The State Bar of Georgia’s Legislative Program provides advocacy and education on state legislative issues affecting the practice of law.
Click here for the State Bar’s weekly update during the legislative session | January – March 2019.
How exactly does the State Bar determine what legislation to support or oppose before the Georgia Legislature?
Any committee or section of the State Bar of Georgia that is interested in advocating a position related to any bill or legislative issue must comply with Standing Board Policy 100 which outlines the Bar’s legislative policy and procedure. The State Bar and affiliated entities cannot take an official position on legislation without following this policy. Additionally, any proposed position to be taken by the Bar must be pursuant to the organization’s interest in (1) regulating the legal profession and (2) improving the quality of legal services, a standard outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Keller v. State Bar of California (1990). The Keller standard is a minimum standard and the State Bar’s Executive Committee, Board of Governors or Advisory Committee on Legislation may determine that proposed legislative position is not in the best interest of the State Bar and its membership as a whole. Historically, legislative positions taken by the State Bar are non-controversial, non-partisan and advocated with the intent of improving Georgia law for practitioners and for the public.
The State Bar legislative team also reviews all the legislation filed during the 40-day legislative session and attempts to identify every Bar committee or section that may be interested in a newly-filed bill during the legislative session. Legislation can be tracked by committee or section using the State Bar’s legislative tracking site.
State Bar positions on state agency rulemaking and policy must also approved under the provisions of Standing Board Policy 100. The State Bar of Georgia, with rare exception, does not take positions on federal legislation.
For questions on the State Bar’s legislative program, pending legislation or to plan a day at the State Capitol with your local bar association, please reach out to Christine Hayes, director of Governmental Affairs, at email@example.com or 404-526-8608.
The following proposals have been approved pursuant to Standard Board Policy 100, the State Bar’s policy and procedure for supporting or opposing legislation.
A. Cleanup to the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Conservatorship Proceedings Jurisdiction Act
This legislation seeks to provide clarity and consistency across the guardianship code. The addition of Chapter 11 to Title 29 in 2016 created incongruities and inconsistencies with Chapters 4 and 5 of the same title. The proposed amendments integrate citations to provisions in Title 29 Chapter 11 in order to provide clarity for attorneys practicing in this area and to prevent litigation based on ambiguities between these chapters. This proposal includes the same language from HB 896, which the State Bar supported during the 2018 legislative session, and adds three new provisions that address bonding, costs and registering guardianship letters from other states. Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) will sponsor this legislation.
B. Counterclaims in Custody Cases
Family law attorneys have long complained about the requirement that they file a separate action for a counterclaim in response to a complaint to modify custody. This proposal would amend Georgia law so that a party may bring a counterclaim for contempt or enforcement of a custody order, or for modification of legal or physical custody or parenting time in response to a complaint seeking the same. These proposed changes would promote efficiency and expediency in these types of custody actions.
C. Adoption of the Uniform Mediation Act in Georgia
The proposal seeks to adopt the Uniform Mediation Act in order to facilitate the resolution of international and domestic business disputes more effectively. The proposal provides that each mediation participant holds a privilege with respect to his or her communications and may prevent those communications from being disclosed or used in a subsequent formal proceeding. The proposal would also require voluntary private mediators to disclose conflicts of interest. The proposal has been adopted in 11 states and introduced in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Minnesota.
D. Study Committee to Look at Remote Online Notaries
A handful of states, including Texas and Virginia, have passed legislation authorizing remote online notarization through a third-party vendor. After seeing the issue pop up in state legislatures throughout the country over the last few years, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the American Land Title Association and the Uniform Law Commission came together to create a framework for states to adopt an online remote notarization process. This proposal would support a study committee in the Legislature to convene relevant stakeholders and investigate ways to modernize Georgia’s notary statutes.
2) Support for Appropriations Requests
A. Funding Request for Legal Representation for Victims of Domestic Violence
The State Bar will support renewed funding of $2.5 million to the Administrative Office of the Courts for grants to legal services providers for representation of victims of domestic violence.
B. Funding Request for the Georgia Appellate Practice and Educational Resource Center
The State Bar will support the traditional state appropriation of $800,000 to the Administrative Office of the Courts to fund the Georgia Appellate Practice and Educational Resource Center.
C. Support for FY 2020 Judicial Council Budget Request to Fund Civil Legal Services Grants for Kinship Care Families
The State Bar will support a new FY 2020 appropriations request by the Administrative Office of the Courts for $750,000 to fund civil legal services grants for kinship care families. Georgia currently has thousands of displaced children, a problem that has intensified due to the current opioid crisis. These grants would be used for civil legal services for kinship care so that family members can get the legal support they need to care for displaced children. Legal services organizations have seen an increasing need to prepare powers of attorney, custody arrangements, and documentation for special education issues. The funding would be appropriated by the General Assembly and administered to civil legal service organizations by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). The AOC would distribute the funds to each organization based on poverty population throughout the state.
Other issues of interest to lawyers are included in the current legislative update. (Noted above.)
The Administrative Office of the Courts tracks legislation affecting the courts and other legal issues. Visit their website for more information.