Apr 9, 2019

5 Takeaways From the 2019 Georgia Legislative Session

The Georgia General Assembly adjourned its 2019 legislative session Tuesday, April 2. Gov. Brian Kemp will have 40 days to sign or veto legislation passed by the General Assembly. All legislation not vetoed will become law.

georgia capitol 

1. Abortion

The Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act would:

  • Outlaw most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.
  • Allow an exception for abortions up to 20 weeks if a physician determines the pregnancy is “medically futile” or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest but only after a police report is filed alleging such a crime.
  • Allow an unborn child with a detectable heartbeat to be included in child support calculations and classified as a minor dependent for the purpose of income taxes.

The bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Kemp, would become effective Jan. 1, 2020.

2.Teacher Pay

school bus 

House Bill 31 includes:

  • $3,000 pay raise for the state’s certified teachers and personnel, counselors, social workers, psychologists, special education specialists, speech and language pathologists, media specialists, and technology specialists.

The 8.8 percent increase to the state’s salary schedule accounts for more than half of the $1.05 billion in additional appropriations over the FY 2019 budget. Bus drivers, lunchroom workers, school nurses and assistant pre-K teachers will also receive a 2 percent pay raise in the FY 2020 budget.

3.Certificate of Need Reform

hospital

House Bill 186:

  • Expands ability of cancer hospitals to provide services in Georgia.
  • Recognizes free-standing emergency departments and remote hospital locations as authorized healthcare facilities.
  • Increases the capital expenditure threshold requiring a Certificate of Need (CON) from $2.5 million to $10 million.
  • Eliminates the threshold and provides a limited exemption of the purchase or lease of equipment from CON requirements.
  • Exempts nonclinical projects from CON review.
  • Limits the parties that can object to a CON application based on proximity or services providers.
  • Requires the Department of Community Health to study and track the provision of uncompensated indigent and charity care by healthcare facilities.
  • Creates the Governor’s Office of Health Strategy and Coordination to provide high-level coordination in the state’s healthcare system and its component parts, collect data, and develop initiatives to improve healthcare delivery in Georgia.

4. Medical Cannabis

cannabis

The Georgia’s Hope Act:

  • Provides more than 8,000 patients in Georgia with additional options for accessing low-THC oil, which until now has been legal to possess but illegal to produce, grow, manufacture, or dispense in the state.
  • The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission will regulate and oversee up to six production/manufacturing licensees and an unspecified number of dispensing licensees.
  • In addition to dispensing licenses issued by the commission to retail outlets, the State Board of Pharmacy will oversee specialty dispensing licenses for pharmacies in the state.
  • The commission may also issue designated university licenses to the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University to produce, manufacture and purchase low-THC oil.

5. Other Top Issues

atlanta

The House and Senate also passed legislation to:

  • Mandate screening for dyslexia in public schools
  • Replace the state’s electronic voting machines with a touchscreen and paper ballot election system
  • Allow electronic membership corporations to provide internet services in addition to power
  • Establish restrictions on the use of legislative continuances for the state’s lawyer-legislators

To read more about outcomes from the Georgia Legislative Session, please read the latest update from McGuireWoods Consulting's Georgia State Government Relations team.