The Georgia General Assembly adjourned on day 40, “Sine Die,” on Wednesday, March 31. This session was difficult, due to the pandemic, with social distancing in place, and mandatory COVID testing, twice a week. Members of the House were divided between the House Chamber, House gallery and in Room 341 (the Appropriations & Rules Committee room). The Senate divided between the Senate Chamber and Senate gallery. One plus for this session, however, was tablets were provided for those not seated in the House Chamber, for ease in voting.
The last day of session, as usual was spent passing bills, and agreeing or disagreeing to amendments or substitutions. Legislation that did not make it out of both the House and Senate is still viable for the second half of the two-year term, that begins January 10, 2022. Below are key pieces of legislation that passed. This summary of key legislation will be continued in the next two or three weeks of my newsletter, due to its length.
House Bill 43 requires motor vehicle registration application forms to include a section for the applicant to disclose a physical, mental, or neurological condition that impedes the ability of the applicant to communicate.
House Bill 94 designates two new felony crimes:
•Theft by possession of stolen mail, with punishment of between one to five years: Guilty if in possession of stolen mail addressed to three or more different addresses, and possess a minimum of 10 separate pieces of stolen mail. Each set of 10 separate pieces of stolen mail constitutes a separate crime
•Porch Piracy, with punishment of one to five years: Guilty if you take, or remove, three or more envelopes, bags, packages, or other sealed items of another person from that person's porch, steps, or entranceway without permission and so long as those items were taken from at least three different addresses
In both crimes, presiding judge has discretion to sentence a defendant to a misdemeanor.
House Bill 98 establishes when agencies hold meetings under emergency conditions, persons or agencies who participate by teleconference, must be treated as fully participating, as if they were physically attending the meeting.
House Bill 112 extends the protections provided for by the 'Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act' from July 14, 2021, to July 14, 2022.
House Bill 114 amends O.C.G.A. 48-7-29.15, relating to the tax credit for adoption of a foster child, by increasing the current credit from $2,000 to $6,000 per foster child for the first five years of adoption and returning to $2,000 per year until the child reaches the age of 18. Unused credits are non-refundable and cannot be carried forward to a future year's tax liability.
House Bill 128 creates Gracie's Law to establish provisions to prevent the discrimination of individuals with disabilities from receiving an anatomical gift or organ transplant, and revises parental requirements for consent related to cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
One important piece of legislation that was held up in Senate and did not pass this session: House Bill 290 The “Patient and Resident Representation and Visitation Act,” which would protect visitation rights for authorized legal representatives of patients or residents in hospitals and long-term care facilities. This has been an issue for families throughout the pandemic, with friends and loved ones, having to face the pandemic alone. We will work hard in the 2022 session to get this bill passed, with or without continued “stay in place” and “social distancing” policies.
As stated earlier, watch for next week’s newsletter, for the continuation of the key legislative wrap-up. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative for House District 32.
Please be in touch with me on any matter of state government, at 404-463-3793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.