APN 2016 Legislative Session Wrap-Up, Part One: Things that Failed
(APN) ATLANTA — The Georgia General Assembly wrapped up the 2015-2016 Legislative Session during the early morning hours of Friday, March 25, 2016, staying some 45 minutes past midnight in an unusual procedural move.
Most of the progressive bills that Atlanta Progressive News has followed during the Session have failed.
This outcome reinforces what we already know, that Georgia is not a progressive, forward-looking State, but, unfortunately, a regressive, backward-thinking State in many areas.
This article provides an overview of the outcome of numerous bills that Atlanta Progressive News covered throughout the Session that failed.
The failed bills include: HR 722/SB 145 Medical Cannabis; HR 1033 MARTA in Gwinnett County; SB 15 and SB 293 State Minimum Wage bills; SB 254 No Felony Charge for Cannabis Possession; HB 1046 No Arrest for One Ounce of Cannabis; HB 613 Greenhaven Cityhood Bill; HB 966 and SB 36 Protecting Georgia Waterways and Wells; HB 135 Too Young to Suspend Act; HB 929 National Popular Vote Compact; HB 931 End Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery Tax; HB 665 Automatic Voter Registration in Georgia; HR 1051 Township Model for Georgia; HB 731 Assault Weapons Ban; and SB 375 New Requirements for Cityhood; HB 1006 – SB 389 Georgia State Nutrition Assistance Program (one year lifetime benefit limits at one point considered).
HB 722 / SB 145 – MEDICAL CANNABIS BILL – FAILED
HB 722–an already watered-down version of State Rep. Allen Peake’s (R-Macon) medical cannabis bill–passed the House on February 29, 2016, by a vote of 152 to eight.
As reported by APN previously, on Monday, February 22, 2016, the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee eliminated in-state cultivation of medical cannabis (“marijuana”) from HB 722.
The revised HB 722 still would have added several medical conditions to Georgia’s existing medical cannabis immunity laws; and adds one cannabinoid, Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA), to the existing immunity for CBD.
HB 722 ran into a roadblock when State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) refused to allow the bill to have a hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee that she chairs.
Rep. Peake maneuvers around Unterman committee by reviving an earlier bill SB 145 that passed the Senate last year; it was a bill that would have added a new Board Member to the Georgia Board of Community Health. Peake attached the language in HB 722 to SB 145.
SB 145 passed the House on March 24, 2016, and was adopted by substitute with a vote of 157 to seven; then it went back to the Senate for a final vote on the the House substitute.
However, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, President of the Senate, would not allow it to come up for a vote on the Senate floor.
HR 1033 – MARTA IN GWINNETT – FAILED
HR 1033, sponsored by State Rep. Pedro “Pete” Marin (D-Duluth), to expand MARTA to Gwinnett County, did not come up for a vote.
SB 15 AND SB 293 – STATE MINIMUM WAGE BILLS – FAILED
SB 15, sponsored by State Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), and SB 293, sponsored by State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), proposed state minimum wage raises to $10.10 per hour, and fifteen dollars per hour, respectively. Neither came up for a vote.
SB 254 NO FELONY CHARGE FOR CANNABIS POSSESSION – FAILED
SB 254, sponsored by State Sen. Harold Jones (D-Augusta), would have changed Georgia law regarding personal possession of over one ounce or more of cannabis from a felony to a misdemeanor charge. It did not come up for a vote in Senate Committee.
HB 1046 NO ARREST FOR ONE OUNCE OF CANNABIS – FAILED
HB 1046, sponsored by now-former State Rep. LaDawn Jones (D-Atlanta), would have removed the possibility of arrest for possession of one ounce or less of cannabis, and would have replaced arrest with citations and fines. It did not come up for a vote in House Committee.
HB 613 – GREENHAVEN CITYHOOD BILL – FAILED
HB 613, sponsored by State Rep. Pam Stephenson (D-Decatur), creating a City of Greenhaven in DeKalb County, was tabled in the House Governmental Affairs Committee due to boundary issues with other cities.
HB 966 – PROTECTING GEORGIA WATERWAYS AND WELLS – FAILED
SB 36 – UNDERGROUND WATER SUPPLY PROTECTION ACT – FAILED
These bills were about providing buffers for Georgia waterways and protecting Georgia’s water.
SB 36, sponsored by State Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), passed the Senate last year, but was held hostage in the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee by State Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan).
HB 966, sponsored by State Rep. Johnnie Caldwell (R-Thomaston), had bipartisan support but did not come out of the House Natural Resources & Environment Committee, and has failed.
HB 135 – TOO YOUNG TO SUSPEND ACT – FAILED
HB 135, sponsored by State Rep. Henry “Wayne” Howard (D-Augusta), would have prohibited suspensions and expulsions of students in pre-kindergarten through third grade. It did not come out of the House Education Committee.
HB 929 NATIONAL POPULAR COMPACT – FAILED
HB 929, sponsored by State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) and others, would have changed Georgia’s allocation of Electoral College votes, in concert with several other U.S. states, to effect a national popular vote for the President of the United States.
It passed out of the House Cmte for Interstate Cooperation, but did not come up for a House floor vote.
HB 931 END NUCLEAR CONSTRUCTION COST RECOVERY TAX – FAILED
A pro-consumer bill, HB 931, co-sponsored by State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale), called for an end to the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery (NCCR) surcharge on Georgia Power electric bills after March 2017. It did not come up for a vote.
HB 665 – AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION IN GEORGIA – FAILED
HB 665, sponsored by State Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), called for automatic voter registration in the State of Georgia, following in the footsteps of the States of Oregon and California, which adopted similar measures in 2015. It did not come up for a vote.
SB 375 – NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR CITYHOOD – FAILED
SB 375 provides stricter requirements for incorporation of new municipalities in Georgia. It is sponsored by Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega). It would have made the cityhood process more responsible toward other cities and the county.
It passed the Senate on February 29, 2016, by a vote of 55 to one, but did not receive a vote in the House.
HR 1051 – TOWNSHIP MODEL FOR GEORGIA – FAILED
State Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) introduced HR 1051, a constitutional amendment to create a township form of governance in Georgia and eliminate the “city lite” model. It did not come up for a vote.
HB 731 – ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN – FAILED
HB 731, sponsored by State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), would have banned assault weapons. It did not come up for a vote.
HB 1006 – GEORGIA STATE NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP) – FAILED
SB 389 – SNAP WITHOUT THREE YEAR BENEFIT CUTS – FAILED
HB 1006, sponsored by State Rep. David Clark (R-Buford), would have cut Georgia’s lifetime eligibility for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) from 48 months to twelve months.
SB 389, sponsored by State Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), incorporated much of HB 1006, but removed the draconian language that would have limited recipients to twelve months.
It was adopted by substitute and passed the Senate February 29, 2016, by 38 to fourteen votes. Advocates were worried the language could have been re-added in the House.
On March 22, 2016, it was withdrawn from the House and recommitted.