I bet some of you are wondering what it is like at the state capitol smack in the middle of a pandemic.  Well, I pulled myself away from my laptop, where I was simultaneously texting other home-bound lobbyists, sterilizing a bucket of masks, watching the House Chamber proceedings, Senate Chamber proceedings, yesterday’s House Education Committee meeting, the night before last’s Senate Judiciary meeting, and Tiger King, and eating lasagna for breakfast, to venture down there to see.  I have to tell you, the whole journey was weird.  First of all, I could barely remember how to wear clothes with zippers or put on shoes.  Second, I almost poked my eye out with the mascara brush. (That was embarrassing, even alone with myself.) Third, MARTA was empty. Fourth, the halls at the Capitol felt almost post-apocalyptic – kind of like an episode of the Walking Dead, except with a smattering of random humans (and maybe some zombies) in masks and clean suits but without axes or crossbows.

The usual kind of legislator-lobbyist/advocate interaction is all but gone, with many committees requiring notification an hour or day before testimony, and Contact Tracing is in full force. It was both depressing and reassuring to recite or pen my name, phone and email address to admins each time I entered an office. But in the end, I realized that even though much of this advocacy sort of thing can be done from home, the facile sharing of information, teamwork, and irrefutable need for human interaction is more effective, inspiring and entertaining.  It just may not be worth the trade for a ventilator.  [So PLEASE participate in Contact Tracing if the Department of Public Health contacts you!  It will help curtail the spread of COVID-19!]

Anyway, see below for what is going on with active legislation and the state of the FY 21 budget.  Speaking of budget, what you see below will be as the Senate voted it out.  The House, however, did not fully agree to their changes, and so are meeting this week (probably right as we send this to you) in conference committee to hammer out their differences.  Remember, a balanced budget is the only bill the general assembly is required by law to pass.  And also, PLEASE take action on the action alerts below!

Here we go into the home stretch, so cinch up those stirrups!

Polly McKinney
Advocacy Director
Voices for Georgia’s Children
pmckinney@georgiavoices.org

DBHDD = Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

DCS = Department of Community Supervision

DECAL = Department of Early Care and Learning

GDEcD = Department of Economic Development

DHS = Department of Human Services (houses DFCS = Department of Family and Children Services, as well as DCSS = Division of Child Support Services)

DJJ = Department of Juvenile Justice

DOE = Department of Education

DOL = Department of Labor

DOR = Department of Revenue

DPH = Department of Public Health

GBI = Georgia Bureau of Investigation

CJCC = Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (attached to GBI)

CJCJ = Council of Juvenile Court Judges (attached to Juvenile Courts)

GDC = Georgia Department of Corrections

GOSA = Governor’s Office of Student Achievement

GSFC = Georgia Student Finance Commission

GPDC = Georgia Public Defenders Council

PAC = Prosecuting Attorneys Council

TCSG = Technical College System of Georgia

USG = University System of Georgia

FY21 Budget (Senate Version - Currently in Conference Committee)

HB 984 (Burchette-176th) Changes provisions relating to sentencing to provide credit for time served and changes provisions relating to the commencement of a sentence when the case has been appealed.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill now rests in Senate Rules Committee.

HB 994 (Reeves-34th) Requires a juvenile court justice, in certain circumstances, to hold a hearing to determine whether or not to transfer a child to adult court when such a hearing is requested by the prosecutor. When a child has been adjudicated to have engaged in criminal gang activity, the bill requires the child to participate in an evidenced-based intervention program that has demonstrated efficacy in addressing factors that impact adolescent gang involvement before being discharged from the custody of or released under supervision by DJJ. Expands the definition of “Criminal Gang Activity” to include child molestation, aggravated child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes; and felony obstruction or hindering of a law enforcement officer. The bill also adds new offenses to the list of crimes that require registration on the state’s Sex Offender Registry, including (among others) burglary with the intent to commit a sexual offense, and any conduct involving criminal gang activity that involves an underlying sexual offense or intent to commit a sex offense. The bill also Prohibits gang offenses from being merged (which will likely result in more incarceration time).   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Referred to the Senate Committee on Assignments.

HR 1327 (Setzler-35th) Creates the House Study Committee on Claims of Wrongfully Convicted Persons.   STATUS: House Appropriations Committee.

SB 288 (Anderson-43rd) Restricts access to criminal records where arrests did not result in a conviction, or where certain conditions have since been met (e.g., ten years have elapsed since the conviction, or drug court treatment program or mental health treatment program have been completed).   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System. The bill now rests in the House Rules Committee.

SB 320 (Payne-54th) Creates a penalty for persons who are classified as sexually dangerous predators who fail to verify or update registration information on the Sexual Offender Registry as required by law.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

SB 393 Allows the GBI provide personnel to serve as special assistant attorneys general, special assistant district attorneys, special assistant solicitors-general, or special assistant United States Attorneys when requested by the appropriate agency or as directed by the Governor.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Public Safety Committee. The bill now rests in House Rules Committee.

SB 402 (Robertson-29th) Allows a judge to issue an unsecured judicial release if such unsecured judicial release is noted on the release order and the person is not charged with a bail restricted offense (such as murder, armed robbery, etc.).   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

SB 423 (Albers-56th) “Max Gruver Act” – Expands the definition of hazing to include forcing or subjecting a minor or student to participate in certain hazing activity which could hurt or endanger the person whether or not the person is willing to participate. The bill also stiffens penalties for hazing and requires TCSG and USG to develop hazing awareness education. The bill also requires reporting by schools of known incidents, and it includes student organizations as parties responsible for hazing. IT creates whistleblower protections for people reporting the hazing.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Education Committee.

SB 435 (Strickland-17th) Allows a defendant convicted of a nonviolent offense and sentence to petition the court to vacate the conviction and sentence if the offense was committed as a direct result of the defendant being the victim of a trafficking offense.  At that time, the courts must also restrict access to the criminal history record information for the offense that was vacated.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. The bill now rests in House Rules Committee.

SR 1007 (Cowsert-46th) Creates the Senate Law Enforcement Reform Study Committee. STATUS: Senate Hopper

HB 555 (Carpenter-4th) Adds public child welfare case manager to the list of people for whom arrest warrants may be issued by a superior court judge, a state court judge, or a probate court judge for any offense alleged to have been committed while in the performance of the case manager’s duties.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill now rests in Senate Rules Committee.

HB 578 (Dempsey-13th) Adds persons seeking to serve as volunteers, interns, students, or employees to the list of individuals for whom the Department of Human Services can review of certain law enforcement conviction data when considering final selection service.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. PASSED SENATE. The bill now awaits transmittal to the governor for his consideration.

HB 823 (Gaines-117th) Creates a lifetime disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle by persons convicted of trafficking other persons for labor or sexual servitude while using a commercial motor vehicle.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. PASSED SENATE, but was amended in the Senate so must return to the House for agreement.

HB 855 (Wiedower-119th) Allows children in foster care to be placed in special education classes or related services if it’s found that trauma impacts their education or classroom behavior. The Department of Education is to provide guidance on how evaluation will be initiated and determining eligibility. All children in foster care entering a new school system shall be immediately evaluated for eligibility for special education or related services.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Education and Youth Committee. The bill will be heard in committee this MONDAY.

HB 885 (Petrea-166th) Prevents certain information within inmate files of the Department of Corrections (with the exception of medical records) from being classified as confidential state secrets when requested by the district attorney for purposes of responding to proposed actions of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles regarding inmates sentenced for a serious violent felony or a felony of a sexual nature against a person less than 18 years of age.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee.

HB 911 (Setzler-35th) Defines the offenses of improper sexual contact by a foster parent in the first degree when he or she engages in sexually explicit conduct with his or her current foster child; and in the second degree when a foster parent and engages in sexual contact, excluding sexually explicit conduct, with his or her current foster child.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill now rests in Senate Rules Committee.

HB 912 (Reeves-34th) make it easier for foster parents to arrange for short-term babysitting by a person 18 or older. The bill was amended to include the following provisions of SB 335:  establish that certain dependency cases take priority over all other civil and criminal hearings;  ensure that every 12 months (as opposed to the current 60 day) a DFCS case manager checks eligibility of youth in extended foster care (ages 18-21), allow DFCS to contract with child-placing agencies to assist in dependency, delinquency and voluntary custody cases; and allow DFCS to require varying levels of training for foster parents based on experience, the age and needs of the child, and level of care being provided by the foster parent. This may create new opportunity for organizations that provide placement assistance and/or trainings for foster parents. HB 912 was also amended to include language from HB 971 which ensures that the state is collecting data on children coming into the foster care system from other systems such as delinquency or children in need of services systems.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill will be on the Senate floor for a vote this MONDAY.

HB 913 (Reeves-34th) Among other tweaks to the adoption code, the lowers the age that a person is allowed to petition for adoption from 25 to 21 years old; restores previous law that was unintentionally omitted through the Adoption Code rewrite (in 2018) to allow the required search of the putative father registry to be performed as of the date the adoption petition is filed, and allow the results to be attached as an amendment to the petition; creates an exception to the required fingerprint criminal history reports for petitioners in proceedings to domesticate foreign adoptions and adult adoptions and provides that an affidavit from DFCS can satisfy the requirements of the subsection to prevent the petitioner from incurring the cost of an additional criminal records check; clarifies the court’s authority to determine it is in the best interests of the child to grant an adoption in the case of a child born in another country than the United States; and adds a new subsection to address recent scams wherein individuals are intentionally misrepresenting a pregnancy or intention to place child for adoption when the individual is either not pregnant or has no intention of placing child for adoption, and no money is being obtained by the individual as a result but the potential adoptive parents are expending money in reliance on the misrepresentations and are emotionally exploited. (Much thanks to Melissa Carter of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory Law School for her assistance with this summary!).   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB 949 (Carson-46th) Reduces the state income tax level from a graduated rate of about 5.75% to a flat 5.375%. The bill was amended to include content of HB 934, which revises the tax credit for adoption of foster children from $2000/year to $6000/year for five years and then $2000/year for the following taxable years until the child turns 18.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee.

HB 993 (Dempsey-13th) Facilitates the sharing of records pertaining to child abuse between the Division of Children and Family Services and the Department of Public Health. The bill also Eliminates the state child abuse registry.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill now rests in Senate Rules Committee.

HR 1168 (Park-101st) Creates the House Study Committee on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to Improve the Health of Women and Children.   STATUS: House Special Rules Committee.

SB 335 (Brass-28th) Would allow free admission to state parks by foster children and their foster families, relative caregiver, or fictive kin; establish that dependency cases that are time limited and cases of Termination of Parental Rights take priority over all other civil and criminal hearings; allow DFCS to contract with child-placing agencies to assist in dependency/ delinquency and voluntary custody cases; and allow DFCS to require varying levels of training for foster parents based on experience, the age and needs of the child, and level of care being provided by the foster parent. In addition, the bill was amended in the Juvenile Justice Committee hearing to add language regarding state and federal leases pertaining to the Lake Lanier Development Authority.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended DO Pass by the House Juvenile Justice Committee. The bill now rests in House Rules Committee.

SB 337 (Thompson-14th) Adds simulated (or photoshopped) images and videos to definitions of electronic, sexually explicit harassment.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. The bill was sent to the House floor by the House Rules Committee for a vote on 6/19 but was postponed.

SB 439 (Brass-28th) Requires enhanced notice to and improved participation of foster, pre-adoptive, and relative caregivers in certain hearings and the court’s consideration of issues relevant to a child’s placement, care, well-being, and permanency raised by such persons.  More specifically, the bill requires the Council of Juvenile Court Judges to allow such persons to electronically file an objection to the placement change and for the court to consider such objection when making a decision. The bill also makes it easier for such a caregiver to adopt the child in certain circumstances following termination of parental rights.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended DO Pass by the House Juvenile Justice Committee. The bill now rests in House Rules Committee.

SB 477 (Strickland-17th) Changes procedure when an officer investigates a family violence complaint by changing the term from “primary aggressor” to “predominant aggressor”, and adding threats that created the fear of physical injury to the list of things to be considered when the officer is determining who is the predominant aggressor. The bill also states that “such officer shall not threaten, suggest, or otherwise indicate that all parties will be arrested”.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended DO Pass by the House Juvenile Justice Committee. The bill now rests in House Rules Committee.

SR 769 (Stone-23rd) Creates the Senate Domestic Violence Courts Study Committee.   STATUS: Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Rules Committee.

HB 521 (Gaines-117th) Authorizes temporary licenses for dentists licensed in other states to provide dental care to indigent populations in Georgia.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The Bill will be heard in committee this MONDAY.

HB 719 (Silcox-52nd) Modernizes HIV-related laws to align with science and support best public health practices for preventing and treating HIV. The bill eliminates 5 of the 7 charges that someone living with HIV can face including charges for sharing needles, donating blood or organs, enhanced penalties for spitting on a peace officer, enhanced penalties for spitting on a correctional officer, solicitation. Regarding the 2 remaining charges that the bill leaves in place, there would be a shift from the concept of “exposure” to “specific intent.” Specific intent is the highest burden that a prosecutor would have to prove in court. The prosecution must prove the defendant intended to transmit HIV and must prove this with evidence at trial. Furthermore, a person living with HIV would now be able to mount a defense because the “sexual act must include significant risk based on scientifically supported levels of risk of transmission.” [Much thanks to Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality for assistance with this summary!].   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Referred to the Senate Committee on Assignments.

HB 789 (Newton-123rd) Creates a surprise bill rating system based upon the number of physician specialty groups (meaning an in-network medical group of anesthesiologists, pathologists, radiologists, or emergency medicine physicians) contracted with a hospital within a health insurer’s network and requires insurers to include hospital surprise bill ratings online and in print provider directories, and advertise such ratings elsewhere. The bill also states that if a hospital’s surprise bill rating is less than four, each insurer advertising such hospital as in-network must describe which qualified hospital-based specialty group types are not contracted with such hospital.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The bill will be on the Senate floor for a vote this MONDAY.

HB 791 (Stephens-164th) Allows pharmacists to dispense up to 90-day supplies for maintenance medications. Exceptions include Schedule II, III, IV, or V controlled substances.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The bill will be on the Senate floor for a vote this MONDAY.

HB 842 (Williams-145th) Prohibit providers and health insurers from discriminating against potential organ transplant recipients due solely to the physical or mental disability of the potential recipient.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

 

HB 882 (Houston-170th) Eliminates the sunset period for state and some local tax exemptions for the sale of food and food ingredients to qualified food banks and for the use of food and food ingredients donated to qualified nonprofit agencies., The bill also expands the exemption for the use of food and food ingredients donated to qualified nonprofit agencies to include disaster relief. The bill was amended by the Senate to increase tax on cigarette tax by $0.98 and on vaping products by $1.25 per vaping ml.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Finance Committee. The bill now rests in Senate Rules Committee.

HB 888 (Hawkins-27th) “Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act” – Develops mechanisms to resolve payment disputes between private plan insurers and out-of-network providers regarding the provision of healthcare services; requires the department to maintain an all-payer health claims data base; provides for in-network cost-sharing amounts in healthcare plan contracts; establishes an arbitration process; and requires the Commissioner of Insurance to contract with one or more resolution organizations. Also, the bill prohibits facilities from charging more than the deductible, copay or in-network payment level determined by a patient’s existing insurance plan.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. PASSED SENATE. The bill now awaits transmittal to the governor for his consideration.

HB 918 (Cooper-43rd) Amends the Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights to define the auditing process and timelines, loosens definitions of fraud to not include omission errors, and lengthens the time for pharmacies to correct these errors. The bill also adds sections to the Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights to lessen the cost burden on pharmacies in the case of fraud, overpayment, or misfiling prescriptions. The bill further defines the role of the Commissioner of Insurance in investigating complaints during these audits and regulation and licensure of PBMs. Section 3 of the bill expands definitions of “steering” to prevent more agreements/practices with affiliated pharmacies. The bill removes exceptions for using specialty retail pharmacies. Anti-steering rules would not apply to care management organizations such as Medicaid.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The Bill will be heard in committee this MONDAY.

HB 946 (Knight-130th) Increases licensing fees for pharmacy benefits managers (PBM)and increases penalties for bad actors, and requires PBMs to contract with physicians who are active in the appropriate medical area.  The bill also requires a PBM to report to the Georgia Composite Medical Board and the State Board of Pharmacy any adverse patient outcomes as a result of a PBM requiring a prior authorization which delayed an insured’s access to initially prescribed medication or that resulted in the utilization of a different medication than initially prescribed.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The bill will be on the Senate floor for a vote this MONDAY.

HB 947 (Knight-130th) Mandates Department of Community Health to hire an actuary to conduct a study on the fiscal impact of providing all pharmacy benefits for all Medicaid beneficiaries exclusively through a Medicaid fee-for-service program. If the study report shows a potential annual savings of over $20M, then Medicaid CMO plans should stop providing pharmacy benefits and all beneficiaries should start receiving pharmacy benefits through DCH. Payment to these Medicaid CMOs will decrease by 7.5% (based on the year before) to pay for pharmacy benefits being newly provided by DCH. If the savings calculated by the actuary are between $10M and $20M, DCH can choose to implement this plan, but are not required to.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The Bill will be heard in committee this MONDAY.

HB 991 (Hatchett-150th) “Healthcare Transparency and Accountability Act” – Creates the Healthcare Transparency and Accountability Oversight Committee which has authority to review the performance and conduct of all state healthcare plan contractors, their affiliate subcontractors, and their subcontractor pharmacy benefits managers. Requires that all contractors of DCH health plans or subcontracted Pharmacy Benefits Managers provide an Annual Prescription Drug Transparency Report that outlines: payments kept by PBMs; fees paid to pharmacies; discrepancies between payments to pharmacies and PBM affiliated pharmacies; number of prior authorizations required and resulting delays in care; and the top prescription drugs that were subject to prior authorizations and most frequently prescribed drugs. These rates shall be open records and are not considered confidential or trade secrets. This report is given to a Healthcare Transparency and Accountability Oversight Committee, made up of a physician, a pharmacist, a consumer insured by a state healthcare plan, and six legislators.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. PASSED SENATE, but was amended in the Senate so must return to the House for agreement.

HB 1021 (Hitchens-161st) Doubles the additional fine for violation of traffic laws or ordinances under “Joshua’s Law” from 1.5% to 3% of the original fine.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Referred to the Senate Committee on Assignments.

HB 1032 (Hatchett-150th) Exempts ambulatory surgical facilities that operate only in non-sterile environments from requiring the same certifications as in-patient surgical facilities. These ambulatory facilities are also not subject to prior review and certificate of need. Facilities that are exempt from obtaining a certificate of need cannot be denied licensure based on not meeting ‘operating room environment’ standards.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.

HB 1035 (Martin-49th) repeals the sunset provision on sales and use taxes for non-profit health centers.  Language from HB 882 has also been amended to HB 1035, which eliminates the sunset period for state and some local tax exemptions for the sale of food and food ingredients to qualified food banks, and for the use of food and food ingredients donated to qualified nonprofit agencies (including for disaster relief).  It also makes changes to the Georgia housing tax credit and sales and use tax exemptions that relate to employer-provided childcare and organ procurement, among other items. In addition, the bill removes the certain airline items (re Delta Airlines) and other from the list of items eligible for sales and use tax exemption. .   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Finance Committee. The bill now rests in Senate Rules Committee.

HB 1054 (Cooper-43rd) Adds voluntary newborn screening of Krabbe Disease to those screenings available through the Department of Public Health. The bill also requires the department to submit a budget request to the General Assembly when any new disorder is approved by the department after recommendation by the Newborn Screening and Genetics Advisory Committee (also established by this bill).   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 1092 (Powell-32nd) Authorize the delegation by a physician to an advanced practice registered nurse to order radiographic imaging tests in non-life-threatening situations and increases the number of advanced practice registered nurses with whom a delegating physician can enter into a nurse protocol agreement and supervise at one time from 4 to 6 nurses. Language from this bill has been amended to SB 321. STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Referred to the Senate Committee on Assignments.

HB 1241 (Dempsey-13th) Provides for the licensure of individuals in the practice of applied behavior analysis and creates the Georgia Behavior Analyst Licensing Board.   STATUS: House Hopper. THE BILL DID NOT CROSS OVER.

HR 1282 (Hutchinson-107th) Creates the House Study Committee on Evaluating, Simplifying, and Eliminating Duplication of Regulatory Requirements for Mental Health and Social Services Providers.   STATUS: House Special Rules Committee.

SB 272 (Robertson-29th) Prohibits the sale to and by minors of drug products containing dextromethorphan.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

SB 303 (Watson-1st) Requires insurers to be more transparent about prices for nonemergency health care services.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. PASSED HOUSE, but because it was amended by the House, it must return to the Senate for agreement.

SB 313 (Burke-11th) Establishes stricter regulations and licensure for pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) such as audits by the Insurance Commissioner, fines for violations of drug pricing guidelines, and establishing annual licensure requirements for all PBMs. The bill prohibits ‘steering’ by PBMs (e.g. requiring the use of a specific affiliated pharmacy or advertising or promoting its affiliated pharmacy). The bill requires PBMs utilize the national average drug acquisition cost as the benchmark (defined by Medicaid’s average acquisition cost) for pharmacy’s reimbursement rates for drugs. PBMs cannot reimburse at lower rates at pharmacies that they are not affiliated with. The bill also defines appeals processes in instances where specialty pharmacies are reimbursed at a lower rate than other pharmacies. All payments collected by PBMs are to be paid directly to the pharmacies for products or to health plans to offset costs or copays for the insured. The bill prohibits withholding coverage or requiring prior authorization for lower cost, therapeutically equivalent drugs.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care. The bill will be on the House floor for a vote this MONDAY.

SB 321 (Hufstetler-52nd) Allows a physician to supervise 4 advance practice registered nurses (APRNs)s and 4 physicians assistants (PAs). The bill also allows APRNS to authorize radiological tests in non-life-threatening situations and allow APRNs and PAs to practice in places in addition to the supervising physician’s office. STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Regulated Industries Committee. The bill now rests in House Rules Committee.

SB 323 (Kirkpatrick-32nd) Makes it a crime to administer conscious sedation in a dental facility or during the practice of dentistry in a medispa, without a license to practice dentistry from the board.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Health and Human Services Committee.

SB 340 (Beach-21st) Makes September 1 of each year ‘Childhood Cancer Awareness Day’ in Georgia.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Health and Human Services Committee. The bill was sent to the House floor by the House Rules Committee for a vote on 6/19 but was postponed.

SB 345   (Kirkpatrick-32nd) Establishes criteria for nonprofit organizations to prepare and provide food in accordance with Department of Public Health requirements.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. PASSED HOUSE. The bill now awaits transmittal to the governor for his consideration.

SB 349 (James-35th) Requires schools with students in grades 6-12 to provide free feminine hygiene products in all female-designated student restrooms.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Health and Human Services Committee.

SB 352 (Burke-11th) States that when an insurer’s provider directory includes a provider as a participating provider for a network plan at such time as a prospective covered person selects his or her health benefit plan, such insurer shall cover the provider charges at in-network rates for the duration of the contract year for such covered person, regardless of whether such provider remains in the insurer’s network plan, and shall ensure that the covered person shall not be responsible for more than the amount for which he or she would have been responsible had the services been delivered by an in-network provider.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Insurance Committee.

SB 359 (Hufstetler-52nd) “Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act” – Develops mechanisms to resolve payment disputes between private plan insurers and out-of-network providers regarding the provision of healthcare services; requires the department to maintain an all-payer health claims data base; provides for in-network cost-sharing amounts in healthcare plan contracts; establishes an arbitration process; and requires the Commissioner of Insurance to contract with one or more resolution organizations.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care.

SB 375 (Mullis-53rd) Prevents sale of tobacco or vaping products to anyone under 21 years of age, and allows law enforcement officer shall seize any cigarettes, tobacco products, tobacco related objects, alternative nicotine products, or vapor products that have been sold to and are in the possession of a person under 21 years of age. The bill also stiffens penalties for underage use of such products, including revocation of a driver’s license for a second violation within 12 weeks of the first violation.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee.

SB 387 (Jordan-6th) Requires the GaDOE to promulgate rules and regulations so that food that has been prepared in whole or in part by students as part of a course of instruction relating to the preparation of food and that is suitable for serving and consumption may be may distributed to students at the school, including those who may be dealing with hunger or food insecurity.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Education Committee.

 

SB 391 (Kirkpatrick-32nd) Requires health insurers to provide coverage for early refills of a 30 day supply of certain prescription medications under certain emergency situations.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. PASSED HOUSE, but because it was amended by the House, it must return to the Senate for agreement.

SB 408 (Strickland-17th) Repeals the sunset provision on allowing employees to use existing sick leave for the care of an immediate family member.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Industry and Labor Committee.  The bill was sent to the House floor by the House Rules Committee for a vote on 6/19 but was postponed.

SB 482 (Burke-11th) Establishes of the Georgia All-Payer Claims Database (GAPCD) and the GAPCD Advisory Committee for the purpose of making recommendations regarding the creation of the framework and implementation plan for the GAPCD to facilitate the reporting of health care and health quality data resulting in transparent and public reporting of safety, quality, cost, and efficiency information at all levels of health care. objectives of the GAPCD shall be to facilitate data-driven, evidence-based improvements in access, quality, and cost of health care and to promote and improve public health through the understanding of health care expenditure patterns and operation and performance of the health care system. Specific uses of the GAPCD include: establishing baseline health care cost information; monitoring and analyzing health care costs; assessing population health; measuring utilization of health care services; identifying health disparities; informing consumers of cost and quality of health care; supporting the planning and evaluation of health care operations and care; improving coordination of care; enabling oversight of health insurance premium medical loss ratios; and conducting waste, fraud, and abuse studies.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Health and Human Services Committee.  The bill was sent to the House floor by the House Rules Committee for a vote on 6/19 but was postponed.

SB 483 (Brass-28th) Allows certain Medicaid reimbursement for patients treated pursuant to a behavioral rehabilitation joint venture (an agreement between a public or private general acute care hospital which has vacant beds and an institution for mental diseases to authorize the institution for mental diseases to manage up to 16 of the hospital’s vacant beds as behavioral rehabilitation swing beds) and states that proceeds from the rural tax credit program received by a behavioral rehabilitation joint venture is not counted against a hospital’s cap.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care. The bill will be on the House floor for a vote this MONDAY.

SR 263 (Mullis-53rd) Creates the Senate Emergency Medical Services Study Committee.   STATUS: Recommended Do Pass by Senate Rules Committee.

SR 722 (Jordan-6th) Creates the Senate Comprehensive Approach to Family Leave Policies within State Government Study Committee.   STATUS: Recommended Do Pass by Senate Rules Committee.

SR 991 (Harrell-40th) Creates the Senate PeachCare Public Option Study Committee.   STATUS: Senate Rules Committee.

SB 312 (Jackson-2nd) Amended to recognizes Juneteenth as a Holiday and makes September 1 of each year ‘Childhood Cancer Awareness Day’ in Georgia. STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Government Affairs Committee. The bill now rests in House Rules Committee.

HB 881 (Cooper-43rd) Authorizes the leaving of a newborn child (no more than 30 days old) with an ambulance service or in a newborn safety incubator and establishes a committee on newborn safety incubators.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Referred to the Senate Committee on Assignments.

 

HB 958 (Setzler-35th) “The Maternity Supportive Housing Act”- Creates a mechanism in the Department of Human Services to oversee residential homes each of which could house up to six pregnant women aged 18 years or older at any one time during the woman’s pregnancy and up to 18 months after childbirth, with the condition that no other services besides housing could be provided.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 1090 (Silcox-52nd) Requires state entities and local governments to provide (To the extent reasonably possible) reasonable break time to an employee who needs to express breast milk, as well as a location to express milk and when possible, accommodations for cold storage of the milk.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Insurance and Labor Committee. The bill will be heard in committee this MONDAY.

HB 1094 (Gaines-117th) Authorizes  paid parental leave for qualifying life events after six continuous months of employment with the state or if an hourly employee, after he or she has worked a minimum of 700 hours over the six-month period immediately preceding the requested paid parental leave date. Qualifying life events are The birth of a child of the employee; the placement of a minor child for adoption with the employee; or the placement of a minor child for foster care with the employee.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee. The bill now rests in Senate Rules Committee.

HB 1114 (Cooper-43rd) Extends Medicaid coverage for lactation care and services to pregnant and lactating women and to children who are breastfeeding or receiving their mother’s milk and extends postpartum care for mothers for a period of six months following the date the woman gives birth.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The bill was tabled on the Senate floor and must be voted “off the table” in order to receive a vote by the full chamber.

HR 1248 (Clark-108th) Creates the House Study Committee on Infant and Maternal Mortality Among African Americans.   STATUS: House Health & Human Services Committee.

SB 306 (Seay-34th) Allows Georgia to enter into an interstate compact known as the “Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact” for speech-language pathologists and audiologists, allowing such professionals from other states to practice in Georgia, and vice-versa.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Health and Human Services Committee.  The bill was sent to the House floor by the House Rules Committee for a vote on 6/19 but was postponed.

SB 307 (Unterman-45th) “The Living Hope Home Act”- Creates a mechanism in the Department of Human Services to oversee residential homes each of which could house up to six pregnant women aged 18 years or older at any one time during the woman’s pregnancy and up to 18 months after childbirth, with the condition that no other services besides housing could be provided.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Health and Human Services Committee.

SB 327 (Karinshak-48th) Requires employers to provide reasonable break time to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her nursing child, and not to reduce her pay as a result of that time taken.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 444 (Reeves-34th) Changes the name of the “Move on When Ready Act” to the “Dual Enrollment Act” and limits the eligibility for dual enrollment for high schoolers in Georgia based on courses, credit hours, and grades in which students can participate. Under the bill, only courses such as English, math, science, social studies, a foreign language, or CTAE (career, technical, and agricultural education) are eligible for dual enrollment credit. The bill limits (with exceptions) funding to up to 30 credit hours per student and limits dual enrollment to entering or enrolled 11th or 12th grade students. Students are also limited to retaking two courses, in the case of withdrawal or failure, except in the case of extenuating circumstances. Participating high schools are also subject to increased oversight by the Georgia Student Finance Commission. Schools must enter into the participation agreement that outlines the school’s financial obligation to cover tuition, fees, and books for students and provide enrollment data to the Office of Planning and Budget.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. PASSED SENATE. SIGNED BY GOVERNOR.

HB 736 (Belton-112th) Establishes a tax credit of $3000/year for up to 5 years for teachers who agree to teach in a turnaround school in a high demand subject area (primarily STEM).   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Referred to the Senate Committee on Assignments.

HB 755 (Belton-112th) Requires school districts to provide an allotment sheet itemizing the state, federal, and local allocations to any local charters by July 1st each year.  If the allocation has to be adjusted, the local board must give the charter 30 days’ notice before making the adjustment.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Education and Youth Committee. The bill will be heard in committee this MONDAY.

HB 957 (Jones-47th) Changes charter school law to include charter school teachers in the health insurance fund for public school teachers; require proof of residency either at the time of application or enrollment; extend the terms of members appointed to the State Charter Schools Commission; provide for ownership and handling of student records by state charter schools; and revise the deadline for the virtual school performance audit.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. PASSED SENATE. The bill now awaits transmittal to the governor for his consideration.

HB 1026 (Dickey-140th) Revises the number of REACH scholars for participating school systems from 12 to 8 for systems with five or more high schools and from 7 to 5 for systems with less than five high schools.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Assigned to Senate Education and Youth Committee.

HB 1084 (Cheokas-138th) Creates the Georgia Endowment for Teaching Professionals to foster a public-private partnership for support of postsecondary teaching professionals for USG and TCSG in high demand courses, subjects, and disciplines. Among other things, the purpose of the Endowment is to support the efforts of the Georgia Research Alliance in the advancement of education and economic development, to support through education the efforts of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and to support the improvement of public postsecondary education in Georgia through the identification of key courses, subjects, and disciplines in demand for the development of business and industry.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Referred to the Senate Committee on Assignments.

HR 1249 (Kausche-50th) Creates the House Study Committee on Increasing Access to Pre-K and After-School Programs.   STATUS: House Education Committee.

SB 102 (Jones-10th) Creates the “Unlocking the Promise (UP) Community Schools Program,” a grant program that would serve as comprehensive service delivery centers offering academic, health care, and community involvement programs in addition to existing classroom instruction.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Education Committee.

 

SB 318 (Ligon-3rd) Prevents the creation of “free speech zones” at public institutions of higher education and requires such institutions to develop materials, programs, and procedures related to expressive activity.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Higher Higher Education Committee. The bill was sent to the House floor by the House Rules Committee for a vote on 6/19 but was postponed.

SB 367 (Martin-9th) Reduces number of end of course (tests) which must be given in high school from 8 tests to 4 tests.  The bill also moves the writing assessment from grade 11 to 12; the testing window for elementary schools to within 25 school days of the last day of school in a term; and requires the GaDOE to set the high school testing window.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Education Committee. The bill now rests in House Rules Committee.

SB 386 (Unterman-45th) Expands the Special Needs Scholarship program eligibility to all students  with Section 504 plans and a condition specified in the bill (e.g. autism, emotional or behavioral disorder) would also qualify for a voucher to attend a private school. Students who have been diagnosed with an eligible condition by a physician or psychologist but do not have a 504 plan would also be able to access a private school voucher as well as those who have been adopted or placed in permanent guardianship from foster care. The bill also eliminates the mandate that the State Board of Education report the number of students who seek a waiver from the public school attendance requirement to the General Assembly.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Education Committee.

SB 416 (Mullis-53rd) Changes the name of the Office of College and Career Transitions to the Office of College and Career Academies, and directs the commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia to appoint a director of academies, and goes on to direct the office to work with TCSG, the State Workforce Development Board, and the Department of Economic Development to support efforts to recruit new industries and to expand existing industries by demonstrating the preparation of technically skilled high school graduates .   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Education Committee. The bill now rests in House Rules Committee.

SB 430 (Ligon-3rd) Allows home study students and private school students to enroll in one or more courses at a college and career academy within the student’s resident school system, so long as space is available in such course or courses.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Education Committee.  The bill was sent to the House floor by the House Rules Committee for a vote on 6/19 but was postponed.

SB 431 (Wilkinson-50th) Defines ‘on-time graduation rate’ as the graduation rate of the four-year cohort of students that attend a school continuously from October 1 of the calendar year four years prior to the calendar year of the regular date of graduation of that cohort and graduate on or before that regular date of graduation.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. PASSED HOUSE. The bill now awaits transmittal to the governor for his consideration.

SB 447 (Martin-9th) Defines an array of terminology associated with work-based learning, internship and apprenticeship.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Education Committee.

SB 466 (Martin-9th) Removes the needs improvement rating from the group of performance evaluation ratings which may adversely impact an educator’s ability to obtain a renewable certificate from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.  The bill also establishes a pilot program of at least ten local school systems to try a personnel evaluation system as an alternative to the current evaluation system.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Education Committee.

SR 87 (Parent-42nd) Creates the Senate Study Committee on Digital Education and Screen Time in Georgia Public Schools.   STATUS: Recommended Do Pass by Senate Rules Committee.

SR 521 (Jackson-2nd) Creates the Senate Study Committee on Creating an Agricultural and Mechanical University System.   STATUS: Senate Rules Committee.

SR 833 (Martin-9th) Creates the Joint Study Committee on Preparing Our Future Workforce.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Education Committee.

HB 230 (Holcomb-81st) Allows the creation of benefit corporations in Georgia. (FYI, for regular corporations have a primary legal obligation to make money for their shareholders, meaning that they could land in legal trouble for too much charitable giving.) Benefit corporations are able to have a holistic mission that includes both making money for shareholders and giving back to the community (think Tom’s shoes or Bomba’s socks). This is a relatively new form of business, so HB 230 is allowing them to be created in Georgia.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE (2019). Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill now rests in Senate Rules Committee.

HB 488 (Momtahan-17th) Increases vendor reporting requirements and penalties for theft regarding the sale and purchase of store valued cards (e.g. gift cards). The bill creates the definition of “organized retail theft”.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Referred to the Senate Committee on Assignments.

HB 720 (Sainz-180th) Clarifies that a term of probation shall follow the mandatory term of imprisonment for persons convicted of a sexual offense and establishes some criteria for risk assessment of those convicted.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Referred to the Senate Committee on Assignments.

HB 914 (Clark-147th) Allows military spouses licensed in other states to practice certain professions and occupations to obtain a license by endorsement to practice in Georgia.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Veterans, Military, and Homeland Security Committee. The bill now rests in Senate Rules Committee.

HB 969 (Efstration-104th) Amends existing Georgia code in order to allow Georgia to be certified by the Fair Housing Assistance Program.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. PASSED SENATE. The bill now awaits transmittal to the governor for his consideration.

HB 983 (Williams-145th) Allows a sexual offender who is in a state or privately operated hospice facility, skilled nursing home, or residential health care facility, with the approval of the sheriff of the county where such sexual offender resides, to satisfy the annual registration requirements by registering at any time during the sexual offender’s month of birth and removes the requirement that a sexual offender who resides in a such, be fingerprinted.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. PASSED SENATE, but was amended in the Senate so must return to the House for agreement.

HB 1017 (LaRiccia-169th) Revises when dependents qualify for a payment of indemnification for death suffered in the line of duty by a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, emergency management specialist, state highway employee, or prison guard under the Georgia State Indemnification Fund, by adding surviving children who are under the age of 19 or, if a student enrolled in an institution of postsecondary education at the time of such death, under the age of 24. The bill also states that in case of an organic brain damage suffered in the line of duty, such awards would go to the legal guardian of the organically brain damaged person.   STATUS: PASSED HOUSE. Recommended Do Pass by the Senate Public Safety Committee. The bill will be on the Senate floor for a vote this MONDAY.

HR 1590 (Schofield-60th) Creates the House Study Committee on Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.   STATUS: House Hopper.

 

SB 144 (Anderson-24th) Allows a licensed tobacco dealer to apply for a special event tobacco permit for off-premise sales of cigars, cigarettes, or loose or smokeless tobacco for a special event or a temporary location offsite from the licensed location for a period of 1-10 days.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. PASSED HOUSE. The bill now awaits transmittal to the governor for his consideration.

SB 316 (Thompson-14th) Allows military spouses licensed in other states to practice certain professions in Georgia.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Recommended Do Pass by the House Government Affairs Committee. The bill now rests in House Rules Committee.

SB 394 (Albers-56th) Gives the Attorney General the authority to employ peace officers.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.  The bill was sent to the House floor by the House Rules Committee for a vote on 6/19 but was postponed.

SR 841 (Kennedy-18th) Constitutional Amendment – Provides that the people of this state may petition the judiciary for declaratory relief from certain acts of this state or certain local governments or officers or employees thereof that violate the laws or Constitution of this state or the Constitution of the United States.   STATUS: PASSED SENATE. Assigned to House Judiciary Committee.

SR 959 (Thompson-14th) Creates the Senate Systemic Inequalities Study Committee.   STATUS: Senate Rules Committee.

SR 990 (Anderson-43rd) Creates the Senate Study Committee on Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.   STATUS: Senate Rules Committee.

2 Minute Advocacy Asks

Afterschool Program

The “Ask”:

Call members of the House and Senate Appropriations Conference Committee and ask them to restore funding in the FY21 budget for the DFCS Afterschool Care Program.

The Details: 

The Senate version of the FY21 budget cuts the DFCS Afterschool Care Program by $5 million, leaving programs and children and youth at risk.  The Afterschool Care Program

  • Strengthens youth-serving organizations and institutions by providing funding that increases their capacity to design, implement, and sustain quality youth development programs and services.

  • Provides opportunities for youth to establish positive relationships with their peers and caring adults during traditional non-school day hours; and

  • Provides technical assistance to organizations and agencies as they implement services and activities that support their youth’s overall well-being as they prepare for and transition into young adulthood.

The Message:

Dear Senator/Representative ________,  Please restore funding to the DFCS Afterschool Care Program.  Such a drastic cut will likely lead to hardship or closure of many of Georgia’s afterschool programs which serve children from families of low to moderate income.  As people return to work or seek jobs, such youth enrichment and developmentally appropriate, safe programs are more important than ever. Thank you for your service and for all you do for Georgia’s Children.

The How:

Call the following conference committee members:

House

Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones 404-656-5072

Majority Leader Jon Burns 404-656-5099

Appropriations Chairman Terry England 404-463-2247

Senate

President Pro Tempore Butch Miller 404-656-7454

Majority Leader Mike Dugan 404-656-7454

Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery 404-656-0089

Postpartum Medicaid

The Ask
Contact members of the State Senate and ask them to vote YES on HB 1114 which extends Medicaid coverage from 2 months to 6 months following birth of a child for mothers for lactation care and services and postpartum care.

The Details

  • Providing access to healthcare for new mothers can reduce Georgia’s maternal mortality rate and ensure better health outcomes for the babies, saving costs and lives in years to come.

  • Adopting postpartum Medicaid for at least six months following delivery is especially important now, to support the physical and mental health of newborns and their mothers, who are dealing with additional stresses such as ill family members, job losses, and uncertainty about the effects of COVID-19 on babies before and after birth.

  • Additionally, isolation related to social distancing may affect perinatal anxiety and depression, especially when caring for a new baby.

The Message

Dear Senator ________,  Please vote YES on HB 1114 when it comes before you on the Senate floor. This bill extends Medicaid coverage from 2 months to 6 months following birth of a child for mothers for lactation care and services and postpartum care. Providing access to healthcare for new mothers can reduce Georgia’s maternal mortality rate and ensure better health outcomes for the babies, saving costs and lives in years to come. Additionally, adopting postpartum Medicaid for at least six months following delivery is especially important now, to support the physical and mental health of newborns and their mothers, who are dealing with additional stresses such as ill family members, job losses, and uncertainty about the effects of COVID-19 on babies before and after birth. Thank you for your service and for all you do for Georgia’s Children.

The How

Click to call or email members of the Senate. NOTE: At this time of year calling works best!

Food Banks/Tobacco and Vaping Tax
(same bill, different sections!)

The Ask
Contact members of the Senate Rules Committee and ask them to put HB 882 on the Senate floor for a vote.

The Details

HB 882:

  • Eliminates the sunset period for state and some local tax exemptions for the sale of food and food ingredients to qualified food banks and for the use of food and food ingredients donated to qualified nonprofit agencies;

  • Expands the exemption for the use of food and food ingredients donated to qualified nonprofit agencies to include disaster relief; and

  • Increases tax on cigarette tax by $0.98 and on vaping products by $1.25 per vaping ml, which not only will add revenue to the state coffers, but higher tobacco and vaping tax deters youth smoking.

The Message

 Dear Senator ________,  Please put HB 882 on the Senate floor for a vote.  This bill not only will help food banks provide food to families struggling in this hard economic time, but it will also deter youth smoking and vaping, which will, in turn, further reduce future healthcare costs. Thank you for your service and for all you do for Georgia’s Children.

The How

Click to call or email members of the Senate Rules Committee.  NOTE: At this time of year calling works best!