Gold Dome Report — Committee Day

The General Assembly was in adjournment today, but lawmakers and lobbyists were watching attentively the action in Room 341 this morning. There, beginning at 7:30 a.m., House appropriators began slowly revealing their proposals for the FY22 State Budget. By the time all was unveiled, the House had proposed $7.6M in additional spending and millions more in redirections from Governor Kemp’s original proposal. Although the total size of the budget increased only marginally, appropriators had more than $100M in funds to re-allocate due to expected savings from the temporary increase of FMAP funding from the federal government in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. A major recipient of these recovered funds was the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, which receives a $36M+ infusion for mental health services in the House spending plan. More highlights from the budget, and a look ahead at the expected floor action tomorrow for Legislative Day 27 are in today’s #GoldDomeReport.

In today’s Report:

  • House Appropriations Advances FY22 State Budget
  • Committee Reports
  • Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 27

House Appropriations Advances FY22 State Budget

House appropriators awoke early this morning to review and sign off their version of the FY22 State Budget. The House proposal, which overall includes $7.6M in additional funds from the Governor’s original proposal, is particularly favorable to mental health, including additions of over $36M to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Highlights of changes from the Governor’s proposal in the House’s spending plan, which will be taken up by the full House on Friday, are below:

Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities

  • Adult Addictive Disease Services
    • Increase of $2,716,634 for core services to promote equity among providers.
    • Restoration of $125,000 for Hepatitis C projects.
  • Adult Developmental Disabilities Services
    • Increase of $12,343,735 for a 5% rate increase for intellectual and developmental disability providers (pending CMS approval).
    • Annualization of $7,028,616 for a behavioral health crisis center for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
    • Restoration of $4,656,799 for non-waiver services in family support.
    • Language reflecting intent to continue to serve the estimated 188 individuals who are receiving community living supports services who may be impacted by the COMP waiver renewal (pending CMS approval).
  • Adult Forensic Services
    • Increase of $621,630 for six forensic peer mentors.
  • Adult Mental Health Services
    • Increase of $6,486,247 for core services to promote equity among providers.
    • Addition of $114,039 to support the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
    • Addition of $177,748 for suicide prevention related to the COVID-19 pandemic and a suicide epidemiologist.
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
    • Increase of $2,000,000 to accelerate expansion of the Georgia Apex Program.
    • Addition of $102,502 for mental health and suicide prevention training in schools and a youth suicide prevention specialist.

Department of Community Health

  • Departmental Administration
    • Addition of $556,456 for two senior leadership positions to support increasing workload.
  • Health Care Access and Improvement
    • Elimination of $500,000 for start-up funding for FQHCs.
    • Addition of $500,000 in start-up grants for FQHCs in Jeff Davis and Marion counties.
  • Healthcare Facility Regulation
    • Addition of $7,454,466 to support strategic measures for stabilizing staffing in the nursing home program.
  • Medicaid – Aged, Blind, and Disabled
    • Reduction of $74,646,745 in State funds to reflect savings from the temporary FMAP increase through September 30, 2021.
    • Addition of $25,328,540 to provide a 10% rate increase for home and community-based service providers.
    • Addition of $11,932,550 to provide a 2% rate increase for skilled nursing centers.
    • Addition of $3,470,204 for skilled nursing centers to update the general and professional liability, property insurance, and property tax pass-through rate components to current costs.
  • Medicaid – Low Income
    • Reduction of $30,967,006 in State funds to reflect savings from the temporary FMAP increase through September 30, 2021.
    • Addition of $7,097,618 to increase 18 primary care and OB/GYN codes to 2020 Medicare levels.
  • PeachCare
    • Reduction of $624,566 in State funds to reflect savings from the temporary FMAP increase through September 30, 2021.
  • State Health Benefit Plan
    • Addition of $500,000 for a pilot drug deactivation program.
  • Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce
    • Addition of $5,326,691 for Mercer School of Medicine’s medical school campus in Columbus.
    • Addition of $250,000 for a medical examiner/forensic pathologist at Mercer School of Medicine.
    • Addition of $180,000 for initial planning work for the establishment of a graduate medical education program at Southeast Georgia Health System.

Department of Early Care and Learning

  • Addition of $3,500,000 for the Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program to provide an additional 625 slots.

Department of Education

  • Agricultural Education
    • Addition of $425,000 for five young farmer positions in Baldwin, Fulton, Pickens, Ware, and Worth counties.
    • Increase of $83,545 to offset the austerity reduction for the Area Teacher Program, Extended Day/Year, Young Farmers, and Youth Camps.
  • Charter Schools
    • Addition of $1,000,000 for charter facility grants pursuant to HB 430, passed in 2017.
  • Information Technology Services
    • Addition of $75,000 for a pilot program to provide access to STEM and AP STEM virtual courses to students in rural Georgia without district courses.
  • Non QBE Formula Grants
    • Restoration of $846,116 (including federal CARES funds) for Residential Treatment Facilities.
    • Increase of $530,000 for feminine hygiene grants and language to prioritize grants to school systems that have low property tax wealth and high percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
    • Addition of $125,000 for a Residential Treatment Facilities budget analyst/grant manager.
    • Reduction of $224,175 in sparsity grants based on enrollment data.
  • Nutrition
    • Addition of $5,000,000 for school nutrition.
  • RESAs
    • Restoration of $174,524 in formula funds driven by enrollment.
  • Technology/Career Education
    • Increase of $166,894 to offset the austerity reduction for Extended Day/Year, Vocational Supervisors, Industry Certification, and Youth Apprenticeship.
    • Transfer of $323,000 for the Rural Teacher Training Initiative to the Curriculum Development program.
  • Testing
    • Addition of $250,000 for a pilot program for Computer Science Principles AP exams with a focus on schools and systems with no AP coursework.

Department of Human Services

  • Restoration of $951,700 for contracts for educational services with the Multi-Agency Alliance for Children.

Juvenile Courts

  • Elimination of $122,600 for a new Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Statewide Coordinator position.
  • Addition of $25,000 for the creation of a Columbia County Judicial Circuit.

Department of Public Health

  • Adolescent and Adult Health Promotion
    • Addition of $240,000 for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia.
    • Addition of $200,000 for feminine hygiene products.
    • Addition of $100,000 for Georgia CORE.
  • Departmental Administration
    • Addition of $857,986 for a chief medical officer, deputy commissioner of public health, and a chief data officer to support the agency with COVID-19 pandemic response and ongoing public health leadership.
  • Epidemiology Addition of $1,500,000 for ongoing maintenance and operations of the new vaccine management system.

Bond Package

  • Addition of $2,885,000 in twenty-year bonds for renovation and addition to Mobley Hall at the Georgia FFA/FCCLA Center.
  • Addition of $2,260,000 in five-year bonds for the purchase of agricultural education equipment statewide.
  • Addition of $2,000,000 in ten-year bonds to incentivize the purchase of alternative fuel school buses and study the future feasibility of a fully-electric school bus fleet.
  • Addition of $500,000 for equipment for construction industry certification programs statewide.
  • Reduction of $2,110,000 in five-year bonds for the purchase of career, technical, and agricultural equipment statewide.

House Health and Human Services Committee
Chairman Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) and the Health and Human Services Committee heard the following bills around lunch time:

  • HB 653, authored by Representative Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), seeks to amend O.C.G.A. 26-4-5 and the definition of “pharmacy care” to assure Georgians that they will have access to COVID-19 testing by pharmacists. It also addresses the antibody testing as it will likely be available as an over-the-counter product. Chairman Cooper indicated that if language is attempted to be added, the legislation will not move forward. This language is a compromise by a number of parties. There were some questions around testing which can presently be done by pharmacies. Chairman Cooper noted that vaccines are going to pharmacies and not to physicians; individuals who are sick would rather have their vaccines provided at their physicians’ offices. With more available vaccines, that problem should resolve. Greg Reybold with the Georgia Pharmacy Association spoke in support of the legislation – this ensures asymptomatic folks can have access to testing. Bethany Sherrer, with the Medical Association of Georgia, acknowledged the understanding for the need for testing. Physicians want to get patients back to their medical homes for ongoing needs and preventative measures. The legislation provides a balance of those needs. The bill received a DO PASS recommendation on the Committee Substitute, LC 33 8745S, moving it now to the House Rules Committee.
  • HB 627, authored by Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta), seeks to address Chapter 5 of Title 43 regarding the licensing of athletic trainers. Section 1 is of concern because of the proposed, changing of the definition to “athletic injury.” The definition change is requested for “clarity.” They need to understand more about where it was an activity or a setting which caused the injury. . No stakeholders have raised questions. Today’s bill was a Committee Substitute, LC 33 8739S. A physician, however, will remain as a “gatekeeper” for an athletic trainer to provide services. Lines 25-28 in the substitute strikes a current exemption for school folks from licensure. If the individuals do more than what is covered under Good Samaritan, folks will be required to be licensed. Representative Karen Bennett (D-Tucker) asked about the school trainers as well – coaches an individual who works with a team would they not be able to apply ice, stretching exercises, or wrapping an injury? The bill tries to distinguish who is licensed and who is not per Representative LaHood. Application of ice would not be an issue. Georgia Board of Athletic Trainers – Chairman Cooper asked if the author talked to the schools about the changes. Representative Bennett also asked for a clarification of the terms injury and condition. The changes could allow a physician to hire a physician trainer to work in his or her office. Paul Hicks, a licensed athletic trainer, explained about the conflicting language and when to respond to complaints; this information was shared with Mr. Hicks by the State Board. The change does not change scope; it eliminates the restrictive language. It still requires physician screening; return to play or naming of a condition then a person needs to be licensed to do so which is what the legislation attempts to do. It is not to limit first aid or good Samaritan efforts. Medical decision making requires a license. Representative Mark Newton (R-Augusta) stated that it seems that his reading is that it requires more to undergo licensure. Representative Dexter Sharper (D-Valdosta) asked if the problem was that folks were not being referred to athletic trainers. There have been complaints to the State Board about the ambiguity in the law over activities undertaken by someone holding themselves out as an athletic trainer. Representative LaHood indicated he had talked to physicians in Valdosta and they were fine with the legislation. Russ Hoff was requested to look at the rationale of the complaints which the Board of Athletic Trainers received. He noted that it appeared that the current language in the first Section of the bill was where there were conflicts in the Board’s executive session rendering them unable to take action. The Georgia Occupational Therapy Association rose in opposition in the current form. It expands the definition and restricts other groups. Daniel Dale, PT, appreciates the efforts, but the Physical Therapy Association of Georgia opposes the legislation. He argued that it did address “scope” with the changes proposed. Representative Spencer Frye (D-Athens) asked for clarification on training required by an athletic trainer and how that was different from a physical therapist. He asked more specifically about the problem that is being solved by the bill. Representative Shelly Hutchinson (D-Snellville) also echoed comments made by Representative Frye. Aubrey Villines, on behalf of the Georgia Chiropractic Association, did not oppose the language but did point out the activities would trigger their ability to provide treatment. Bethany Sherrer, with the Medical Association of Georgia, did not oppose the bill but wanted to look more at the scope and look at training levels. A motion was made to place the bill on the table. The legislation was tabled.

House Higher Education Committee
Chairman Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) and the Higher Education Committee met about the following legislation:

  • HB 1, authored by Representative Bonner (R-), seeks to create the “Forming Open and Robust University Minds (“FORUM”) Act,” addressing public forums at public universities in O.C.G.A. 20-1-30 et seq. It seeks to take into account HB 995 language regarding student-on-student harassment. There was testimony by the University System of Georgia that adequate protections exist in state law but that the system could work with the bill. However, it does not feel that the bill is needed. HB 1 received a DO PASS recommendation, and it now moves to the House Rules Committee.
  • HB 7, authored by Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex), seeks to create the “Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act.” in Title 20. It proposes to provide for in-state tuition for students who are from foster care or homeless situations. Representative Ginny Ehrhart (R-Marietta) asked several questions regarding the evidence that a student is from a homeless background, and how it was measured by individuals (or which professionals were making such determination). There was discussion pertaining to eligible youth for assistance to receive a grant of in-state tuition opportunities to these individuals and use of the McKinney-Vento Act, which outlines the standard for homeless students. Representative Ehrhart felt the language was too broad at line 70 in allowing who could make that determination “and other such similar person” and an amendment was made so that the professional would be deemed appropriate by the post-secondary educational institution. The legislation received a DO PASS with this amendment, and it now moves to the House Rules Committee.
  • HB 120, authored by Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), seeks to enact the “Georgia Resident In-State Tuition Act” and was back before the Committee in a new Substitute, LC 49 0461S. The legislation outlines the criteria for a student to receive in-state tuition and a cap is inserted that such would be no more than 110 percent. The Chairman indicated that this legislation was about “filling capacity” in Georgia schools. The legislation received a DO PASS recommendation with the amendments to address the cap, and it now moves to the House Rules Committee.
  • HB 291, authored by Representative Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), seeks to amend O.C.G.A. 20-3-411 to address tuition equalization grants to expand the definition of an “approved school.” The legislation adding accrediting bodies for schools will address Chamberlain School of Nursing and allow for a greater training pool of nurses in the state. This legislation received a DO PASS recommendation, and it now moves to the House Rules Committee.
  • HB 617, authored by Chairman Martin, seeks to add O.C.G.A. 20-3-680 and was before the Committee in the form of a new substitute proposal. The bill seeks to allow college athletes the ability to have the ability to control and profit from the commercial use of their name, image, or likeness. The language protects the student’s scholarship. HB 617 received a DO PASS recommendation, and it now moves forward to the House Rules Committee.

Rules Calendars for Legislative Day 27

The House is expected to consider the following measures on Friday for Legislative Day 27:

  • HB 60 – Georgia Educational Scholarship Act; enact
  • HB 81 – General appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022
  • HB 92 – Health; transfer of vital records to State Archives; revise provisions
  • HB 316 – Pharmacies; increase pharmacist to pharmacy technician ratio for providing direct supervision at any time
  • HB 364 – Professions and businesses; exempt persons having completed Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training from required fingerprint submission for application to be licensed as a private guard, watchman, or patrolman
  • HB 369 – Physicians; job description submission to Georgia Composite Medical Board; provisions
  • HB 450 – Low THC Oil Patient Registry; authorize Department of Public Health to release deidentified data to government entities for research
  • HB 451 – Ad valorem tax; property; fair market value applicable to inventor; provisions
  • HB 469 – Income tax; rehabilitation of historic structures; revise tax credits
  • HB 554 – Property; revise when an action may operate as a lis pendens
  • HB 577 – Highways, bridges, and ferries; proposal guaranty for bids upon certain projects; provide
  • HB 591 – Mental health; marriage and family therapists to perform certain acts which physicians and others are authorized to perform; authorize
  • HB 601 – Crimes and offenses; low THC oil, marijuana, and tetrahydrocannabinols do not include certain federally approved products; provide
  • HB 605 – Health; provide for authorized electronic monitoring in long-term care facilities
  • HB 606 – HOPE scholarships; add Georgia Independent School Association to the list of accrediting agencies
  • HB 645 – Crimes and offenses; medical cannabis; update and revise provisions
  • HB 647 – Solid waste management; post-closure ground-water monitoring at closed coal combustion residual impoundments; provide

The Senate is expected to consider the following measures on Friday for Legislative Day 27:

  • SB 75 – Termination of Residential Lease; victims of stalking;
  • SB 78 – Invasion of Privacy; prohibition on electronically transmitting or posting nude or sexually explicit photographs or videos for purposes of harassing the depicted person; revise
  • SB 92 – Controlled Substances; sale to and by minors of drug products containing dextromethorphan; prohibit
  • SB 142 – Lottery for Education; lottery game of sports wagering in this state; provide
  • SB 145 – Distilled Spirits; initiating a referendum election for the authorization of the issuance of licenses for the package sale of distilled spirits; modify the petition requirements
  • SB 152 – State and Other Flags; pledge of allegiance to the state flag; add language
  • SB 153 – “Graduation Opportunities and Advanced Learning (GOAL) Act”; enact
  • SB 156 – Labor and Industrial Relations; appointment, oath, bond, power, duties, and authority of a chief labor officer; provide
  • SB 163 – Judicial Emergency; suspension of statutory speedy trial requirements; provide
  • SB 165 – Motor Vehicles; autonomous vehicles from certain vehicle equipment requirements; exempt
  • SB 200 – Emergency Powers of the Governor; certain business and religious institutions may continue to resume operations; certain states of emergency; provide
  • SB 210 – Motor Vehicles and Traffic; definitions relative to registration and licensing of motor vehicles; provide
  • SB 219 – Alcoholic Beverages; regulation of the manufacture, distribution, and sale of malt beverages; provide
  • SB 220 – “The Georgia Civics Renewal Act”; enact
  • SB 236 – Alcoholic Beverages; food service establishments to sell mixed drinks for off-premises consumption in approved containers under certain conditions; allow
  • SB 246 – “The Learning Pod Protection Act”; exemptions applicable to learning pods, student attendance, administrative and judicial proceedings; provide
  • SB 255 – “OneGeorgia Authority Act”; grant program to support border region retail and tourism projects; provide
  • SR 39 – Charlotte Nash Intersection; Gwinnett County; dedicate
  • SR 84 – Airport Infrastructure and Improvements; create Joint Study Committee
  • SR 135 – Sports Betting; related matters; provide -CA
  • SR 143 – General Assembly Chaplain; honorary position; appoint