2024 session february 12-15 summary for Dale Washburn State House

The Georgia House of Representatives kicked off the sixth week of the 2024 legislative session on Monday, February 12. We convened in the House Chamber for four days and made significant progress as we passed 34 bills and resolutions by the end of the week to send to our Senate counterparts. By Tuesday, we reached Legislative Day 20, which means we are now more than halfway through our 40-day session. With “Crossover Day” looming on Legislative Day 28, we are focused on perfecting legislation for consideration and advancing notable measures on the House floor. 

The House voted on an important measure this week, House Bill 1037, which would create the Georgia Commission on Maternal and Infant Health. The commission would be assigned to the Georgia Department of Public Health and consist of 14 members, and the appointees would include an obstetrician, either a pediatrician or neonatologist, a midwife and a representative of a perinatal facility. The commission would be charged with soliciting views from perinatal facilities, healthcare providers and related professional associations on the state of Georgia’s perinatal care and give consideration to the current recommendations of medical and scientific organizations working on perinatal care. The commission would also be tasked with making policy recommendations regarding perinatal care programs and establishing a way to measure the quality and effectiveness of perinatal care in Georgia. Under HB 1037, the commission would submit state-wide policy recommendations based on its findings no later than June 30, 2026. Through this commission, this legislation aims to examine the causes of maternal and infant deaths in our state and provide policymakers with a more holistic view of these issues so that we can continue our work to improve maternal and infant health in Georgia.

Continuing our commitment to Georgia’s families, the House also took up legislation this week to expand parental leave for our state employees and teachers. The House first led the way on this issue in 2020, and, subsequently, House Bill 146 was signed into law in 2021 to provide state employees and teachers with up to 120 hours, or three weeks, of paid parental leave after the birth of their child or after an adoptive or foster child is first placed in their home. House Bill 1010, which passed in the House on Thursday, would modify the current law by extending paid parental leave for state employees to six weeks, doubling the amount of time state employees currently receive. If both parents are state employees, they would each be entitled to six weeks of paid leave, with the flexibility to split these weeks over a twelve-month period. Recognizing that the current three-week period following the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child often falls short for many parents, HB 1010 would address this by granting parents additional time at home with their families. Also, by expanding this crucial benefit to our state employees and teachers, our state could also retain and recruit the best and brightest workforce.   

My colleagues and I also gave unanimous passage to  House Bill 1022, the Colton-McNeill Act, which would fortify protections for disabled minors by elevating penalties for acts of cruelty against them. The legislation would address a critical gap in existing laws, seeking to impose harsher consequences for perpetrators who target vulnerable children. Under this bill, the severity of the offense would determine the length of imprisonment, with the first degree of cruelty to a disabled minor carrying a sentence ranging from 15 to 30 years, and the second degree of the crime would result in imprisonment between 10 and 30 years. By increasing penalties, the bill would send a clear message that our state will not tolerate the mistreatment of disabled children, striving to safeguard their well-being and ensure justice for those who suffer from such reprehensible acts.

The House also turned its attention toward our state’s education system and its workforce with the passage of House Bill 282. This legislation would provide a significant step to enhance career preparedness among middle and high school students in Georgia. By clarifying that the career course mandated by the State Board of Education must prioritize career readiness, HB 282 would underscore the importance of practical instruction and training experiences. With a focus on equipping students with essential skills for the workforce, the Department of Education would be tasked with assembling comprehensive resources and materials on career readiness and employability, ensuring that state public schools have access to vital tools for student success. With the minimum course of study slated for implementation by July 1, 2024, this legislation would pave the way for a more robust and effective approach in preparing our youth for future career paths. 

This week, we also passed House Bill 874, a bill that would require every public school in Georgia to have a functional automated external defibrillator (AED) machine on the premises of school grounds at all times and during school-related functions. This crucial legislation highlights the importance of safeguarding the well-being of Georgia’s students by ensuring teachers and school staff have access to this vital, lifesaving equipment. Additionally, HB 847 would require schools in Georgia to create a written emergency action plan, conduct at least two emergency action practice drills annually and designate an internal response team to provide necessary training to team members and potential users of an AED. By guaranteeing the presence of AEDs and establishing protocols for their use, HB 874 would empower teachers and school staff to respond effectively in emergency situations. This bipartisan measure would align with Georgia’s commitment to prioritizing Georgia’s students and creating environments where timely medical intervention can significantly increase the chances of saving young lives. 

We also passed the following House bills, resolutions and Senate bill during the sixth week of session:

  • House Bill 53, which would remove the State Board of Registration for Foresters from within the Secretary of State and would establish the board as a separate entity administratively attached to the State Forestry Commission, beginning on January 1, 2025. Individuals nominated to the board by the governor would be required to be confirmed by the Senate. The board may issue cease and desist orders, as well as impose a fine of no more than $500 for violations. The bill would set the registration fee for a license at $200 and would allow for the amount to be adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index;
  • House Bill 300, which would require solar power facility agreements to provide procedures for the decommissioning of a solar power facility;
  • House Bill 409, which would authorize specified local authorities that operate public water or sewer systems to dispose of or grant easements in specified instances;
  • House Bill 461, which would update current law relating to the imposition of regulatory fees by local governments to require the proceeds of regulatory fees collected by a local government to be used for the related regulatory activity and not the general operations of the local government. HB 461 would eliminate the ability for a local government to impose a fee for construction projects classified as renovation based on the cost of the project and instead would require the use of square feet for the calculation of a fee for an “extensive renovation project,” which is defined as a project valued at $75,000 or more to renovate an existing structure;
  • House Bill 516, which would increase the minimum amount for a public road construction or maintenance contract that prohibits negotiation to $500,000. The bill would allow for exemption of the requirement to accept written public comment for 30 days in the event that the public has been afforded the opportunity for comment during the environmental phase of a public-private partnership. If the public is afforded the opportunity for comment during the environmental phase of a public-private partnership, the requirement that the department hold a public hearing would also be waived. HB 516 would provide an exception to final approval of projects by the board when it has previously approved the proposal based on a determination that the proposal provided the apparent best value to the state. HB 516 would also amend current law governing the length of modular unit transporters to allow for an increased length from 80 feet to 84 feet when a permit is purchased;  
  • House Bill 546, which would amend the definition of “pharmacy care” within the Georgia Pharmacy Practice Act to allow for changes to a prescription drug order. The bill would allow a pharmacist to adapt a prescription drug order, under certain circumstances, by changing the quantity of medication prescribed, changing the dosage form of the prescription and completing missing information on a prescription drug order. Adaptions would be required to be documented and done with patient consent;
  • House Bill 576, which would prohibit an individual’s vaccine status from being used to determine priority status on an organ transplant waiting list;
  • House Bill 809, which would allow occupational therapists to perform dry needling;
  • House Bill 814, which would amend current law relating to computation of taxable net income to exclude any grants for investments in broadband infrastructure received as part of 47 U.S.C. 1702, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, or the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This change would be applicable to all tax years beginning on January 1, 2022;
  • House Bill 872, which would allow for dental students to be eligible for the service cancelable loan program when they agree to practice in rural counties with a population of 50,000 or less;
  • House Bill 873, which would codify the ability of juvenile courts to establish a juvenile treatment court division as an alternative to the traditional judicial system for juvenile delinquency cases or child in need of services (CHINS) cases. A case may be assigned to these new courts: 1) if the prosecutor or other petitioner consents prior to the entry of adjudication or disposition; 2) as part of a disposition in a case; or 3) upon modification or revocation of probation or a new petition. Each new juvenile treatment court division would establish a planning group to develop a work plan. Planning groups would be required to include: judges, prosecutors, sheriffs, public defenders, community supervision officers and probation officers. The Council of Accountability Court judges would establish standards and practices for these divisions, taking into account current research and findings published by experts on children’s health needs/treatment options. The council would also create and manage a certification/peer review process to ensure local divisions are adhering to standards/practices. Further, they would create a waiver process that divisions would need to apply for if they want an exception to standards/practices. The council would also create a certification process to allow a court to demonstrate a need for additional state grant funds for one or more part-time judges to operate these divisions. Divisions established on and after July 1, 2026, would be certified or receive a waiver if they have good cause. The council would also be required to develop and manage an electronic system for performance measurement that accepts data in a consistent manner. On or around July 1, 2026, and every three years afterward, the council would conduct a performance peer review of the divisions to improve the polices/practices. The court that institutes the division could request that one or more prosecutors and one or more defense attorneys serve in the division, and the clerk of the juvenile court would serve as the clerk of the division. The act would become effective on July 1, 2024;
  • House Bill 909, which would automatically restrict and seal the record of an individual’s offense after July 1, 2024, who was sentenced under the First Offenders Act. If first offender status is revoked, then a court would unseal the records, and courts, law enforcement agencies, jails and detention centers could disseminate the records. Those who were exonerated of guilt and discharged as a first offender prior to July 1, 2024, could petition the court to have the records sealed, and those records would be automatically sealed;
  • House Bill 912, which would update current law relating to the definitions of motor vehicles and traffic to change the definition of “multipurpose off-highway vehicle” to mean any self-propelled, motorized vehicle originally intended for off-highway use and to not include any all-terrain vehicles, low-speed vehicles, passenger cars or personal transportation vehicles. Additionally, HB 912 would create an exemption for multipurpose off-highway vehicles from ad valorem taxation, beginning on January 1, 2025;
  • House Bill 925, or the “Protecting Religious Assembly in States of Emergency (PRAISE) Act,” which would prohibit any governmental entity from discriminating against and closing a place of worship during an emergency or health or safety determination. It would afford to religious institutions and places of worship the same degree of freedom to meet as is afforded to the most favored entity or set of entities. HB 925 would provide for civil action for relief for any person or entity burdened or impaired by violations of this law;
  • House Bill 947, which would revise judicial compensation so that the base salary for judges is 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 may 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. None of the provisions of HB 947 would repeal or amend any local law. As of July 1, 2025, that suspension would be terminated and would not entitle any official to retroactive compensation;
  • House Bill 977, which would set the risk-limiting audit probability limit at a decreasing percentage beginning with eight percent in 2024 and concluding with a rate of two percent in 2030. The bill would clarify which contests, in addition to specified top of the ballot contests, must be selected for a risk-limiting audit and how they are selected;
  • House Bill 984, which would allow certified law enforcement officers within the Department of Insurance and the office of the safety fire commissioner to use a department vehicle while off-duty under certain circumstances. The bill would also allow for developmentally or physically disabled individuals to remain on their parent or guardian’s insurance beyond the cutoff age;
  • House Bill 988, which would define the term “artificial intelligence” and revise the responsibilities of the Georgia Technology Authority. It would require the authority to conduct an inventory of all systems that utilize artificial intelligence and are in use by any agency. Inventory would include information such as the system’s name, vendor details, general capabilities, independence in decision-making and whether impact assessments were conducted before implementation. The authority would be mandated to develop and establish procedures that govern the development, implementation and assessment of artificial intelligence systems used by agencies to prevent unlawful discrimination against individuals or groups. The authority would be required to prepare an annual report regarding the inventory of artificial intelligence systems in use by agencies and to make this report available to certain state offices;
  • House Bill 991, which would reauthorize the Hospital Medicaid Financing program until June 30, 2030; 
  • House Bill 997, which would require an individual disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle by notice from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to be reinstated only when they have received notification from the FMCSA;
  • House Bill 1033, or the “Utility Worker Protection Act,” which would add enhanced penalties for protection of utility workers harmed while acting within the course/scope of their employment or while performing official duties. The bill includes a definition for “utility worker,” which includes independent contractors and would apply to both private and public entities. The sentencing enhancement is added to the following crimes: simple assault, making it a high and aggravated misdemeanor; aggravated assault, making the term of imprisonment between three and 20 years; simple battery, making it a high and aggravated misdemeanor; and aggravated battery, making the term of imprisonment between one and 20 years. These enhancements would apply to all offenses committed on or after July 1, 2024;
  • House Bill 1044, which would increase the contract value amount from $100,000 or less to $250,000 or less for specified contracts that are exempt from specified contracting and bidding requirements;
  • House Bill 1058, which would address federal regulations for safe operations for drivers and vehicles transporting hazardous materials and would change an effective date from January 1, 2023, to January 1, 2024;
  • House Bill 1083, which would extend deadlines for the implementation of updated adult mental health licensure rules and regulations;
  • House Bill 1162, which would amend current law relating to income tax definitions by providing an update to the definition of “Internal Revenue Code” to include provisions from the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 and the Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act of 2022, which was signed into law on January 5, 2023;
  • House Resolution 449, which would recognize the fourth Wednesday in February as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Awareness Day;  
  • House Resolution 804, which would propose an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to change the payable date of temporary loans for counties and municipalities from December 31 of each year to within 12 months of the initial funding;
  • House Resolution 1019, which would establish the Georgia House of Representatives’ support for increased protection for America’s borders in the pursuit of ending illegal immigration;
  • Senate Bill 353, which would allow for the call of a caucus for a Department of Transportation board election to be sent via email rather than by mail. The bill would clarify language relating to contracting for public-private partnerships and alternative contracting methods. The bill would amend current law governing the length of modular unit transporters to allow for an increased length from 80 feet to 84 feet when a permit is purchased. Current law would be amended to allow any coroner or county medical examiner to delegate to medical personnel the power to perform the duties of the coroner or county medical examiner when an accident on an interstate highway or limited-access road results in a death and a significant disruption to the flow of traffic. The Department of Transportation would be added to the code section relating to when public disclosure is not required by a state agency and would add the data of vehicle information or personally identifiable information to those records that are not required to be disclosed. 

The Georgia House of Representatives will reconvene for our seventh week of session on Tuesday, February 20. 

You are welcome to schedule a phone call or plan a visit to the State Capitol to discuss matters that are important to you and your family. You can reach my Capitol office at 404-656-0152 and via email at dale.washburn@house.ga.gov.  

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

Share This