2016 Georgia Legislative Session
Legislative Days 30 – 31  March 4, 2016

By Katie Base Roberts
Director of Governmental Affairs
Fiveash Stanley, Inc.

Crossover Day Arrives
The House and Senate worked into the evening on Monday to consider as much legislation as possible on Crossover Day.  This important procedural milestone is the deadline for a bill to be adopted by its authoring chamber.  Bills that have been adopted then “crossover” to the other chamber for consideration during the remaining legislative days.

Measures that do not crossover are technically dead, but as anyone who has spent time under the Gold Dome can tell you, nothing is ever truly dead until the session closes at midnight on day 40.  Advocates of lost measures will tack language on to active bills of a similar subject matter.  Sometimes the amendment makes little different to the General Assembly, but often the additional language sinks the underlying bill, either because it is contentious or lawmakers object to circumventing the committee process.  Your Government Affairs Team remains alert to friendly and hostile amendments.

Industry Issues

HB 935: Freeport Exemption
Representative Brett Harrell, R-Snellville
Adopted by the House on 2/29

HB 935 adds certain fulfillment centers to properties eligible for a freeport exemption.  A fulfillment center is defined "for purposes of a level 1 freeport exemption, as a business location in Georgia which is used predominately to pack, ship, store or otherwise process tangible personal property sold by electronic, internet, telephonic, or other remote means.”

Healthcare & Workers’ Compensation Issues
HB 818: State Board Housekeeping
Representative Jason Shaw, R-Lakeland
Pending in the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee

HB 818 is the annual State Board of Workers’ Compensation housekeeping bill, drafted in conjunction with the Advisory Council.  It makes a number of changes relating to benefits:

  • Increases the temporary total disability payout from $550 to $575 per week
  • Increases the temporary partial disability payout from $367 to $383 per week
  • Increases the death benefit to a surviving spouse from $220,000 to $230,000

The bill also makes terminology changes and clarifies policies relating to administrative law judges, self-insured employers and the self-insurer’s guaranty trust fund.

HB 216: Occupational Diseases
Representative Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville
Pending in the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee

As originally introduced, HB 216 provided a rebuttable presumption that an expanded list of medical conditions suffered by firefighters are occupational diseases. 

The version adopted by the House is more conservative.  The legislation does not provide a rebuttable presumption and only extends the list of medical conditions to include cancer, which “is shown by a preponderance of the competent and credible evidence, which shall include medical evidence, to have been attributable to the firefighter’s performance of his or her duties as a firefighter.”  This new language would allow the firefighter to appear before an administrative law judge to determine if workers’ compensation benefits are payable in the event of cancer.

HB 866: Employer of Self-Insured Health Plans
Representative Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire
Pending in the Senate Insurance Committee

HB 866 exempts multiple employer self-insured health plans from the payment of premium taxes on the plan's net premium.

General Business Issues

SB 255: Wage Garnishment
Senator Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro
Pending in the House Judiciary Committee

In 2015, a federal judge ruled that Georgia’s existing garnishment law did not provide sufficient notice about income exemptions (like income from Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation and welfare).  After the ruling, some counties stopped issuing garnishments altogether until the law could be improved.  SB 255 is the product of a working group of House and Senate members to address these constitutional issues.

HB 381: Notarial Acts and Notaries
Representative Andy Welch, R-McDonough
Adopted by the House on 2/29

HB 381 comes out of the Uniform Law Commission and makes significant changes to laws governing notarial acts and notary publics.  The Uniform Law recommends notary publics complete a course of study, pass an exam, maintain a journal of notarizations and require certain certificates.

Lost Legislation

These measures did not make the Crossover Day deadline; this is the last week they will appear on this report

HB 346: Manufactured Housing
Ensures that sales tax is charged only on construction materials used to produce a manufactured, single-family structure and other tangible items used in the construction and installation of those structures.

HB 411: Hauling Unfinished Wood Products
States that on all non-interstate highways, the max weight for a load of unfinished wood products is 84,000 pounds.  The legislation allows a vehicle hauling unfinished wood products from a harvest location to the first point of marketing or processing a 10% variance within a 150 mile radius of the point of origin.

HB 836: Renovation of Affordable Housing Exemption
Creates a limited time sales tax exemption for tangible personal property use in direct connection with the construction, renovation, and rehabilitation of affordable housing by non-profit organizations.

HB 996: Secondary Metals Recyclers
Allows secondary metals recyclers to pay sellers with cash.  A total prohibition on cash payouts was seen as one of the major victories when the legislature initially addressed the rampant issue of metal theft in 2012.

HB 1017: E-Discovery Georgia Civil Practice Act
Revises the electronic records that are discoverable in a court proceeding.

SB 276: Data Breach Obligations
Requires a covered entity to provide notice of a data breach containing an individual’s social security number, driver’s license number and/or account, credit or debit card number in combination with the required code or password.

SB 29: Occupational Diseases
Expands workers’ compensation liability by defining “firefighter’s occupational disease” to include hypertension, heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, AIDS, and hepatitis.  This legislation was introduced in the first days of the 2015 session and is still pending in the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.

SB 299: Georgia Health Care Transparency Initiative
Creates a Georgia Health Care Transparency Initiative Board that is charged with creating and overseeing a database that receives and stores data relating to medical, dental, pharmaceutical and other insurance claims information.

SB 338: Certificate of State Law Applicability
Allows any person, firm, or private corporation that has less than three employees in Georgia to apply to the State Board of Worker’s Compensation for the issuance of a certificate of state law applicability.

SR 447: Joint Study Committee on School Construction 
Creates a Study Committee on School Construction with members of the House and Senate.  The Committee will specifically look at construction costs and financing.