Senator Bill Heath

We have passed Crossover Day, signifying that the legislative session is more than 75 percent complete. On Monday, Feb. 29, we moved very quickly to get through our lengthy calendar of 22 bills.

Crossover Day was the deadline for the Senate to pass bills in time to be transferred to the House. From this point forward, the Senate will primarily be hearing bills that originated in the House.

This week, the General Assembly will convene for Legislative Days 32, 33, 34 and 35. During this time, the Senate is expected to vote on the budget for the 2017 Fiscal Year which is anticipated to allocate more than $23 billion in tax revenue. Passing a balanced budget is the last remaining constitutional requirement on this session.

Senate committees will also be hard at work this week reviewing and approving House Bills that have crossed over.

The following bills were approved by the Senate this past week:

Senate Bill 6

SB 6 would create a special driver’s privilege card for immigrants granted lawful alien status under the deferred action program. The bill also creates a special identification card for lawful aliens which is noticeably different from a standard issue driver’s license.

Senate Bill 77

SB 77 would require the collection and analysis of DNA samples from individuals convicted of felonies or those who are indicted for “serious offenses,” including serious violent felonies and 12 other criminal offenses.

Senate Bill 206

SB 206 would expand existing Georgia law to instruct water suppliers to not refuse service to any kind of property, no matter the debts incurred by the previous owner, occupant, or lessee.

Senate Bill 304

SB 304 would eliminate the current requirement to remove an individual’s involuntary hospitalization records maintained by the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) after five years. It establishes a judicial process through which records can be removed from the database following a petition to the court.

Senate Bill 310

SB 310 bill would require schools and agencies applying for education grants over $20 million to submit a written analysis to the General Assembly. The analysis must include long-term costs of the project, the impact on state and local education policy, the purpose of the grant and the grant’s relationship with existing law.

Senate Bill 328

SB 328 would clarify that only ‘disruptive’ students, between the ages 6 to 16, are required to be sent to an alternative school instead of expulsion or suspension.

Senate Bill 336

SB 336 would improve options for creating and implementing retirement plans under the Georgia Municipal Employees Benefit System (GMEBS).

Senate Bill 346

SB 346 would exempt a public road improvement and construction project costing less than $100 million from additional environmental reporting if the project is using state or local funds exclusively.

Senate Bill 355

SB 355 would allow students with a doctor’s note for illness or life-threatening sickness to be excused from standardized testing and to request standardized tests be provided in paper and pencil format.

Senate Bill 375

SB 375 establishes the legal process for both city incorporation and creating city-county consolidated governments.

Senate Bill 385

SB 385 would establish criteria for advertising as a certified or board certified physician. Advertisements must contain the full name of the certifying board, which must also be a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Osteopathic Association.

Senate Bill 389

SB 389 would enforce new reforms to protect against State Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) fraud. The legislation would also add new exceptions for maximum assistance amounts and establish a cash diversion program for TANF participants.

Senate Bill 402

SB 402 establishes a State Commission on Narcotic Treatment Programs and enacts a moratorium on issuing licenses to any new narcotic treatment clinics in the state. The moratorium would allow time for legislators and state officials to assess the current state of narcotic treatment programs in Georgia, and develop recommendations for the licensing and regulation process.

Senate Bill 404

SB 404 allows uniformed law enforcement officers to use Department of Public Safety-issued vehicles when working off-duty jobs requiring vested police powers. The bill would only extend to officers from the Uniform Division, the Motor Carrier Compliance Enforcement Section and the Capitol Police Division.

Senate Bill 409

SB 409 instructs public schools, including all local charter schools and state charter schools, to post a sign containing the toll-free number operated by the Department of Family and Children Services to report child abuse or neglect.

Senate Bill 416

SB 416 reorganizes the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC) to become a “fusion” center in which local, state and federal agencies work together on specific issues. The GISAC promotes public safety by working to detect, prevent and respond to criminal or terroristic activities. The director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation would be responsible for GISAC oversight.

Senate Bill 417

SB 417 would create a trail to encourage Georgia residents and tourists to visit production sites of films and television shows made in Georgia. The Georgia Department of Economic Development would be responsible for developing and locating the sites and the Department of Transportation would be responsible for trail maintenance.

Senate Bill 420

SB 420 would require voters to approve any public expenditure for the establishment, maintenance and operation of fixed guideway transit. This bill requires the governing authority of a county specify the type and location of the guideway transit, the date when costs will be paid in full and the capital costs to develop and maintain the transit system.

Senate Resolution 388

SR 388 would propose a constitutional amendment to allow religious or faith-based organizations to receive state funding to perform social services. Current law prohibits money from the general fund to be used, directly or indirectly, to aid any religious or sectarian organization. This bill creates an exception for providing social services.

Senate Resolution 604

SR 604 proposes a constitutional amendment to prohibit the collection of any state ad valorem taxes after January 1, 2017.

Senate Resolution 675

SR 675 would amend the Georgia Constitution to declare English as Georgia’s official language.

Senate Resolution 756

SR 756 proposes a constitutional amendment which would trigger a reduction in state income taxes based on the size of both the general fund and the “rainy day fund”. If the general fund reaches $23.6 billion and the rainy day fund exceeds 8 percent of that amount, a 0.1 percentage point reduction would occur. If the general fund reaches $24.2 billion with at least eight percent of that total in reserve, individual state income taxes would drop an additional 0.1 percentage point. These reductions must occur by the year 2020.