This Week in the Senate — March 20-24, 2023

March 28, 2023

ONE WEEK REMAINS

Two legislative days remain in the 2023 Legislative Session and the Senate continues to work diligently towards Sine Die. As the eleventh week of this legislative Session comes to a close, here are a few bills of note that received final passage in the Senate this week:

House Bill 19 finally made its way to the Senate floor for consideration this week. Carried in the Senate by the Senate Appropriations Chairman Senator Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia), HB 19 accounts for over $32 billion in total state funds with $27.8 billion of those funds being recognized under the Governor’s state general fund. In terms of education, the FY 2024 budget fully funds the HOPE Scholarship under the Georgia Student Finance Commission. In addition, this budget will provide for a $2,000 cost-of-living adjustment to all full-time, benefit-eligible state employees, certified local educators, as well as providing impacts to higher education. Further, HB 19 would provide an additional $4,000 to $6,000 salary adjustment to specific law enforcement job classes in various state agencies. The Majority Caucus prioritized public safety and bolstering our workforce through the enrichment of our education sector, HB 19 is a clear indicator we’ve kept our promise to improving the lives of Georgians across this great state.

In the House, Senate Bill 61, a bill I was proud to sponsor, passed with bipartisan support and now awaits Gov. Kemp’s signature to codify it into law. SB 61 repeals a sunset provision that requires employers that provide sick leave to allow employers up to five days each calendar year to care for immediate family members who have fallen ill. Repealing the provision ensures employers will continue to be able to provide care for their family. As I previously stated, family is important and the General Assembly encourages Georgians to prioritize the health of themselves and their loved ones.

This week I took a second at the well to thank the mental health reform advocates who have been working hard to craft life-changing mental health legislation and for providing white roses for us out in the hall in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. Last year we passed House Bill 1013 and this year we’ve been working diligently on House Bill 520. I wanted to show my appreciation for the advocates who have been working with the House and the Senate on these issues and have been patient with us as we navigate through these important pieces of legislation.

The next several weeks will undoubtedly be packed with floor hearings filled with healthy and riveting debates; however, I am never too busy to hear any concerns from back home. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions or concerns, or if I can be of any other assistance.

Senator Brian Strickland
Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary
404.463.6598
brian.strickland@senate.ga.gov

FLOOR VOTES

Expansion of Duties for GPA Officers
House Bill 35, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R - Savannah), would expand the arrest authority of officers of the Georgia Ports Authority in certain circumstances. The officers would have the power to arrest for traffic offenses and investigate motor vehicle accidents within one mile of any port. HB 35 passed by substitute with a vote of 54 to 0.

Updated Requirements for Water Vessels  
House Bill 207, carried by Sen. Lee Anderson (R - Grovetown), would require water vessels to carry night visual distress signals on coastal waters of Georgia between the hours of sunrise and sunset. Additionally, it requires that any operator of a vessel involved in an accident must stay on scene until the proper authorities arrive and dismiss them. HB 155 passed with a vote of 53 to 0.

Behavioral Health Grant Program  
House Bill 414, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R - Savannah), would provide a grant program within the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to provide behavioral health services to military service members, veterans, and their families. Additionally, HB 414 outlines the qualifications needed for the program. HB 414 passed by substitute with a vote of 51 to 0.

First Responders Appreciation Day  
House Bill 373, carried by Sen. Donzella James (D - Atlanta), would designate September 11 as First Responders Appreciation Day. HB 373 passed by a vote of 52 to 0.

Verification of Competency for Registered Nurses  
House Bill 493, carried by Sen. Larry Walker (R - Perry), would revise a provision regarding verification of competency as it relates to the renewal, surrender and restoration of registered professional nursing licenses and continuing competency requirements. Additionally, HB 493 would add certain situations in which nurses can meet these requirements such as working 500 hours in certain licensed facilities and adding veteran's hospitals to the list of accepted licensed facilities. HB 493 passed by a vote of 50 to 0.

Agricultural Commission for Citrus Fruits  
House Bill 545, carried by Sen. Sam Watson (R - Moultrie), would establish an Agricultural Commission for Citrus Fruits on July 1, 2023. HB 545 passed by a vote of 47 to 3.

Standards for Issuance and Revocation of Limited Driving Permits of Certain Offenders
House Bill 120, carried by Sen. John Albers (R  Roswell), would create certain standards for the issuance and revocation of limited driving permits for certain offenders. Specifically, HB 120 would add people whose license has been suspended due to failure to comply with an order for child support to the list of those who are eligible to apply for a limited driving permit. However, HB 120 would allow for the revocation of said limited driving permits at the end if the permittee is not in compliance with an order for child support. HB 120 passed by substitute with a vote of 48 to 0.

Student Loan Repayment for GBI Medical Examiners
House Bill 163, carried by Sen. Mike Hodges (R - Brunswick), would provide for a student loan repayment for GBI medical examiners; eligibility and continued eligibility requirements; and student loan repayment agreements, conditions and maximum accounts. HB 163 passed by substitute with a vote of 52 to 0.

Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act
House Bill 80, carried by Sen. John F. Kennedy (R - Macon), would provide that unsworn declarations to have the same effect as sworn declarations in certain circumstances, specifically if the declarant is outside the physical boundaries of the US. It also specifies that such declaration would be made under the penalty of perjury. HB 80 passed by substitute with a vote of 42 to 2.

Amending Private Passenger Motor Vehicle Liability Coverage
House Bill 221, carried by Sen. Larry Walker (R - Perry), would amend the effective date for non-mandatory minimum limits for private passenger motor vehicle insurance and allow insurers to seek prior approval for any rate, rating plan, rating system or underwriting rule for all personal private passenger motor vehicle insurance. HB 221 passed by substitute with a vote of 49 to 1.

Increasing the Threshold for Public Works Projects
House Bill 193, carried by Sen. Sam Watson (R - Moultrie), would increase the dollar values of certain public works projects that are not subject to contracting and bidding requirements. HB 193 passed with a vote of 47 to 4.

Amending Practices Under the Department of Insurance
House Bill 222, carried by Sen. Larry  Walker (R - Perry), would amend certain practices relative to the Department of Insurance. Specifically, HB 222 would clarify that the Department of Insurance only regulates service contracts that are sold to customers, extend the validity of probationary licenses for insurers, amend the wait time for reapplication by an applicant denied by licensure; and amends information required on all Public Adjuster Contracts. HB 222 passed with a vote of 50 to 0.

Extensions to the Board of Natural Resources and the Sapelo Island Heritage Authority
House Bill 273, carried by Sen. Mike Hodges (R - Brunswick), would extend the date by which rules and regulations prescribed by the Board of Natural Resources must be in effect for the purposes of establishing criminal violations of said rules and regulations, and would amend the composition and chairmanship of the Sapelo Island Heritage Authority. HB 273 passed by substitute with a vote of 53 to 0.

Fiscal Year 2024 Budget
House Bill 19, carried by Sen. Blake Tillery (R - Vidalia), is the proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year. HB 19 passed by substitute with a vote of 51 to 1.

Removing Provisions on County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax
House Bill 431, carried by Sen. Gloria Butler (D - Stone Mountain), would remove provisions relating to county special purpose local option sales tax in counties that also levy and collect an equalization homestead option sales tax. HB 431 passed with a vote of 48 to 4.

Updating Homestead Property Tax Exemptions  
House Bill 138, carried by Sen. Rick Williams (R - Milledgeville), updates definitions for homestead as it relates to property tax exemptions. Current law has criteria that include all counties having a population of 23,500 to 23,675, according to the United States decennial census of 2010 or any future census. HB 138 updates the requisite population range to 25,400 to 25,500. Further, the bill updates the usage of the 2020 census instead of the 2010 census to determine the population. HB 138 passed with a vote of 48 to 0.

Allowable Variance for Weight Limitations for Vehicles
House Bill 189, carried by Sen. Russ Goodman (R - Cogdell), would provide for an allowable variance for weight limitations upon a vehicle or load hauling certain commodities within a certain range and areas of the state and authorize the enforcement of excess vehicle weight violations by local law enforcement. HB 189 passed by substitute with a vote of 44 to 5.

Revise Provisions for Marriage and Family Therapy Licensure
House Bill 76, carried by Sen. Matt Brass (R - Newnan), would revise provisions relating to education, experience and training requirements for licensure in marriage and family therapy, and provides for the filling of vacancies in certain executive branch positions that were appointed by the Governor. HB 76 passed by substitute with a vote of 48 to 1.

Revenue and Taxation for Minorities and Veterans
House Bill 128, carried by Sen. Mike Hodges (R - Brunswick), would provide for representation of minority business enterprises, women-owned businesses, and veteran-owned businesses in the area of procurement of state contracts for construction, services, equipment, and goods. It would additionally, provide tax deductions for payments to certain small business subcontractors that are minority business enterprises, women-owned businesses, and veteran-owned businesses and meet certain qualifications. HB 128 passed by a vote of 44 to 1.

Nontraditional Special Schools Act
House Bill 87, carried by Sen. Bo Hatchett (R - Cornelia), would provide for the continued operation of state-chartered special schools until the expiration of each such school's current charter with the State Board of Education. HB 87 would also provide funding, the establishment of completion special school zones, waivers, the State Board of Education to establish rules and regulations and for students enrolled in their resident school systems to attend programs at a special completion school on a part-time basis as program students. Additionally, it prohibits the expansion of attendance zones for state-chartered special schools. HB 87 passed by substitute with a vote of 53 to 0.

Code Revision Commission
House Bill 475, carried by President Pro Tempore Sen. John Kennedy (R - Macon), would revise, modernize, correct errors, and reenact the statutory portion of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.). HB 475 passed with a vote of 46 to 0.

Renaming Georgia Campaign Finance Commission to State Ethics Commission
House Bill 572, carried by Sen. Rick Williams (R - Milledgeville), would rename the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission as the State Ethics Commission. HB 572 passed with a vote of 47to 0.

Regulations for Passing Stationary Vehicles and Postal Service Vehicles
House Bill 541, carried by Sen. Randy Robertson (R - Cataula), would modify the procedures for passing stationary vehicles and provide for the proper procedure for passing a postal service vehicle. HB 541 passed by substitute with a vote of 47 to 0.

Amendments to Senate Rules
Senate Resolution 334, sponsored by Sen. John F. Kennedy (R - Macon), would amend the Senate Rules to prohibit the use of Senate funds for travel outside of the US, and provide further guidance regarding the use of funds for travel. SR 334 was adopted with a vote of 54 to 0.

Safer Hospitals Act
House Bill 383, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R - Savannah), would enhance penalties for aggravated assault and battery committed upon emergency health workers and healthcare workers in certain circumstances. HB 383 passed with a vote of 46 to 2.

Adding an Eighth Superior Court Judge to the Coweta Judicial Circuit
House Bill 243, carried by Sen. Matt Brass (R - Newnan), would add an additional Superior Court Judge to the Coweta Judicial Circuit. HB 243 passed by substitute with a vote of 50 to 0.

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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.

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