strickland
Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary
Bypass Certificate of Need Requirements for Acute Care Hospitals
Senate Bill 99, sponsored by Senator Greg Dolezal (R - Cumming), would provide an exemption for Certificate of Need (CON) Requirements for acute care hospitals established in rural counties that meet specific criteria. The CON program measures and defines need, controls costs, and guarantees access to healthcare services. In order to bypass the CON Requirements, the acute care hospitals must provide inpatient hospital services, participate in both Medicaid and Medicare and accepts both Medicaid and Medicare patients. Additionally, it must provide health care services to indigent patients, has at least 10% of its annual revenue categorized as indigent care, charity care, or bad debt, annually files IRS Form 990, is current with all audits and reports required by law, as well as has a three-year average patient margin. SB 99 passed with a vote of 42 to 13.
Increase Lease Length for Recreational Facilities
Senate Bill 116, sponsored by Senator Ben Watson (R - Savannah), would allow for municipal governments to lease recreational facilities from five years to a maximum of twenty years. In addition, SB 116 would remove the option of a renewal period of a maximum of five years. SB 116 passed with a vote of 52 to 2.
Time Off for Early Voting
Senate Bill 129, sponsored by Senator Rick Williams (R - Milledgeville), would allow for employers to give their employees time off to advance vote in Georgia elections. Current law gives two hours to employees to vote on Election Day, and this legislation would extend the dates allowed to request time off to vote as long as employees give adequate notice to their employers. SB 129 passed with a vote of 51 to 4.
"Landscape Equipment and Agricultural Fairness" (LEAF) Act
Senate Bill 145, sponsored by Senator Shawn Still (R - Johns Creek), would prohibit any regulations that differentiate gasoline-powered leaf blowers from similar equipment such as battery-powered landscape tools. This legislation would create a uniform standard for leaf-blowing equipment across the state. SB 145 passed as amended with a vote of 37 to 16.
Prohibits Wireless Communications Devices Behind Guard Lines
Senate Bill 159, sponsored by Senator Randy Robertson (R - Cataula), would prohibit the use of wireless communications and stand-alone electronic devices behind guard lines at state and local correctional institutions. Any correctional officer who is in violation of this statute shall be found guilty of a felony offense and shall be subject to a minimum term of imprisonment of ten years. SB 159 passed by substitute with a vote of 34 to 20.
Eligibility for Restraining Orders
Senate Bill 83, sponsored by Senator Kim Jackson (D - Stone Mountain), would allow individuals to file temporary restraining orders for stalking on offenders who reside in the same residence. Under current Georgia law, the offense of stalking cannot occur at the residence of the alleged offender. This bill would allow individuals to seek temporary restraining orders for that conduct. SB 83 passed with a vote of 51 to 3.
Collection of Passport Application and Processing Fees
Senate Bill 19, sponsored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R - Marietta), would require superior courts to become more transparent with financial records pertaining to passport fees. This would designate excess money gathered from fees to a certain general fund. SB 19 passed by substitute with a vote of 34 to 19.
"Georgia Door-To-Door Sales Act"
Senate Bill 149, sponsored by Senator John Albers (R - Roswell), would implement common sense protections to prevent Georgia's families from deceptive or misleading business dealings from doo-to-door sales. SB 149 passed by substitute with a vote of 51 to 3.
Revisions to the Peace Officers' Annuity and Benefit Fund
Senate Bill 128, sponsored by Senator John Albers (R - Roswell), would amend the "Public Retirement Systems Investment Authority Law" to raise the limit for the total percentage of funds that the Peace Officers' Annuity and Benefit Fund may invest in alternative investments. Such alternative investments shall not exceed 15% of the eligible large retirement system's assets. SB 128 passed with a vote of 49 to 3.
Students Disciplinary Hearing Act
Senate Bill 169, sponsored by Senator Chuck Payne (R - Dalton), would reduce the time preceding a student disciplinary hearing after a student has been suspended from 20 school days to 15 school days. SB 169 allows for the student disciplinary hearing to take place after the 15 day mark, provided that the parents or guardians submit a written statement to the school. SB 169 also requires that the school supplies appropriate grade-level class materials for students awaiting their disciplinary hearing. SB 169 passed by substitute with a vote of 53 to 0.
"Students and Teachers SPEAK" Act
Senate Bill 170, sponsored by Senator John Albers (R - Roswell), would allow both teachers and students to serve as ex-officio advisors to the State Board of Education. Simultaneously, SB 170 seeks to encourage local school boards to invite student representatives to serve as advisors to the boards. SB 170 passed with a vote of 52 to 0.
Senate Bill 32, sponsored by Senator Jason Anavitarte (R - Dallas), would require local education agencies to implement mobile panic alert systems capable of connecting disparate emergency services technologies to ensure real-time coordination between local and state law enforcement and first responder agencies. SB 32 passed with a vote of 42 to 10.
STI Testing for Pregnant Women
Senate Bill 46, sponsored by Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R - Rome), would require physicians and healthcare providers to test all pregnant women for HIV and syphilis at the first prenatal visit, at 28 to 32 weeks gestation as well as at delivery. Expecting mother's have the opportunity to wave such measures if they choose. SB 46 passed by substitute with a vote of 56 to 0.
Increased Access to HOPE Scholarship Grand Funds
Senate Bill 86, sponsored by Senator Matt Brass (R - Newnan), would allow eligible students participating in the Dual Enrollment program to access HOPE grand funds for certain CTAE courses regardless of whether or not such student has reached the maximum credit hour cap of 30 hours. SB 86 passed with a vote of 55 to 1.
Senate Bill 107, sponsored by Senator Max Burns (R - Sylvania), would require the Department of Public Health to develop a safety plan for aquatic activities based on the standards for nationally accredited swim instructors. SB 107 passed with a vote of 52 to 1.
Creating a Uniform Process for the Department of Children and Family Services
Senate Bill 133, sponsored by Senator Brian Strickland (R - McDonough), would create a uniform process for the Department of Children and Family Services to assume custody of children as a result of Children in Need of Services or delinquency disposition orders. SB 133 passed by substitute with a vote of 53 to 1.
Notice Requirements for Permanent Guardianship Hearings
Senate Bill 131, sponsored by Senator Blake Tillery (R - Vidalia), relates to claims of permanent guardianship or termination of parental rights of a dependent child. Specifically, SB 131 would require notice of service either by direct insurance, by mail to last known address, or by publication, to the legal mother, father, biological father, legal custodian, attorney and guardian ad litem, if any, so long as the caretaker's parental rights have not been terminated or voluntarily surrendered. Service by publication should run once a week for two consecutive weeks int he legal organ of the county where the petition for permanent guardianship or termination of parental rights has been filed. SB 131 passed by substitute with a vote of 52 to 0.
Presuming Competency of Child Witnesses and Admitting Medical Reports in Narrative Form
Senate Bill 134, sponsored by Senator Bill Cowsert (R - Athens) would provide that a child witness is deemed competent to testify in all proceedings involving termination of parental rights, and extends hearsay exception for medical reports in narrative form for dependency adjudications and termination of parental rights hearing involving injury and disease. SB 134 passed with a vote of 56 to 0.
Modernizing Genetic Testing Standards
Senate Bill 135, sponsored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R - Marietta), would align genetic testing with the Uniform Parentage Act of 2017. This legislation aims to ensure that genetic testing is reasonably relied upon by experts in the field of genetic testing to be admissible into evidence in any civil action if documentation from a testing laboratory meets certain qualifications. SB 135 passed by substitute with a vote of 56 to 0.
Respite Care for Children in Foster Care
Senate Bill 216, sponsored by Senator Matt Brass (R - Newnan), would revise provisions regarding short- term babysitting of a child in foster care to provide respite care for children in foster care. Such respite care may last up to 72 hours or for longer periods of time based on rules determined by the Department of Human Services. SB 216 passed by substitute with a vote of 54 to 0.
Creation of the Joint Study Committee on Dual Enrollment for High Skill Talent at Young Ages
Senate Resolution 175, sponsored by Senator Matt Brass (R - Newnan) would establish the Joint Study Committee on Dual Enrollment for Highly Skilled Talent at Younger Ages. SR 175 was adopted with a vote of 52 to 0.
Georgia Sports Betting Integrity Act
Senate bill 57, sponsored by Senator Billy Hickman (R - Statesboro), also known as the Georgia Sports Betting Integrity Act, would authorize the regulation and taxation of sports betting. SB 57 would also allow for sports betting mandates to fall under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Lottery Corporation and to create the Sports Betting Division under the corporation. SB 57 failed with a vote of 19 to 37.
The Lemonade Stand Act
Senate Bill 55, sponsored by Senator Elena Parent (D - Atlanta), would allow children to sell non-consumable goods, pre-packaged foods and non-alcoholic beverages without requiring permits or license or incurring any tax as long as the revenue is $5,000 or less in a calendar year. Under current law, children selling a product such as lemonade would be considered illegal, this would allow children to sell products like lemonade legally. SB 55 passed by substitute with a vote of 52 to 2.
Establishment of a Prosecuting Attorney's Oversight Commission
Senate Bill 92, sponsored by Senator Randy Robertson (R - Cataula) would create the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission which would have the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of appointed or elected district attorneys or solicitors-general. SB 92 passed by substitute with a vote of 32 to 24.
Prohibit Public Camping or Sleeping
Senate Bill 62, sponsored by Senator Carden Summers (R - Cordele), would prohibit certain local ordinances or policies relating to public camping or sleeping. SB 62 provides for penalties for a county or municipal corporation that does not enforce any order that prohibits unauthorized public camping, sleeping or obstruction of sidewalks. It would also require a performance audit by the state auditor on public spending for homeless programs. Lastly, it would provide for sanctioned camping areas for the homeless. SB 62 passed by substitute with a vote of 49 to 7.
Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Act
Senate Bill 106, sponsored by Senator Larry Walker (R - Perry), would establish a three-year pilot program administered through the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) aimed at providing remote patient monitoring for expectant mothers under Medicaid. SB 106 passed by substitute with a vote of 54 to 1.
Medicaid Coverage of Continuous Glucose Monitors
Senate Resolution 109, sponsored by Senator Shelly Echols (R - Gainesville) would require the Department of Community Health to include continuous glucose monitors as a pharmacy benefit for Medicaid recipients. This legislation requires the recipient of this coverage to meet certain requirements such as a diagnosis of diabetes and proper training by the individual or their caregiver in the use of continuous glucose monitors. The recipient must also have an in-person or telehealth visit with their treating practitioner once every six months to maintain their treatment plan. SB 109 passed with a vote of 52 to 1.
Deterring the Acquisition of Farmland by Certain Non-Residents
Senate Bill 132, sponsored by Senator Brandon Beach (R - Alpharetta), would prohibit the acquisition of farmland by certain non-residents within the state. It would also prohibit the purchase of land by a country designated as a Country of Particular Concern within a 25 mile radius of a military base or installation. This bill aims to maintain national security by protecting farmland within the state of Georgia. SB 132 passed as amended with a vote of 35 to 20.
Protecting Personal Information of Public Employees
Senate Bill 215, sponsored by Senator Matt Brass (R - Newnan), would require the establishment of certain inspections of public records in order to protect personal information of public employees. SB 215 passed by substitute with a vote of 53 to 0.
Updating Nonprofit Corporation Code
Senate Bill 148, sponsored by President Pro Tempore Senator John Kennedy (R - Macon), would revise the Georgia Nonprofit Corporations Code to correlate with the Georgia Business Corporations Code. This legislations aims to deter unclear and outdated provisions within the current code by making the language consistent with changes in technology and communications. SB 148 also provides protections for the Office of the Attorney General and Secretary of State to reflect current operations. This bill would also aim to ensure appropriated funds are well spent and operations are successful. SB 148 passed with a vote of 55 to 1.
Improving Transparency with Workforce Licensure Applications
Senate Bill 157, sponsored by Senator Brian Strickland (R - McDonough), would limit that current authority to deny licensure based on criminal convictions directly related to felonies or misdemeanor convictions in the case that granting a license would present a substantial risk to public safety. In addition, SB 157 would require professional licensing boards to provide specific justification for their denial of an application for licensure and would permit applicants the right to a hearing prior to such denial of licensure. SB 157 passed by substitute with a vote of 55 to 0.
Incorporating the City of Buckhead
Senate Bill 114, sponsored by Senator Randy Robertson (R - Cataula), would incorporate the city of Buckhead City into the state of Georgia. SB 114 failed with a vote of 23 to 33.
Fingerprint Background Checks for the Georgia Technology Authority
Senate Resolution 181, sponsored by Senator Chuck Payne (R - Dalton), would allow for the Georgia Technology Authority to have the authority to conduct fingerprint criminal background checks of all current and prospective employees contractors and subcontractors who have access to state or federal filed tax documents. SB 181 passed by substitute with a vote of 54 to 0.
Revising Insurance Cancellations Relating to Safety Belts
Senate Bill 196, sponsored by Senator Ben Watson (R - Savannah), would prohibit the failure to wear a safety bet or safety restraints for children as a basis for cancellation of insurance coverage. SB 196 would also provide for the failure to wear a safety belt or safety restraints for children as admissible evidence in civil actions. SB 196 failed with a vote of 24 to 30.
Primary and Election Expenses Act
Senate Bill 222, sponsored by Senator Max Burns (R - Sylvania) would prohibit any government employee, county or municipal government, or election official from soliciting or accepting any contribution, donation or service for conducting primaries or election-related duties. The donation value cannot exceed a value over $200. SB 222 would also require that all costs and expenses related to election administration are paid for by lawfully appropriate funds. SB 222 passed by substitute with a vote of 33 to 23.
Senate Resolution 176, sponsored by Senator Matt Brass (R - Newnan), would recognize and commend the nation of Taiwan for its relations with the United States and the state of Georgia by supporting the U.S. - Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Centrury Trade and the negotiations on a Bilateral Trade Agreement. SR 176 passed with a vote of 54 to 0.
Mercer Law Moot Court
President Pro Tempore Senator John F. Kennedy sponsored Senate Resolution 211, which congratulates the Mercer Law Moot Court Board for winning the 73rd Annual National Moot Court Competition. Mercer Law has a legacy of excellence in Moot Court competitions. Mercer Law students John Flowers and Zach Mullinax were specifically recognized as the National Moot Court Competition Champions.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Senator Gloria Butler (D - Stone Mountain) sponsored Senate Resolution 61, which commends Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., for its 110 years of service and recognizing February 27, 2023 as Delta Day at the state capitol. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. is a sisterhood of college educated women dedicated to academic excellence and committed to community service.
Congratulating John J. (Sean) Martin
Upon His Retirement President Pro Tempore Senator John F. Kennedy sponsored Senate Resolution 196, which commends John J. (Sean) Martin Jr. for his dedicated service to the Georgia State Senate. Martin was born in Austria into a military family and later relocated to Atlanta, Georgia where he attended Georgia State University. After serving the Georgia State Senate in the Office of the Secretary of the Senate as "crew," he received his Doctor of Law from the University of Georgia. Sean Martin's influence has positively impacted so many, from his time in private practice to his time as Deputy Secretary of the Senate. His influence will be missed upon his retirement.
National Peanut Butter Jelly Day Under the Georgia Dome
In celebration for Georgia Peanut Month, pan- fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were offered under the Georgia Dome on March 1, 2023. Georgia produces approximately 52% of the total supply in the nation in 2022, contributing more than $320 million trade revenue as an exported good.
Rivian Day Under the Georgia Dome
March 1, 2023 was recognized as Rivian Day at the State Capitol, symbolizing strong partnership with the innovative company and the state of Georgia. In December of 2021, Governor Brian Kemp and Rivian executives announced the company would invest $5 billion in a manufacturing facility east from Atlanta, creating 7,500 jobs and produce 400,000 vehicles per year.
Black History Month Under the Gold Dome
In the spirit of Black History Month, Senator John Albers (R - Roswell) used his point of personal privilege to highlight the successes of Sen. Michael 'Doc' Rhett (D - Marietta). Sen. Emmanuel Jones (D - Decatur) uplifted former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall while Sen. Ed Harbison highlighted Blues Icon Ma Rainey. Senator Tonya Anderson (D - Atlanta) also used her point of personal privilege to highlight the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc.
In 2023 the Georgia State Senate District 17 will encompass parts of Walton, Newton, Henry, and Morgan with over 150,000 registered voters. Brian Strickland entered his third full term in the Georgia Senate in 2021. Brian, his wife Lindsay, and their two children reside in McDonough, GA. Through Brian’s leadership position at the capitol where he fights for District 17, and all of Georgia, he has impacted Georgia for the better through various executed actions. Not only did Brian support the First Responder bill which aids police, firefighter, and EMS personnel but he was a key player in the passing of the Georgia Criminal Justice reform bills and Georgia Surprise Medical bills. Above and beyond that, Brian labored to bring funding to Southern Crescent Technical College making it one of the top technical schools in Georgia and is constantly raising the bar in the fight against human trafficking.