This Week in the Senate — March 22-25 2021

March 30, 2021

We have just completed our penultimate week of the 2021 legislative session. All committees have wrapped up their work and have passed out all legislation that will have the opportunity to become law this year. Our days this week were lengthy and included a considerable amount of time dedicated to finalizing legislation in committees and even more time spent on the Senate floor passing amended versions of House Bills and agreeing or disagreeing to changes the House made to Senate Bills. Our pace is likely to only increase, however, as we only have two legislative days remaining until Sine Die.

Of particular significance this week was the Senate’s passage of House Bill 81, the 2022 General Budget (FY22). The FY22 budget totals just over $27 billion, signifying the strength and resilience of our economy over the past year and how, under the leadership of Gov. Brain Kemp, our state’s economy has continued to grow during the pandemic. After passing the Senate on Tuesday, the bill was assigned to a conference committee where members of the House and Senate met in order to iron out any final remaining disparities between the two chamber’s versions of the budget. We expect the conference committee reports to be placed on our desks early next week where will finally send the FY22 budget on to the governor for his signature.

This week, I carried House Bill 363 in an effort to bring enhanced protections for Georgia’s seniors. Essentially, this bill is a response to a recent Court of Appeals decision related to the rule of lenity and would strike certain sections of Georgia Code that made it difficult to prosecute crimes related to elder abuse. With the passage of this bill, we are cleaning up our laws in order to provide additional safeguards for this vulnerable population.

In keeping with a theme this session of bringing much needed updates to Georgia’s adoption and foster care process, the Senate passed House Bill 154. This bill addresses two specific areas of adoption law. The first is lowering the age to adopt to 21 years of age, which will open the door for more prospective parents to engage in the adoption process. The second deals with the issue of adoption fraud and proposes additional penalties for those who falsify their intentions to place a child up for adoption or fake their pregnancy altogether. This bill builds on the comprehensive adoption reforms the General Assembly has passed over the last few years and will lead to more children in Georgia finding loving homes.

Earlier this week, Gov. Kemp announced that starting March 25, any adult over the age of sixteen, regardless of their medical history or place of employment, will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This is an incredible step forward as our state continues to lead the way for the nation on how to safely reopen, while at the same time ensuring that all citizens have the ability to receive the vaccine in a timely manner. I encourage all Georgians to visit www.myvaccinegeorgia.com to make their plans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. The faster we all become vaccinated, the faster we can return to normalcy.

Next week, the Senate will convene for our final two legislative days, on Monday for Day 39 and Wednesday for Day 40. Currently, we are expecting to tackle a calendar of 64 pieces of legislation on Monday, signaling that our final days will be long. However, each bill we plan to hear represents an important priority for Georgians across the state and we will work well into the evening to ensure that those measures which pass scrutiny by the state body to clear the final hurdle to be sent to the Governor for consideration. If you have any questions or concerns about any of the bills or resolutions we are poised to take up, I encourage you to reach out to me or my office.

Senator Brian Strickland

District 17, Georgia Senate

MONDAY, MARCH 22

Allowing Chiropractors and Physicians to Joint-Own Businesses

House Bill 119, carried by Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry), would allow physicians and chiropractors to jointly own a professional practice under the Georgia Professional Corporation Act, provided that it is not inconsistent with their professions’ ethics. HB 119 passed with a vote of 47 to 6. - HB 119

Adjusting S-corps’ Income Tax Return Filings

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R – Rome) carried House Bill 149, which would allow Subchapter corporations, or S-corps, to elect to file their state income tax at the entity level rather than through the income distributive share of shareholders or partners. HB 149 passed with a vote of 52 to 1. – HB 149

Prohibiting the Banning of Energy Sources

House Bill 150, carried by Sen. John Kennedy (R – Macon), would make it illegal for local governments to ban the use of some household energy sources, including natural gas. HB 150 passed with a vote of 34 to 15. – HB 150

Allowing Dissolvement of Downtown Development Authorities

Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry) carried House Bill 161, which would allow certain downtown development authorities throughout Georgia to dissolve if they are listed as inactive, hold no assets, and have no outstanding debts or other ob- ligations. HB 161 passed with a vote of 50 to 0. – HB 161

Covering Self-Funded Insurance Plans Under the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act

House Bill 234, carried by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R – Rome), would allow self-funded employer insurance plans to opt-in for coverage under the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act. This act would cover self-funded plans for reimbursement for emergency services without prior authorization or retrospective denials and would require billing between a provider and insurer regardless of if the patient is in-network. Those wishing to enroll must do so by either January 1 or on the first day the plan is active. HB 234 passed with a vote of 52 to 0. – HB 234

Allowing Private Ambulances to Pay into Upper Payment Limit Programs

House Bill 207, carried by Sen. John Albers (R – Roswell), would require certain businesses to submit information to the Department of Revenue electronically instead of by mail or fax. Some of these businesses include motor vehicle manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and secondary metals recyclers. HB 207 passed with a vote of 54 to 0. – HB 207

Increasing the Number of Technicians that a Pharmacist May Supervise

House Bill 316, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah), would increase the number of pharmacy technicians that a single pharmacist may supervise from three to four. The bill would also adjust the required number of supervised technicians that must be certified by the Board of Pharmacy. HB 316 passed with a vote of 50 to 0. – HB 316

Giving Authority Over Bingo Games to the Secretary of State

House Bill 410, carried by Sen. Randy Robertson (R – Cataula), would transfer authority over bingo games to the Secretary of State for regulation purposes. The Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation currently has authority over such games. HB 410 passed with a vote of 49 to 1. – HB 410

SPECIAL ORDERS

Senate Agreements The Senate agreed to the House Amendment to the Senate Substitute on the following: HB 105 (41-3)

TUESDAY, MARCH 23

Revising Federal Copyright Laws

Senate Resolution 190, sponsored by Sen. Matt Brass (R – Newnan), would require Congress to revise federal copyright laws so that individuals have the right to use their image and likeness without the threat of copyright infringement. SR 190 passed with a vote of 52 to 0. – SR 190

Recognizing SK Innovation

Senate Resolution 201, sponsored by Sen. Butch Miller (R – Gainesville), recognizes SK Innovation for its long-term investment in electric vehicle battery production and the state of Georgia. This resolution also calls on President Biden to overturn the United States International Trade Commission in order to protect the U.S.’ electric vehicle battery production. SR 201 passed with a vote of 54 to 0. – SR 201

Passing the FY 2022 Budget

House Bill 81, carried by Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia), is the budget for the state fiscal year July 1, 2021 - June 30, 2022, and totals $27.2 billion. HB 81 passed with a vote of 54 to 0. – HB 81

Revising Adoption Codes

House Bill 154, carried by Sen. Bo Hatchett (R – Cornelia), would revise several code sections relating to adoption including allowing 21-year-olds to petition to adopt, making it unlawful to fake a pregnancy, and making it unlawful to put a child up for adoption with no intention of having the child adopted. HB 154 passed with a vote of 51 to 0. – HB 154

Revising Confidentiality of Inmate Files

House Bill 168, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah), would allow certain inmate information to be made available to district attorneys. HB 168 passed with a vote of 40 to 11. – HB 168

Requiring Vehicle Mileage

House Bill 210, carried by Sen. Burt Jones (R – Jackson), would require certain motor vehicles being sold or transferred to record the odometer mileage on their certificate of title for 20 years after their model year. This includes vehicles manufactured in or after 2011 and weighing 16,000 pounds or less. HB 210 passed with a vote of 50 to 0. – HB 210

Joining the Professional Counselors Licensure Compact Act

House Bill 395, carried by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R – Rome), would include Georgia in the Professional Counselors Licensure Compact Act and allow the composite board to complete FBI background checks. It also requires licensed professional counselors to obtain certain education and coursework credentials. HB 395 passed with a vote of 53 to 0. – HB 395

Providing Taxpayers with Exemptions on Finished Good

House Bill 451, carried by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga), would allow taxpayers who claim an exemption in 2020 for an inventory of finished goods to have the option to determine the fair market value for the 2021 year in one of two ways: either based on the fair market value as of January 1, 2020, or as of January 1, 2021. HB 451 passed with a vote of 53 to 0. – HB 451

SPECIAL ORDERS

Senate Agreements

The Senate agreed to the House Amendment to the Senate Substitute on the following:

SB 4 (51-0)

SB 5 (52-0)

SB 32 (52-0)

SB 159 (53-0)

Conference Committees were appointed for the following bills:

HB 81 - Sen. Butch Miller, Sen. Mike Dugan, Sen. Blake Tillery

THURSDAY, MARCH 25

Joining the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Compact

House Bill 34, carried by Sen. Valencia Seay (D – Riverdale), would join Georgia to the Audiology and Speech-Lan- guage Pathology Interstate Compact and authorizes the board to conduct FBI background checks on practitioners. HB 34 passed with a vote of 44 to 0. – HB 34

Requiring Observation of Standard Time

House Bill 44, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah), would require Georgia to observe standard time year round until Congress allows observance of daylight savings time year round. HB 44 failed to pass with a vote of 21 to 26. – HB 44

Issuing Professional Licenses by Endorsement

Sen. Bruce Thompson (R – White) carried House Bill 68, which would require licensing boards to issue licenses by endorsement to those who meet the requirements. These requirements include establishing residency in Georgia, holding a license from another state, being in good standing in another state and passing any required examinations. HB 68 passed with a vote of 49 to 0. – HB 68

Requiring Public Teleconference Meetings During Emergencies

House Bill 44, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah), would require Georgia to observe standard time year round until Congress allows observance of daylight savings time year round. HB 44 failed to pass with a vote of 21 to 26. – HB 44

Amending the Governing Law for the Crime Victims Compensation Board

House Bill 141, carried by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga), would require that any payments made by the Crime Victims Compensation Board and that go towards medical services comply with the list of the usual, customary and reasonable charges outlined by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. HB 141 passed with a vote of 48 to 0. – HB 141

Providing Paid Parental Leave to State Employees

Sen. Butch Miller (R – Gainesville) carried House Bill 146, which would provide up to 120 hours of paid parental leave for state employees and employees of local boards of education. Employees will be eligible for paid parental leave as long as they have worked for six months consecutively and are requesting leave for the birth of a child, the adoption of a child or the placement of a child they will foster. HB 146 passed with a vote of 52 to 0. – HB 146

Revising Georgia Retirement Laws

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R – Rome) carried House Bill 173, which would require the board of trustees of the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia to seriously consider the recommendation of individuals nominated by an organization of state retirees that has 1,000 or more members when electing trustees. HB 173 would also allow increased investments of a large retirement system’s assets in alternative funds. HB 173 passed with a vote of 47 to 1. – HB 173

Revising Travel Insurance Regulations

Sen. Matt Brass (R – Newnan) carried House Bill 205, which would clarify unfair trade practices and revise regulations for travel insurance in the state of Georgia. HB 205 passed with a vote of 47 to 3. – HB 205

The Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact Act

House Bill 268, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah), would enter Georgia into the Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact. Under this compact, the Board of Occupational Therapy will be allowed to collect fingerprints of occupational therapists and assistants, as well as conduct criminal background checks through the FBI. HB 268 passed with a vote of 50 to 0. – HB 268

Preventing the Reduction of Police Force Budgets

House Bill 286, carried by Sen. Randy Robertson (R – Cataula), would prohibit a county or city government with an established police force from decreasing the police force’s allotted annual budget by more than five percent of the budget from the previous year or by more than five percent during a rolling five-year period. HB 286 passed with a vote of 36 to 15. – HB 286

Jarom’s Act

Sen. Tyler Harper (R – Ocilla) carried House Bill 346, also known as Jarom’s Act, which would allow paramedics to administer hydrocortisone sodium succinate intramuscularly to a patient under approved medical circumstances. HB 346 would also require EMS personnel to receive the appropriate training to administer the drug and require training on congenital adrenal hyperplasia. HB 346 passed with a vote of 54 to 0. – HB 346

Protecting Bicyclists on Roadways

Sen. John Albers (R – Roswell) carried House Bill 353, which would revise Georgia law relating to overtaking and passing bicycles on a roadway. With the change, drivers approaching a bicycle should do so with caution, make a lane change if possible, or reduce speed to pass the bicycle. A violation will be marked as a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $250. HB 353 passed with a vote of 38 to 12. – HB 353

Revising Criminal Investigations for Funeral Services and Cemeteries

House Bill 354, carried by Sen. Max Burns (R – Sylvania), would allow the State Boards of Funeral Services and Cemeteries to address and investigate complaints within 30 days of receipt. Investigations that show violations relating to funeral services, burial rights and a list of others will be reported to the Attorney General’s office within seven days. HB 354 passed with a vote of 51 to 0. – HB 354

Creating a New Statute of Protections for Citizens 65 Years and Older

House Bill 363, carried by Sen. Brian Strickland (R – McDonough), would revise code sections relating to certain violent offenses against citizens 65 years or older. The bill strikes language including crimes against persons 65 years or older from code relating to simple assault in order to create a new statute with stronger protections. HB 363 passed with a vote of 47 to 0. – HB 363

Clarifying Powers of Joint Hospital Authorities

House Bill 370, carried by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R – Marietta), would clarify the ways in which a joint hospital authority may use funds, as well as limit the number of terms a member can serve on a joint hospital authority operating or leasing a hospital with more than 900 licensed beds. HB 370 passed with a vote of 46 to 2. – HB 370

Supplying Firefighter License Tags

Sen. John Albers (R – Roswell) carried House Bill 453, which would require fire chiefs to supply their local Revenue Commissioner with a list of all employed, volunteer and retired firefighters for the purpose of issuing them a special firefighter’s tag for their personal vehicles. HB 453 passed with a vote of 49 to 0. – HB 453

Prohibiting Annexation of Land Containing a Public County Airport

Sen. John Albers (R – Roswell) carried House Bill 459, which would restrict municipalities from annexing land that contains an operating public county airport without the express permission from the county governing authority. HB 459 passed with a vote of 49 to 0. – HB 459

Allowing Ordinances Against Security System False Alarms

House Bill 465, carried by Sen. Randy Robertson (R – Cataula), would allow local governments to impose ordinances requiring alarm system contractors to pay a fine when an alarm is falsely set off in situations where the false alarm is due to improper installation or contractor error. HB 465 passed with a vote of 41 to 7. – HB 465

Authorizing Virtual Court Hearings

House Bill 553, carried by Sen. Bo Hatchett (R – Cornelia), would allow hearings required in contested cases under the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act to take place virtually when all parties have consented. The bill would also allow witnesses to testify electronically, per discretion of the administrative law judge, and would provide that documents for the Office of State Administrative Hearing may have to be electronically filed as well. HB 553 passed with a vote of 48 to 0. – HB 553

Adjusting Response Time for Requests from the Maternal Mortality Review

Committee Sen. Dean Burke (R – Bainbridge) carried House Bill 567, which would require health care providers, facilities and pharmacies to fulfill requests for reviews of records from the Maternal Mortality Review Committee within 30 days. HB 567 would also establish the Newborn Screening and Genetics Advisory Committee and would allow the Department of Public Health to confer with the committee when deciding the appropriate screenings to do for disorders in newborn babies. HB 567 passed with a vote of 51 to 0. – HB 567

Revising the Small Business Assistance Act

Sen. Bruce Thompson (R – White) carried House Bill 611, which would redefine the definition of a small business in order to create three tiers based on the number of employees or annual gross receipts. The bill also provides definitions for areas of economic development, including “innovation” and “startup,” and allows for certain data sharing. HB 611 passed with a vote of 49 to 0. – HB 611

Creating Logan’s List

House Bill 631, carried by Sen. John Albers (R – Roswell), would require that the Georgia Emergency Communications Authority help local 9-1-1 public safety answering points by creating a community Logan’s List. These lists will be compiled with information submitted voluntarily by caretakers of individuals who have a physical, mental or neurological condition that inhibits the individual’s ability to communicate with first responders. HB 631 passed with a vote of 49 to 0. – HB 631

Compensating Victims of Wrongful Convictions

House Resolution 24, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah), would provide compensation in the amount of $1,000,000 to Domnic Brian Lucci as restitution for a wrongful conviction that led to Mr. Lucci serving 25 years in prison. HR 24 passed with a vote of 52 to 0. – HR 24

Compensating Victims of Wrongful Convictions

House Resolution 25, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah), would provide compensation in the amount of $1,000,000 to Mark Jason Jones as restitution for a wrongful conviction that led to Mr. Jones serving 25 years in prison. HR 25 passed with a vote of 52 to 0. – HR 25

Compensating Victims of Wrongful Convictions

Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah) carried House Resolution 26, which would provide compensation in the amount of $1,000,000 to Kenneth Eric Gardiner as restitution for a wrongful conviction that led to Mr. Gardiner serving 25 years in prison. HR 26 passed with a vote of 52 to 0. – HR 26

Dedicating the Senator Johnny Isakson Bridge

Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga) carried House Resolution 119, which would name the bridge on State Route 307 in Chatham County as the Senator Johnny Isakson Bridge. HR 119 passed with a vote of 47 to 0. – HR 119

Supporting Recovering America’s Wildlife

Act Sen. Tyler Harper (R – Ocilla) carried House Resolution 183, which urges Congress to pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would establish a dedicated funding system for conserving at-risk species of animals and plants. HR 183 passed with a vote of 45 to 0. – HR 183

Creating Sydnie Grace Jones Memorial Intersection

House Resolution 282, carried by Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega), would dedicate the intersection of State Route 32 and State Route 515 in Union County as the Sydnie Grace Jones Memorial Intersection. HR 282 passed with a vote of 46 to 0. – HR 282

SPECIAL ORDERS

Senate Agreements

The Senate agreed to the House Amendment to the Senate Substitute on the following:

SB 202 (34-20)

SB 294 (48-0)

Senate Disagreements

The Senate disagreed to the House Substitute on the following:

SB 6

This Week in the Senate — March 29-31 2021
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This Week in the Senate — March 15-19 2021
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Georgia State Senate District 17 encompasses parts of Newton, Henry, and Rockdale counties with nearly 150,000 registered voters. Brian Strickland entered his second full term in the Georgia Senate in 2020. 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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