On Tuesday, March 27, we reconvened at the Capitol for the 12th and final week of the 2018 legislative session, and on Thursday, March 29, the House and Senate completed Legislative Day 40 and adjourned sine die. Legislative Day 40 is commonly referred to under the Gold Dome as “sine die,” a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for further meetings.”
Although the Georgia General Assembly has adjourned sine die and the 2018 legislative session has officially come to an end, I hope that you will continue to contact me if you have any questions regarding your state government, potential new state laws or if you have any suggestions for future legislation.
Over the next 40 days, Gov. Deal will review and sign or veto measures that received final House and Senate passage this session. Any bill the governor signs will become law, and any legislation not signed or vetoed within this 40-day period will automatically become law as well.
I am always eager to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me at any time.
Week in Review
Hypodermic Syringe Distribution
House Bill 161 would allow employees of a registered syringe services program, supervised by the Department of Public Health, to distribute hypodermic syringes. Additionally, HB 161 would create the Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery, an Executive Director of Substance Abuse, Addiction and Related Disorders and a partnership with providers and communities across Georgia to prohibit patient brokering. Under HB 161, those engaging in fraudulent drug testing of the disabled, elderly or those suffering from addiction would be subject to increased penalties including imprisonment of 10 to 20 years, a fine of up to $25,000 for fraudulent action, or both.
Moving the Board of Nursing and Updating the Preceptorship Tax Credit
House Bill 301 would move the Georgia Board of Nursing, which is currently overseen by the Secretary of the State, under the authority of the Department of Community Health. Under HB 301, the existing tax deduction for physicians who conduct a preceptorship, including doctors, physician assistants, and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) accredited by a nationally recognized body, is updated from a standard rate to one accrued based on number of rotations completed. For the first through third rotation, a physician’s tax deduction would be $500 and then doubles for rotations four through 10, per year, if the physician does not receive payment for the training of a medical student. The number of rotations for nurse-physician assistants and APRNs is the same but tax deductions are $375 and $750, respectively. This code section of the bill would be effective until December 31, 2023, and a report of the tax credit should be issued.
Creating the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund
House Bill 332 would create the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to fund the protection and conservation of land. HB 332 would require that up to half of the sales and use taxes collected by outdoor recreation establishments and sporting goods stores be dedicated to the trust fund and would fund grants to cities, counties, departments, and agencies to support the preservation of state and local parks as well as trails.
Addressing Elder and Disabled Adult Abuse
House Bill 635 would establish and outline the membership of the Adult Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Multidisciplinary Team as directed by district attorneys for each judicial circuit throughout the state. Under HB 635, the team would work with local jurisdictions to address suspected incidents of abuse, neglect or exploitation of the elderly or disabled.
Increasing the Penalties for Illegal Acquisition of a Firearm
House Bill 657 would increase the penalties for individuals who attempt to access a firearm outside of the legal purchasing process. Under HB 657, an individual intentionally providing a firearm to another individual who has been convicted of a felony, or is on felony probation, would be guilty of a felony and imprisonment between one and five years. A second conviction would result in imprisonment between five and 10 years. This legislation would require licensed firearm providers to confirm the felony status of the buyer.
Hands-Free Georgia Act
House Bill 673 would prohibit holding or supporting electronic communication devices on the body, writing or reading electronic communications or watching, recording or broadcasting video while driving. Exceptions would exist for voice-to-text messaging, built-in navigation systems and back-up cameras. Under HB 673, each violation would count as a separate offense with the first, second and third offenses resulting in fines of $50, $100 and $150 respectively. However, first offenders would not receive any penalty if they produce to the court proof of purchase of a hands-free device that complies with the law.
Nonprofit Health Centers Sales and Use Exemptions
House Bill 697 would extend a sales and use tax exemption for personal property sales to qualified nonprofit health centers from June 30, 2018, to June 30, 2019.
Prohibiting Trafficking of Disabled Adults, Elders, and Residents
House Bill 803 would prohibit trafficking of disabled adults, elders, and residents. Under HB 803, a person participating in this form of trafficking would be guilty of a felony and serve one to 20 years in prison, receive up to a $100,000 fine or both.
Terminating Rental Agreements
House Bill 834 would allow for the termination of a rental agreement in instances of family violence and define the proper steps to take in terms of notice and inspection requirements. HB 834 would also clarify that hearings would be held no more than 30 days after filing the petition and would give the court authority to delay dismissal of the petition for an additional 30 days if a party is avoiding service to delay a hearing. Under HB 834, landlords would be required to create and maintain a comprehensive list of damages to premises under his or her supervision and outline the process of returning security deposits to a tenant.
Constitutional Amendment for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund
House Resolution 238 would propose a constitutional amendment to allow up to half of the sales and use taxes collected by outdoor recreation establishments and sporting goods stores to be paid into the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund if approved by referendum.
Tuition Exemption for Students in Treatment Facilities
House Bill 853 would allow students placed in a psychiatric residential treatment facility to be exempt from paying tuition for educational services from the local school system in which the facility is located.