2017 Georgia Legislative Session

Katie Base RobertsReview of Legislative Days 17-20

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

Session Reaches Midway Point

Last week the legislature met Tuesday through Friday.  Friday was legislative day 20, midway point in the forty-day session.  With the session waning, the pressure is on to move bills before the Crossover Day deadline on Friday, March 3.

This week the legislature was off on Monday in observance of President’s Day.  They are meeting Tuesday through Friday.

Workers’ Compensation Legislation

HB 146: Insurance Coverage for Fire Departments
Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville
Pending in the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee

HB 146 requires legally organized fire departments to purchase and maintain insurance coverage to pay claims for certain defined cancer diagnoses in all members of the fire department who have served at least 12 consecutive months if the diagnosis renders the fire fighter unable to perform their duties.  The inability to perform is deemed a permanent physical disability and is conclusively presumed to have been incurred in the line of duty.

The bill provides tiered payouts depending on the severity of the cancer diagnosis.  The insurance benefit must include, at minimum, the following:

  • A lump sum benefit of $25,000 upon submission of proof of diagnosis of one or more malignant tumors that has metastasized, requires surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy or that has yielded a terminal diagnosis.
  • A lump sum benefit of $6,250 upon submission of proof of diagnosis of certain carcinomas and prostate cancers, malignant tumors that are treated by endoscopic procedures, and malignant melanomas.
  • A monthly benefit equal to 60% of the member’s monthly salary at the time of diagnosis or a monthly benefit of $5,000, whichever is less, to begin 6 months after proof of diagnosis and lasting a total of 36 consecutive months.  If the member is a volunteer fire fighter, the monthly benefit is $1,500 over the same term.
  • These benefits are subordinate to any other benefit actually paid to the firefighter for the disability from any other source, not including private insurance, and are limited to the difference between the amount of the other paid benefit and these specified amounts.

The monthly benefits stop if the member’s condition is reevaluated and it is determined they are able to perform their duties again or the member dies.  The bill clarifies that a member who leaves or retires from the fire department after at least one year is entitled to continue the coverage provided through a continuation or conversion to individual coverage by the insurer, at which point the member becomes responsible for premium payments.

HB 152: Coverage for Cancer in Fire Fighters
Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville
Eligible for placement on the House Debate Calendar

HB 152 resembles the legislation that was ultimately vetoed by the Governor in 2016.  This bill permits firefighters to receive workers' compensation benefits for certain defined cancer diseases if it is shown by a preponderance of the competent and credible evidence, which includes medical evidence, to have been attributable to the firefighter's performance of their duties as a firefighter.  It requires the firefighter to have served more than five consecutive years as a firefighter before workers’ compensation benefits would be available.

SB 25: Healthcare Transparency Initiative
Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus
Pending in the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee

SB 25 creates an all-payor claims database administered by the Georgia Health Care Transparency Initiative Board (within the Department of Insurance).  Entities that provide healthcare services, including accident and sickness insurers, HMOs, PPOs, workers’ comp, and PBMs, are required to submit claim information.

Tax and Lien Legislation

HB 61: Tax Online Sales
Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla
Adopted by the House on 2/16

HB 61 requires large delivery retailers (like Amazon) to collect and remit sales taxes OR maintain sales tax data for each purchaser and remit that information to the purchaser and the Department of Revenue so the purchaser may pay owed taxes on their tax return.

HB 247: Concrete Equipment Exemption
Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas
Favorably reported from the House Ways and Means Committee on 2/16

This legislation creates a sales tax exemption for machinery used to mix or transport concrete, including mixer trucks and their engines, interior and exterior operational controls, hydraulics, and structural and safety components.

HB 337: Tax Liens
Rep. Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe
Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee on 2/14

HB 337 is the Department of Revenue’s lien registry bill, which creates an electronic statewide lien registry for state tax executions and liens of state tax executions against real and personal property.

HB 56: Equipment Rental Agreements
Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah
Pending in the House Ways and Means Committee

HB 56 levies a “property tax recovery fee” on certain rental agreements with rental equipment companies engaged in construction, mining or forestry and general rental centers.  Reportedly, the author is aware of some issues with the legislation and the hope is the bill will be modified if it is to advance.

Building and Construction Industry Legislation

HB 310: Secondary Metal Recyclers
Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville
Pending in the House Regulated Industries Committee

In 2012, the legislature imposed a variety of regulations and requirements on secondary metals recyclers to address rampant metal theft.  HB 310 exempts battery retailers and wholesalers who receive used lead acid vehicle batteries from those regulations.

SB 2: The FAST Act
Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton
Adopted by the Senate on 2/17

SB 2 attempts to support Georgia’s businesses by creating efficiency and transparency in the permitting and licensing process at the state and local level.  The bill has been amended to require that an applicant initially only pay 50% of permitting or licensing fees, with the balance to be paid before the license, certificate or permit is issued.  The legislation requires state and local government agencies to establish a fee schedule that will include turnaround times.  If the agency fails to meet that schedule, the fee will be reduced by 10% for every ten days past the deadline.  In addition, agencies will be required to offer expedited processing, which can be no more than twice the original fee.

The bill also requires state agencies that engage in site visits to provide “reasonable notice” to the licensee of the date and time of the visit and when possible, conduct visits during non-peak hours.

HR 284: State and Local Construction Management
Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas
Assigned to the House Special Rules Committee on 2/16

HR 284 creates the House Study Committee on State and Local Construction management to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the construction management at risk model versus the design, bid, and build model.

General Business Legislation

HB 221: Power of Attorney
Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula
Pending in the House Judiciary Committee

HB 221 updates and conforms provisions relating to powers of attorney to align with the Uniform Law Commission.  This act provides a simple way for people to deal with their property by providing a power of attorney in case of future incapacity.  While chiefly a set of default rules, the act also contains safeguards for the protection of an incapacitated principal.

Analysis provided by the Uniform Law Commission

HB 120: Revised Notarial Acts of 2018
Rep. Andy Welch, R-McDonough
Pending in the House Judiciary Committee

Similar to legislation the author pursued last year, HB 120 makes significant changes to laws governing notarial acts and notary publics.  Specifically, the legislation prohibits spouse-to-spouse notarizations, requires a notary to keep a journal of notarizations for ten years, requires a one-hour training session at the time of renewal and permits electronic notarizations.

CSA is monitoring these other general business matters:

  • HB 87: Multi-Year Registrations.  HB 87 allows for three-year registrations for most types of business organizations, including non-profits, partnerships, and limited liability companies.  Members of the committee have expressed concerns that companies who choose to register for three years and need to update information during that period would still be charged the current $20 change fee by the Secretary of State.
  • HB 82: Breach of Security.  Requires information brokers and data collectors to provide notice when an individual's personal information is released to unauthorized persons, whether such release is intentional, inadvertent, or accidental.

Congressional Election

On February 10, Georgia Congressman Tom Price was confirmed by the US Senate to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services in President Donald Trump’s new administration.

Price promptly resigned Georgia’s 6th congressional district seat and Governor Nathan Deal set a special election for April 18 with a runoff, if needed, on June 20.  Candidate qualifying occurred last week.  A staggering 18 individuals are in the running, including current state senator Judson Hill and former Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel.  Betty Price – Tom’s wife and current state representative – announced on the final day of qualifying that she would not run.

Georgia’s “resign to run law” means there will also be a special election to fill Hill’s seat.  While an election date has not yet been set, a number of individuals in the East Cobb district have expressed interest.