This Week in the Senate — March 8-11 2021

March 17, 2021

Crossover Day has officially come and gone and the Senate is already hard at work considering the many bills passed that were passed over from the House. Crossover Day, like in most other years, had us debating and passing legislation well into the evening. When the gavel finally fell and signaled the end of our legislative day, the Senate had considered and passed more than 30 bills and resolutions. Our work did not end on Monday, however, as we continued to advance proposals, both in the Senate Chamber and in our committees, for the benefit of Georgia and all who live here.

Several bills which passed through the Judiciary Committee also received votes on the Senate floor. Senate Bill 234 would essentially provide for uniform laws and regulations for the mediation process. These new, universal standards include what communications may be confidential, when certain parties need to disclose a potential conflict of interest, and what information can or cannot be shared by a mediator. Senate Bill 276 would allow municipalities to collect fees from certain local courts in order to support county law libraries. For many Georgians, these libraries are vital to research information that may be helpful to them in a case and we need to continue to support them so citizens across the state do not lose this critical resource. Finally, I sponsored Senate Bill 238. Currently, Georgia Code contains annotations and other information that, while important for understanding the law, is not explicitly legally binding. SB 238 clears up this ambiguity and clarifies that only the official code should be considered law, and not the annotations.

Last week, we also had the opportunity to pass several measures in support of our military veterans and our public safety community. Senate Bills 225 and 237 would allow for the creation of license plates that recognize those who served alongside the United States as part of an allied country, and our United States Army Rangers, respectively. While these military veterans deserve much more, these license plates will serve as a reminder to all who see them of the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. The Senate also passed House Bill 129, which would raise the salaries of sheriffs in several counties throughout the state. These sheriffs were unfortunately left out of a raise that was intended to increase the pay of all sheriffs and this bill is needed urgently to ensure every sheriff in Georgia is compensated fairly for their service.

Last week also marked the beginning of Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meetings on the general budget for the 2022 fiscal year. The version of this budget that was sent over to the Senate, in the form of House Bill 81, totals $27 billion in state funds and represents the growing strength of our economy as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. These meetings provided members with insight into how each state agency has weathered the impact of lower than expected revenues in the previous budget and how they intend to utilize additional funds given our enhanced economic position. We will now compile this information and create a Senate version of the budget which we expect to take up for a vote in the coming days. With Crossover Day firmly behind us, our sights are now set on Sine Die. We have only eight legislative days remaining in order to finish the people’s business under the Gold Dome and many issues still to take up. Namely, passing the 2022 fiscal year budget will be our next primary goal, as it remains our only remaining constitutionally required mandate. If you have any questions about any of the bills we passed on Crossover Day or about any bills sent over to the Senate, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Senator Brian Strickland

District 17, Georgia Senate

MONDAY, MARCH 8 (Crossover Day)

The Jaye Mia Sanford Law

Sen. Emanuel Jones (D – Decatur) sponsored Senate Bill 10, which would revise the penalties for drag racing so that anyone who pro- motes, advertises or knowingly attends and wagers on a race will be charged with a misdemeanor. The bill would add four points to the driver’s licenses of those caught laying drag on the first offense, six on the second offense and eight on the third offense. SB 10 passed with a vote of 49 to 2. – SB 10

Revising Absentee Ballot Design

Senate Bill 62, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R – Marietta), would alter the way that absentee ballots are printed and present- ed to voters. The bill would require absentee ballots to display the name and designation of the voter’s precinct, as well as have the ballots contain embedded special elements for poll workers to be able to identify the ballot as legitimate. SB 62 also revises the storage and chain of custody for absentee ballots. SB 62 passed with a vote of 37 to 15. – SB 62

Keeping Voter Registration Records Updated

Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga) sponsored Senate Bill 72, which would clarify the process for identifying voters who have passed away and purging their names from voter registration records. The bill would require county registrars to request updated death records from the county coroner, probate court judge and all county funeral homes monthly to ensure that voter registration is up to date. SB 72 passed with a vote of 48 to 5. – SB 72

Allowing Poll Watchers To Observe Ballot Counting

Senate Bill 74, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga),would allow poll watchers to have access to election tabulating centers, as long as there is no interference by the watchers. Current law only allows poll watchers to serve in certain areas of polling places, not including where ballots are counted. SB 74 passed with a vote of 36 to 18. – SB 74

Establishing the Georgia Commission on African American History and Culture

Senate Bill 90, sponsored by Sen. Lester Jackson (D – Savannah), would create a Georgia Commission on African American History and Culture to be in charge of preserving, collecting and promoting Georgia’s African American Heritage through education. The commission would meet on a quarterly basis and would submit a report advising on the establishment and funding of a Museum of Georgia African American History and Culture. SB 90 passed with a vote of 54 to 0. – SB 90

Creating Differential Waivers for Out-of-State Tuition

Sen. Lester Jackson (D – Savannah) sponsored Senate Bill 97, which would allow certain institutions within the University System of Georgia to award out-of-state tuition differential waivers and to assess in-state tuition to students who do not qualify for in-state tuition. The bill would also specify that three historically black colleges and universities, Albany State University, Fort Valley State University and Savannah State University, may award these waivers to up to 4% of full-time students. SB 97 passed with a vote of 52 to 1. – SB 97

Reviewing Georgia’s Transportation Code

Senate Bill 98, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Beach (R – Alpharetta), would make many revisions to the Georgia Transportation Code with the goal of improving the state’s infrastructure. Such revisions include expansion of the Georgia Freight Railroad Program and requiring the Georgia Department of Transportation to make a re- port to the State Transportation Board about ways the state can enhance mobility or promote economic development. SB 98 passed with a vote of 53 to 1. – SB 98

Providing Wraparound Services to Schoolchildren

Sen. Gail Davenport (D – Jonesboro) sponsored Senate Bill 106, which would provide “wraparound services” to students in pre- school through third grade prior to out-of-school suspension for more than five cumulative days during a school year. Such services could include family support services, referrals to state social services, behavioral screenings and resource lists for parents about child development and school selection processes. SB 106 passed with a vote of 47 to 5. – SB 106

Creating an Office of Solicitor-General Emeritus

Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R – Marietta) sponsored Senate Bill 120, which would create an honorary office of solicitor general emeritus for the state of Georgia. Any solicitor-general of Georgia who retires under honorable condition after serving as a state prosecutor for at least 20 years will automatically qualify and may apply to the Secretary of State for a special certificate. SB 120 passed with a vote of 54 to 0. – SB 120

Revising Areas of Operations for City Housing Authorities

Senate Bill 144, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R – Marietta), would limit the area of operations for city housing authorities. Currently, the areas of operation include the housing authority’s city and a ten mile radius surrounding the city. SB 144 would change the areas of operation to only include the city limits, but allows any current projects outside of these limits to be completed. SB 144 passed with a vote of 36 to 13. – SB 144

Creating a Chief Labor Officer Role

Sen. Marty Harbin (R – Tyrone) sponsored Senate Bill 156, which would create a role of Chief Labor Officer for the Georgia Department of Labor. The Chief Labor Officer would oversee unemployment compensation, provide records to the public and provide reports concerning financial audits to the Department of Labor. SB 156 passed with a vote of 32 to 18. – SB 156

Adding a Judge to the Superior Court of the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit

Senate Bill 162, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Beach (R – Alpharetta), would add a fourth judge to the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit’s Superior Court. The new judge would be appointed by the Governor for a first term, and all successors would be determined by judicial elections going forward. SB 162 passed with a vote of 52 to 0. – SB 162

Updating Laws Relating to HIV

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R – Rome) sponsored Senate Bill 164, which would revise O.C.G.A. sections related to persons living with HIV. Revisions include defining HIV tests and reducing the potential sentence for knowingly engaging with someone in a sexual manner with the intent to transmit HIV from ten years to five years. SB 164 passed with a vote of 50 to 2. – SB 164

Excluding Jurors With Financial Interests For Insurance Company Court Cases

Senate Bill 166, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R – Athens), would disqualify potential jurors in court cases concerning an insurance com- pany who have financial interests in said company. The bill would re- quire jurors to fill out a questionnaire that identifies their employer and insurers. SB 166 failed to pass with a vote of 27 to 24. – SB 166

Clarifying Absentee Ballot Process

Sen. Max Burns (R – Sylvania) sponsored Senate Bill 202, which would prohibit any entity other than the Secretary of State, elections officials or absentee ballot clerks from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who have already requested, received or cast an absentee ballot. SB 202 passed with a vote of 32 to 20. – SB 202

Allowing Schools To Enter Into Energy Savings Contracts

Senate Bill 213, sponsored by Sen. Tyler Harper (R – Ocilla), would define energy or operation savings measures and would allow schools to enter into energy savings contracts with the purpose of reducing energy or wastewater consumption, wastewater production, or operating costs. SB 213 would also state schools may choose to implement the changes all at once or in phases, and costs may be paid for by using revenue from local option sales taxes collected for education purposes. SB 213 passed with a vote of 51 to 3. – SB 213

Suspending Compensation for Public Officials Indicted for Felonies

Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry) sponsored Senate Bill 218, which would cease payment for public officials indicted for a felony until they are reinstated. SB 218 passed with a vote of 51 to 1. – SB 218

Creating a Veterans License Plate to Support Allies of the U.S.

Sen. Ed Harbison (D – Columbus) sponsored Senate Bill 225, which would create a special license plate for veterans who have served in the armed forces, during active military combat, of an ally of the United States. TSB 225 passed with a vote of 50 to 0. – SB 225

The Georgia Uniform Mediation Act

Senate Bill 234, sponsored by Sen. John Kennedy (R – Macon), would create a new chapter in Georgia Code related to mediations, specifically focusing on confidentiality privileges. The bill would automatically deem mediation communications as classified and not admissible as evidence unless all parties agree to the contrary in a signed record. SB 234 passed with a vote of 49 to 2. – SB 234

Creating a Special License Plate in Support of U.S. Army Rangers

Sen. Ed Harbison (D – Columbus) sponsored Senate Bill 237, which would create a special license plate supporting members of the Unit- ed States Army Rangers. The funds raised would be disbursed to the National Ranger Memorial Foundation, Inc. SB 237 passed with a vote of 54 to 0. – SB 237

Revising Responsibilities for Official Code of Georgia

Senate Bill 238, sponsored by Sen. Brian Strickland (R – McDonough), would clarify that Georgia is only responsible for revising provisions in the Official Code of Georgia, not annotations. SB 238 passed with a vote of 53 to 0. – SB 238

Enacting Comprehensive Election Reform

Sen. Mike Dugan (R – Carrollton) sponsored Senate Bill 241, which would enact comprehensive election reform. Some of the provisions include establishing a voter intimidation hotline, requiring authorized reasons for absentee voting, and allowing the State Election Board to recommend the removal of local election officials. SB 241 passed with a vote of 29 to 20. – SB 241

Revising Agricultural Commodity Commission Requirements

Sen. Lee Anderson (R – Grovetown) sponsored Senate Bill 247, which would allow the Agricultural Commodity Com- missions to hold public hearings regarding market orders remotely. SB 247 would also revise the notice requirements for public hearings, changing it to the Farmers Consumers Market Bulletin or a similar publication, and would remove the requirement for having testimonies under oath, as well as revise procedures for issuing and amending marketing orders. SB 247 passed with a vote of 51 to 0. – SB 247

Revising Compensation of Public Officials

Senate Bill 252, sponsored by Sen. Valencia Seay (D – Riverdale), would revise the base salaries of the Georgia General Assembly members to match the recommendations of the 2020 report of the State Commission on Compensation. SB 252 failed to pass with a vote of 20 to 33. – SB 252

Removing Soil Amendments Requiring Notice of Polling Place Relocation

Senate Bill 253, sponsored by Sen. Nikki Merritt (D – Grayson), would require polling place relocation notices to be posted at the original polling location and three other places in the immediate vicinity during the seven days before and on the first election day. SB 253 passed with a vote of 53 to 0. – SB 253

Requiring Health Directors to be Selected by DPH Commissioner

Sen. Dean Burke (R – Bainbridge) sponsored Senate Bill 256, which would require health directors to be selected directly by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, without the approval of county boards of health. These individuals would serve as the director for each county within the district. SB 256 passed with a vote of 37 to 14. – SB 256

Senate Bill 260

Sponsored by Sen. Tyler Harper (R – Ocilla), would remove certain soil amendments that are derived from forest by-products from regulation by the Commissioner of Agriculture. SB 260 would also authorize the State Board of Examiners for Certification of Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators and Laboratory Analysts to assess a registration fee to board approved continuing education providers. SB 260 passed with a vote of 39 to 15. – SB 260

Collecting Fees for Libraries

Sen. John Kennedy (R – Macon) sponsored Senate Bill 276, which would allow municipalities to collect fees from county recorders’ courts or magistrate courts to support the county law library. SB 276 passed with a vote of 40 to 13. – SB 276

Creation of Georgia Commission on E-Commerce

Senate Resolution 102, sponsored by Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega), would create the Georgia Commission on E-Commerce and Freight Infrastructure Funding. The commission would be responsible for policy development, fund- ing and logistics related to the industry. – SR 102

Suspending Compensation for Indicted Officials

Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry) sponsored Senate Resolution 134, which would propose an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that if approved by voters, would prevent a public official who is suspended due to a felony indictment from receiving compensation until they are reinstated. SR 134 passed with a vote of 51 to 1. – SR 134

Creating Committee for Strengthening Georgia Workforce

Senate Resolution 154, sponsored by Sen. Nan Orrock (D – Atlanta), would create the Joint Study Committee for Strengthening Georgia’s Future Workforce. The committee would consist of 17 members and would be tasked with evaluating and addressing is- sues related to Georgia’s growing economy and workforce. SR 154 passed with a vote of 47 to 3. – SR 154


Shifting Responsibility For Stolen Timber Away From Lumber Buyers

House Bill 90, carried by Sen. John Kennedy (R – Macon), would make any entity that alters and sells timber from land they don’t own liable for damages incurred by the landowner, rather than holding timber buyers responsible. HB 90 passed with a vote of 47 to 0. – HB 90

Amending a Provision Related to Podiatry Practice

Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R – Marietta) carried House Bill 245, which would remove the requirement for a podiatrist licensee to pass a fingerprint background check in order to renew their license. However, HB 245 would clarify that the background check is a condition for license reinstatement. Further, the bill states that a representative of the Georgia Composite Medical Board will not receive automatic consent to conduct criminal background checks. HB 245 passed with a vote of 46 to 0. – HB 245

Annual Controlled Substances Update

House Bill 367, carried by Sen. Dean Burke (R – Bainbridge), would provide an annual update to add and remove controlled substances and drugs on Georgia’s Drug Schedules I, II, III, IV and V. HB 367 passed with a vote of 47 to 0. – HB 367


Reviewing Certifications For Clinical Laboratories

House Bill 93, carried by Sen. Dean Burke (R – Bainbridge), would change the way that clinical laboratories are certified by repealing licensing by the Board of Community Health and implementing regulations based on rules made by federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The bill also allows citizens to use FDA-approved at-home HIV tests and amends the definition of “pharmacy care” as it pertains to monitoring disease and drug use, as well as patient education. HB 93 passed with a vote of 48 to 0. – HB 93

Revising National Guard Pay

Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry) carried House Bill 105, which would allow members of the National Guard who voluntarily enter into active duty at the Governor’s request to receive active duty pay, even outside of a state of emergency. HB 105 passed with a vote of 49 to 0. – HB 105

Expanding Access to the Georgia State Indemnification Program

House Bill 106, carried by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R – White), would make members of the State Defense Force eligible for the Georgia State Indemnification Program.. HB 106 passed with a vote of 51 to 0. – HB 106

Raising Sheriff ’s Salaries

Sen. Bo Hatchett (R – Cornelia) carried House Bill 129, which would increase the minimum annual salary for a sheriff serving a county with a population of 39,000 to 49,999 to $83,750.51 per year. HB 129 passed with a vote of 50 to 0. – HB 129

Creating an Easier Path for Children’s Health Insurance

House Bill 163, carried by Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah), would make Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program more easily accessible by creating an “express lane” program for eligible children. Eligibility for the program will be determined using data collected from other social programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program , free school lunch, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and more. HB 163 passed with a vote of 52 to 0. – HB 163


Exempting Bartow County Residents from Taxes

Senate Bill 274, sponsored by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R – White), would provide a homestead exemption from certain Bartow County School District ad valorem taxes for residents of the school district who are 80 years of age or older. This would be for the full amount of the first $400,000 of the assessed value of the homestead and the election superintendent of Bartow County will hold an election on the matter in 2022. SB 274 passed with a vote of 51 to 0. – SB 274

Revising Tax Exemptions in Bartow County

Senate Bill 275, sponsored by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R – White), would exempt certain residents who are 65 years of age or older from Bartow County School District ad valorem taxes up to $60,000 of the assessed value of their home- stead. The election superintendent would be tasked with conducting an election to approve or reject the act in November 2022. SB 275 passed with a vote of 51 to 0. – SB 275

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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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