Committees, Programs & Sections

Legislative Update, Final (03.29.16)

AT A GLANCE:

  • FY17 budget includes most of State Bar's funding requests
  • JQC bills (HB 808 and HR 1113) pass in final two days of session
  • Water indebtedness notice bill (SB 206) sent to Gov. Deal
  • Repeal of administrative legitimation bill (SB 64) sent to Gov. Deal
  • Criminal justice reform and reinvestment bill (SB 367) sent to Gov. Deal
  • Bill clarifying that attorneys do not need to be licensed as insurance agents (SB 290) sent to Gov. Deal
  • Corporate code amendment bill (SB 128) sent to Gov. Deal

The 2016 Regular Session of the 153rd Georgia General Assembly met on Tuesday and Thursday last week for its final two days. The House and Senate adjourned sine die 30 minutes past the formerly accepted midnight deadline on Thursday night. Tuesday was also a long day for both chambers with the Senate working until after midnight that day as well, and the House adjourning around 11:40 p.m.

Late Tuesday night, the Senate passed HR 1113, the Constitutional amendment that scraps the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) and reconstitutes it with a revamped composition of membership, by one vote. The State Bar's lobbying efforts defeated the measure on the first vote, but the Senate voted to reconsider its action, and after hours of horse trading, one senator's vote was switched and the HR 1113 passed 38-18 - the bare minimum to reach the required two-thirds vote to adopt a Constitutional amendment. The House then immediately agreed to the Senate version by a vote of 120-40, also barely making the two-thirds vote requirement. The Constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in November, and the citizens of Georgia will vote to determine whether or not this new amendment should be added to the Constitution.

Then, on Thursday night, the Senate passed its version of HB 808, the enabling legislation that accompanies HR 1113 and provides for the composition of the new JQC. The Senate version contained two attorney appointments made by the State Bar Board of Governors. When it returned to the House, the House amended the bill, removing the Bar appointees and instead providing that the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor each appoint attorney members from a list of ten names provided by the Board of Governors. The bill also provides that the Governor appoint an attorney as chairman, the Supreme Court appoint two judges of any court of record and the Speaker and the Lieutenant Governor each appoint a civilian member. The Constitutional amendment provides that all appointments to the JQC, by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House and Supreme Court will require Senate confirmation. The House and Senate agreed to the House version late Thursday night. While we are pleased that the Bar's important role in judicial discipline is at least acknowledged, we still remain opposed to the removal of our appointment power. The Executive Committee and the Board of Governors will continue to weigh our options and determine the best path forward. We will, of course, keep our membership updated.

In other State Bar news, we did enjoy some strong successes under the Gold Dome as well. The FY17 budget includes most of the State Bar funding requests including: restoring grants to civil legal services providers for victims of domestic violence to pre-recession level of $2.5 million per year, an increase in funding for the Department of Law, an increase in funding for the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, an increase in funding for the Georgia Public Defenders Council and continuation funding of the Appellate Resource Center. Five State Bar bills saw final passage and are currently on the Governor's desk awaiting signature: SB 206 (water indebtedness notice bill), SB 64 (repeal of administrative legitimation), SB 367 (criminal justice reform and reinvestment), SB 290 (clarification that attorneys do not need to be dually licensed as insurance agents) and SB 128 (amendments to the corporate code).

Other bills of interest to the legal profession that saw final passage and await the Governor's signature include: HB 927, which changes jurisdiction of the appellate courts and adds two new justices to the Supreme Court, SB 255, which updates Georgia's garnishment laws and procedures, and HB 954, which adopts the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act.

If you have any questions about the Bar's legislative program and agenda or any other pieces of legislation, please visit the Bar's Legislative Program page, the General Assembly's page or contact Thomas Worthy, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at thomasw@gabar.org or 404-526-8608.

Legislative Update, Week 10 (03.18.16)

AT A GLANCE:

  • JQC bills (HB 808 and HR 1113) passed out of Senate Ethics Committee
  • Water indebtedness notice bill (SB 206) unanimously passes House
  • Nonprofit corporation redomestication bill (SB 333) remains in House Rules Committee
  • Juvenile procedure bill (HB 1073) remains in Senate Rules Committee

Winding down the 40-day legislative session, the General Assembly met on Monday through Wednesday of this week, taking them through legislative day 38. The General Assembly will convene next Tuesday for legislative day 39 and next Thursday for Sine Die, legislative day 40.

On Tuesday, the Senate Ethics Committee held another brief hearing on HB 808 and HR 1113, the constitutional amendment and enabling legislation that reconstitutes the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and voted to pass them out. The Committee did, however, make substantial changes to the House version of the bills, reinstating two appointments to the JQC by the State Bar Board of Governors. While this version is certainly more acceptable than the House version and we thank the Senate for acknowledging the important role the Bar should play in judicial discipline, we are going to continue to stress the importance and necessity of the Bar retaining all three of our appointments. Further, we still believe that such a revolutionary change is premature. Any changes should be made only after the new study commissions complete their investigation and analysis of the JQC. The bills are now in the Senate Rules Committee and we will know if they will receive a floor vote on Monday afternoon when the Senate Rules Committee holds its final meeting of the session.

Also on Tuesday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed SB 206, the State Bar bill requiring notice of water indebtedness to be provided to closing attorneys and new tenants or owners. It now goes back to the Senate for an up-or-down agree vote to accept the minor changes made in the House.

Other State Bar bills awaiting a floor vote are SB 333, the State Bar's nonprofit corporation redomestication bill, which is in the House Rules Committee, HB 1073, the State Bar's juvenile procedure bill, which is in the Senate Rules Committee and HB 531, the State Bar bill that streamlines the state long-arm statute, which is in the Senate Rules Committee. We will continue to work with members of both Rules Committees to try to get these important bills to the floor in each respective chamber.

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 or 404-526-8608. You are also encouraged to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a 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 9 (03.11.16)

AT A GLANCE:

  • JQC bills (HB 808 and HR 1113) heard in Senate Ethics Committee
  • Juvenile procedure bill (HB 1073) passes out of Senate Special Judiciary Committee
  • Bill clarifying that attorneys need not be licensed as insurance agents (SB 290) passes House and sent to governor
  • Water indebtedness notice bill (SB 206) and nonprofit corporation redomestication bill (SB 333) pass out of House Judiciary Committee

The General Assembly met on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, bringing us through legislative day 35. Legislators spent the four-day work week attending numerous committee meetings to work on crossover bills and resolutions.

On Tuesday, the Senate Ethics Committee held a hearing on HB 808 and HR 1113, the constitutional amendment and enabling legislation that reconstitutes the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Director of Governmental Affairs, Thomas Worthy, and President Bob Kauffman testified in opposition to the removal of the State Bar's constitutional authority to appoint members to the commission. The Committee will take up these measures again next Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed their version of the $23.7 billion FY17 budget. We are pleased that increased funding for all of the State Bar budget requests were included in this version, the Senate did reduce some levels from the House version. We will now work with House and Senate conferees to secure these important items and hopefully increase some of them. Also on Wednesday, HB 1073, the State Bar bill changing appellate procedure and waiver of counsel in juvenile court passed the Senate Special Judiciary Committee. It now sits in Senate Rules awaiting a floor vote.

On Thursday, SB 290, the State Bar bill that clarifies that attorneys who counsel on and issue title insurance do not need to be licensed as insurance agents unanimously passed the House. It now goes to the governor for signature. Also on Thursday, SB 206, the bill requiring notice of indebtedness from municipal water suppliers, and SB 333, the nonprofit corporation redomestication bill, passed the House Judiciary Committee and await a floor vote in the House Rules Committee.

Today marked the end of qualifying week for all 236 seats in the General Assembly. Lawyer-legislators Rep. Stephen Allison, Rep. Alex Atwood, Rep. LaDawn Jones, Rep. Ronnie Mabra, Rep. B.J. Pak and Rep. Matt Ramsey all have announced their retirement from the House. I hope you will join me in thanking them for their dynamic jobs in representing the best of our profession under the Gold Dome.

The General Assembly will convene next Monday through Wednesday for legislative days 36 through 38.

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 or 404-526-8608. You are also encouraged to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a 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 and CALL TO ACTION, Week 7 (02.26.16)

AT A GLANCE:

  • Water lien bill (SB 206) on Senate Floor Monday-Call your Senator and ask for support!
  • Child advocacy and protection bill (HB 1073) passes House
  • Nonprofit corporation redomestication bill (SB 333) passes Senate
  • E-Discovery bill (HB 1017), Benefit Corporation bill (HB 1052) and antenuptial agreements bill (HB 405) in House Rules Committee awaiting possible floor vote

The General Assembly met all five days this week with legislative day 29 wrapping up late this afternoon. It was a week of extended floor sessions and later committee meetings. Monday, Feb. 29, will be Crossover Day (legislative day 30), which is the final day when a bill must have passed at least one chamber and "crossed over" to the other chamber to still be alive for this session.

On Wednesday of this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed out SB 206, the State Bar's bill which requires water suppliers to give notice of indebtedness on accounts upon request by closing attorneys and prevents the water suppliers from denying water service to a future owner or tenant of commercial or residential property for the unpaid water bill of the previous owner or tenant. The bill passed out of the Senate Rules Committee this afternoon and will be considered on the Senate floor on Monday. The Georgia Municipal Association and the City of Atlanta are strongly opposing this bill. Please call your senator this weekend or Monday morning and urge them to support SB 206. New owners or tenants should not be denied access to water due to the indebtedness of the previous owner or tenant. You may find your senator through the State Bar Action Network or by clicking here.

In other State Bar news, the constitutional amendment and accompanying bill that abolishes the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission and reconstitutes it in a different manner without appointments from the State Bar's Board of Governors, HR 1113 and HB 808, overwhelmingly passed the House over the Bar's objections on Monday. Then, on Tuesday, the House passed HR 1363, a resolution that creates a study commission with subpoena power to investigate the policies and procedures of the JQC. The State Bar will work with the new commission and Senate members to address concerns about the JQC while also underscoring the importance of the Bar's role in its membership.

Also this week, the E-Discovery bill, HB 1017, and the Benefit Corporation bill, HB 1052, passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. They now are in the House Rules Committee awaiting a possible floor vote on Monday.

Yesterday, the criminal justice reform and reinvestment bill, SB 367, unanimously passed the Senate. Earlier today, HB 1073, the State Bar bill relating to waiver and appeals in juvenile proceedings unanimously passed the House and SB 333, the State Bar's nonprofit corporation redomestication bill unanimously passed the Senate.

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 or 404-526-8608. You are also encouraged to sign up for the State Bar Action Network, a 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 (02.19.16)

AT A GLANCE:

  • E-Discovery bill gets first hearing (HB 1017)
  • Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act of 2016 overwhelmingly passes House (HB 927)
  • 2016 Criminal Justice Reform bill passes Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee (SB 367)
  • House passes FY17 Budget
  • Benefit Corporation bill introduced (HB 1052)
  • JQC bills on House Floor Monday (HB 808 and HR 1113)

After taking Monday off for Presidents' Day, the General Assembly met Tuesday through Friday of this week for legislative days 21 through 24. Next week will be a full and busy one with legislators meeting all five days, taking them through legislative day 29.

On Wednesday, HB 1017, the e-discovery bill, received its first hearing in a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. The subcommittee took no action and will hold another hearing on the bill next Monday.

On Thursday, the Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act of 2016, HB 927, passed the House by a vote of 120-45. This bill modernizes the appellate courts by improving efficiency in jurisdictional issues between the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. It also increases the size of the Supreme Court by adding two justices. It now moves on to the Senate for consideration. Also on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee unanimously approved the 2016 criminal justice reform bill, SB 367. It now sits in the Senate Rules Committee awaiting a floor vote.

Earlier today, the House approved the $47.5 billion FY17 budget. I am pleased to report that the House version of the budget includes almost all of the State Bar funding requests including: full restoration of the $2.5 million amount for grants for legal representation for victims of domestic violence, full funding of the Appellate Resource Center, and an increase in funding for the Georgia Department of Law, the Georgia Public Defenders Council and the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia. We will work with Senate appropriators and the conference committee to attempt to secure additional funding for civil legal services from the proceeds of the Chase Bank settlement with the state.

In other State Bar news, SB 333, the State Bar's nonprofit corporation redomestication bill, unanimously passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. It currently sits in Senate Rules awaiting a vote by the full Senate. Rep. Scott Holcomb and other representatives introduced HB 1052, the State Bar's benefit corporation bill today. We expect Rep. Brian Strickland to introduce a bill on Monday containing the two proposals by the Child Protection and Advocacy Section.

Next Monday, the constitutional amendment and its accompanying enabling legislation reconstituting the Judicial Qualifications Commission, HB 808 and HR 1113, will be taken up by the full House for a floor vote. The State Bar opposes the provision removing our appointment power to the JQC and continues to voice those concerns to House members. The Bar is hopeful that we can work together to formulate a better solution to address House leaders' concerns about this commission.

The State Bar legislative team looks forward to welcoming the YLD Leadership Academy Class of 2016 and the Columbus Bar Association to the Capitol next week. 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 or 404-526-8608.

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 5 (02.12.16)

AT A GLANCE:

  • Garnishment bill passes Senate and House Judiciary Committee (SB 255)
  • 2016 Criminal Justice Reform bill introduced (SB 367)
  • Discussions continue with House leaders regarding the JQC
  • E-Discovery bill introduced (HB 1017)

The General Assembly met on Monday through Thursday of this week for legislative days 17 through 20. Members will enjoy a three-day weekend in observance of Presidents' Day next Monday and will return to the Gold Dome for legislative days 21 through 24 next Tuesday through Friday.

On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed SB 255, the bill amending the state's garnishment law to bring it into compliance with Judge Marvin Shoob's recent order. The House moved quickly on this bill, passing it out of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The bill is now in the House Rules Committee awaiting a floor vote.

On Wednesday this week, the Senate unanimously passed its version of the amended FY 2016 $23 billion budget. It will now go to conference committee with House representatives, where we expect a quick compromise. After a compromise is reached and both chambers adopt the conference report, appropriators will focus on the FY 2017 budget. The State Bar will continue to work with both chambers to attempt to secure our funding requests in that bill.

Also on Wednesday, SB 367, the bill that contains the 2016 recommendations of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform, was introduced. We look forward to continuing to partner with the Council and other stakeholders to ensure another round of successful justice reform and reinvestment policies.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee held a lengthy hearing taking up many measures. In addition to the garnishment bill mentioned above, the Committee passed out HB 927, the Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act of 2016. The Committee also passed out HB 808 and HR 1113, the bills that reconstitute the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Chairman Willard indicated in the Committee hearing that he will not yet seek a floor vote on the JQC bills but, next week, will introduce a resolution creating a special committee with subpoena powers to investigate the JQC and its policies and procedures. The State Bar's legislative team and President Bob Kauffman will continue to work with Chairman Willard and this new committee to underscore the important role the Bar plays in the Commission.

In other State Bar news, the Bar's e-discovery bill, HB 1017, was introduced yesterday. We expect committee movement on that bill as well as many other Bar proposals as early as next week.

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 or 404-526-8608.

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 (02.05.16)

AT A GLANCE:

  • State Bar bill clarifying that attorneys do not need to be licensed as insurance agents passes committee (SB290)
  • State Bar bill amending nonprofit corporation code introduced (SB 333)
  • Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act of 2016 introduced (HB 927)
  • Discussions continue with House leaders regarding the JQC
  • Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform releases 2016 report (read it here)

The General Assembly met on Monday through Thursday of this week for legislative days 13 through 16. There were a flurry of bills going through the committee process and Appropriations subcommittees in both the House and the Senate continued to vet the FY17 budget.

Many State Bar bills have begun to move through the process and our legislative team is working to ensure that the remaining bills are introduced next week. SB 290, the State Bar bill that clarifies that attorneys who collect premiums on, issue policies of and otherwise advise on title insurance need not be licensed insurance agents, passed the Senate Insurance Committee this week. It now sits in the Senate Rules Committee awaiting a floor vote. Also this week, Sen. John Kennedy introduced SB 333, which includes the State Bar's proposal related to the re-domestication of nonprofit corporations.

Yesterday, The Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act of 2016, HB 927, was introduced. This bill will modernize appellate practices and maximize efficiencies in the appellate courts by shifting certain jurisdictional issues from the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeals. The bill also increases the size of the Supreme Court from seven to nine Justices.

Also this week, State Bar President Bob Kauffman along with the legislative team, continued conversations with House leaders regarding their concerns about the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The State Bar continues to work toward a solution that addresses their concerns while also appreciating the Bar's role in this important constitutional commission.

In other news, the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform released its 2016 recommendations this week. We expect that those recommendations requiring legislative action will be introduced as a bill or bills next week. The State Bar looks forward to continuing to work with the General Assembly on what will be the fifth year of successful justice reform and reinvestment initiatives.

The General Assembly will meet on Monday through Thursday of next week for legislative days 17 through 20.

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 (01.29.16)

AT A GLANCE:

  • Chief Justice Thompson delivers the State of the Judiciary Address (Read it here.)
  • JQC bills introduced this week (HB 808 and HR 1113)
  • Family Law Section's bill moves out of committee (HB 405)
  • E-Discovery bill adopted by State Bar's Board of Governors

The General Assembly met on Monday through Thursday of this week for legislative days 9 through 12, and it was a busy week particularly in committees.

On Wednesday, the House and Senate met in a joint session to hear Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson's State of the Judiciary Address. You can read a copy of the Chief Justice's speech here.

Earlier in the week, a bipartisan group of lawyer-legislators introduced HB 808 and HR 1113. These bills seek to revamp the structure and membership of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. While they would increase the number of lawyers serving on the Commission, they would also remove the State Bar's ability to appoint members to the Commission. State Bar President Bob Kauffman has been made aware of the concerns held by House leadership about the Commission, and he is working with the Bar's legislative team and House leaders to develop a solution that values the State Bar's input and unique perspective as well as protects the best interests of the public and the judiciary.

On Thursday, HB 405, the Family Law Section's antenuptial agreement bill, received final passage from the House Judiciary Committee. It now moves to the House Rules Committee for scheduling for a floor vote.

Earlier today, in a specially called meeting of the Board of Governors, the Board, by a vote of 69-24, adopted the proposal made by the Electronically Stored Information Committee. A copy of that proposal can be found here. With this approval, the Bar's legislative team will now work with members of the General Assembly to find a sponsor for this proposal and get it introduced as a bill next week.

The General Assembly will meet on Monday through Thursday of next week for legislative days 13 through 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 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 2 (01.22.16)

After taking Monday off for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the General Assembly returned to work on Tuesday with joint budget hearings as both House and Senate appropriators began to vet Gov. Deal's recommended $23.7 billion state budget.

The General Assembly then gaveled into session for legislative day 6 on Wednesday. Joint budget subcommittee hearings ensued on Wednesday and Thursday. Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Judicial Subcommittee and the House Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee held a joint hearing to take up the Judicial Branch's budget requests. At that hearing, they heard from all classes of courts, the Judicial Council, the Prosecuting Attorneys Council and the Public Defenders Council. Included in these presentations were many budgetary requests supported by the State Bar including grants for legal representation for victims of domestic violence, an increase in appropriations for the Department of Law and pay parity with step increases for assistant public defenders and assistant district attorneys.

In other State Bar news, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee passed out HB 405, the Bar's antenuptial agreements legislation, this morning. It now goes on to the full committee for consideration. Our legislative team continues to work with members to introduce our new proposals and calendar Bar bills that remain from last year.

The General Assembly will convene next Monday, Jan. 25, through Thursday, Jan. 28, for legislative days 9-12.

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 (01.15.16)

The 2016 Regular Session of the 152nd Georgia General Assembly commenced on Monday, Jan. 11. Soon after gaveling in, legislators quickly passed the beginning of an aggressive session schedule that will have them at legislative day 13 of their 40-day session by Feb. 1. If this pace is maintained, the General Assembly could potentially adjourn sine die as early as March 24. You can view the schedule here.

As expected, this first week was generally slow with respect to conducting legislative business and holding committee hearings, but members were busy drafting and introducing legislation in both chambers. Casino gambling, medical marijuana expansion, K-12 education reforms and debate over religious liberty promise to keep the session active and exciting even though it is shaping up to be a very quick one.

On Wednesday, 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 laid out his budgetary and legislative priorities for the year, which include education reform and a continuation of his criminal justice reform and reinvestment initiatives. You can read the entire text of the speech here.

The General Assembly convened again on Thursday, Jan. 14, for legislative day 4, when it received Gov. Deal's FY 2017 budget recommendations. The governor's proposed budget is the largest budget in the history of Georgia at $23.7 billion and includes a 3 percent raise for teachers and state employees. You can view a copy of the proposed FY 2017 budget here.

In State Bar news, the Board of Governors voted at last weekend's meeting on the final pieces of the Bar's legislative agenda for the year. You may find all of the proposals, including bills remaining from last year by visiting the Legislative Program page. The Bar's legislative team has begun its work finding sponsors for new proposals and working with committee chairmen for quick action on pending bills. In addition, State Bar President Robert J. "Bob" Kauffman continues to work with attorneys from the involved stakeholder groups and the chair of the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information Task Force to develop a compromise on an e-discovery proposal. The proposal will be voted on by the Board of Governors at a specially called meeting on Jan. 29 at noon at the Bar Center. The meeting will be broadcast to the Tifton and Savannah offices so that board members can participate from those locations as well.

The General Assembly will take next Monday, Jan. 18, off in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and will spend next Tuesday, Jan. 19, in budget hearings. Legislators will convene for legislative day 6 on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

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.

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.