This week the General Assembly convened Tuesday through Thursday for Legislative Days 21 through 23.   At this point in the session, we are still seeing a significant number of bills introduced in both chambers each day, and committee meetings are increasingly running longer, but the clock is quickly running down for members looking to pass bills this session. 
Legislators now have just one full week left to pass their bills out of their assigned committees, have them selected by the Rules Committee, and passed out of the chamber in which they originated—the Crossover Day deadline (Legislative Day 28) is Monday, March 6.   Following Crossover Day, each chamber will focus its attention on bills that have been passed by the opposite chamber.  The final day of the 2023 legislative session, Sine Die, is Wednesday, March 29.  
Next week the General Assembly will be back in session Monday through Thursday for Legislative Days 24 through 27.  Next Friday, March 3 will serve as a committee work day for legislators. 
Amended Fiscal Year 2023 Budget
The passage of a balanced budget is the only constitutionally required action item for legislators each session.  Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairmen have spent weeks convening to craft their budget recommendations for Amended Fiscal Year 2023.  This week, the full Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia), passed the Senate’s version of House Bill 18, the supplemental appropriations bill for AFY23. 
Chairman Tillery presented the AFY23 budget on the Senate floor on Thursday, noting that the budget represented an approximately 6.8 percent increase over last year’s budget.   Chairman Tillery also told his Senate colleagues that there was more “wiggle room” in the AFY23 budget compared to the FY24 budget, which the Senate will soon be considering.   
The Senate passed the AFY23 budget almost unanimously, and the bill was immediately transmitted back to the House. A conference committee made up of three senators and three representatives will likely be appointed to work through the House and Senate differences in the budget.  
Tort Reform Legislation
There have been a number of bills introduced in the last several weeks that seek to improve Georgia’s legal environment. 
  • On Wednesday the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee considered Senate Bill 186, sponsored by Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming).  The “Georgia Landowners Protection Act” would revise current standards for landowners found liable for certain incidents taking place involving third party criminals.  The committee heard public testimony on the bill but did not take any action.  
  • On Wednesday the Senate Transportation Committee considered Senate Bill 196, sponsored by Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah), which would create the failure to wear a seat belt for children as admissible evidence in civil action cases.  A motion to pass the bill out of committee by substitute version failed. 
  • Senate Bill 191, introduced by Senator Shawn Still (R-Norcross), takes away the ability for plaintiffs to join motor carrier and insurance companies in the same action.  The measure was passed by the Senate Transportation Committee this week, so it is now eligible for selection by the Rules Committee. 
Sports Betting
  • Following a hearing only last week, this week the Senate Economic Development again took up Senate Bill 57 by Senator Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro).   The bill would allow sports betting as well as fixed-odds betting on horseracing in Georgia.  The measure passed the committee by a margin of 8 to 1 and is now eligible for selection by the Rules Committee. 
  • On Thursday afternoon the Senate Regulated Industries Committee took up Senate Bill 172, sponsored by Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), which would authorize and provide for the regulation and taxation of sports betting in Georgia.  The measure, which has bipartisan cosponsors, did not receive a vote in committee.  A corresponding Senate Resolution, Senate Resolution 140, also authored by Senator Cowsert, proposes an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to legalize sports betting.   The Resolution was passed by the Regulated Industries Committee and is now eligible for selection by the Rules Committee. 
Governor Kemp’s Legislative Priorities
  • On Thursday the House considered House Bill 162 on the floor.  The measure, which is sponsored by Governor’s Floor Leader Lauren McDonald (R-Cumming), would provide a one-time tax credit of $250 for individuals and $500 for married couples who filed taxes in Georgia in 2021 and 2022.  The bill passed the House 170 to 2 and next heads to the Senate for consideration.  
  • On Thursday Governor’s Floor Leader Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia) introduced Senate Bill 237, which would provide student loan repayment of up to $20,000 for peace officers.   The bill, which is cosponsored by the other Governor’s Floor Leader in the Senate, Senator Mike Hodges (R-Brunswick), is one of Governor Kemp’s legislative priorities for this session.  The bill has been assigned to the Public Safety Committee for consideration. 
Mental Health Reform
After the passage of sweeping mental healthcare legislation last session under the leadership of the late Speaker David Ralston, this week the House announced another comprehensive mental healthcare reform bill, House Bill 520.  The bill is sponsored by Representatives Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) and Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), who carried last year’s mental health reform bill, along with Majority Leader Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), Minority Leader James Beverly (D-Macon), Public Health Committee Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), and Special Committee on Healthcare Chairman Butch Parrish (R-Swainsboro).  
The 50-page bill would expand Georgia’s loan forgiveness program for mental health care providers; create new authorities for sharing and collecting data; seeks to define “serious mental illness;” and includes a funding mechanism to allow the legislature to appropriate funds in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget for crisis services in Fulton, Laurens, and Muscogee counties.  
Transgender Legislation
This week the Senate Health and Human Services Committee considered two bills that address transgender procedures for minors.  
Senate Bill 141, sponsored by Senator Clint Dixon (R-Buford), would prohibit health care providers from performing or aiding in the performance of medical practices on minors relating to gender.   To accommodate the large number of individuals who wished to be recognized for public comment, the committee’s chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah) decided not to have the committee take any action on the legislation.  
Senate Bill 140, sponsored by Senator Carden Summers (R-Cordele), would prohibit certain procedures and therapies for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors. After receiving a hearing in the Health and Human Services Committee, the measure passed out of the committee along a party-line vote and is now eligible for selection by the Rules Committee.  
Antisemitism Legislation 
House Bill 30, sponsored by Representative John Carson (R-Marietta), would provide a definition of ‘antisemitism’ in Georgia Code and would add any antisemitic actions to Georgia’s hate crimes statute.  The bill’s cosponsors include Majority Leader Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) and Representative Esther Panitch (D-Sandy Springs), who is the only Jewish member of the state legislature.  The bill was favorably reported by the Judiciary Committee this week and is now eligible for selection by the House Rules Committee.  
Certificate of Need Legislation 
This week the Senate Regulated Industries Committee considered two pieces of legislation that would amend Georgia’s certificate of need laws.  Both bills were passed by the committee and have been placed on the Senate floor calendar for Monday. 
  • Senate Bill 99, sponsored by Senator Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), would amend Georgia’s certificate of need law by providing an exemption from CON requirements for acute care hospitals established in rural counties with populations less than 50,000 that meet certain criteria.   The bill was amended in committee and passed by a margin of 7 to 4. 
  • Senate Bill 162, sponsored by Health and Human Services Chairman Ben Watson (R-Savannah), was described in committee as a “total revamp of CON.”  The original version of Senator Watson’s bill did away with certificate of need entirely, a move which he called “overreaching.”  The version of the bill considered by the Regulated Industries Committee this week would replace the certificate of need with a special healthcare services license.  An amendment offered by Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) removed the requirement that a hospital’s capital expenditure be greater than $10 million to be exempt from the special healthcare services license process.  The bill was also amended to include provisions from Senate Bill 99.   After a failed motion to table the bill, the committee took a vote.  Regulated Industries Chairman Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) served as the tie-breaking vote to let the bill move on to the Rules Committee.  
Longer Terms for State Legislators
House Resolution 212, sponsored by Representative Angela Moore (D-Stonecrest), proposes an amendment to Georgia’s constitution that would extend terms for state senators and representatives from two years to four years beginning in 2026.  The resolution would require two-thirds approval by both the House and Senate, and then the question would go to Georgia voters on the ballot.  

This weekly Legislative Update report is courtesy of the Regional Business Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta (RBC), an organization of over a dozen of the largest and most active Chambers of Commerce throughout the metro Atlanta region. RBC member chambers represent over 15,000 member companies who employ millions of metro Atlanta residents. The RBC’s primary goal is to represent the interests of RBC Chamber members on regional public policy issues impacting our transportation, water and air quality and to advocate for solutions that improve metro Atlanta’s quality of life and economic vitality.