2018 Legislative Session Week Twelve
My colleagues and I reconvened last week for “sine die,” our twelfth and final week of the 2018 legislative session. Sine die, a Latin term, translates to “without assigning a day for further meeting.” Because this was our final opportunity to meet, we worked late into the night to ensure the passing of significant legislation. Below are the important bills successfully passed.
Crime Victim Protection
The House unanimously passed these adjoining bipartisan measures towards crime victim protection:
- Senate Bill 127 – This bill will allow victims to be heard by the court if and when they are denied their constitutional rights to participation and information. If the victim makes a written request to the prosecuting attorney to be notified of all proceedings, provides appropriate contact information, and asserts that no notifications have been provided, the victim will have 20 days to file a motion to be heard.
- Senate Resolution 146 – This bill is also known as“Marsy’s Law,” and it will provide crime victims with explicit rights in the Georgia Constitution by placing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. These rights would include the following:
- Reasonable, accurate and timely notice of any court proceedings or schedule changes involving the alleged crime
- Reasonable and timely notice of the arrest, release or escape of the accused
- The opportunity to be heard in any proceedings involving the release, plea or sentencing of the accused
- To be informed of his or her rights
- Senate Bill 154 – In an effort to justly convict those in a position of authority who are responsible for sexual assault, this bill expands the definition of sexual assault by specifying it in a first and second degree. Definitions and exceptions include:
- This bill is applicable to employees and agents of any school, community supervision offices, probation offices, law enforcement agencies, hospital, correctional facilities, juvenile detention facilities, disability services facilities or child welfare and youth services facilities, as well as psychotherapy counselors and practitioners and employees, agents and volunteers of licensed facilities that provide drug and alcohol treatment, senior living care or hospice services.
- Sexual assault in the first degree would be considered as sexually explicit conduct with a victim under a person of authority’s care or supervision. The conviction would be a prison sentence of one to 25 years, a fine of a maximum of $100,000, and registry as a sex offender.
- Sexual assault in the second degree would be considered as sexual contact with a victim under a person of authority’s care or supervision. The conviction would be a prison sentence of one to five years and a fine of a maximum of $25,000; however, registry as a sex offender would not be required unless the offender is convicted of a second or subsequent offense.
- Exceptions include: If the offender did not have supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim at the time of the offense, if the victim is younger than 16-years-old, if the victim is between 14 and 16-years-old and the offender is 18-years-old or younger, and if the victim is at least 16-years-old and the offender is younger than 21-years-old.
- Senate Bill 407 – As the last criminal justice reform bill to be passed under Governor Nathan Deal’s administration, this bill is quite detailed and thorough. Specificities include:
- The Bail System: Authorizing courts of inquiry to set bail for city ordinance violations; prohibiting courts from imposing excessive bail; requiring courts to only impose conditions reasonably necessary to ensure court attendance and protect public safety; and requiring courts to consider the accused’s financial resources, earnings and other economic factors when determining bail.
- Local Ordinance Violations: Allowance of the defendant to satisfy any fines or fees through community service, and courts could waive, modify or convert fines and fees if the court finds that the defendant has a significant financial hardship.
- Misdemeanors: The Judicial Council of Georgia would develop a uniform misdemeanor citation and complaint form for use by law enforcement officials, and the misdemeanors would be allowed to be prosecuted by accusation, citation or citation and arrest. The list of misdemeanor crimes an officer can arrest by citation, and prior to the offender’s release, would also be expanded. The officer would be required to review the accused’s criminal record and ensure the accused’s fingerprints are obtained.
- Driver’s Licenses: Accountability court judges would be authorized to order the Department of Driver Services to reinstate or revoke driver’s licenses or limited permits as a reward or sanction for actions in the accountability court, and the court would be permitted to grant petitions for early termination of probation that the state does not oppose within 90 days of receiving the petition.
- Supervision Fees: Fees collected on pay-only probation would be capped at the rate in the private probation company’s contract, and the court would provide probationers who fail to report a 10-day grace period from the time the officer mails a letter to the probationer, as long as the probationer reports.
- Firearms: Several provisions regarding firearm theft and those prohibited from possessing a firearm are included in this bill, and the Department of Community Health would be authorized to share information on the prescription drug monitoring program database with federal agents and would allow for disclosure to out-of-state prescription drug monitoring programs operated by governmental entities.
- Technical College System: Technical College System police officers would be allowed to arrest for offenses committed on or within 500 feet of a Technical College System property.
- Other: Provisions for courts to implement electronic filing and payment systems and protections for first offenders’ records.
- Senate Bill 427 – This bill would enforce our state’s child support laws to mirror the federal regulatory changes that went into effect on Jan. 20, 2017. Requirements include:
- Courts must consider an obligor’s, or an individual that owes child support, earnings, income, ability to pay child support and the basic needs of the recipients of such support when making a final determination of child support. If a parent fails to produce reliable evidence of their earnings, their income for the current year may be assigned by the court based off the parent’s ability to earn and other economic factors. If the parent is incarcerated, their income may be assigned based off their actual income and assets available, not off their pre-incarceration wages.
- Courts would be prohibited from treating incarceration as willful or voluntary unemployment or underemployed when setting a child support amount.
- Creating and administering a designation program to encourage economic development and attract technology-enabled growth, which would promote statewide broadband deployment
- A child’s enrollment in a public health care program, such as Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids, may satisfy the health care requirement for providing for the child’s health care needs in a child support order; however, such enrollment would not prevent a court from ordering parents to insure their child.
- Senate Bill 401 – In an effort to better prepare our students for their future careers, this bill would require middle school students to receive counseling on career evaluation. All students would be required to develop a graduation plan before the completion of eighth grade. High school students would receive guidance and counseling on their career interests, as well. The Department of Education would then review each school counselor’s role, workload and program service delivery in grades six through twelve, and report research to the State Board of Education and the Georgia General Assembly. This bill seeks to ensure that students are provided with the tools needed to explore their career interests.
- House Resolution 1698 – In order to learn how to best spur economic growth in the rural areas of our state, this resolution hopes to explore ways to streamline the use of public rights-of-way while maintaining equitable compensation and local control. In order to establish equability among current and future communications services providers, the RDC will be urged to examine new pole rates, rentals and pole ownership. In order to learn how to properly manage public rights-of-way, the RDC will be urged to solicit input from the Georgia Department of Transportation, local governments, communications services providers and other relevant parties.
- Senate Bill 426 – This bill would attempt to extend broadband services to the rural sections of our state by authorizing electric membership corporations (the EMC) to supply and operate these services in counties with a population of 50,000 or less. These authorizations would only be made if the EMC secures a certificate of authority from the Public Service Commission.
The Fiscal Year 2019 Budget
- An additional $166.7 million for local school systems
- $16 million for school security
- $100 million in bonds for transit
Now that the 2018 legislative session is complete, all measures that were passed by the House and the Senate will now be sent to Governor Deal for reviewing, signing, or vetoing in the next 40 days. If the Governor fails to sign or veto any legislation in the 40 day period, that legislation will officially become law; any bills the Governor does choose to sign will officially become law as well. Although my work in this year’s session is officially over, I look forward to continuing to serve District 110, and I encourage you to call or email me with any questions or concerns. 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 Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov.