General Assembly Sets Final Days of 2013 Legislative Session
Legislators have wasted no time this year checking off the official 40 days of the 2013 legislative calendar. This week, the General Assembly set the schedule for the final days of the legislative session with plans to end their work before the end of March. Watch for a flurry of activity over the next week as legislators work to amend bills to get their priorities considered. As a result, the ACCG policy staff and interns are keeping a close watch on committee work and floor amendments. The legislative schedule for the next two weeks is as follows:
· Day 35: Wednesday March 20
· Day 36: Thursday March 21
· Day 37: Friday March 22
· Day 38: Monday March 25
· Day 39: Tuesday March 26
· Day 40: Thursday March 28
Watch for issues such as ethics reform to generate much debate and media interest as legislators try to resolve differences between the House and Senate approaches to this high visibility issue.
Juvenile Justice Reform Heads to the Senate Floor Next Week
HB 242 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, March 13. The bill was amended to extend the timeline for custody hearings and related summons from 24 hours to 72 hours, thereby eliminating the need to staff the courthouse on the weekends. The bill was further amended to clarify that a court appointed special advocate (CASA) shall be appointed as a guardian ad litem (GAL) whenever possible in all cases, eliminating the cost of an additional attorney. It was also amended to allow the court to make the determination as to whether expenses should be charged to the counties in juvenile proceedings within a 120 day timeframe. It was further amended to specifically state that counties are responsible for expenses related to superior court proceedings when a child is prosecuted as an adult. Additional changes were made that do not impact counties. To review the complete summary for HB 242, please see the sectional summary.
Bill to Allow Guns in Courthouses and Government Buildings will Likely Get Senate Hearing Soon
HB 512 is this session’s omnibus gun legislation that lifts several current prohibitions on where concealed firearms and other weapons may be carried. Importantly to counties, it authorizes the carrying of guns into courthouses and other county government buildings that do not have security guards who screen ingress into these facilities. ACCG has offered acompromise with the author to leave this decision to local governments, but to no avail.
ACCG is opposed to the state, not local governments, authorizing guns in courthouses and government buildings and asks that you please contact your Senators immediately to let them know any concerns your county may have. The bill will likely get a hearing next week in the Senate Judiciary Non-CivilCommittee.
Contact Legislators about Forestland Protection Act Grants and HB 19
HB 197 is pending in the Senate Finance Committee and, if passed, will encourage more timber owners to enroll land in the Forest Land Protection Act. The state is currently a year and a half behind paying their constitutionally obligated share of this program’s costs to the local governments. Please encourage your legislators to appropriate what is already owed to the counties before passing HB 197 to further expand this program. For 2011, the state has not paid the local governments $5.6 million in approved grants. The State of Georgia is budgeting for the 2012 grants in the FY 2014 budget. The amount budgeted, $14.2 million, is almost $8 million short of the estimated $22 million that will be needed to pay for the 2012 grants. Make sure your legislators know the amount your county is owed and the impact the late and underfunded payments will have on your budget.