Committees, Programs & Sections

Final Legislative Update (04.03.15)

The General Assembly adjourned Sine Die after midnight this morning. Legislators worked past the midnight deadline to finish debate and take action on HB 202. In what is being called one of the most productive sessions in recent memory, the General Assembly took bold action and passed key legislation in the areas of transportation and infrastructure funding (HB 170), K-12 education (SB 133 and SR 287), solar power (HB 57), insurance coverage for children with autism (HB 429) and medical marijuana for children with specific health disorders (HB 1).

In State Bar news, I am pleased to report that we had a very successful session under the Gold Dome. First, our primary agenda item was to ensure adequate funding of the judiciary and advocate for salary increases for appellate court judges, superior court judges, district attorneys and circuit public defenders. As the key stakeholder in negotiations with House and Senate appropriators, the State Bar team worked throughout the session on this issue and HB 279 received final passage last night. The bill gives the aforementioned individuals a 5 percent pay raise in addition to providing superior court judges, district attorneys and circuit public defenders a $6,000 supplement if at least one accountability court operates in their circuit.

Other funding issues on our agenda were also successful. The General Assembly increased the funding for grants for legal representation of victims of domestic violence by $193,126 and continued $800,000 of funding to the Appellate Resource Center.

In addition, after almost five years of effort by the State Bar, the General Assembly passed HB 153, which provides a private cause of action with damages to consumers harmed by the unauthorized practice of law. SB 128, the State Bar's corporate code revision, passed both chambers, but due to a transmittal glitch after a technical amendment was added in the House, the Senate ran out of time before giving the measure final approval. It will be given final approval by the Senate in the first week of next year's session.

Finally, HB 310, HB 328 and HB 361, which contained this year's justice reform and reinvestment proposals, all obtained unanimous or nearly unanimous passage and have been sent to the governor's desk.

I hope that you will join me in being proud of the State Bar's profound accomplishments this year. I would like to thank the members of the Advisory Committee on Legislation and the Section/Committee leadership for their tireless efforts reviewing and vetting almost every bill introduced this year as well as perfecting our own. I also appreciate our lobbying team—Thomas Worthy, Rusty Sewell, Roy Robinson and Meredith Weaver—for effectively advocating on our behalf and executing our proposals.

The State Bar of Georgia's Legislative and Grassroots Program provides a great service to our entire membership. Although the General Assembly has adjourned, you are encouraged to avail yourself of this great program and everything it has to offer. Please continue to monitor the Action Network portal as we begin to receive and examine legislative proposals for next year. Additionally, if your local or voluntary bar association, law firm or civic group would like to receive a legislative and political update as part of a program or CLE, Thomas Worthy and his team would be happy to participate. You may contact Thomas at thomasw@gabar.org or 404-526-8608. You may also visit the Legislative Program page.

Please remember that all of our legislative advocacy efforts are funded through voluntary contributions to the State Bar's Legislative and Public Education Fund. As you receive your dues notices in the coming weeks, you are encouraged to contribute so that we can continue to have a strong voice for the legal profession at the Capitol.

Legislative Update, Week 10 (03.23.15)

The General Assembly met on Wednesday through Friday last week for legislative days 31 through 33. Because these were the three legislative days immediately following Crossover Day, the majority of activity took place in committee.

On Friday, the Senate passed HB 76, the FY 2016 Budget. The version of the budget that passed the Senate includes funding for an across-the-board salary increase for judges, district attorneys and circuit public defenders instead of the tiered approach taken by the House. While the budget now heads to a House-Senate Conference Committee to reconcile differences, the details of the salary increase will also be clarified when the Senate Appropriations Committee takes up the enabling legislation, HB 279, this week.

Also on Friday, HB 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, passed the Senate by a vote of 29-25. The Senate version varies greatly from the House version passed earlier this year, so the bill will head to a Conference Committee this week and will remain the biggest issue of the Session.

We expect State Bar bills HB 153 (private cause of action for those harmed by the unauthorized practice of law), HB 531 (revision of the long-arm statute) and this year's criminal justice reform and reinvestment package ( HB 310, HB 328 and HB 361) all to receive Senate committee hearings this week and hopefully be passed on to Senate Rules for a floor vote. In the House, the same process will occur for SB 128 (corporate code revision).

The General Assembly will meet Monday through Friday this week for legislative days 34-38. Legislative day 39 will occur on Tuesday, March 31, and Sine Die will be Thursday, April 2.

To more closely follow the State Bar's legislative agenda and monitor all legislation that affects the legal profession and the practice of law, please sign up for the State Bar Action Network. You may do so by clicking here and then clicking on the green button on the right side of your screen. For additional information, you may also visit the Legislative Program page.

If you have any questions or need any assistance from the Gold Dome, please do not hesitate to contact Thomas Worthy, the State Bar's Director of Governmental Affairs, at thomasw@gabar.org or 404-526-8608.

Legislative Update, Week 9 (03.16.15)

The General Assembly met on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of last week for legislative days 28-30, respectively. Friday, legislative day 30, was Crossover Day, the day upon which a bill must pass its chamber of origin and "cross over" to the other chamber. As a result the General Assembly worked well into the evenings on Wednesday and Friday to meet the Crossover Day deadline.

On Friday, the House passed HB 153, the State Bar bill that creates a private cause of action for individuals harmed by the unauthorized practice of law in residential real estate transactions, and HB 531, the State Bar bill that revises the state's long-arm statute. Those two bills join the following State Bar bills that crossed over earlier in the Session: HB 279 (compensation increases for appellate and superior court judges), SB 128 (corporation code revision), and this year's installment of the governor's criminal justice reform and reinvestment package, which is contained in HB 310, HB 328 and HB 361. I am also pleased to report that SB 86, a bill that the State Bar opposes which scraps the existing medical malpractice system for an administrative hearing board, did not cross over.

Other significant bills that crossed over last week include: HB 393, a bill that allows Tesla Motors to avoid independent dealers and sell unlimited numbers of electric vehicles in Georgia, and SB 63, a bill that allows craft brewers to sell "growlers" (a pitcher, pail or other container brought by a customer for beer) of their product directly to consumers at the breweries.

HB 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, crossed over  from the House to the Senate two weeks ago. The Senate Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on it tomorrow, during which the committee will unveil its recommended changes. Also this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee will take up HB 279 (compensation increases for appellate and superior court judges) and possibly recommend changes to that compensation package.

The State Bar's legislative team was joined on Wednesday by members of the Rockdale, Henry and Newton County Bar Associations for a Lobby Day. If you would like to plan a lobby day under the Gold Dome for your local or voluntary bar association, or if you have any questions about the Bar's legislative program and agenda, please contact Thomas Worthy, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at thomasw@gabar.org.

The General Assembly will meet Wednesday through Friday of this week for legislative days 31 through 33.

You are encouraged you to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a new, web-based portal that streamlines and simplifies legislative advocacy for our members. You may sign up by clicking here and then clicking on the green button on the right side of your screen. For additional information about the State Bar of Georgia's legislative program and agenda, to track legislation or to contact the Bar's legislative team, please visit the Legislative Program page.

Legislative Update, Week 8 (03.06.15)

The General Assembly met Monday through Thursday this week for legislative days 24 through 27. Activity on both the floor and in committee is at a fever pitch as members prepare for Crossover Day, which will be next Friday, March 13.

On Monday, the Public Safety Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee passed out HB 279, a State Bar bill that would increase the salaries of Supreme Court justices, judges on the Court of Appeals, circuit public defenders and the lowest paid district attorneys and superior court judges. Appropriations to fund this bill were already included in the FY 2016 budget which passed the House last week. The Subcommittee also held a hearing on HB 236, the Attorneys for Rural Areas Assistance Act, but did not yet vote on it.

Also on Monday, the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee held a hearing on HB 310 and HB 328, two of the three bills that contain this year's installment of Gov. Deal's justice reform and reinvestment initiatives. HB 310, which contains proposals to improve fairness and transparency in misdemeanor probation, unanimously passed out of committee with no debate. HB 328, which contains adult sentencing and parole eligibility reforms, included a last-minute amendment that made changes to the state public defender system. The Bar's legislative team worked with other stakeholders and the sponsor to secure the removal of the controversial provisions related to public defenders and the bill passed unanimously out of committee. Yesterday, HB 328 passed the House unanimously and HB 310 will be on the House floor next Monday or Wednesday. The third justice reform and reinvestment bill, HB 361, which contains juvenile justice reforms, unanimously passed the House Juvenile Justice Committee on Wednesday and will be on the House floor next week.

On Tuesday, HB 405, the Bar's antenuptial agreements unanimously passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and is now in the House Rules Committee awaiting a floor vote. SB 128, the Bar's corporate code revision bill, unanimously passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee the same day and is in the Senate Rules Committee awaiting a floor vote. This week also saw the introduction of two additional bills on the Bar's legislative agenda: SB 206, the Real Property Law Section's water lien bill, and HB 531, the General Practice & Trial Law Section's long-arm statute revision.

Yesterday, by a vote of 123-46, the House passed HB 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015. It now heads to the Senate, where we expect significant revisions. Transportation funding will continue to be the primary focus of this year's session.

The General Assembly will meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week for legislative days 28, 29 and 30, respectively. Next Friday, March 13, will be Crossover Day, so the General Assembly will likely remain in session until midnight. As a result, the next State Bar Legislative Update will be Monday, March 16.

If you would like to plan a lobby day under the Gold Dome for your local or voluntary bar association, or if you have any questions about the Bar's legislative program and agenda, please contact Thomas Worthy, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at thomasw@gabar.org.

You are encouraged you to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a new, web-based portal that streamlines and simplifies legislative advocacy for our members. You may sign up by clicking here and then clicking on the green button on the right side of your screen. For additional information about the State Bar of Georgia's legislative program and agenda, to track legislation or to contact the Bar's legislative team, please visit the Legislative Program page.

Legislative Update, Week 7 (02.27.15)

While inclement weather forced the cancellation of committee meetings and closing of the Capitol Wednesday afternoon, the General Assembly met as scheduled for four days this week and finished legislative day 23 yesterday.

Both the amended FY 2015 budget and the bill allowing the Georgia Ports Authority to indemnify the federal government on the Savannah harbor project ( SB 5) have passed the House and Senate and have been signed by Governor Deal. In addition, on Wednesday, the House passed HB 1, a bill that allows treatment of nine specified illnesses with medical cannabis oil, by a vote of 157-2. It now heads to the Senate.

In State Bar news, the $21.8 million FY 2016 budget passed the House yesterday and was immediately transmitted to the Senate for consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The House version of the budget includes full funding for the State Bar's requests for legal representation of victims of domestic violence and the Georgia Appellate Resource Center. In addition, it includes money for salary increases for the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, district attorneys, public defenders as well as the lowest paid Superior Court judges in the state. While these amounts for salary increases fall short of the State Bar's request, we are grateful for the commencement of the discussion and will continue to work with appropriators. The Judicial Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee immediately got to work and held a hearing on these issues this morning.

Also on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 128, the State Bar's corporate code revision. It now sits in the Senate Rules Committee awaiting a floor vote.

The General Assembly will meet Monday through Thursday of next week for legislative days 24-27. If you would like to plan a lobby day under the Gold Dome for your local or voluntary bar association, or if you have any questions about the Bar's legislative program and agenda, please contact Thomas Worthy, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at thomasw@gabar.org.

You are encouraged you to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a new, web-based portal that streamlines and simplifies legislative advocacy for our members. You may sign up by clicking here and then clicking on the green button on the right side of your screen. For additional information about the State Bar of Georgia's legislative program and agenda, to track legislation or to contact the Bar's legislative team, please visit the Legislative Program page.

Legislative Update, Week 6 (02.20.15)

The General Assembly convened Tuesday through Friday of this week for legislative days 16 through 19. Most of the activity this week occurred in committee and subcommittee hearings.

On Monday, the Executive Committee of the State Bar convened to consider taking positions on pending legislation. The Executive Committee voted to support the governor's criminal justice reform and reinvestment package, which is contained in HB 310 and HB 328. In addition, the Executive Committee voted to oppose SB 86, the Patient Compensation Act. Those positions are now formal pieces of the Bar's legislative agenda.

On Wednesday, the Public Safety Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee held a hearing on HB 279, the bill that increases the salaries of appellate court judges, superior court judges and district attorneys. At the hearing, the committee indicated that a committee substitute will be drafted that includes a salary increase for circuit public defenders as well. After hearing testimony from all interested parties and the Bar, the committee decided to further review the bill and will hold another hearing next week. Also on Wednesday, the House Transportation Committee overwhelmingly approved HB 170, the transportation funding bill, which will remain the priority issue of the session.

On Thursday, the amended FY15 budget achieved final passage upon the agreement of the House and Senate. It now is on Gov. Deal's desk awaiting his signature. House and Senate appropriators will now turn their focus to the FY16 budget for the remainder of the session.

This week also saw the introduction of two additional Bar bills. The Family Law Section's antenuptial agreements bill was introduced by Rep. Regina Quick ( HB 405) and the Business Law Section's corporate code revision was introduced by Sen. John Kennedy ( SB 128). We anticipate the introduction of the final two Bar bills next week.

The General Assembly will meet Monday through Thursday of next week for legislative days 20-23. If you would like to plan a lobby day under the Gold Dome for your local or voluntary bar association, or if you have any questions about the Bar's legislative program and agenda, please contact Thomas Worthy, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at thomasw@gabar.org.

You are encouraged you to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a new, web-based portal that streamlines and simplifies legislative advocacy for our members. You may sign up by clicking here and then clicking on the green button on the right side of your screen. For additional information about the State Bar of Georgia's legislative program and agenda, to track legislation or to contact the Bar's legislative team, please visit the Legislative Program page.

Legislative Update, Week 5 (02.13.15)

The General Assembly met Monday through Thursday of this week for legislative days 12-15. On Monday, HB 279 was introduced by Rep. Jay Powell. This bill, part of the Bar's legislative agenda, increases the salaries of appellate and superior court judges as well as district attorneys. The Bar's legislative team will work with the sponsor during the committee process to attempt to amend the language to include the same salary increase for circuit public defenders.

On Tuesday, the Public Safety Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the FY16 Budget for the Administrative Office of the Courts. The Bar's funding requests for the Appellate Resource Center and Legal Services for Victims of Domestic Violence were contained in that budget and presented to the subcommittee. It should go to the full committee within the next two weeks.

On Wednesday, Gov. Deal rolled out this year's criminal justice reform and reinvestment package. The proposed reforms are contained in HB 310 and HB 328. Among other items, HB 310 includes proposals to increase the transparency and fairness in misdemeanor probation supervision.

The Bar's legislative team continues to identify bill sponsors to draft and introduce the remaining pieces of our legislative agenda. We hope to have the final items introduced and moving through the process by the end of next week.

The General Assembly will convene Tuesday through Friday of next week for legislative days 16-19. If you would like to plan a lobby day under the Gold Dome for your local or voluntary bar association, or if you have any questions about the Bar's legislative program and agenda, please contact Thomas Worthy, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at thomasw@gabar.org.

You are encouraged to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a new, web-based portal that streamlines and simplifies legislative advocacy for our members. You may sign up by clicking here and then clicking on the green button on the right side of your screen. For additional information about the State Bar of Georgia's legislative program and agenda, to track legislation or to contact the Bar's legislative team, please visit the Legislative Program page.

Legislative Update, Week 4 (02.06.15)

The General Assembly met Monday through Wednesday of this week for legislative days 9 through 11. On Wednesday, Chief Justice Hugh Thompson delivered the annual State of the Judiciary address, in which he discussed the need for judicial pay increases. In addition, he focused on access to justice and applauded the State Bar's proposed Attorneys for Rural Areas Assistance Act. On that same day, Rep. Alex Atwood introduced the Attorneys for Rural Areas Assistance Act, HB 236.

Also on Wednesday, the Fleming Subcommittee of the House Judiciary-Civil Committee held a hearing on HB 153, the State Bar's unauthorized practice of law bill. There was a thorough discussion and vetting of the legislation. Some trade associations and other groups expressed concerns that the legislation was drafted too broadly. The Real Property Law Section is working with the State Bar's legislative team to review those concerns and see if we can alleviate them.

SB 86, the Patient Compensation Act, was introduced Wednesday by Sen. Brandon Beach. We are reviewing that legislation to see if there are any changes from last year's version, which was opposed by the State Bar.

The General Assembly will convene Monday through Thursday of next week for legislative days 12-15. If you would like to plan a lobby day under the Gold Dome for your local or voluntary bar association, or if you have any questions about the Bar's legislative program and agenda, please contact Thomas Worthy, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at thomasw@gabar.org.

You are encouraged to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a new, web-based portal that streamlines and simplifies legislative advocacy for our members. You may sign up by clicking here and then clicking on the green button on the right side of your screen. For additional information about the State Bar of Georgia's legislative program and agenda, to track legislation or to contact the Bar's legislative team, please visit the Legislative Program page.

Legislative Update, Week 3 (01.30.15)

The General Assembly met Monday through Thursday this week for legislative days 5 through 8 and immediately got to work after spending last week conducting budget hearings. On Wednesday, House Speaker David Ralston and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts held a press conference to unveil the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, HB 170. The bill was introduced on Thursday morning. Transportation and infrastructure funding will be the main topic of this year's session, and HB 170 is the opening round. Also on Thursday, the House passed the Amended FY15 budget, also known as the Supplemental Budget, while the Senate unanimously passed SB 1, which would require insurance companies to provide autism treatment coverage for young children.

In State Bar news, our legislative team continues to work with members of the General Assembly and the Office of Legislative Counsel to get draft bills to carry our agenda items and get them introduced. HB 153, the Real Property Law Section's unauthorized practice of law bill, was introduced Thursday by Rep. Tom Weldon. The remainder of the Bar's agenda items will be introduced in the next two weeks. Also on Thursday, I took the annual photo with our lawyer-legislators for the cover of the Georgia Bar Journal. It is a great way to show our appreciation for their service to the state and our profession.

The General Assembly will convene next Monday, Feb. 2, through Wednesday, Feb. 4, for legislative days 9 through 11. We expect to see the annual report of the Georgia Criminal Justice Reform Council released next week, which we will continue to monitor closely and participate in as needed.

On Thursday, members of the Savannah Bar Association joined us at the Capitol and participated in a lobby day. If you would like to plan a lobby day under the Gold Dome for your local or voluntary bar association, or if you have any questions about the Bar's legislative program and agenda, please contact Thomas Worthy, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at thomasw@gabar.org.

You are encouraged to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a new, web-based portal that streamlines and simplifies legislative advocacy for our members. You may sign up by clicking here and then clicking on the green button on the right side of your screen. For additional information about the State Bar of Georgia's legislative program and agenda, to track legislation or to contact the Bar's legislative team, please visit the Legislative Program page.

Legislative Update, Week 1 (01.20.15)

The 2015 Regular Session of the 152nd Georgia General Assembly commenced last Monday, Jan. 12, with great pomp and circumstance. Legislative day 1 saw the swearing-in ceremonies of each member of the General Assembly as well as Gov. Deal, Attorney General Olens and the other state constitutional officers.

On Tuesday, legislative day 2, the General Assembly convened to begin taking care of regular business, like formally reading proposed legislation and assigning it to the appropriate committees. Committee chairmen were not completed and announced by chamber leadership until Thursday, so there were no committee hearings on proposed legislation last week.

On Wednesday, legislative day 3 of the legislative session, the General Assembly met jointly to hear Gov. Deal's State of the State address. In that speech, the governor focused on what will certainly be the big themes of this year's session-transportation, K-12 education, probation supervision, criminal justice reform and medical cannabis oil.

The General Assembly convened again on Thursday, Jan. 15, for legislative day 4, when it received Gov. Deal's FY 2016 budget recommendations.

The General Assembly did not convene on Monday in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and will be in adjournment this week so the appropriations committees can hold hearings on the Amended FY 2015 and FY 2016 budgets. It will convene next Monday, Jan. 26, for legislative day 5. In the meantime, the State Bar's legislative team continues to secure sponsors for each item of the Bar's legislative agenda.

If you have any questions about the Bar's legislative program and agenda, or if you would like to plan a lobby day under the Gold Dome for your local or voluntary bar association, please contact Thomas Worthy, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at thomasw@gabar.org. I would also like to encourage you to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a new, web-based portal that streamlines and simplifies legislative advocacy for our members. You may sign up by clicking here and then clicking on the green button on the right side of your screen.

For additional information about the State Bar of Georgia's legislative program and agenda, to track legislation or to contact the Bar's legislative team, please visit the Legislative Program page.