At the Capitol: Week of March 18

We are nearing Sine Die and the end of the 2024 session. Lawmakers have just two days to pass bills through from the other chamber or work out their differences before heading home. Here are your latest updates:

– The Senate voted to agree with changes from the House on the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, sending the bill to the Governor. Under SB 233, authored by Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, eligible families can receive $6,500 to use for private school tuition and other education expenses.

– The House adopted legislation that requires companies that receive taxpayer incentives to hold secret ballot elections for union representation. SB 362, authored by Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick, cleared the Senate earlier in the session.

– The House and Senate agreed to some changes to Georgia’s Certificate of Need (CON) laws. HB 1339, authored by Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro, allows for freestanding birth centers to open under some restrictions, including having a transfer agreement with an acute care hospital with Level III perinatal services. The Foundation has previously written how a proposed birth center in Augusta has been on hold for nearly three years because of CON regulations. 

– On Thursday, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee held a hearing on HB 1077. The bill, which originally funded a grant program for additional behavioral health providers, was gutted to substitute the language from SB 487, which created a new Medicaid expansion program. The bill did not advance out of committee. 

– The Senate has sent a bill to the governor that will lower the income tax rate from 5.49% to 5.39%. HB 1015, authored by Rep. Lauren McDonald, R-Cumming, would accelerate the rate cut of 0.1% annually, until it reaches 4.99%.

– On Monday, the House Regulated Industries Special Subcommittee held a hearing on SB 460, sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, which would have eased restrictions on certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) in rural hospitals. The bill did not advance out of subcommittee. 

– The House has approved legislation limiting plaintiffs’ ability to sue motor carriers and their insurers simultaneously. SB 426, authored by Sen. Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, will bar so-called “direct action” against an insurance company and should stabilize and reduce insurance rates.

– Rep. Gary Richardson, R-Evans, was sworn into office as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives on Wednesday. He fulfills the unexpired term of Barry Fleming, who resigned to take a judgeship.

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