My House colleagues and I returned to the Gold Dome on Monday, March 18, 2024, to begin the eleventh week of the 2024 Legislative Session. This week, we convened in the House Chamber for three legislative days and continued to give passage to a number of Senate bills. There are now only two legislative days remaining in the session until we reach Sine Die on Thursday, March 28, 2024. These finals legislative days are among the busiest days of the entire session as we finalize our legislative business for the year before the Sine Die deadline.  

This week, the House took legislative action to combat the growing fentanyl crisis in our state. My colleagues and I unanimously passed this important, life saving measure, Senate Bill 465, which would create the crime of aggravated involuntary manslaughter when someone intentionally manufactures or sells a controlled substance that contains fentanyl and fentanyl is determined as the sole cause or a contributing factor in a victim’s death. In the prosecution of this crime, the government would not need to prove that the defendant knew fentanyl was present in the drug. Anyone who violates this offense would be found guilty of a felony and subject to imprisonment between 10 and 30 years. Additionally, SB 465 would create a felony crime for unlawfully possessing, purchasing, delivering or selling a pill press or tableting machine if there is reasonable cause to believe that the item will be used to manufacture a controlled or counterfeit substance. A person who commits this crime would be subject to imprisonment between one and 10 years. Under current law, if someone selling drugs claims that they had no knowledge of fentanyl presence in a drug that caused an overdose, that person would not be charged with this felony crime. This bill would update the law so that those who sell drugs and counterfeit drugs containing fentanyl are held accountable for overdoses. SB 465 is known as “Austin’s Law,” named after a young man who died tragically after unknowingly taking a substance laced with fentanyl. His parents joined us in the House Chamber while we honored his life with the passage of the bill. Later in the day, our counterparts in the Senate voted to give this legislation final passage, sending this important bill to Governor Kemp’s desk to be signed into law. 

The House has focused its efforts on improving and expanding mental health services across our state in recent years, and this week, we continued those efforts by giving final passage to Senate Bill 480. This legislation would provide student loan repayment assistance to mental health and substance use providers who offer services to underserved youth or practice in geographic areas of the state that lack adequate services. Specifically, SB 480 would allow mental health and substance use providers to apply for student loan repayment through the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce. SB 480 would incentivize professionals to work in areas of critical need, which would ensure access to vital mental health and substance use services for Georgians in need in all corners of our state. To be eligible, applicants would be required to be legal residents of Georgia with non-defaulted student debt, and the repayment amount would be determined by the workforce board, covering a maximum duration of five years. We know that there is a pressing need for increased mental health and substance use providers and services in Georgia, particularly in rural and underserved areas where access to such services are limited. SB 480 now awaits signature into law by Governor Kemp.

We also gave unanimous passage to Senate Bill 440, bipartisan legislation that would make revisions to Georgia’s Accelerated Career Diploma program, which is part of the state’s dual enrollment program for qualified high school students. SB 440 is a result of the work of the Joint Study Committee on Dual Enrollment for Highly Skilled Talent at Younger Ages, which was established in 2023 in response to requests from Georgia students, families, communities and employers. Throughout last summer and fall, this joint study committee conducted numerous meetings across the state to explore and identify potential solutions for increasing dual enrollment opportunities for highly skilled talent at younger ages. As such, SB 440 would simplify the dual enrollment program and improve academic flexibility to better align with pathway programs. Under this legislation, this diploma path would only be available for an associate’s degree in applied science within Georgia’s Technical College System (TCSG) or TCSG programs included in the State Workforce Development Board’s high-demand career list. Additionally, SB 440 would introduce the Dual Enrollment ACE (Accelerated Career Education) grant program, which would provide financial assistance to eligible students participating in the Accelerated Career Diploma Program. These students would be exempt from the 30-hour dual enrollment cap, and the bill would allow dual enrollment funding to be distinguished between academic and technical students. Through these changes, this legislation seeks to simplify this important program and encourage greater student participation so that more students are workforce-ready upon their high school graduation. 

We also turned our attention to strengthening public safety in our state with the passage of Senate Bill 493, which would introduce several provisions related to the protection of minors and certain regulations concerning individuals on Georgia’s sex offender registry. First, SB 493 would make it a crime for a person to use an unmanned aircraft, such as a drone, to intentionally photograph an individual, particularly a minor, without parental consent. Individuals who are found guilty of this crime would be subject to a minimum fine of $1,500, and subsequent violations would lead to felony charges and imprisonment between one and 30 years, accompanied by fines ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. The bill would also prohibit a person who is on the sex offender registry from knowingly owning or operating a drone used to photograph or observe any person in any way that violates that person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. SB 493 would also allow certain individuals on Georgia’s sex offender registry to petition the superior court to be removed from the registry after reaching the age of 80 years old and completing all prison, parole, supervised release and probation for the offense. SB 493 would not only be crucial for protecting Georgia’s minors from registered sexual offenders but would also play a significant role in building safer and more secure communities for all Georgians. 

My colleagues and I also took action to continue our efforts to support victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. Senate Bill 324 would create a victim-centered address confidentiality program within the Office of the Secretary of State. This program would allow certified participants to utilize an address confidentiality card instead of disclosing their personal address to governmental entities in order to prevent their confidential address from being published. By making victims’ addresses confidential from public record, we can ensure that victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, human trafficking or sexual assault could remain protected from their perpetrators as disclosure could increase the risk that the victim would be threatened or physically harmed by another person. Further, this legislation would prohibit courts from issuing or approving mutual protective orders in certain instances and would provide for the issuance of dating violence protective orders. This bipartisan measure is a crucial step toward providing more protection and support to these victims in our state, allowing them the opportunity to safely rebuild their lives without fear.

Finally, the House passed Senate Bill 464 to improve literacy rates among our students and provide financial relief to educators to purchase classroom supplies. SB 464 would make changes to the Georgia Early Literacy Act to require the Department of Education (DOE) and Georgia Council on Literacy to identify up to five universal reading screeners to help identify students who are experiencing literacy problems. In addition, the bill would make one of these screeners available for free for public schools and local school systems. The second part of SB 464 outlines the School Supplies for Educators Act, which would establish a program to provide financial and technical assistance to educators to purchase school supplies. The State Board of Education would be tasked with establishing this program for the DOE to allocate funds for eligible educators, to be used at their discretion, for the online purchase of school supplies. SB 464 would help to ensure that we are supporting our students and improving literacy outcomes for Georgia’s young learners. Furthermore, this bill would also lessen the financial burden that many teachers face when supplying their classrooms with necessary learning materials and supplies. 

We also gave passage to the following Senate bills this week:

  • Senate Bill 112, which would create the Workforce EXCELeration Act, which would provide for a pilot program to establish a high school diploma program for adult learners. The program would be facilitated by the State Board of the Technical College System of Georgia. The pilot program would be required to include at least two distinct programs and would be automatically repealed on June 30, 2029;
  • Senate Bill 169, which would revise the hearing dates for school suspensions. A hearing would be held no later than 10 school days from the beginning of the suspension unless there is an agreement between the parents and school system, in which case the hearing would be held no later than 15 days after the beginning of the suspension. A hearing could be held later than 15 days upon written request to the school system by a parent or guardian;
  • Senate Bill 230, which would add a new item to the bill of rights for foster parents, which would say that they have the right to a reasonable and prudent parent standard when determining the ability of a child in foster care to engage in certain extracurricular activities. This would clarify that foster parents would have the right to a certified volunteer advocate of the foster parent’s choosing during an investigation and also during meetings, as well as the right to a fair, timely and impartial investigation. It would also change the date that the Department of Human Services should develop a grievance procedure for dealing with grievances of foster parents from 2007 to 2024;
  • Senate Bill 259, which would transfer Banks County from the Piedmont Judicial Circuit to the Mountain Judicial Circuit effective January 1, 2025;
  • Senate Bill 293, which would revise the selection and qualifications of district health directors. The commissioner of the Department of Public Health would appoint district health directors to serve as chief executive officers of each local health department in the respective district. The director would be licensed to practice medicine or have a master’s degree in public health or a related field. If the director is not licensed to practice medicine, then a licensed physician would serve as the chief medical officer. If a position for district health director becomes vacant, the commissioner could appoint an interim without board approval until a permanent director is appointed and approved by the county boards of health;
  • Senate Bill 328, which would amend several provisions under the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund. The bill would increase the minimum monthly dues from $25 to $35 and the maximum monthly dues from $50 to $70; would require members to pay the full actuarial cost of creditable service for service prior to becoming a member of the fund; would increase the normal death benefit from $3,000 to $5,000; would increase the death benefit if an officer would be killed in the line of duty from $5,000 to $10,000; and would increase the disability benefit from $257 to $455 per month; 
  • Senate Bill 340, which would amend current law related to the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption to extend the sales and use exemption to diesel exhaust fluid used for agricultural purposes;  
  • Senate Bill 362, which would prohibit companies that receive economic development incentives from: voluntarily granting recognition rights for the employees solely on the basis of signed labor organization authorization cards, if a secret ballot could have been used; voluntarily disclosing an employee’s personal contact information to a labor organization without prior consent; or requiring a subcontractor to engage in these activities. Any employer who would receive economic incentives and would engage in any of the prohibited conduct would be required to repay all economic incentives received over the life of the project. This would apply to any agreement between the state and an employer starting on January 1, 2025. The Department of Community Affairs would be authorized to investigate allegations of prohibited conduct if the company receives economic incentives; 
  • Senate Bill 366, which would amend current law to require that the general appropriations bill be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee upon its first reading in the Senate and, if amended or passed by committee substitute, would not be considered until the bill has been placed on members’ desks for at least 24 hours. The bill would also require the governor’s budget report to be made available by the House Budget and Research Office and Senate Budget and Evaluation Office to their respective chambers. SB 366 would increase the number of economic analyses from 10 to 12 and would clarify that an economic analysis must be conducted if the sunset date of a tax credit or exemption is within two years and would be a state expenditure of at least $20 million, according to the most recent Tax Expenditure Report. Selections for any excess reports would be equally divided between the chairs of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees. SB 366 would also require the Department of Audits and Accounts to post a list of economic analyses to be conducted and establish a mechanism to collect relevant data from stakeholders. The department would share the data to the contracted researchers, but neither the department nor the contracted researchers would be bound to utilize all provided data in the completed economic analyses. The bill would clarify the criteria with which the Department of Audits and Accounts and contracted researchers may review and evaluate the selected tax incentive programs. SB 366 would require the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees to meet by January 31 of each year to review economic analyses completed the prior year;
  • Senate Bill 368, which would prohibit foreign nationals from making contributions to a candidate, campaign committee, independent committee or political action committee, as well as prohibiting those entities from accepting contributions from foreign nationals. The bill would prohibit persons from acting as agents of a foreign principal unless they have properly registered themselves with a proper registration statement. Whenever an agent of foreign principal appears before an elected official, agency, officer or General Assembly committee to testify or advocate for the interests of the foreign principal, the agent would affirmatively state they are acting as an agent and would disclose the identity of the foreign principal;  
  • Senate Bill 373, which would amend the definition of “supervisor” related to professional counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists to remove the requirement that an applicant should be a psychiatrist or a psychologist. It would also remove the requirement that applicants to become a professional counselor should have a doctoral degree in order to be licensed. Further, an associate professional counselor would be required to have 90 quarter hours in relevant education rather than 80 hours in order to be licensed. The Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists would be required to issue expedited licenses by endorsement within 30 days from the date of application for those individuals who would have the same type of license in another state and meet other requirements, such as being in good standing. This would not apply to licenses for an associate marriage and family therapist;
  • Senate Bill 376, which would amend current law related to dependency proceedings to require that a court determine whether the parent has made substantial progress toward completion of the case plan at the initial 75-day period review. During a review that is after an initial 75-day review, the bill would require the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to develop a case plan within 14 days of the review. The bill would also require that the court review and adopt the revised case plan within 45 days of the review or at a previously scheduled hearing. The bill would also revise current law relating to termination of parental rights, which would narrow one of the situations in which termination of parental rights may not be in the best interests of a child adjudicated as a dependent. The bill would limit that situation to only include when a relative intends to be a permanent placement for that child as part of a permanency plan and in which the timeline is consistent with the developmental needs of the child. SB 376 would require the court, at least 30 days prior to the 15th month that the child has been in foster care and when the court deems appropriate, to review DFCS’s determination that terminating the parental rights would not be in the best interests of the child. The court could appoint an attorney guardian ad litem who could file a petition to terminate parental rights on behalf of the child. The court would also be permitted to make additional rulings at its own discretion; 
  • Senate Bill 398, which would revise operations related to the Georgia Joint Defense Commission. The number of members would be increased from 19 to 23 with the addition of the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, a representative of a defense industry contractor designated by the president of the Senate, a member of the public appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a representative of an organization engaged in military or defense research designated by the governor. The director of the Governor’s Defense Initiative would also be replaced by the Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development, who would serve as the committee chairperson; 
  • Senate Bill 401, which would require each juvenile court to collect data on all cases in which a child is alleged or adjudicated to be a dependent child placed in foster care. This data would be incorporated into the Georgia Juvenile Data Exchange and the form of entry would be specified by the Administrative Office of the Courts. This data would include various dates related to the disposition of cases and deadlines imposed by statute. The bill would require each juvenile court to maintain a “ready-accessible docket” that would be accessible by the parties and to utilize its local case management system to collect required data. By April 15, 2025, the Administrative Office of the Courts would be required to put together a report for the General Assembly. Further, a petition to terminate parental rights would have to be immediately filed and docketed when presented to the clerk of a juvenile court;
  • Senate Bill 412, which would increase the fines that the Office of the Secretary of State could issue to charitable organizations that violate relevant rules. A willful violation would have a maximum fine of $10,000 issued for a single violation or a maximum fine of $100,000 for multiple violations in a single proceeding or series of proceedings. The secretary of state could seek to impose these penalties through an administrative manner directly or through a superior court; 
  • Senate Bill 420, which would prohibit a person who is not a U.S. citizen or legal resident, is an agent of a foreign government designated as a foreign adversary and has been out of the country for a period of time preceding the acquisition of land from acquiring directly or indirectly any possessory interest in agricultural land or land within a 10-mile radius of a military installation, excluding residential property. Any possessory interest in agricultural land acquired by a nonresident alien through inheritance would be disposed of within one year after acquisition, and any interest acquired in the collection of debts would be disposed of within two years after acquisition. A broker would timely disclose to their client the requirements regarding relevant land acquisition. Violations would be considered a felony with punishment of a fine of less than $15,000 and imprisonment of between one to two years. SB 420 would also allow an interest in real estate to be transferred through a transfer-on-death deed, permitting a deed to transfer ownership of an interest upon death of the record owner. The transfer-on-death deed would be executed, acknowledged and recorded in the office of the clerk of superior court of the county where the real estate is located prior to the death of the record owner. A transfer-on-death form is provided in the bill;
  • Senate Bill 422, which would increase the limit on the amount of investments an electric membership corporation could make or maintain in a gas affiliate from 15 to 25 percent of its net utility plant; 
  • Senate Bill 424, which would create the West Georgia Judicial Circuit, which would be composed of Carroll and Heard counties, out of the Coweta Judicial Circuit, which is currently composed of Carroll, Coweta, Heard, Meriwether and Troup counties. The district attorney of the new circuit would be appointed by the governor for a term beginning January 1, 2025, with the first election held at the 2026 general election. The allocation of judges, the transfer of cases, county supplements and circuit-wide costs paid by each county would be provided in the bill;
  • Senate Bill 426, which would permit a claimant to join in the same action the motor carrier and the insurance carrier only when one or more motor carriers in question are insolvent or bankrupt, or personal service against the driver of the vehicle of the motor carrier could not be carried out after reasonable diligence. An amended complaint joining an insurance carrier would be served on the insurance carrier with the insurance carrier able to file an answer within 30 days of service;
  • Senate Bill 433, or the Donor Intent Protection Act, which would require a charitable organization or trust that accepts a contribution pursuant to an endowment agreement to not violate the terms of any donor-imposed restriction. If a donor-imposed restriction is violated, the donor, the donor’s lineal descendants or the donor’s legal representative could bring a civil action within four years after discovering a breach of the endowment agreement. If a court finds a violation, the court would be authorized to order a remedy consistent with the charitable purposes expressed in the endowment agreement. The court, however, would not be authorized to order the return of the contribution;
  • Senate Bill 454, which would revise the child support award calculation worksheet and rates and would clarify that the definition of custodial parent applies to the parent who earns the lesser amount of gross income and would change the process of editing child support awards to include a low-income adjustment system rather than a deviation. The bill would allow disability benefits received by the child from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to count against the noncustodial parent’s final child support amount; 
  • Senate Bill 455, which would remove the requirement of the step therapy protocol for the treatment of serious mental illness. The bill would require acceptance of payment for health care items or services regardless of when authorization is obtained. The bill would require reimbursement to an independent pharmacy be no less than the average reimbursement for retail chain pharmacies;
  • Senate Bill 456, which would add disabled persons to the central caregiver registry. A “disabled person” would be defined as someone who is mentally or physically incapacitated, has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia;
  • Senate Bill 469, which would revise the maximum account balance allowed related to contributions to savings trust accounts for higher education expenses. The bill would increase the income tax deduction cap related to higher education savings trust account contributions; 
  • Senate Bill 472, which would enact the Combatting Organized Crime Act and would revise current law relating to high-volume third-party sellers, sellers and third-party sellers; 
  • Senate Bill 479, which would revise judicial compensation so that the base salary for judges would be related to the annual salary fixed for judges of the U.S. district court for the northern district of Georgia on July 1st of the second proceeding state fiscal year. Each supreme court justice would receive a maximum of 100 percent of the federal district judge’s salary, each court of appeals judge would receive a maximum of 95 percent of the base salary, the judge of the state-wide business court would receive a maximum of 92 percent of the base salary, and each superior court judge would receive a maximum of 90 percent of the base salary. Locality pay would be provided to judges in lieu of and not in addition to any prior county supplements, but in no event would the annual locality pay exceed 10 percent of the state annual salary. Each superior court judge in office on July 1, 2024, could opt-in to the new salary framework as well as any existing locality pay by October 1, 2024, through filing written notification to the council of superior court judges and the governing authority of each county comprising the judge’s judicial circuit. From July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025, all local laws providing compensation for a state or local official that tie that compensation to a superior court judge’s compensation would be suspended with respect to any compensation increase. As of July 1, 2025, that suspension would be terminated and would not entitle any official to retroactive compensation;
  • Senate Bill 496, which would amend current law relating to tax credits for the rehabilitation of historic structures to extend the sunset date of the program to December 31, 2029, and clarify the definition of a historic building or structure to require the structure to be certified by the Department of Community Affairs as having met certain criteria. The bill would amend current law relating to revitalization zone tax credits to extend the sunset date of the program to December 31, 2032;
  • Senate Bill 503, is a clean-up bill, which would revise various grammar and terminology related to general contracting licensure and would split licenses into two separate categories for commercial and residential. The bill would change the annual volume threshold to $10 million that two of the members of the commercial general contractor division must have less than. Members would also be required to meet at least once every two months. A person applying for a residential-basic contractor license would also show that they are qualified as far as financial responsibility. The decision of the appropriate division would be conclusive except for fraud or willful or wanton misconduct. A business organization which loses a qualifying agent and that is acting under the statutory timeframe to find a new qualifying agent would be required to have its financially responsible officer or executive, who has assumed all responsibilities of the agent, swear in an affidavit that the permit application would be made in the applicable timeframe. A building inspector would not be able to issue a building permit unless the applicant has provided this affidavit. If a building inspector violates this provision, then they would be subject to a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $1,000. The bill would revise other dates, timelines and fine amounts;
  • Senate Bill 505, which would require each licensed hospital in the state to post and maintain a link to the federal related disclosures in the format established by the Department of Community Health to be updated annually and no later than July 1 of each year. The department would be directed to establish a uniform template and criteria for reporting the required documents no later than December 31, 2024, to be utilized no later the July 1, 2025. Additionally, SB 505 would require the board of a hospital authority to select one of the three proposed candidates to fill a vacancy;
  • Senate Bill 508, which would direct the Administrative Office of the Courts to provide written notice to each state or local government entity that possesses personally identifiable information of a judge or justice to restrict access to that information within 30 days of written notice. Within 30 days of written notice from a judge or justice that they have left office, the office would notify those entities that the restriction would no longer applicable. The office would develop a process to regularly identify local entities that possess personally identifiable information and would establish a procedure for protected persons to submit information for inclusion in a personally identifiable information database; 
  • Senate Bill 520, which would add definitions for “income withholding” and “income withholding notice,” and would replace previous terms within in the Code. It would also require that an income withholding notice be provided to the payor to initiate income withholding. In cases involving Title IV-D child support withholding through an income withholding notice, all objections would be placed on the calendar for a hearing before an administrative law judge. The notice would remain in effect until the objection would be heard and a decision would be rendered;  
  • Senate Bill 533, which would allow the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) to restore an accused person back to mental competency, so that they could stand trial in an appropriate facility within a jail. In order to use these facilities, DBHDD would have to have a mutual agreement with the local sheriff’s office.

With Sine Die now days away, the pace under the Gold Dome continues to intensify as we near the finish line of the 2024 Legislative Session. The House will return to session on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, for Legislative Day 39. With the session coming to a close soon, I encourage you to contact me to discuss legislative matters that are significant to you and your family. You can reach my Capitol office at 404-656-0152 and via email at

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

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