Gold Dome Report – Legislative Day 12 2023
Thursday, February 2, 2023

We’re not sure what the groundhog did, but the #GoldDomeReport team is hoping for an early spring and an end to dreary winter days like Thursday in Atlanta. Despite the overcast skies, work continued under the Gold Dome, the big news being the passage of the Amended FY 2023 Budget by the House. HB 18, outlining Georgia’s spending for the period ending June 30, 2023, has now made its way to the Senate for review.

Familiar faces in new roles also were in the halls of the third floor on Thursday. Senator-elect Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), the former member of the House of Representatives elected to the Upper Chamber, appeared to begin serving the people of the 11th Senate District. Senator-elect Watson replaces former senator Dean Burke, who left the Senate for a position as medical director at the Department of Community Health. Governor Kemp also appointed two new judges to positions in metro judgeships: Sonyja J. George to the State Court of Clayton County (succeeding Judge Linda Cowen) and Scott F. McAfee to the Superior Court of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit (succeeding Judge Christopher Brasher).

In this Report:

  • Floor Action

  • Committee Reports

  • New Legislation

  • What’s Next

Floor Action

The House took up the following measures on the floor on Thursday:

  • HB 18 - Supplemental appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2022 - June 30, 2023 (Substitute)(App-Burns-159th). The bill passed by Committee Substitute with a vote of 170-1.

The Senate took up the following measures on the floor on Thursday:

  • SR 32 - Attorney General; negotiate with the State of Alabama terms of a reciprocal immunity agreement for officials; urge (JUDY-15th). The Resolution was adopted by a vote of 52-0.

Committee Reports

House Judiciary Committee

Chairman Stan Gunter (R-Blairsville) called the House Judiciary Committee to order early this morning.

  • HB 80, authored by Representative Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), also known as the “Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act,” amends Article 1 of Chapter 14 of Title 24 of the O.C.G.A. The measure introduces unsworn declarations into code and is defined as a signed record not given under oath or penalty of perjury and is admissible as evidence and only to be used in court administrative or arbitral proceedings where a sworn declaration would be required. Representative Leverett mentioned that this practice is used more in federal court and is well accepted in statute. This measure is viewed by some advocates as a helpful tool for people abroad or traveling. Currently, if someone were abroad, one would have to go to a United State Consulate, provide their declaration, and have it notarized. Logistically, this would simplify the process. Some concerns were raised relating to abuse of this change but were quickly subdued. After questions were answered, the measure received a do pass recommendation, and the committee adjourned.

House Education Committee

The House Education Committee, chaired by Representative Chris Erwin (R-Homer), met on Thursday to hear presentations from several entities.

April Aldridge and Kerry Pritchard of the Georgia Department of Education presented to the Committee on the department’s literacy efforts. Dr. Aldridge highlighted the ongoing effort to adopt revised English Language Arts Standards and implement the necessary professional learning and instructional support to enact the new standards. The department has also been addressing learning loss with academic recovery specialists, BOOST Grants, seats for the Georgia Virtual School, and formative assessments. Dr. Aldridge provided an update on the Department’s efforts related to dyslexia and the Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading (L4GA) grant program. She suggested that the state could support the department’s literacy efforts by increasing Pre-K and kindergarten access, funding paraprofessionals for first and second grades, providing for teacher preparation programs and intensive professional learning in literacy, and establishing dedicated funding to support literacy efforts.

Dr. Dana Rickman, President of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, presented on GPEE’s “Top Ten Issues to Watch in 2023.” This year’s list is aimed at a ten-year plan to get Georgia to a place where 65% of adults have a postsecondary credential of value.

Lauren Holcomb, Executive Director of the State Charter School Commission of Georgia, provided an overview of charter schools in Georgia. There are 90 charter schools in Georgia and over 60,000 students. There are over 14,000 students on waiting lists for charter schools in the state. There are numerous types of charter schools in Georgia, including statewide virtual schools, project-based learning schools, classical learning schools, language immersion schools, and STEM/STEAM schools. According to. Holcomb, 87% of state charter schools outperformed their comparison districts in student proficiency and growth measures during the 2021-22 school year.

David Schaefer of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute presented on education spending in Georgia. Schaefer discussed the idea of adding an opportunity weight to Georgia’s school funding formula, noting that numerous other states already account for poverty in funding schools. He explained that students in low-income districts that receive additional funding earn higher wages after graduation, and a 21.7% increase in per pupil spending is enough to eliminate the education attainment gap. Chairman Erwin also highlighted other areas of the education funding formula that have lagged behind, including transportation and counseling.

Tim Cairl of the Metro Atlanta Chamber closed testimony before the Committee on the state of the talent market and talent development efforts. He discussed Georgia’s low unemployment rates, high labor participation rates, and most in-demand jobs. Cairl pointed to several other cities and regions with “better practices” to study and model after–Houston, TX and the State of Kentucky. He recommended investments in early education and childcare, investments in computer science and experiential learning, support for early-college and work-based learning, and expanding access to “to-and-through” post-secondary education.

House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Subcommittee on Energy

The House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Subcommittee on Energy, chaired by Representative Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), was called to order to hear two measures.

  • HB 73, authored by Representative Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas), amends Chapter 3 of Title 46 of the O.C.G.A. to establish a commission under the authority of the Public Service Commission (“PSC”) to regulate the solar panel industry. Representative Gullett noted this would focus on suppliers to residential rather than commercial spaces. To wrangle bad actors, the measure requires and delineates specific disclosures that have to be made to a consumer. If a supplier does not disclose, they risk civil penalties. This bill combines a previously introduced bill by Representative Mandisha Thomas (D-South Fulton). She noted that of the 12 bad practices outlined in the bill, 10 had occurred in her district. There were several questions on how the commission would run and operate. Those questions were specific to rules and regulations. Representative Gullett noted that would be up to the PSC. Members of the PSC expressed support for the measure and did feel there might be an appropriations request in the future for investigators and staff. After all questions and comments subsided, the motion unanimously passed.

  • HB 92, authored by Representative Houston Gaines (R-Athens), amends Title 46 of the O.C.G.A. to increase the debt obligations of an EMC gas affiliate from 15% to 30%. Chair Martin was concerned about a business with virtually no competition passing off these costs to its consumers. The measure received a do pass recommendation from the subcommittee with two no votes.

Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) met on Thursday afternoon to consider one bill:

  • SB 7, authored by Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), amends Title 16 to provide for mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes. Specifically, the bill requires a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence for an individual who commits certain serious felonies with a gun or knife. Such sentences would run before and in addition to the sentence for the underlying felony.

The legislation was presented by Senator Beach, who noted that he was a rookie before the Committee. He explained that this bill is targeted specifically at gang activity (calling it “Gangs, Guns, Gone”), and this bill establishes a “harsh penalty” for “harsh criminals.” Senator Beach said he wants Georgia to be a “safe state” and, “right now, our reputation isn’t very good”. Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) noted that he has never seen a sentence structured like this and asked why the ten years is simply not added to the sentence(s) for the underlying felony(s). Senator Harold Jones (D-Augusta) asked if there are any studies showing a direct correlation between longer sentences and more deterrence, to which Senator Beach said he did not think he needed to see a study to understand the deterrent value.

Benjamin Lynde of the ACLU of Georgia appeared in opposition, calling on the Committee to heed the Criminal Justice Reform Council’s observation that mandatory minimum sentences do not work. Senator Cowsert asked whether restricting the impact of this bill to repeat offenders would resolve concerns, to which. Lynde explained that the second offense of a serious violent felony already requires a life sentence. Thomas Weaver also appeared to voice concerns about the legislation, including the breadth of the RICO statute referenced in the bill and the inclusion of aggravated assault and the sweeping effect the bill might have based on inclusion of these two offense sets. Jill Travis and Amanda Clark Palmer of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers spoke in opposition to the bill, explaining that mandatory minimums actually increase recidivism and violent crime and have a negative impact on behavior during incarceration. Clark Palmer noted that if mandatory minimums reduced crime, there would not be a continuing increase in murder rates since murder has a substantial mandatory minimum.

The Committee did not act on the bill, but Chairman Strickland encouraged advocates to speak to Chairman Beach about how to achieve his purpose.

New Legislation

The following legislation of interest has been introduced in the House:


Insurance; mental health parity requirements; include a specific federal regulation

Rep. Marvin Lim (D-098)


Education; provide for HOPE Inclusive Postsecondary Education (IPSE) grants

Rep. Houston Gaines (R-120)


Appeal and error; filing of petitions for review in reviewing courts from lower judicatories; revise an exception

Rep. Rob Leverett (R-123)


Crimes and offenses; authorize for-profit credit repair services

Rep. Rob Leverett (R-123)


Georgia Dangerous Sexual Predator Prevention Act; enact

Rep. Steven Sainz (R-180)


Motor vehicles; stopping, standing, or parking of a vehicle outside of a business district in certain instances; prohibit

Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-017)


Revenue and taxation; pack of cigarettes; increase rate of tax

Rep. Ron Stephens (R-164)


Revenue and taxation; consumable vapor products; increase rate of tax

Rep. Ron Stephens (R-164)


Local government; increase dollar values of certain public works construction contracts exempt from bidding requirements

Rep. Victor Anderson (R-010)


Undocumented Persons Family Violence Protection Act; enact

Rep. Shelly Hutchinson (D-106)


Crimes and offenses; training course for certain persons applying for a weapons carry license or renewal license; provide

Rep. Pedro "Pete" Marin (D-096)


Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission; subject to Administrative Procedure Act and laws governing open meetings and records; provide

Rep. Alan Powell (R-033)


Wesley's Law; enact

Rep. Derrick McCollum (R-030)


Motor vehicles; alternate acceptable proof of insurance; expand time

Rep. Joseph Gullett (R-019)


Public Health, Department of; carry out projects to increase education, awareness, or diagnosis of valvular heart disease; authorize

Rep. Kim Schofield (D-063)


Education on Set Act; enact

Rep. Kim Schofield (D-063)


Health; restrictions on sale and dispensing of contact lenses with respect to physicians; revise provisions

Rep. Mark Newton (R-127)


Property; authorize exemptions from local ad valorem taxation in addition to homestead exemptions - CA

Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-004)


Dyslexia Day at the state capitol; February 21, 2023; recognize

Rep. John Corbett (R-174)


Addiction Recovery Awareness Day; January 24, 2023; recognize

Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-015)


Skin Cancer Awareness Day at the state capitol; February 7, 2023; recognize

Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-045)

The following legislation of interest has been introduced in the Senate:


Birth Certificate; issuance of a copy of the original birth certificate to certain adult persons who were adopted; provide

Sen. Randy Robertson (R-029)


Commissioner of Insurance; general provisions; establishing an advisory committee; provisions; authorize

Sen. Ben Watson (R-001)


Superior Courts; Atlantic Judicial Circuit; additional judge; provide

Sen. Billy Hickman (R-004)


'Second Amendment Preservation Act'; enact

Sen. Colton Moore (R-053)


Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations; offense of dogfighting as racketeering activity; include

Sen. Rick "Ricky" Williams (R-025)


Secondary Metals Recyclers; it shall be illegal for certain persons to purchase, possess, obtain, or sell or attempt to purchase, possess, obtain, or sell; provide

Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-010)


"Baranco Act"; enact

Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-010)


Telephone Services; class action suits and for damages against certain persons for violating provisions relating to telephone solicitations; provide

Sen. Blake Tillery (R-019)


Commerce and Trade, Courts, and Torts; the disclosure of the nature and practices of businesses that provide legal services; require

Sen. Blake Tillery (R-019)


Firearms; the offense of making a firearm accessible to a child; establish

Sen. Elena Parent (D-042)


Children's Day; recognizing March 16, 2023

Sen. Donzella James (D-035)


Key, Brent; recognize

Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-031)

What’s Next

The General Assembly will reconvene for Legislative Day 13 on Monday, February 6, at 10:00AM.

Neither the House nor the Senate has adopted a Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 13.


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