Georgia New Markets Jobs Act clears House Committee


Now that the 2013 legislative session is almost three-quarters of the way through, the House of Representatives is handling more legislation than at any other time this session. Your legislators spend longer days at the Capitol and vote on more legislation as it comes through various committees.

I am pleased to report that the Georgia New Jobs Market Act (HB 395), which I introduced, was approved by the House Insurance Committee on Feb. 28. This legislation deals with insurance premium tax credits meant to promote rural economic development. The investments made are limited to small businesses in low-income areas. I have said all along that small business growth and expansions will grow us out of this tough economy faster than any other class of business.

That is the intent of HB 395, and I am pleased that the Georgia Chamber of Commerce has announced its support for this measure. Gov. Nathan Deal has also indicated that his office will consider this type of job creation proposal for his legislative package aimed at making Georgia more competitive economically. HB 395 now awaits action on the House floor.

A number of other bills that I sponsored or co-sponsored made another step toward becoming law last week, including:
• HB 103, which would allow the issuance of group life insurance policies to certain groups as approved by the Commissioner and has already passed the House, was favorably reported by the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee.
• HB 198, which would establish a licensing process for health insurance navigators under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and has already passed the House, was approved by the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee.
• HB 202, which would require performing value engineering studies for highways, bridges and ferries and has already passed the House was favorably reported by the Senate Transportation Committee.
• HB 207, which would establish a special two-day turkey hunting season for young and disabled hunters, was approved by the House Game, Fish & Parks Committee.
• HB 229, which would remove the insurer annual publication requirement, was favorably reported by the House Insurance Committee.
• HB 254, which would allow electronic proof of motor vehicle insurance and has already passed the House, was favorably reported by the Senate Public Safety Committee.
• HB 298, which would create the Agricultural Commodity Commission for Georgia Grown Products, was approved by the House and sent to the Senate.
• HB 312, which would implement a comprehensive revision of the law regulating insurance holding company systems, made it through the House Insurance Committee.
• HB 375, which would allow insurance policy cancellations under certain circumstances related to policy terms that permit an audit or rate investigation and noncompliance by the insured, was favorably reported by the House Insurance Committee.
• HB 389, which would establish sunset requirements for the provision of conversion and enhanced conversion rights and coverage, was passed by the House Insurance Committee.
• HB 403, which would redefine the term municipality for water and sewer projects, was favorably reported by the House Ways & Means Committee.
• HB 409, which would prohibit local governments from requiring the spaying or neutering of any animal or imposing certain other restrictions on domestic dog or cat ownership, made it through the House State Planning & Community Affairs Committee.
• HB 486, which would provide vehicle weight qualifications for issuance of annual commercial wrecker emergency tow permits, was approved by the House Transportation Committee.

Some of the bills the House approved last week would strengthen Georgia’s ethics laws and modernize Georgia’s juvenile justice code.

House Bills 142 and 143 would strengthen Georgia’s ethics laws by banning expenditures by lobbyists on individual members of the General Assembly and by making common sense changes to the campaign contribution disclosure requirements. HB 142 specifically bans gifts of tickets to athletic, sporting, recreational, musical concerts and other entertainment events from lobbyists to state officials, which is currently allowed.

The only exception would be for events where all members of the General Assembly are invited, such as the annual legislative day held at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech or other collegiate sporting events held in Georgia. Food and beverages may be provided to legislators only at group events where all members of the General Assembly, all members of the state House or Senate, all members of a standing committee or subcommittee of either body or a caucus of either body are invited.

HB 142 would also restore power to the state ethics commission by empowering it with rule making authority. Further, it clarifies and broadens the definition of who must register as a lobbyist. I agree with changes that were made to the bill to ensure that local citizens could still come to the Capitol as individuals and exercise their right to let their elected officials hear their views on the issues. This provision covers only those who represent organizations and come to the Capitol at least five days per session. Also, the lobbyist registration fee is reduced from $300 to $25 under this provision.

HB 143, meanwhile, would require greater transparency in campaign finance by requiring disclosure of all contributions of more than $100 received between Jan. 1 of each year and the convening of the General Assembly’s regular session. These campaign contributions would have to be disclosed with five days of the beginning of the legislative session.

House Bill 242, or the Juvenile Justice Reform bill, would substantially revise and modernize provisions relating to Georgia’s juvenile proceedings and enact comprehensive juvenile justice reforms. These changes have been discussed by advocacy organizations for years and many were recommended by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which Gov. Nathan Deal asked to study the state’s juvenile justice system and formulate ways to improve public safety while decreasing costs.

Among the changes proposed by HB 242 are general definitions of key terms used in juvenile courts and guiding principles that would apply in all juvenile court proceedings. HB 242 would also provide consistency with national standards for cases involving children who have been abused or neglected by the adults responsible for their well-being. Additionally, the bill would create a new approach for children who have committed acts that would not be against the law if they were adults, such as skipping school, running away from home, or violating curfew.

This bill also revises current law regarding how Georgia courts determine a child’s competency in juvenile proceedings. In addition to the many changes made to Georgia law governing juvenile proceedings in state courts, HB 242 makes some changes to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

These bills now go to the Senate for its consideration.

Thank you for the privilege of representing you at the State Capitol. As always, please contact me with your views on the issues or whenever I can be of service.

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