Legislative Update, Week 1 (01.17.18)
And they're off! The 154th session of the Georgia General Assembly commenced the second year of its two-year cycle on Jan. 8, 2018. While the General Assembly is constitutionally required to start on the second Monday of the year, the buzz of the national championship game overshadowed politics during the first few days under the Gold Dome.
The early days of the session are often used by legislators and policymakers to preview their priorities for the months ahead and this past week was no different. Gov. Deal promoted a proposed constitutional amendment to expand Georgia's business courts in order to provide "an efficient and dependable forum to litigants in every corner of the state for the resolution of complex matters." We also expect to see legislation proposing changes to the state's sovereign immunity laws following the Supreme Court of Georgia's decision in Lathrop v. Deal and the Attorney General's recent Court Reform Council Report.
We also expect to hear a lot about adoption this session. HB 159, sponsored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), is an extensive modernization of Georgia's adoption code. The bill passed the House unanimously last year but faced political obstacles in the Senate when a controversial religious liberty amendment was proposed in committee. Despite last minute attempts to get the bill across the finish line, it ultimately failed to pass in the Senate during the final moments of the 2017 session.
The Senate Judiciary Committee took up HB 159 again on Wednesday, where it integrated changes proposed by a Senate working group that met over the summer. The most notable change integrates language that would allow a parent to give power of attorney over his or her child to another individual for a limited period of time. Gov. Deal vetoed a bill with similar provisions last year citing concerns about the lack of oversight by the courts and DFCS. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass HB 159 with the new language on Wednesday afternoon. The bill will likely be up for a vote before the Senate within the next few weeks.
Gov. Deal gave his final State of the State address on Thursday morning, where he touched on the growth of Georgia's technical colleges and transportation investment throughout the state. Following his address, the Governor's Office released this year's proposed state budget, which is projected to include $26 billion in state revenue.
For a look at the State Bar's 2018 legislative package, visit the Legislative Program Page. We plan to keep Bar membership in the know with weekly updates like this one covering legislation that impacts the practice of law. For questions about the legislative session or to plan a lobby day down at the State Capitol, please reach out to Christine Butcher Hayes, Director of Governmental Affairs, at email@example.com.