Georgia Political News Update

March 17, 2020

Pardon Our Dust

We recently launched this new site and are still in the process of updating some of our archived content. Some details of this article may be incomplete, links may be broken, and other elements may not display properly yet. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Just as the legislative session began to kick into high gear, activity at the State Capitol has come to a screeching halt. On March 12, legislators voted to suspend the 40-day legislative session indefinitely in response to the evolving situation with COVID-19. The decision also happened to coincide with the annual crossover day, resulting in a busy legislative day for representatives and senators before leaving the Capitol. The General Assembly must return to pass a budget for the upcoming 2021 fiscal year, but it remains unclear what the final outcome will be for any other bills that crossed over this year. As soon as legislators left town, they were called back to the Capitol for a Special Session on March 16 to ratify the declaration by Gov. Brian Kemp of a public health emergency. The ratification temporarily grants the governor broad authority to respond to the pandemic, including the ability to suspend state laws, restrict travel, and limit public gatherings. While back at the Capitol for the Special Session, legislators will be limited to action on topics in the governor’s charge. Should the General Assembly convene, in earnest, at a later date to finish out the remaining 11 days of the 2020 session, some of the bills that crossed over and would be available for consideration include:  

  • House Bill 93 – Sponsored by Representative Rick Williams (R-145), this bill requires the own or operator of a coal ash pond to provide written notice to the director of the Environmental Protection Division and the local governing authority within three days of beginning dewatering operations. 
  • House Bill 105 – Sponsored by Rep. Sam Watson (R-172) and carried by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-51), a bill originally was introduced in 2019 to provide disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Michael. An amended version of  the original bill passed the Senate in early March to also replace a sales tax adopted last year on rideshare services with a per-ride flat fee. The bill now requires one more approval by the Senate before becoming law after the House amended the Senate version to require that 10 percent of the fees be reserved for transit projects.
  • House Bill 244 – Sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-164), this bill will require electric membership corporations to comply with certain requirements when determining the rates, fees, terms, conditions, and specifications for attachments to utility poles by communications service providers. The PSC would adopt the related requirements with an effective date of July 1, 2021. 
  • House Bill 927 and Senate Bill 426 – Sponsored by Rep. Don Parsons (R-44) and governor’s floor leader Sen. Brian Strickland (R-17), respectively, would both require any facility that emits ethylene oxide, used in sterilizing medical instruments, to report the spill or release of any amount to the state Environmental Protection Division within 24 hours of discovery. Information regarding any reported spills or releases would be made publically available on the EPD website. The identical bills passed their respective chambers of origin on March 12, 2020.  
  • House Bill 1114 – Sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-43), this bill would allow for the expansion of Medicaid coverage in Georgia from two to six months of postpartum care following the birth of a child. It also would allow for Medicaid coverage of lactation care and services for pregnant and lactating women. This bill comes as Georgia grapples with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.
  • Senate Bill 367 – Sponsored by Sen. PK Martin (R-9) and backed by Gov. Kemp and Superintendent Richard Woods, this bill seeks to reduce the number of assessments administered to Georgia’s students each year and to establish parameters around the timing of their administration. The bill, which passed the Senate, awaits action in the House Education Committee. Notably, the Superintendent has called for the suspension of Georgia Milestones testing in the current academic year until further notice.