At the Capitol: Week of February 19

Things are as busy as ever at the Capitol, as we are now only one week away from Crossover Day. Here are this week’s updates:

– There were personnel changes in each chamber this week. Rep. Penny Houston, R-Nashville, announced that she will not seek re-election. Rep. Houston represents Georgia’s 170th district, and has served since 1997. Her colleague Rep. J. Collins, R-Villa Rica, also announced he will not seek re-election to the seat he has held since 2017.

– Also, the Senate swore in former Rep. Tim Bearden, R-Carrollton, who won a special election earlier this month for District 30. This special election came following the departure of former Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan.

– Georgia Public Policy Foundation President and CEO Kyle Wingfield testified before the House Ways and Means Committee about a tax-reform study the Foundation published in conjunction with our sister think tank, the Buckeye Institute. Read the study here.

– The Ways and Means Committee approved HB 464, a revision of the state’s income tax. This bill, authored by Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, eliminates the cap on taxpayer money that can be reserved for a “rainy day” economic downturn and would allow for some of the reserves to be used for tax relief.

– The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the state’s amended budget for FY 2024, or HB 915. The “little budget” totals $37.5 billion, which includes $5 billion in new spending.

– On Wednesday, the House Health Committee heard HB 1339, a revision of Georgia’s certificate of need (CON) laws. Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro, the bill’s author, outlined several revisions and exemption expansions proposed in the bill. After lengthy testimonies in support of and opposition to the bill, the Committee adjourned without taking action on the bill. The Foundation has previously released a report on the need for CON reform in Georgia

– The House Regulated Industries Committee took up a few bills related to occupational licensing. One was HB 880, by Rep. Bethany Ballard, R-Warner Robins. This allows spouses of service members serving in Georgia to practice their profession when that individual is licensed in good standing in the state of licensure (the relevant licensure would have to meet or exceed the requirements in Georgia). The bill cleared committee.

– The House Education Committee on Thursday approved HB 1221, authored by Rep. Tyler Paul Smith, R-Bremen. This bill defines procedures for K-12 students who want to transfer from their district of residence to another. It would provide that only the receiving local school system can grant or refuse permission for such transfers. The committee also approved HB 1186, sponsored by Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, which would require the state to calculate and publish a single score for its CCRPI rating system.

– Last week, we mentioned the “Boundless Opportunities for Georgia Students Act”, SB 147 by Sen. Shawn Still, which would allow public school students to take virtual courses in a different school system. After not taking action last week, the Senate Education and Youth Committee voted 5-4 in favor of the bill.

– Many states around the country have taken action in the interest of keeping minors safe on the internet. HB 1296, authored by Rep. Scott Hilton, R-Peachtree Corners, was introduced on Monday. This would provide for age verification and other restrictions on minors’ social media account activity.

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