Tomorrow is the last day of the legislative session, and it will be a very long one at that.
Look out for a special Sine Die newsletter next week to update you on the final day of the 2022 Legislative Session.
Below find out the highlights of what happened during the last week of session.
Addressing Excessive Muffler Noise
This week I presented HR 1126 to the House Public Safety Committee. This resolution would create a House Study Committee to explore potential public safety tools to address the ongoing issue of street racing and excessive muffler noise. The study committee would also look at the pros and cons of adopting law to require front facing license tags (in addition to rear facing ones) as exist in 31 other states. Front facing license tags allow for maximum benefit from security cameras.
The resolution passed the Public Safety Committee unanimously and now needs to pass the Rules Committee before making it to the House Floor for final passage.
A special thanks to Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman and City Councilman Amir Farokhi for testifying on why this is a needed study. Also, thanks to co-sponsors State Representatives Betsy Holland (D-Atlanta), Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta) and Todd Jones (So. Forsyth-R)
You can watch my presentation to the committee below.
A Win for Mental Health
In a unifying bipartisan moment, on Wednesday, March 30th, HB 1013, the “Mental Health Parity Act,” received final passage in the House and Senate. The bill is now on its way to the Governor, who is expected to sign this week. This a huge win for Mental Health. I proudly (and tearfully) voted YES!
Other Votes this Week
SB 332 aims to provide transparency in online sales and prevent the problem of ongoing theft and resale of retail merchandise. This bill, also known as the “Inform Consumers Act,” states that online marketplaces shall require high-volume, third-party sellers to provide their bank account number (or the name of the payee for payments), contact information, business tax information and tax identification number, and a current email address and phone number to the online marketplace. Online marketplaces shall notify high volume, third-party sellers about this requirement, require high volume, third-party sellers to electronically certify that their information is correct and if any changes have been made, and shall suspend sales activity after sending notice to the seller if they do not provide this information.
Additionally, online marketplaces shall require high volume, third-party sellers with yearly revenues of $20,000 or more to disclose their name or company name, address, contact information, and if they use a different seller to supply products to consumers who purchase from them. If the online marketplace becomes aware of false representation by the high volume, third-party seller, they shall suspend sales activity after sending notice to the seller until the seller complies with requirements.
Finally, the state Attorney General can take legal action against online marketplaces if they violate their obligations under this law; this public remedy is the only remedy available at law for violation of these disclosure requirements. I voted yes.
SB 565 seeks to continue our work in Georgia to treat victims of sex trafficking as victims and not criminals.This bill provides for victims of labor or sex trafficking to immediately apply for their misdemeanor or felony conviction to be vacated if their crimes were a direct result of trafficking. The bill further requires that the court vacating the conviction also must order the reimbursement of any fines or fees paid by the defendant. The Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund will be responsible for reimbursing defendants. Any entity to which the defendant paid shall return fines and fees according to rules made by the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Board. I voted yes.
SB 363 addresses the misleading mailers we all get purporting to tell us that we are required to pay a company to update our corporate filings in Georgia, which is not true. This bill amends the required formatting for solicitations relative to corporate filings to make clear the mailings are solicitations and not government notices. It also imposes a penalty of $200 per violation if the solicitation is improperly formatted. I voted yes.
SB 374 attempts to cut the red tape out of government that keeps agencies from sharing data. The bill establishes the Georgia Data Analytic Center as an official agent and recipient of all shared government information between executive state agencies (pursuant to some limitations). Additionally, any information shared between state agencies and the Center does not constitute a disclosure or release, and the Center shall not disclose any information protected by confidentiality or privilege. This bill would save citizens and government employees time and prevent duplication of effort. I voted yes.
SB 576 sets standards for courts to award grandparent visitation rights to children whose parents are deceased, incapacitated, or incarcerated. A court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the child’s health or welfare would be harmed without visitation rights with their grandparents, and that visitation rights are in the child’s best interests. The absence of an opportunity to form a relationship is not a legally sufficient cause to grant grandparents visitation rights if there is no substantial preexisting relationship with the grandparent. The bill lists specific factors that a court may consider when making a determination. I voted yes.
SB 319, the “Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2021,” revokes the legal requirement that a person must have a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon on them in public, including residents of any other state who would qualify as a “lawful weapons carrier” under Georgia law. This is the second version of this bill that the House has passed this year. The legislation makes us less safe. I voted no.
SB 562 prohibits companies owned or operated by the governments of Russia or Belarus from bidding on or submitting a proposal for any contract with a Georgia state agency for goods or services. Companies seeking contracts with a Georgia state agency must certify that they are not owned or operated by either of these governments, and the bill prescribes a fine of $250,000 if a company submits false documentation. I voted yes.
Insurance and Labor
SB 566 adds mental health conditions and substance use disorders to the list of emergency medical treatments covered under the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act, and clarifies that emergency care includes all services rendered after a patient is stabilized and as a part of outpatient or inpatient stays. Additionally, it clarifies that covered patients’ financial responsibilities are not affected by these changes. I voted yes.
SB 588 requires all local boards of election to provide public comment periods during monthly meetings. The comment periods must be included in published agendas, and the board may not require members of the public to sign up more than 24 hours prior to the regular monthly meeting. School board chairs have the discretion to limit the length of time each person may speak, as well as the number of individuals speaking for or against a specific issue. The time and dates of regular meetings must be published both in the local organ as well as on the school board’s website. Regular school board meetings must be public, and audio and video recordings must be allowed by members of the public. I voted yes.
SB 379 creates the High-demand Career Initiatives Program, a sponsored apprenticeship program administered by the Office of Workforce Development through the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia to establish a program to promote the creation and expansion of registered apprenticeship programs in the state. The Office of Workforce Development must identify eligible apprentice occupations, and publish a list of these jobs statewide along with criteria for selection into the program. Potential employer sponsors will apply to the board to conduct an apprenticeship program, and approved sponsors can receive up to $10,000 per completed apprenticeship, depending on the number of hours of education and training required for the apprenticeship program. Employer sponsors may complete up to five apprenticeship contracts per year. I voted yes.
SB 361 enacts the Law Enforcement Strategic Support Act, which creates a tax credit mechanism for contributions to qualifying law enforcement foundations. The aggregate amount of tax credits issued for qualifying contributions shall not exceed $75 million per year, and each law enforcement foundation shall be limited to accepting $3 million in contributions per year. Qualifying contributions are limited to $5,000 per individual qualifying contributions, $10,000 per married couple filing jointly or filing as a member of a limited liability company, partner, or shareholder. I voted yes.
Health and Human Services
SB 345, or otherwise known as the “Vaccine Passport Bill,” prohibits any government agency in the state from mandating proof of COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of providing service, access to any facility, issuing any license, or other authorization, or performing any duty. The bill will stand repealed by operation of law on June 30, 2023. This bill marks the first time that Georgia has banned any vaccine from being required for public school participation. I voted no.
SB 403 provides for the enactment of the Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act, and is based on findings that combining the expertise of peace officers and behavioral health specialists is an effective way to de-escalate behavioral health crises and help prevent unnecessary incarceration.
The bill adds transportation to the duties that are immune from civil liability if it they are complied with in good faith. SB 403 allows, but does not require, community service boards to establish a co-responder program to offer assistance or consultation to peace officers responding to calls involving behavioral health crises. When co-responder teams are dispatched, a board member shall be available to accompany the officer in person or via telephone, and the officer may consider their input. If the individual is transported for emergency evaluation, the facility shall notify the board of its findings prior to release. The board shall also arrange outpatient therapy for eligible individuals. These boards shall contract with licensed behavioral health professionals, and there shall be a list of emergency receiving facilities. If a law enforcement agency does not enter into a co-responder partnership, there shall be one peace officer who is designated as the primary point of contact with the community service board.
The bill also provides for relevant training and the creation of protocol to deal with any difficulties of availability. Overall, the board shall work to get the individual the proper care that he or she needs. The reports of boards shall be issued to the Department annually, as should proposed budgets. If a peace officer or board member complies with these provisions in good faith, they shall be immune from liability stemming from enumerated decisions. I voted yes.
SR 463 creates a joint study committee to establish a comprehensive strategic plan to set policy objectives for infrastructure, economic preparedness, transportation funding, innovation, and development of an electric vehicle market in Georgia, as well as look at implementation of a state-wide public charging infrastructure. The committee will include the commissioners or designees of the Georgia Departments of Transportation and Economic Development, and the chair of the Public Service Commission. I voted yes.
Sine Die Town Hall Next Week!
We will be having our last town hall of the 2022 Legislative Session on April 11th at 7pm. State Senator Sonya Halpern and I will bring you the latest news from the Gold Dome post-session and answer any of your questions. Please register here.
Updated COVID-19 guidance from the CDC:
Find a vaccine
Health Department Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line
Monday – Friday 8 AM – 8 PM ET
Saturday – Sunday 8 AM – 5 PM ET
Health Department Vaccine Schedule Web Portal: https://gta-vras.powerappsportals.us/en-US/
Vaccine Finder: https://www.vaccines.gov/
Find a COVID-19 test:
DPH Testing Locations: https://dph.georgia.gov/covidtesting
Order COVID-19 at-home test:
You can request free at-home COVID-19 tests here. You can order four at-home tests per household that will be delivered by the USPS.
Find COVID-19 case and vaccine numbers
DPH Case Dashboard: https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report
DPH Vaccine Dashboard:
As always, it is an honor to represent you under the Gold Dome. Please share your thoughts on legislation and let me know if you need help with any state agency.