Legislative Session Update
Weeks Eight & Nine
The eighth week of the 2016 legislative session began on Monday, February 29th with Crossover Day.  Crossover Day is typically one of the longest days of any legislative session and this year was no exception as we passed 48 measures over the course of our 12 hour floor debate. We worked tirelessly to ensure that meaningful and significant legislation was heard and voted on by the full body of the House.  

The completion of week nine brought to a the close legislative day 35. Week nine was eventful as we began to consider the many Senate bills successful in making the Crossover Day deadline. The last day of session, Sine Die, is quickly approaching as we begin the 5 day countdown to day 40. 

House Action 

Week Eight

Kinship Care Measures

The House continued efforts to improve kinship caregiver conditions by passing two measures aimed at providing additional resources to our kinship community.

House Bill 934 would authorize the Department of Human Services to provide a separate link or portal on its website specifically for kinship caregivers. The link or portal would provide kinship care participants additional information for Georgia’s public assistance benefits, as well as those benefits available to children in their care.

Often times, the financial stress of adding another person to the household income leaves kinship givers struggling to make ends meet. We hope to lessen additional cost burdens with the passage of House Bill 957, which would require judges and clerks of the probate courts to publicly post a court document excusing an individual from paying court fees at the time providing; they can prove they don’t have the money to pay required fees. HB 957 also mandates that all probate courts make affidavits of indigence available to the public so that kinship caregivers are aware of this option and aren’t faced with unnecessary financial burdens.

We are confident that adequate information and education on these programs will help the thousands of children in kinship care while providing additional support for the family. HB 934 and HB 957 help us accomplish these goals.     

Disabled Veterans Homestead Exemption Program

House Bill 862 passed unanimously last week and updates current law to allow disabled veterans to qualify for the homestead exemption on their ad valorem taxes. This bill would allow any veteran given honorable discharge determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to qualify for the exemption if they meet the following criteria:
  • Individuals deemed 100 percent disabled
  • Individuals currently compensated at the 100 percent level as unemployable
Additionally, any veteran entitled to receive a statutory award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may also qualify for the exemption if they have suffered the loss of any limbs or eye-sight. 

Prior to the passage of this legislation, requirement for receiving the homestead tax exemption was much more difficult for disabled veterans to achieve. Clarification of the language will expand access of the homestead exemption by allowing all of our disabled veterans the opportunity to qualify. We are hopeful the passage of HB 862 allows more veterans to take advantage of this cost-saving exemption, which they have certainly earned through their military service. 

Fallen Heroes Bill

The Fallen Heroes Bill, House Bill 54, also passed unanimously and is aimed at honoring public service officials killed in the line of duty by providing cost free college tuition to their children. This legislation supplements the existing Georgia Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant, covering additional tuition expenses. Grants would be issued to children of the following:
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Firefighters
  • Emergency medical technicians,
  • Prison guards employed by the state or other public employer
  • HERO Operators attending public Universities in Georgia who meet certain criteria
This bill also allows voluntary grant contributions from Georgia taxpayers by adding a donation option to certain Georgia filing forms. I was pleased to support HB 54 and I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to our families who have suffered the loss of a loved one, working to protect all of our Georgia citizens. 

Spaceport Camden

Bipartisanship continues to be a theme in the House as we passed House Bill 734. HB 734 is an exciting push to bring the commercial space industry to Georgia. The legislation will make Georgia competitive as a “space friendly state”, bringing in an estimated $330 billion per year.

Under the legislation, the Georgia Space Flight Act (GSA), would define procedures for commercial space flight activity, allowing Georgia to be more competitive with neighboring states. Modeled after legislation in Texas, Limited Liability for Space Flight Activities, the GSA would create a liability shield to protect space flight entities, while informing those willing to participate in the program of their rights. In short, the bill would limit a willing space flight participant’s ability to sue for damages related to spaceflight activities, and would not protect against injuries suffered by non-consenting third parties. Space flight participants would also be required to provide informed consent and a signed written waiver at least 24-hours before space flight activity. Limited liability protection is the foundation of the bill, and mirrors federal regulations.

The proposed site located in Camden County would have a direct economic impact on Camden, Charlton, and Glynn counties, as well as a significant impact on STEM related job growth and tourism for the state. Fostering economic development and scientific cultivation will continue to drive our great state in the right direction. 

House Action 

Week Nine

Property Insurance Laws Expanded 

Georgia’s business friendly climate continues to thrive with the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 137. SB 137 which would expand current Georgia property insurance laws, allowing corporations specifically described as one or two family residential buildings to collect insurance coverage when a building is completely destroyed by fire. The legislation would also update value policy law to include corporations and other legal entities owned by multiple individuals. Currently, comprehensive fire insurance is only available to individuals renting property; however, SB 137 would extend the same protections to our growing business population.

Consumer and Provider Protection Act

Another pro-business bill given final approval in the House this week was Senate Bill 158, the “Consumer and Provider Protection Act.” This act deals with rental preferred provider healthcare networks in Georgia. A rental preferred provider healthcare network, or rental network, is a preferred provider network that contracts with a health insurer to provide access to the terms and conditions of its contract with the provider’s discount, and then sells that contract to another network without the provider’s knowledge or consent. If enacted into law SB 158 establishes the following:
  • Framework for rental preferred provider healthcare networks in Georgia to increase transparency for health care providers and consumers. 
  • Requires anyone conducting business as a rental preferred provider network in Georgia to register with the Commissioner of Insurance within 30 days of beginning their work, allowing the Commissioner to regulate this practice.
  • Rental preferred providers would no longer be allowed to access network provider’s discounts without a contract stating the terms of the agreement
  • Networks would be required to create a webpage to let networks know who they are selling to in an effort to promote transparency.
Currently, 15 states and the Federal Health Employee Benefit System have regulations on rental preferred provider networks offering increased protections to their healthcare providers and more information for consumers. The passage of SB 158 would make Georgia the 16th state offering the same protections.

Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training

Senate Bill 279 also received final passage this week by a unanimous vote from the House. SB 279 would expand the current voting membership of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) Council to 22 members. The Georgia P.O.S.T. Council is responsible for administering the regulatory process, setting the standards for training and certification, and providing essential technical assistance to the law enforcement community. P.O.S.T. also provides Georgians with qualified, professionally trained, ethical and competent peace officers and criminal justice professionals.  

Georgia State Patrol, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Department of Corrections, deputy sheriffs, county police, municipal police, and campus police are a few of the many examples of peace officers in our state. The legislation provides the member additions of the commissioner of juvenile justice or their designee and the commissioner of natural resources or their designee. The additional inputs from these new members will be crucial as we continue to lead the nation in innovative solutions to criminal justice reform and ensure heightened public safety standards in Georgia.     

Senate Approves 2017 Fiscal Year Budget

We are one step closer to fulfilling our constitutionally mandated duty of preparing a balanced budget as the Senate approved House Bill 751, the 2017 Fiscal Year budget. The Senate version of the 2017 budget varies slightly from the original version that was passed by our body, prompting the creation of a conference committee this week. If the Senate and House cannot agree on amendments or bill changes from the other chamber, a conference committee is appointed. The conference committee is usually made up of 3 members from each chamber that will try and negotiate terms of the bill. Once an agreement is met, the committee then presents both chambers with a Conference Committee Report. If the conference committee legislation is approved by both chambers, it is then sent to the governor’s desk for consideration. I look forward to hearing the final recommendations of the conference committee appointed this week for HB 751 and seeing a final budget proposal for FY2017.

Capitol Happenings

Representative Jan Tankersley recognizes the retirement of
Association of County Commissioners of Georgia General Counsel, Jim Grubiack with House Resolution 1581.  
Click Image above for full video coverage of Representative Jan Tankersly recognizing Jim Grubiak as he retires from ACCG.
Representative Jan Tankersley and House colleagues welcome
Georgia Southern University to the Gold Dome for GSU Day!
Representative Jan Tankersley was voted "Most Fabulous Local Politician” in the 2016 Statesboro Magazine Fabulist! Citizens in the reading area were given the opportunity to nominate and vote for "Fabulist" recipients. 
Believe it or not, there are only 5 days remaining in the 2016 legislative session.  As your representative, your thoughts and opinions on important issues are essential to my decision-making process. Please feel free to contact me anytime with questions or concerns, as I appreciate your input. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your voice under the Gold Dome. 

Jan Tankersley
Representative of the 160th
Georgia House of Representatives
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