Thank you to everyone who came to the town hall on Thursday. Senator Halpern and I had such a good time! Thank you for your interest and for continuing to make your voices heard. If you missed it, you can watch a recorded version HERE.
This past week has felt like 5 weeks combined into 1. Monday was the infamous Crossover Day. The session convened at 10 am and adjourned at 11 pm. We voted on over 60 bills and resolutions.
The rest of the week consisted of assigning Senate Bills that crossed over to the various House Committees and checking for the good, bad, and the ugly we will soon deal with on the House Floor. We have already started to hear some Senate bills in subcommittees. Next week, we will have much committee work as we make the mad dash to complete the last 9 days of our 2021 Legislative Session.
There has been considerable debate on whether the state should keep Daylight Savings Time or Standard Time throughout the year, or whether we should continue to “spring forward” and “fall back.” I am curious, what do you think? Switching back and forth is believed to contribute to increased car accidents and fussy children, among other things.
Do you prefer Daylight Savings Time or Standard Time?
() Daylight Savings Time 365 days/year (daylight longer into the evening)
() Standard Time 365 days/year
() Continue to switch back and forth
Make your choice HERE.
And speaking of the time change, don’t forget to set your clocks forward one hour on THIS Sunday (March 14th) as we “spring forward” for Daylight Savings Time 2021.
Session Wrap Up
Please save the date for a post-session town hall. Senator Halpern and I will join together again for a virtual town hall to discuss which bills made it across the legislative finish line and then head to the Governor for his signature or veto. We hope you can join us.
I voted yes on these bills.
We did a lot of work in the House this week, but I think most of my colleagues would agree with me that the unanimous passage of HB 479, which repealed Georgia’s antiquated citizen’s arrest law, was by far the highlight of the week. When the Governor signs the bill, Georgia will be the first state in the country to repeal its citizens’ arrest laws. The senseless killing of Ahmaud Arbery inspired this action. It breaks my heart that we had to endure tragedy to make progress, but I’m glad we took this step toward eradicating this racist law from the books. Ahmaud Arbery’s mother was watching the livestream of our session when we passed this bill, and several members spoke to her directly. We can’t bring back her baby, but we can make sure his death was not in vain.
The law does allow (1) retail and food establishments to temporarily detain persons believed to have committed or attempted to commit shoplifting or theft and (2) weight inspectors, licensed/registered private detectives, and security to temporarily detain persons as part of their duties. These individuals must call law enforcement for the final decision on whether to arrest or release temporarily detained persons. The law also allows law enforcement officers to make arrests outside their jurisdictions in certain circumstances.
HB 109 amends the statute of limitations for civil actions related to childhood sexual abuse. Many victims of childhood sexual abuse suppress the memories or do not realize how the abuse harmed them until they are well into adulthood. This bill recognizes that fact and extends the statute of limitations on actions to within 4 years of when someone knew or had reason to know of abuse or until age 23. The bill also opens up a “look back” period of one year for victims between the ages of 23-38 to bring an action that would otherwise be time-barred. For abuse occurring on or after July 1st, 1988, the bill would also allow actions against entities who knew of the abuse and allowed it to continue or intentionally concealed the fact of the abuse.
HB 138 would require county and municipal law enforcement agencies to post monthly on their websites a summary of all crimes involving the commission or attempted commission of murder, assault, battery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, rape, peeping tom, gang-related crimes, or felony drug crimes that occur at an apartment complex with 10 or more units. These reports must remain on the website for at least two years, and paper copies must be made available to the public. This bill is in response to an incident that occurred at a midtown apartment complex. The complex advertised itself specifically for its safety protocols. After a young girl was the victim of a crime, the mother asked the landlord to inform the other tenants; the landlord refused and retaliated against the mother. This bill allows for more transparency to help families make informed housing choices.
HB 231 expands the temporary protective order laws to allow dating violence victims to seek relief against their abusers without needing a familial relationship. Dating violence victims of any felony, simple battery, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, or stalking may petition the court for a protective order against their romantic partners, making protective order relief available for victims of dating violence and not just domestic violence.
HB 236 passed unanimously and would allow an individual to request periodic security checks from local law enforcement after obtaining a protective order. These checks will occur at the local law enforcement agency’s discretion until the request is withdrawn or law enforcement determines circumstances no longer warrant the checks.
HB 255 is entitled the “Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2021.” It would require sexual assault protocol committees to submit annual certifications of compliance to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC). The CJCC will then notify the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia of any judicial circuit that is noncompliant. It clarifies that a victim has a right not to report any alleged sexual assault immediately, and law enforcement must retain specific physical evidence for at least 12 months from collection.
Also, HB 255 requires the CJCC to create and operate a statewide sexual assault tracking system. This system will track the location and status of sexual assault kits, designate the kids as unreported or reported, allow certain entities to update and track the status and location of sexual assault kits, allow victims to anonymously track the status of their kits, and use electronic technology allowing continuous access. All agencies must utilize the system no later than one year following the effective date.
Lastly, HB 255 requires that each law enforcement agency in the state enter required information into the FBI’s database for the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. This information is uploaded for any investigation involving allegations of rape, aggravated sodomy, or aggravated assault with intent to rape. The alleged perpetrator is unrelated to the victim or is known to be a serial sexual offender. These requirements apply retroactively to cases fitting this description. This bill also passed unanimously.
HB 258 passed unanimously and clarified that defendants accused of sexual battery and aggravated sexual battery of a 16-year-old and younger could not use consent as a defense.
The “Raise the Age Act,” HB 272, changes the juvenile court’s jurisdiction to include children under the age of 18. Currently, juvenile court jurisdiction includes children under the age of 17. This change does not apply to 17 years old charged with participating in criminal gang activity or to a child ages 13-18 years old who is accused of murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, armed robbery if committed with a firearm, aggravated assault if committed with a firearm upon a public safety officer, or aggravated battery upon a public safety officer. It also creates an eight-member committee to review aspects of raising the juvenile age-related to equipment, security, and technology.
HB 534 makes it a high and aggravated misdemeanor to participate, promote, or organize illegal drag racing and reckless stunt driving. Penalties include a fine, license suspension, and possible imprisonment, which graduates based on the number of convictions received. Also, forfeiture of the vehicles, with certain exceptions, is allowed under HB 534 in a similar fashion to the current DUI statute.
I voted for HB 317, which would expand the definition of “innkeeper” to include marketplace facilitators, such as Airbnb and VRBO. HB 317 alters the $5 excise tax to include all rooms, lodgings, and accommodations. These innkeepers would also be responsible for collecting and remitting all local taxes. Extended stay rentals and lodgings/accommodations which do not provide shelter are excluded from these taxes. This bill seeks to level the playing field between commercial and private property renters.
HB 617 would allow an intercollegiate student-athlete to receive compensation for the use of their name, image, or likeness so long as that compensation is not contingent on attending a specific institution. Compensation should be equal to the market value for using the athlete’s name, image, or likeness. An institution must not give payment, and as such, scholarships are not considered compensation for these purposes. An institution cannot prevent an athlete from receiving compensation or penalize an athlete for receiving compensation. Lastly, the institution must provide life skills and financial literacy workshops during the first and third academic years. This bill passed unanimously.
HB 681 requires the State Board of Education to create and the local school boards to implement a semester course on personal financial literacy that students must complete during high school. This is a great bill that will start our younger Georgians on better financial footing, and I was glad to support it
On Thursday we wore capes in honor of Lupus Advocacy Day.
An individual diagnosed with one of 16 specific conditions may currently apply for a registration card to use low THC oil as a treatment. HB 117 adds a 17th condition, ulcerative colitis, to the list of specific conditions. I voted yes.
HB 454 passed unanimously. This bill brings fairness to insurance contracts so that if a consumer buys insurance thinking certain providers are within network, the insurance company cannot end ties with those providers and force the consumer to pay out of network fees. The bill says if a provider is listed as an in-network provider on the insurer’s website when a consumer enrolls in the health care plan, but the provider’s contract with the insurer is later canceled, the insurer is required to honor the in-network rates for that provider for 90 days after the termination or until the last day of the person’s coverage, whichever is sooner. However, this will not apply if a provider became out-of-network due to suspension, expiration, or revocation of their license, or if the provider unilaterally terminates their participation in the network for reasons other than the insurer’s breach of contract.
Currently, the Code requires the Department of Health to disseminate rules and regulations for a system that includes screening newborns for a list of disorders. I was glad to support HB 567, which establishes the Newborn Screening and Genetic Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the department on the inclusion of screening for newborns for additional disorders added to the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel, which lists disorders recommended for states to screen as part of their newborn screening programs
HB 290 requires hospitals and long-term care facilities to allow designated representatives to visit with patients/residents. This bill puts healthcare facilities in an impossible situation because it conflicts with federal regulations, which healthcare facilities must abide by in order to receive Medicare and other government reimbursements and payments. The bill creates a situation where healthcare facilities cannot react to emergencies or new pandemics by limiting visitors.
They would be required to create a policy allowing a patient’s legal representative to visit a patient for a minimum of one hour per day during a hospitalization period that lasts longer than 12 hours. Hospitals may impose reasonable safety requirements on the legal representative, but the bill does not specify those requirements. A patient would be able to bring a lawsuit against the hospital for violation. The hospital would have immunity for any cases brought for damages for injuries or death arising from the hospital complying with the new law. This bill explicitly prohibits the Governor from waiving this requirement during a declared state of emergency or disaster.
At Long-term Health Facilities:
They would be required to institute a policy allowing a resident’s essential caregiver to visit during any residency period that lasts longer than 24 hours, subject to the limitation set by the Governor’s emergency declaration. Further, these facilities would be required to allow a minimum of two-hours of visitation per day for a total of two visitors that are the resident’s essential caregiver or legal representative. Facilities may impose reasonable safety requirements on the essential caregiver. Again, these requirements are left up to the facility. Patients would be able to bring a lawsuit against the long-term care facility for violation. The long-term care facility would have immunity for any cases brought for damages for injuries or death arising from the facility complying with the new law.
While I voted against this bill, I am sympathetic to patients and their loved once members who want to see them. There are alternative bills that create the right balance for patients, loved ones, and facilities. I hope that as this bill goes through the Senate Committee process, changes are made to strike a better balance for all parties involved.
I continue to ask people to stay home, and if you have to go out, wear a mask or two, social distance, and wash your hands. HERE is a link if you need to get tested.
Starting Monday, all Georgians over 55 and all Georgians with certain health risks (see article) are eligible to receive the covid-19 vaccine.
President Biden has asked all states to create plans to ramp up vaccine distribution. He wants all states to have vaccines available to all adults by May 1st, 2021. Find a Georgia vaccine distributor HERE.
We are working to do something that none of us have done before. I know it is hard, and I’m sympathetic to the enormous undertaking this effort requires. Still, it is unacceptable that our state—home of the CDC, world-renowned universities, and logistics corporations—are dead last in vaccine distribution. We must do better. I have shared these concerns with the Governor’s office, and I pray they seek and accept the assistance that it seems we so desperately need.
If you have any questions about COVID-19 and the vaccine only (not for scheduling appointments), call 888-357-0169.
(as of 4:15 pm March 12th, 2021)