2018 Legislative Session Week Eight
“Crossover Day,” the busiest day of the entire legislative session, was on Wednesday, February 28th of week eight. Since this was the last day a piece of legislation could pass out of its original chamber and still remain eligible for consideration by the opposite legislative chamber, my colleagues and I worked late hours to ensure the passing of significant bills. Now that “Crossover Day” has passed, all legislation that passed the House is being reviewed by the Senate, and all legislation passed by the Senate is being reviewed by the House. We passed the following measures this week:
House Rural Development Council
- House Bill 951 – Passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support, this bill would create a central information and research hub for rural leadership training and best practices called the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation (CRPI). Located within a college or institution of the University System of Georgia that awards Bachelor of Science degrees in rural community development, these centers will be offered guidance by a 12-member Georgia Rural Development Council. Through collaboration with the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Agriculture, these centers would be responsible for research and study of issues affecting rural economic development. A deputy commissioner for rural Georgia would also be created.
- House Bill 887 – This bill would establish the following:
- The Georgia Communications Services Tax Act, allowing municipal corporations and electrical membership corporations (EMCs) to provide broadband service in unserved areas within their corporate limits
- The Local Government Communication Services Fair Competition Act of 2018, expanded to include all communication services, not just cable services
- The allowance of communities to apply to be certified as broadband ready through the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA)
- The requirement of GEMA’s director to develop a grant program that would award projects to qualified broadband providers who request the least amount of money to expand in unserved areas
- The authorization of GEMA to create a broadband availability map of the state showing unserved areas and publish the map on GEMA’s website
- The regulation of an authority’s pole attachment rate
- House Bill 764 – In an effort to expand the current list of qualifying medical conditions for low THC oil treatment, this bill added two additional illnesses to that list, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intractable pain. After applying for Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry under the Georgia Department of Public Health at the recommendation of their physicians, these individuals would receive an identification card exempting them from medical cannabis oil possession prosecution in Georgia. The legal possession amount would be a maximum of 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil with a maximum of 5 percent THC.
- House Bill 605 – By updating Georgia’s current Hidden Predator Act, this bill seeks to keep individuals or entities who conceal child abuse accountable for their actions by doing the following:
- Extending the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases from age 23 to age 38
- Lengthening the discovery time period from two years to four years for a victim who experiences psychological or emotional problems as a result of child sexual abuse to report such abuse
- Establishing a one-year period for a childhood sexual abuse victim to file civil actions against an entity if the entity: was responsible for the victim’s care; knew or should have known of the conduct that brought about the civil action; or intentionally or consciously concealed evidence of sexual abuse
- House Bill 673 – This bill would create a hands-free driving law in the state of Georgia, prohibiting drivers from holding, supporting or reaching for a wireless telecommunication device or a stand-alone electronic device while operating a vehicle; banning them from texting, browsing the internet or watching or recording videos; permitting them to use GPS navigation and voice-to-text features on their devices; and charging any violations with a misdemeanor. First-time offenders would also receive a 2-point deduction on their driver’s license; repeat offenders would undergo a staggered point deduction system. The following will not be applicable for violation: operating these devices while a vehicle is lawfully parked, while reporting an emergency or a hazardous road condition or to utility service providers, law enforcement officers or first responders operating within the scope of their employment.
Identity Theft/Credit Fraud
- House Bill 866 – In an attempt to decrease the amount of identity theft, this bill would update current credit reporting agency laws, prohibiting them from charging a fee for freezing or unfreezing a consumer account.
- House Bill 718 – After presenting proper documentation, this bill would allow students to have up to five excused absences for military affairs sponsored events if their parent or guardian currently serves or previously served in the armed forces, Reserves or National Guard; however, not all Georgia school systems would be required to adopt this policy.
- House Bill 930 – Although this bill was introduced weeks ago, it was overwhelmingly passed in the House this week with a vote of 162-13. This bill will do the following for the metropolitan Atlanta region:
- Facilitate transit coordination, integration, and efficiency
- Promote a seamless and high-quality transportation system
- Create the Atlanta-region Transit Link (ATL) Authority to coordinate transit planning, funding and operations
- Establish state and local funding sources to improve transit access
Now that we have officially completed “Crossover Day,” the House will continue to review Senate measures and pass them in the House Chamber. Our final day of the 2018 legislative session is March 28, and I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office or call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.