Nelson Mullins - Gold Dome Report – Legislative Day 11 (2023)

House Rules Committee Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus) convenes the first Rules Committee meeting of 2023 on Wednesday.

The Capitol was stirring well before the crack of dawn on Wednesday as House appropriators rose before the roosters to advance their version of the Amended FY23 State Budget. The early birds indeed got the worm as the appropriations subcommittee chairs outlined a myriad of additions and supplements (and only a few reductions) to programs across state government. From increases in the school safety grants proposed by Governor Kemp from $50,000 to $60,000 per school to new funds to address the healthcare workforce crisis and foster child hoteling, the House’s edits were meaningful and sweeping. The full House will take up the spending plan on Thursday before it goes to the Senate for another round of amendments. Details and a link to the full budget in this #GoldDomeReport.

In addition to a smattering of other committee meetings, the House Rules Committee convened for its first meeting of 2023 on Wednesday. After bringing the group to order, Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus) acknowledged that the Rules Committee has 500 years of institutional knowledge amongst its members. That experience will come in handy as the tidal wave of legislation sloshes through the halls as the session advances.

In this Report:

  • House Appropriations Committee Approves Amended FY23 Budget
  • Committee Reports
  • New Legislation
  • What’s Next

House Appropriations Committee Approves Amended FY23 Budget

Literally before the crack of the dawn, House Appropriations Committee members began unveiling their spending plan for the Amended FY 2023 Budget. The subcommittees outlined their various program areas which culminated in the full committee providing a do pass recommendation on HB 18. The full tracking sheet for HB 18 is linked here. The legislation outlining the spending plan for HB 18 is linked here. There was positive news for various agencies, and those they serve, sprinkled throughout the latest version of the proposed use of $32.5 billion in state funding. Some of these changes include:

Department of Agriculture

  • Athens and Tifton Veterinary Laboratories program - $150,000 for recommission the Tifton lab for accredited operations
  • Consumer Protection program - $766,812 to implement the Raw Dairy Act (2022)

Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

  • Adult Developmental Disabilities Services Program - $500,000 to consolidate funds for respite services (this is a transfer from Special Project Program)
  • Adult Mental Health Services - more than $2 million to support private psychiatric contract beds and $825,000 to coordinate outreach to address homelessness in the Atlanta area
  • Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services program - $100,000 reduction for a delayed contract implementation and $600,000 for providing one-time gap funding for Georgia Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities receiving less than $500 per patient per day while under cost report reimbursement methodology
  • Departmental Administration program - $300,000 to support operations personnel for the administration of federal opioid settlement funds
  • Direct Care Support Services program - $4 million is added for patient treatment mall renovation

Department of Community Health

  • Healthcare Access and Improvement program - $25,000 is added for a rural hospital study; $184,000 is added to support existing housing with the Area Health Education Centers; and $778,000 is added to support the psychiatric and internal medicine resident learning and work centers at St. Francis Hospital
  • Healthcare Facility Regulation program - $250,000 is added to implement and regulate the new licensure category for adult residential mental health programs as established by HB 1069 (2022)
  • State Health Benefit Plan - $100,000,000 is added to reflect a three-year phase in of an increase in the employer contribution per member per month for non-certified school employees effective January 1, 2024
  • Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce: Graduate Medical Education - $237,966 is added to fund internal medicine residency capitation payments for St. Francis Hospital
  • Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce: Undergraduate Medical Education - $56,000 is added for nursing program recruitment in Southwest Georgia

Department of Education

  • Non-Quality Basic Education Formula Grants Program - the House increased funds from $50,000 to $60,000 per school for local school systems to allocate funding for security grants (the Governor had originally proposed a total of $115.7 million, and the House moved this to a more than $138.8 million); the House changed the funding proposal for reimbursable grants for paraprofessionals who are seeking to earn a certificate through the Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy (the governor proposed $15 million but the House reduced this to $5 million - funding for those who are actually enrolled on and after January 1, 2023); and the House eliminated the $25 million in state funds for learning loss (the House added language that the department utilize the $977.5 million from ARPA funds designated for learning loss); and the House added $1.25 million to provide the matching funds for school systems to implement character education programming
  • Quality Basic Education Program - the House decreased the funding from $28 million to $16 million for the funding the State Commission Charter School Supplement; increased from $6.3 million to $7.4 million for the Special Needs Scholarship (reflection of growth); and added $60,564 to fund mid-term adjustment to the local charter school grant pursuant to SB59 (2021)
  • Technology/Career Education program -$3.3 million was added to purchase equipment for construction industry certification programs statewide

Department of Human Services

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  • Out-of-Home Care - $5 million was added to provide funds for alternative housing options for youth with complex needs

Georgia Bureau of Investigation

  • Criminal Justice Coordinating Council: Family Violence program - $2.4 million was added to upgrade security at domestic violence shelters and $2 million was added in one-time funds for domestic violence shelters to off-set loss of federal funds

Department of Natural Resources

  • Parks Recreation and Historic Sites - $1.5 million was added to complete construction of the Jekyll Island Public Safety Complex and $2.5 million was included as an increase in funding for major repairs and renovations

Committee Reports

House Small Business Development Committee

The Small Business Development Committee, chaired by Representative Mike Cheokas (R-Americus), called the meeting to order. He introduced Karen Bremer from the Georgia Restaurant Association to give a presentation. Bremer gave a few quick statistics, including that this industry is on track to bring in $26 billion in revenue this year. It is the second largest private employer, second only to the agriculture industry. 50% of all Georgians have worked in a restaurant, and 55% of restaurants are minority-owned. She then recognized some of her board members to provide testimonials on their business and their challenges, specifically cost. Representative Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) asked about robotic servers mitigating workforce shortages.. Bremer acknowledged this and noted their industry has been working on this and using technology to make the necessary improvements. Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) was recognized because his close ties with the industry.

House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee

Chairman J. Collins (R-Villa Rica) called the meeting to order with a prayer given by his daughter,. JJ Collins.

  • HB 35, authorized by Representative Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon), amends Chapter 2 of Title 52 of the O.C.G.A. This measure increases the port police’s authority. It creates a one-mile radius for police to help with traffic and other police business. The local community and policing agencies are in favor. Representative Gloria Frazier (D-Augusta) wanted clarity on the one-mile limitation. Representative Hitchens noted that most of their warehouses are within that one-mile radius, which is what they requested. Representative Steven Sainz (R-St. Marys) was curious if the legislation added peace officers. Representative Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) spoke in favor of the measure and highlighted the need to “fight crime,” and jovially asked if it would help get containers off I-16. A do pass motion was made; the bill passed the Committee without opposition.
  • HB 137, authored by Representative Clint Crowe (R-Jackson), also known as Bishop’s Law, amends Article 1 of Chapter 10 of Title 17 and Chapter 2 of Title 42 of the O.C.G.A. The House passed this measure during the last legislative session. A police officer was killed during a traffic stop. The assailant fled to Canada, was extradited back to Georgia, and was sentenced to life in prison. While in prison, he obtained a cell phone and contacted the officer's family. The measure requires anyone who kills an officer to be sent to a closed security or middle-security level facility. Representative Becky Evans (D-Atlanta) asked about transfers and if it is never allowed or if there is an opportunity. Crowe said if someone in this situation was up for parole and approved, they would be transferred to a lower-level facility to enter back into society while letting the victim's family know. Representative Scott Holcomb (D-Decatur) asked about the risk of needs assessment. Crowe noted this change was an edit made by Legislative Council. Representative Frazier clarified this would require family members to be notified when inmates are being moved from facilities and queried how it would prevent an inmate from receiving a cell phone. Representative Crowe acknowledged that nothing is impossible, but a closed facility, or a maximum security facility, has more guards and inmate monitoring. A do pass motion was made; the bill passed the Committee without opposition.

House Higher Education Committee

Under the leadership of Chairman Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), the House Higher Education Committee met today and heard presentations from the Georgia Independent College Association and Georgia Student Finance Commission.

Jenna Colvin, Executive Director of the Georgia Independent College Association, provided information to the Committee on what her Association does in working with its 24 member schools: policy; scholarship (last year $600,000 alone); collaborative services; and research and communication. The Association also has been working consolidate 403B plans as well. In total, these Georgia schools have a combined $665 million in research efforts. She also accented the work of Mercer which has been deemed the best value by Princeton Review and Agnes Scott’s accolades from US News & World Report. In all, there are 71,000 students enrolled and there are 23,000 individuals who are employed by these private entities (with $4.1 billion in wages). 1 in 5 degrees come from GICA schools and 40 percent of their students are Pell Grant recipients. . Colvin outlined the various state aid programs open to these schools’ students: tuition equalization grants (created in 1970s); HOPE scholarships; Zell Miller Scholarships; Student Access Loan (the last resorts for 1,500 students); HB 1435 completion grants; Reach Scholars; and dual enrollment. She noted, however, that Georgia has a low college attendance rate.Representative Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn) asked about the net loss of students who are going elsewhere outside of Georgia; Chairman Martin indicated that the Committee would look at that issue later.Representative Rhonda Burnough (D-Riverdale) inquired about whether the loss of students had anything to do with the refusal to permit pass/fail grades during COVID-19; the answer to that was no.In answering a question from Representative Jasmine Clark (D-Lilburn) and whether other states have essentially more lucrative options for students such as free tuition or more robust dual enrollment,Colvin indicated that Georgia does have the lowest combined award package.

Lynne Riley, the president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission, provided the Committee with an overview of her agency.It administers the HOPE programs and Dual Enrollment. There are 2.1 million individuals who have taken advantage of HOPE since its inception (it is now 30 years old).

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The Committee also heard a presentation on HB 39 by Representative Marvin Lim (D-Norcross).This legislation seeks to add a new Code section at O.C.G.A. 20-3-2 to provide for the issuance of transcripts when a student owes a debt to an institution of higher education so that he or she could become employed. His goal is to allow employers access to these transcripts which are currently not allowed. This legislation would impact about 180,000 individuals but Representative Lim could not give an average amount of debt owed for these individuals.There were several questions about whether the debts were tuition debts or fee debts or both.There were also questions around whether the debts were delinquent debts - and many are. No vote was taken on this legislation today, but Chairman Martin has reached out to the University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia for more data on the issue.

Senate Insurance and Labor Committee

Chairman Larry Walker (R-Perry) and the Insurance and Labor Committee met, beginning with introductions to the Committee members.

The Committee had a lengthy presentation from Dr. Bob Hartwig. His presentation focused on why auto insurance rates have increased.A number of factors have caused rates to increase - including inflation, bad driving, and fatalities. Dr. Hartwig indicated that Georgia has an epidemic of highway deaths and that has driven up the average cost of claims which have impacted loss ratios.Georgia, though, is a competitive state with 211 carriers of auto insurance writing $11 billion in premiums. Auto fatalities in Georgia are soaring and are at a higher rate than the national average. Much of this is due to unsafe behavior.To date, there have been 1900 deaths this year. 56 percent of deaths are due to individuals not wearing seatbelts.There are 76 percent of deaths due to unsafe behavior (e.g. driving under the influence etc.).Additionally, he noted a number of pedestrian deaths in the state.Auto insurance, however, is not seeing excessive profitability.

Deputy Commissioner from the Department of Insurance Steve Manders spoke to the Committee about filings and loss ratios.He indicated that there were 10,000 filings by property and casualty companies annually.He noted the NAIC’s electronic filing system which is in use and which allows the public access to information.Georgia uses file and use (with a 45 day waiting period before new rates are in effect).The Department of Insurance may examine and stop the clock, but that is not allowed for auto insurance.Manders also mentioned the minimum limit policy holders’ rates.He further noted a number of variables that the Department sees in filings - in all, there are as many as 200. Georgia, like other states, does not allow income to be a variable, but they do see education and occupation being used as variables.

The Committee adopted its Committee Rules for the year.There were no changes from 2022. Two subcommittees have been established to review bills, and authors are required to see the Chairman to request their bills to be heard.Presently, six bills have been assigned to this Committee, but only SB 20 has been requested - that is the legislation on network adequacy by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta).

Senate Public Safety Committee

The Senate Public Safety Committee, chaired by Senator John Albers (R-Alpharetta), met on Wednesday afternoon. After hearing an update from Chief Darin Schierbaum of the Atlanta Police Department, the Committee considered the following measures:

  • SB 36, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Title 16 to increase the penalty provisions relating to pimping and pandering. Specifically, the bill elevates pimping and pandering to a felony in the first offense and requires a minimum of one year imprisonment for second or subsequent offenses.

Senator Robertson presented the bill to the Committee, explaining that the bill was passed by the Senate last year but failed to achieve final passage in the House. Senator Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain) expressed concern that the bill includes minors engaged in prostitution, who are presumed to be victims under the law, in the definition of sex workers. She asked that these individuals be referred to as “persons” rather than sex workers. Senator Robertson explained that this was a change made in the Judiciary Committee last year in order to differentiate between the person who is the offender and the person who is the victim.

Taylor Hawkins of Frontline spoke in favor of the bill. Mazie Lynn Guertin of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers appeared in opposition to the bill and asked that, at a minimum, the Committee leave discretion with the court in each individual case to depart from the mandatory minimums in the bill.

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Senator Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton) proposed an amendment to address the sex worker terminology concern by replacing it with “victim of sexual exploitation,” and the motion was seconded by Senator Jackson. The Committee recommended by a 4-3 vote that the bill DO PASS by Committee Substitute and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 37, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Title 15 to require certification as a peace officer at the time of qualifying as a candidate for sheriff.

Senator Robertson presented the bill to the Committee, and Terry Norris of the Georgia Sheriffs Association appeared in support. The Committee recommended the bill DO PASS and be sent to the Rules Committee.

  • SB 38, authored by Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), amends Title 40 to authorize a local governing body to apply for a permit to operate a traffic enforcement safety device which enforces the speed limit in a school zone by recorded image. Current law requires these permits to be sought by the affected local school.

Senator Robertson presented the bill to the Committee, explaining that local governing bodies are in charge of policing the streets, so they would be the entities seeking the permits. Senator Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain) asked why the change is necessary, and Senator Robertson said he was aware of instances where school districts were not agreeing to apply for permits and were engaging in “revenue policing.” A motion to recommend the bill do pass failed for lack of a second, and a motion to TABLE was approved by the Committee.

Joint Senate Education and Youth and Higher Education Committee

The Senate Education and Youth and Higher Education Committees met jointly again on Wednesday to hear about literacy education training programs. Chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, Senator Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro), presided.

Chancellor Sonny Perdue presented on the University System of Georgia’s efforts to train teachers to teach reading. He highlighted a collaboration with the Professional Standards Commission to ensure evidence-based literacy programs are being propagated. The USG’s goals are to make sure its educator preparation programs reflect evidence-based practices to teach reading at all levels and increase reading proficiency across all grade levels.

Holly Roberts and Christina Dandy of The Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University next presented to the Committee. The mission of the center is to improve the early language and literacy skills of Georgia children by providing research-based professional development for organizations working with children from birth to age eight. The center is focused on embedding evidence-based practices for early language and literacy development, providing research, professional learning, and community outreach. The center has provided professional learning to 2,076 attendees at 22 workshops over the last three fiscal years.

Mike Looney, Superintendent of Fulton County Schools, presented to the Committee on FCS’s efforts to improve literacy. Dr. Looney explained that the district has implemented Every Child Reads and Science of Reading, and students in the district have made gains in literacy as others have declined. FCS implemented its literacy programs and supports using funds from ESSR III.

Shawonna Coleman of Americorps’ Reading Corps and Math Corps closed testimony to the Committee, explaining that they are in Georgia thanks to Senator Freddie Powell Sims (D-Dawson) advocating for their location here. Reading Corps is a high-dosage tutoring model that was first launched in Georgia in Fulton County Schools. The program is in its first year in Georgia but has been scaled in 13 other states. Tutors receive stipends, health insurance, and tuition assistance which creates a pipeline for new educators.

Senate Economic Development & Tourism Committee

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The Senate Economic Development & Tourism Committee, chaired by Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), was called to order with member introductions. After passing their committee rules, Chairman Beach recognized Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming).

  • SB 26, authored by Senator Dolezal, amends Title 50 of the O.C.G.A. to allow development authorities to conduct public meetings to be held by teleconference. Senator Dolezal mentioned the intention of this is to increase participation and attendance. The measure does not create requirements regarding proxy votes.

. Ann Hanlon from the Perimeter Community Improvement District,. Grant Cagle from the Georgia Economic Developers Association, and. J. Barry Shrenk from the Tucker-Northlake Community Improvement District expressed their support for the measure.

. Neil Herring from the Georgia Sierra Club expressed concern regarding meeting notices.

The bill passed the Committee without opposition, and the meeting was adjourned.

House Governmental Affairs Committee

The first meeting of the Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta) was called to order to discuss organizational matters. Chair LaHood noted last year the Committee reviewed roughly 60 bills. The rules of the committee were unanimously passed with two amendments. Representative Mary Margaret Oliver’s (D-Decatur) first amendment added the requirement for a substitute or an amendment to a bill or resolution to be given to the Chair two hours prior to its presentation. The Committee also agreed to increase its quorum from four to six members. Chairman LaHood announced there would be two subcommittees, the Elections Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), and the Local and State Government Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Victor Anderson (R-Cornelia).

New Legislation

The following legislation of interest has been introduced in the House:


George L. Burgess Act; enact

Rep. Regina Lewis-Ward (D-115)


Safe Schools Act; enact

Rep. Will Wade (R-009)


Student Teacher Promotion Act; enact

Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-141)


Professions and businesses; definition of physical therapy to include ordering diagnostic imaging and using ultrasound; revise

Rep. Mesha Mainor (D-056)


Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact; adopt

Rep. Sandra Scott (D-076)


Interstate Massage Compact; enter into

Rep. Sandra Scott (D-076)


Cosmetology Licensure Compact; enter into

Rep. Sandra Scott (D-076)


Professions and businesses; issuance of licenses by endorsement for spouses of firefighters, healthcare providers, and law enforcement officers who relocate to Georgia; provide

Rep. Chuck Martin (R-049)


Education; HOPE grant eligibility for students seeking an associate degree at a branch of the Technical College System of Georgia; provide

Rep. Stacey Evans (D-057)


Pediatric Health Safe Storage Act; enact

Rep. Michelle Au (D-050)


Income tax; one-time tax credit for taxpayers who filed returns for both 2021 and 2022 taxable years; provide

Rep. Lauren McDonald (R-026)


Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce; student loan repayment for medical examiners employed by the Division of Forensic Sciences of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; provide

Rep. Lauren McDonald (R-026)


Courts; provide for qualification of constables

Rep. Karen Mathiak (R-074)


Motor vehicles and traffic; standards for issuance of limited driving permits for certain offenders; provide

Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-017)


Law enforcement officers and agencies; revise handling of arrest-only criminal history record information

Rep. Gregg Kennard (D-101)


Mental health; notice of admission and daily updates to the parent or legal guardian of an involuntary minor patient under 12 years of age; provide

Rep. Mesha Mainor (D-056)


Education; mandatory pre-kindergarten and kindergarten for all children prior to entering into first grade; provide

Rep. Gregg Kennard (D-101)


Education, Department of; provide parents and guardians of students entering sixth grade information regarding adolescent vaccinations in print and electronic form

Rep. Patty Bentley (D-150)


Quality Basic Education Act; prescribed course of study in sex education and HIV prevention instruction is age appropriate; provide

Rep. Jasmine Clark (D-108)


Solitary Confinement Limitation Act; enact

Rep. Shelly Hutchinson (D-106)


Controlled Substances; mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine are Schedule I; provide

Rep. Rick Townsend (R-179)


Education, Department of; dedicate personnel and funds to promote and improve cybersecurity education, training, and workforce development; encourage

Rep. Mesha Mainor (D-056)


Inman, Mr. Devonia; compensate

Rep. Penny Houston (R-170)


House Study Committee on Front of Vehicle License Plates; create

Rep. Stacey Evans (D-057)


House Study Committee on Excessive Vehicle Noise and Related Crimes; create

Rep. Stacey Evans (D-057)


Youth Villages; commend

Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-015)


Together Georgia; commend

Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-015)

The following legislation of interest has been introduced in the Senate:


'Georgia Sports Betting Integrity Act'; regulation and taxation of sports betting in this state; authorize and provide

Sen. Billy Hickman (R-004)


Education; certain provisions for alternative charter schools; repeal

Sen. Billy Hickman (R-004)


Governor; Office of the Inspector General; establish

Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-050)


Secondary Metals Recyclers; it shall be illegal for certain persons to purchase, possess, obtain, or sell or attempt to purchase, possess, obtain, or sell; provide

Sen. Bo Hatchett (R-050)


Sick Leave for Care of Immediate Family Members; sunset provision relating to such sick leave requirements; repeal

Sen. Brian Strickland (R-017)


Counties and Municipal Corporations; certain local ordinances or policies relating to public camping or sleeping; prohibit

Sen. Carden Summers (R-013)


Bonds and Recognizances; setting of bonds and schedules of bails; provide

Sen. Randy Robertson (R-029)


Statewide Independent Living Council of Georgia; recognize

Sen. John Albers (R-056)


Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education; recognize

Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-032)

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 12 on Thursday, February 2 at 10:00AM.

The House is expected to consider the following measures on the floor on Thursday:

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  • HB 18 - Supplemental appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2022 - June 30, 2023 (Substitute)(App-Burns-159th)

The Senate is expected to consider the following measures on the floor on Thursday:

  • SR 32 - Attorney General; negotiate with the State of Alabama terms of a reciprocal immunity agreement for officials; urge (JUDY-15th)


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