APN Capitol Journal: 2016, Week Three


touch of life(APN) ATLANTA — This installment of Capitol Journal covers Week Three of the 2016 year of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly.


Legislative Session Day 9 (Monday, Jan. 25, 2016)


The medical cannabis (marijuana) bill, HB 722, sponsored by State Rep. Allen Peake (R – Macon), had a hearing today, with over two hours of testimony from patients in support of the bill. Article from Atlanta Progressive News Senior Staff Writer Gloria Tatum forthcoming.


The House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee had a hearing on due process in the University System of Georgia.


This apparently comes from complaints that those accused of racist actions or committing sexual assault are not fairly treated.  The lead lawmaker is threatening to take funds from schools if they do not address this.


HB 768, “ABLE,” makes it possible for individuals with disabilities to set aside money in a sort of health savings accounts without losing their Medicare.  HB 768 is sponsored by State Rep. Lee Hawkins (R – Gainesville).


Informational hearing only in House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Income Tax, with Chairman Bruce Williamson (R – Monroe) promising an additional hearing to vote on the bill.


See our coverage on this and other expected health care issues.


State Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R – Johns Creek) announced he will not be seeking re-election in November.


Georgia Right to Life set up their “Pillars of Personhood” display at the Capitol.


And a nice prayer to our “Heavenly Father” before a Senate committee meeting. https://soundcloud.com/regina_tweeta/01-25-2016-prayer-before


Legislative Session  Day 10 (Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016)


HB 801, on weighing STEM classes when calculating GPA in regards to HOPE qualification, passed out of the House Higher Education committee.  It is sponsored by Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones (R – Milton), and lines up quite well with the Governor’s education priorities.


My favorite person, State Rep. Ed Setzler (R – Acworth), is carrying a slightly different version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in the House, HB 837.


SR 388: “to prevent discrimination in the public funding of social services by allowing religious or faith based organizations to receive public aid, directly or indirectly, for the provision of such services.”


The Anti-Defamation League spoke against it during a hearing, with Chairman of the committee and bill sponsor Bill Heath (R – Bremen) continuing to express disbelief over their concerns.


Sens. Elena Parent (D – Atlanta) and Valencia Seay (D – Riverdale) plan to offer amendments, so there was no vote today.


Broadband had a hearing in the House!  Sixteen percent of Georgia households are unserved, per the federal definition of 25mb/sec download speeds.  Many rural areas are just beginning to receive 2, 5, and 10 mb speeds.


Cell coverage is also a problem.  Rural community groups testified that lack of broadband and cell coverage impact students, health care (telemedicine), and economic development activities.


HB 649 creates a licensure process for lactation consultants.  Passed out of committee, with a packed room in support of the bill.


Cityhood stuff continues to be an issue, too.


Legislative Session  Day 11 (Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016)


Today was a fairly quiet day!


It’s been ‪#‎schoolchoiceweek‬ and rapper Ludacris made an appearance at a rally today in support.


Chief Justice Hugh Thompson of the Supreme Court of Georgia addressed a joint House and Senate session, talking a lot about “21st century” courts, and Gov. Nathan Deal’s criminal justice reforms.


MARTA half penny tax might get some legislative action, with State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) preparing to file a bill in support of expanding MARTA.


SB 270, allowing retired police officers to carry handguns anywhere police can, passed by substitute from the Senate Public Safety Committee.


Legislative Session  Day 12 (Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016)


Today was an interesting one.


The mid-year budget passed the House, and now awaits a vetting and voting from the Senate.


SB 308 was introduced (put into the “hopper,” as it were).  This creates a grant program to fund Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and is sponsored by State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford).


Because the best way to deal with Georgia’s high maternal mortality rate is to grow the industry of unlicensed, unregulated organizations seeing and advising pregnant people.  Article forthcoming.


HB 739, sponsored by State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R – Dawsonville), making state approval of education materials optional, passed out of a House Education subcommittee meeting, with an amendment by State Rep. Margaret Kaiser (D – Atlanta) to make sure families without Internet access would be able to get materials.


HB 713, sponsored by State Rep. Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek), terminating parental rights for rapists, was unexpectedly sent to subcommittee.


HB 874 was also put into the hopper – dealing with “street gang terrorism” – with 62 co-sponsors.


Later in the day, the House State Government Administration Subcommittee, chaired by State Rep. Tom Weldon (R – Ringgold), did not have a quorum and did not follow the rules for voting but still managed to pass two bills out of their subcommittee.


That subcommittee was also scheduled to hear HB 781 – making citizenship a requirement to serve on local government volunteer advisory boards.  About eight folks showed up to testify against it, but the bill’s sponsor was missing in action.


After stalling extensively, the chair finally called the missing sponsor, Rep. Raffensperger, and told him about the opposition.  They rescheduled the hearing to next week at some point, and adjourned.


Also in the news: a resolution supporting the creation of a Senate Study Committee on the Legislative Process.



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