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.
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.
Governor Kemp’s Legislative Priorities
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.
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.
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.
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.