2013 Capitol Wrap Up

Greetings!


2013 Session Wrap Up 

The 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly began late (January 14) and ended early (March 28) – usually indicating good news for taxpayers. The session was largely uneventful, addressing several major items and leaving others for discussion another day. I’ve listed some of the highlights below; please contact me with any questions, concerns, ideas, or suggestions you may have regarding our state.

HB 106 – Fiscal Year 2014 Budget
The FY 2014 budget is balanced at $19.9 billion in state revenues (a 2.8% increase) and $37.1 billion overall. Our investment in education greatly improved this year at 53.4% of state spending or $10.6 billion. HB 106 fully funds Quality Basic Education enrollment growth and Equalization Grants. The pre-K school year is restored to 180 days and Georgia Gwinnett College received the necessary funding to continue its’ strong growth. I voted YES.

HB 142 and HB 143 – Ethics Reform

These measures strengthen Georgia’s ethics laws by placing limitations on lobbyist spending, granting rule-making authority to the Ethics Commission, and ease the burden on local officials. The reforms also prohibit providing sporting event tickets or paying for recreational outings and establishes limits on travel expenses. I voted YES.

HB 178 – Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act

This bill addresses the abuse of legal pain medications by regulating and licensing pain management clinics. The GBI estimates that since 2010, the number of pain management clinics in Georgia has risen from 10 to 125. Passage of HB 178 requires all pain management clinics register with the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy and be owned by a licensed physician or hospital. I voted YES.

HB 242 – Juvenile Justice Reform

This bill implements many of the recommendations of Governor Deal’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform as it relates to juvenile offenders. The bill attempts to improve public safety, outcomes, rehabilitation of non-violent juveniles, and reduce the costs of services. I voted YES.

HB 372 – HOPE Grant Program for Technical Schools

The HOPE grant program is different from the HOPE scholarship program. The bill lowers the eligibility threshold to 2.0 for HOPE grant recipients and mandates that our Technical College System change from an enrollment-driven formula to an outcome-driven formula in annual budget requests. I voted YES.

HB 487 – Increases the Lottery Commissions supervision of Class B games

This is a comprehensive reform bill aimed at eliminating illegal gambling via coin-operated games often located within convenience stores. In addition to transferring oversight from the Department of Revenue to the Lottery Commission, this legislation also permits players to redeem coupons for lottery tickets – the only game method in Georgia that may legally offer cash payouts. I voted YES.

SB 24 – Provider Payment Fee

The “Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act” often referred to as the “Hospital Bed Tax” authorizes the Department of Community Health to establish a fee on hospitals to utilize to secure additional federal Medicaid funds that are returned to hospitals to offset costs associated with providing Medicaid services. The General Assembly retains the authority to override the DCH Board’s assessment and the bill is automatically repealed on June 30, 2017 unless reauthorized by the General Assembly. I voted YES.

SB 136 – BUI/DUI Alignment

SB 136 lowers the legal limit for Boating Under the Influence to .08 grams – the same as DUI in an automobile. I voted YES.

HB 99 – Homebrew Beer Competitions

This bill increases to 200 gallons (matching the federal limit) the amount of home brewed beer one may produce (in any home with two people of legal age), establishes legal transportation methods, and permits home brew beer completions. I voted YES.

Two measures that did not pass that will be considered again next session are:

HB 512 / SB 101 – Safe Carry Protection Act
This bill will greatly expand our personal freedoms for licensed weapons permit holders to carry a firearm of their choosing in more places including bars, churches, and campuses. Private property owners maintain their right to restrict firearms on their property.

I strongly support passage.

HB 159 – Property Protection Bill

This legislation simply states that taxes and only taxes appear on your property tax bill. Support continues to grow for this strong Constitutional private property measure that will remove non-tax fees from your property tax bill.

I am the author.

Legislation Authored or Co-Sponsored

Should you be interested in the legislation that I have authored or co-sponsored and the current status, you may review those bills here.

As always, I remain appreciative that you allow me to serve as your state Representative. I encourage you to contact me with any comments or questions you have about the legislation being considered at the state Capitol.  Now that we are out of session, you can reach me on my cell at 404-966-5804 or via email at brett@voteharrell.com

Thank you,

 

Brett Harrell