Committees, Programs & Sections

Legislative Update, Week 7 (03.03.17)

Friday marked Day 28 of the 2017 legislative session, which served as Crossover Day. By Crossover Day, all legislation must pass in either the House or the Senate to continue through the process for the remainder of the 40-day session.

It was a busy week leading up to Crossover Day, with packed calendars in both the House and the Senate. On Feb. 28, Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) presented SB 130 on the Senate floor, where it passed by a vote of 52-0. SB 130, which is part of the State Bar's legislative package, would require that a waiver of a parent's right to an attorney in a juvenile case be knowing, voluntary and on the record. Now that SB 130 has crossed over, we expect it will be heard in the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks.

HB 15, which would require mandatory civil e-filing in all of Georgia's superior and state courts, passed the House by a vote of 168-5 on Crossover Day. We will continue to monitor this bill and update our State Bar members if changes are made as the bill moves over to the Senate.

HB 221, the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, passed the House by a vote of 170-0 on Crossover Day. The House also passed HB 192, which provides for a rebuttable presumption that a corporate director acted in good faith in the process of decision-making and that he or she exercised ordinary care. This presumption may be rebutted if there is evidence that a director was grossly negligent in his or her decision-making process. HB 441, which would establish qualified self-settled spendthrift trusts in Georgia, also passed in the House Friday evening by a vote of 125-37.

On Crossover Day, the Senate passed SR 146 and SB 127, also known as Marsy's Law. Marsy's Law would amend the Georgia Constitution to include a victim's bill of rights. Its enabling legislation (SB 127) would give a victim the ability to file a motion to be heard if he or she made a written request to the prosecuting attorney to be notified of all proceedings and he or she was not provided such notification.

Finally, the annual legislative package studied and developed by Gov. Deal and the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform passed unanimously in the Senate last Wednesday. Some of this year's reforms include changes to juvenile proceedings (SB 175), veterans’ accountability courts and sentencing of first-time non-violent felony offenders (SB 174), and changes to the procedure of issuing bench warrants for individuals charged with certain traffic, motorist and road violations (SB 176).

There are 12 legislative days left in this session before Sine Die on March 30. President Pat O'Connor will continue to closely monitor the progress of the State Bar legislation, as well as those bills that affect the practice of law and our profession. If there is a particular piece of legislation that is of concern to you or your section, please reach out to Christine Butcher, Director of Governmental Affairs, at christineb@gabar.org.

Legislative Update, Weeks 5 and 6 (02.25.17)

This update covers weeks 5 and 6 of the 2017 legislative session. Feb. 14 through Feb. 17 were legislative days 17 through 20, and this week we wrapped up days 21 through 24 of the session. Things are moving quickly under the Gold Dome with only four days left until Crossover Day, when legislation must pass in either the House or the Senate in order to continue through the legislative process.

Last week in the Senate, three bills in the State Bar legislative package passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Freshman Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) did great work presenting SB 130 and SB 131, both of which were brought by the State Bar's Child Protection and Advocacy Section. SB 130 would require that a waiver of a parent's right to an attorney in a juvenile case be knowing, voluntary and on the record. SB 131 seeks to amend the juvenile code so that an appeal of an order terminating parental rights would stay a pending adoption proceeding related to that child until the termination appeal is finalized. This is so both children and parents know that an adoption proceeding following a termination of parental rights is final.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also passed SB 148, sponsored by Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon). Under current Georgia law, a foreign nonprofit corporation can only become a Georgia nonprofit corporation through a merger. The same is true for a Georgia nonprofit corporation that seeks to move from Georgia. This legislation would create a statutory process by which a nonprofit corporation could redomesticate.

We are grateful for the service of Sen. Tillery and Sen. Kennedy, who have given their time and expertise to help the State Bar with this legislation at the State Capitol.

HB 15, which would require mandatory e-filing for civil matters in state and superior court, passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 21. New provisions were added to the legislation that would give the Judicial Council of Georgia rulemaking authority on filing during declared state of emergency that may limit access to utilities like power and internet in certain regions. We appreciate the comments we have received from our members on this bill.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee heard HB 221, also know as the "Uniform Power of Attorney Act." This legislation would substantially modernize Georgia's power of attorney statute by providing the duties, liability and authority for agents, coagents and successor agents, in addition to provisions that provide for the applicability, meaning, effect and termination of a power of attorney. The legislation also includes an updated statutory form power of attorney. HB 221 is intended to provide updated provisions that would protect Georgia's elderly population.

As the Legislature speeds into its final month of the 2017 session, please do not hesitate to reach out to Christine Butcher, Director of Governmental Affairs, at christineb@gabar.org with any questions or concerns you may have. For additional information about the State Bar's legislative program and agenda, or to contact the Bar's legislative team, please visit the Legislative Program page.

Legislative Update, Week 4 (02.10.17)

The Legislature was in session Tuesday through Friday for days 13 through 16 of its 40-day session.

On Tuesday, Rep. Meagan Hanson (R-Brookhaven) presented HB 190 in a House Judiciary subcommittee. HB 190, which is part of State Bar's legislative package, seeks to codify that antenuptial agreements must be in writing, signed by both parties, and attested by at least two witnesses, at least one of which must be a notary. After the bill passed out of subcommittee on Tuesday, HB 190 was heard by the full House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, where the committee voted "do pass." HB 190 will move on to the House Rules Committee early next week. Rep. Hanson, a freshmen legislator and family law attorney, has done a great job advocating this legislative priority on behalf of the State Bar.

Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) presented HB 126, the Judicial Qualifications Commission Improvement Act of 2017, on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday. HB 126 passed by a vote of 176-0 and crossed over to the Senate today, where it was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. We plan to work with the Senate to emphasize the importance of the State Bar's involvement in appointing lawyers to the JQC.

This week, a House Judiciary subcommittee also held hearings on HB 159, which extensively updates and modernizes Georgia's adoption code. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on SB 95, which seeks to improve the collection of data for the compilation of the state-wide master jury list. If you have questions or comments on these bills or any other legislation before the General Assembly this session, please email Christine Butcher, Director of Governmental Affairs, at christineb@gabar.org.

On Thursday, the YLD Leadership Academy met with a number of lawyer-legislators, who discussed the importance of public service and how they juggle legal practice and legislative duties. We were happy to engage this group of bright young attorneys at the Capitol and encourage everyone to reach out to Christine to plan a lobby day for your local or voluntary bar association. 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 (02.03.17)

It was another exciting week under the Gold Dome as committee meetings are in full swing and bills begin to move to the House and Senate floor for consideration.

The Legislature was in session Monday through Thursday for days 9 through 12 of its 40-day session. The House and Senate passed a final adjournment resolution on Wednesday that schedules Crossover Day (Day 28) for March 3 and Sine Day (Day 40) on March 30.

A House Judiciary subcommittee heard HB 121 and HB 122 on Monday. Nick Djuric testified on behalf of the State Bar's Fiduciary Section, which seeks to update Georgia's trust code and bring it up to speed with our neighboring states. Both bills were voted favorably out of subcommittee and heard by the full House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The Judiciary Committee voted "do pass" on both bills, which will move on to the House Rules Committee early next week. The State Bar is grateful for the service of Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), who has worked closely with the us to sponsor these bills in the House.

On Monday the House Judiciary Committee also began hearings on HB 126, known as The Judicial Qualifications Commission Improvement Act of 2017. State Bar President Pat O'Connor testified on behalf of the Bar at both Wednesday's subcommittee hearing and Thursday's full committee hearing. A link to the House Judiciary hearing on HB 126, including Pat's testimony, can be found here. (Please note that the meeting starts at the seven-minute mark.) HB 126 received a "do pass" vote from the House Judiciary Committee and will be brought before the House Rules Committee next week. O'Connor remains committed to restoring the State Bar's involvement in the JQC appointment process and will continue to work towards this goal as the legislative session progresses.

Another piece of legislation on the radar of many Georgia lawyers is HB 15, which would require mandatory e-filing in all of Georgia's Superior and State Courts. A House Judiciary subcommittee held its first hearing on the bill Thursday and will continue to take testimony and comments from stakeholders next week. If you have questions or comments on this bill or any other legislation before the General Assembly this session, please email Christine Butcher, Director of Governmental Affairs, at christineb@gabar.org.

If you would like to plan a lobby day under the Gold Dome for your local or voluntary bar association, please contact Christine Butcher, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at christineb@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.

Legislative Update, Week 2 (01.27.17)

AT A GLANCE:

  • Chief Justice Hines delivers the State of the Judiciary Address ( Read it here.)
  • Judicial Qualifications Commission Improvement Act of 2017 introduced Wednesday ( HB 126)
  • Fiduciary Section bills introduced this week ( HB 121 and HB 122)

The General Assembly met on Monday through Thursday of this week for legislative days 5 through 8, and it was a busy week as members continue to introduce this session's legislation.

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

Also on Wednesday, the House introduced HB 126, also known as The Judicial Qualifications Commission Improvement Act of 2017. This bill seeks to make improvements to the size, makeup and procedure of the JQC following the passage of Amendment 3 and ongoing study of the commission since the end of the 2016 legislative session. Most notably, the bill seeks to create a two-panel commission, with an investigative panel that is responsible for the investigative and administrative functions of the commission and a hearing panel that is responsible for adjudicating formal charges filed by the investigative panel. The legislation, as filed, is available here.

Rep. Chuck Efstration introduced HB 121 and HB 122 this week. HB 121 is related to the modification of irrevocable trusts and HB 122 amends the Uniform Statutory Rule Against Perpetuities to allow for a 360-year permissible vesting period.

The General Assembly will meet on Monday through Thursday of next week for legislative days 9 through 12. We hope to have the remainder of the Bar's agenda items introduced in the next week.

If you would like to plan a lobby day under the Gold Dome for your local or voluntary bar association, please contact Christine Butcher, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at christineb@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.

Legislative Update, Week 1 (01.20.17)

The 2017 Regular Session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly commenced on Monday, Jan. 9. Legislative day 1 saw the swearing-in ceremonies of each member of the General Assembly, including seven new lawyer-legislators: Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point), Rep. David Dreyer (D-Atlanta), Rep. Meagan Hanson (R-Brookhaven), Rep. Brenda Lopez (D-Norcross), Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville), Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs) and Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia).

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, K-12 education reforms and immigration are shaping up to be top issues this year under the Gold Dome.

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, day 3 of the legislative session, the General Assembly met jointly to hear Gov. Deal's State of the State address. The governor laid out his budgetary and legislative priorities for the year, which include a 2 percent pay raise for teachers, raises for caseworkers at the Division of Family and Child Services and investment in a new cybersecurity training center, among other things. You can read the entire text of the speech here.

The General Assembly convened again on Thursday, Jan. 12, for legislative day 4, when it received Gov. Deal's FY 2018 budget recommendations. By the end of the week, House and Senate leadership had also finalized their committee and chairmanship assignments. Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) has once again been named chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) has been renamed chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. The Senate voted to combine its Judiciary and Judiciary Non-Civil Committees into a single committee, which will be chaired by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro).

In State Bar news, the Board of Governors met on Friday, Jan. 13, to approve the final pieces of the Bar's 2017 legislative agenda. A preview of the State Bar's entire 2017 legislative package is available on the Legislative Program page. The Bar's legislative team has begun its work finding sponsors for new proposals and working with stakeholders interested in the legislation.

The General Assembly took Monday, Jan. 16, off in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Although technically out of session this week, a number of legislators spent Tuesday and Wednesday in joint budget hearings, where both the House and the Senate examined the proposed FY 2018 and amended FY 2017 state budgets. Legislators will convene for legislative day 5 of the session on Monday, Jan. 23.

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 Christine Butcher, the State Bar of Georgia's Director of Governmental Affairs, at christineb@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.

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