On Monday, January 29th I returned to the Gold Dome for the fourth week of the 2018 Legislative session. My fellow colleagues and I had a very productive week and I’m excited to share the progress we have made in reviewing and passing meaningful legislation for our Georgia citizens. Here is a quick summary of all that my colleagues and I worked on during our fourth week!

Adoption Bill: Perhaps the most important news of the week was the House’s unanimous passage of House Bill 159. HB 159 is legislation what would completely modernize Georgia’s current adoption laws. This bill, since its introduction during the 2017 legislation, has been a top priority to both myself and my House colleagues. The senate has now passed their version of the adoption bill, making several changes to the House’s original version. This week, the House worked together with the Senate and the governor’s office to reach a compromise concerning HB 159 and the changes proposed by the Senate. The House has approved several of the Senate’s amendments, as well as make a few additional changes to the legislation. Some of these major changes are as follows:

  • First this bill would update Georgia’s revocation period from 10 days to 4 days. Currently, Georgia birth mothers have 10 days to revoke the surrender of their child. This 10-day revocation policy is one of the most rigorous policies in the nation. The goal of HB 159 is to find the right balance between the rights of the birth mother and the adoptive parents.
  • Secondly, the House version of this bill would allow for birth mothers to receive reasonable living expenses in both private and agency adoptions, regardless of which adoption avenue they take. This is the law in most states in the country.
  • Lastly, the bill includes several safeguards on temporary powers of attorney.

The updated adoption bill is now back in the Senate. I’m looking forward to the Senate passing the adoption bill and it being placed on the desk of Governor Nathan Deal where it can officially be signed into law. I am excited about the progress Georgia is making in this area!

Tax Laws: Some various bills regarding taxes were discussed this past week. These include House Bill 661 and House Bill 694, both of which passed unanimously.

House Bill 661

HB 661 would simplify the process for filing and removing tax liens as well as increase transparency for taxpayers by moving the Department of Revenue’s process to electronic-based transactions and away from paper-based transactions. Some particulars of this bill include:

  • It would change the process for filing and removing tax liens against real estate.
  • It would update legislation that Gov. Deal signed into Georgia’s law last year; a law which created a more efficient and transparent method for filing tax liens with the Department of Revenue.
  • This bill would keep the efficiencies of the original legislation but would remove the current provision regarding statewide liens and instead revert back to county specific liens.
  • This bill would also require every tax lien against realty to be filed with the superior court clerk in the county where the real estate is located.

House Bill 694

This bill would update the way motor fuel distributors and wholesalers submit their monthly motor fuel tax reports to the Department of Revenue. The law currently requires motor fuel distributor to file these reports electronically if they owe $500 or more to the Department of Revenue. House Bill 694 would require all monthly reports to be submitted electronically, regardless of the distributor’s tax liability.

Law Enforcement: This week the House also passed a measure to provide more law enforcement officers with important state retirement benefits. House Bill 135 would expand the term “law enforcement officer” to include Department of Driver Services (DDS) investigators. These investigators would qualify to receive up to an additional five years of creditable service in the State’s Employees’ Retirement System. The DDS investigators would only be eligible for this benefit if they are not receiving retirement benefits from a local government for that same service. They also must have been a member of the retirement system for at least 10 years.

The governor signed a measure into law in 2016 that allowed all other law enforcement officers to obtain creditable service through the ERS, but the measure inadvertently omitted 16 investigators employed by DDS. HB 135 would correct this oversight by ensuring that those officers who are investigating fraudulent licenses are eligible to receive creditable retirement benefits.

Save the Bees: Finally, my House colleagues and I passed a measure this week in support of Georgia’s only state insect, the honey bee. House Bill 671, which would create a specialty license plate to promote the conservation and protection of the honey bee, was unanimously passed. The plate would display an image of a honey bee and would include the phrase “Save the Honey Bee.”

These licence plates would be available for purchase and all the proceeds collected from these license plates would be distributed to the Georgia Beekeepers Association. These funds would be used to raise awareness about honey bee conservation and would fund and support several associated programs. These programs include beekeeper education and training, prison beekeeping grants, and beekeeping research facilities in our state. Georgia is the third largest producer of bees and the tenth largest producer of honey in the nation, so the heath and protection of bees is vital to our state’s economy and ecosystem!

As we continue with the 2018 legislative session and prepare for legislative Day 28, “Crossover Day,” I encourage you to reach out with any questions or concerns that you may have. You may feel free to call me at 404.656.0287 or send me an email at karen.mathiak@house.ga.gov. You can also stay up-to-date by following my Facebook page.

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