Legislative Session Report

Scott Holcomb

To my Constituents,

I am writing this after the conclusion of Crossover Day, which was Day 28 of the 40-day legislative session. That was the day by which a bill must pass either the House or Senate in order to be considered by the other chamber and eventually go to the Governor for signature. In this newsletter, I report on the legislation that I proposed (of which four bills have now passed the House and are moving on to the Senate), other bills of note, and the status of proposed new cities in DeKalb county.

The legislature is required to pass the annual budget. The House has passed the revised FY19 budget as well as the FY20 budget. A link to budget highlights can be found here: http://www.house.ga.gov/budget/en-US/newsandhighlights.aspx

I have been working incredibly hard this session and I have drafted a number of key bills. These include:

House Bill 230: Benefit Corporations
This bill authorized benefit corporations in Georgia. A benefit corporation is a corporate structure recognized in 33 states and DC, and it allows a private company to have a public benefit purpose as one of its missions. Examples include Patagonia, Ben & Jerry's, and Warby Parker. The text of the bill was drafted by the State Bar of Georgia's Corporate Section, and I presented it to the Judiciary subcommittee and full committee, as well as to the floor of the House. It passed 165-2 on Tuesday, March 5th.

House Bill 282: Retention of evidence in sexual assault cases
House Bill 282 extends the time period for the retention of evidence from 10 years to the period that the crime remains unsolved or sentencing is complete, whichever is later. This is important because it can take more than 10 years to identify suspects in sexual assault cases. In fact, two days after I filed the bill, this story broke about how the testing of the backlog of sexual assault cases led to the identification of a suspect from a 1994 rape. This bill passed 173-0 on Crossover Day.

Here is a link to my floor speech on the bill.

Here are news articles from the AJC, Fox 5, and CNN.

House Bill 283: Georgia Voting Rights Act
This bill provides for, among other things, same day voter registration, independent redistricting, and would change the date of nonpartisan elections from the primary to the general election. I requested a hearing on this bill but the Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee denied the request.

House Bill 359: Domestic Violence
Beginning last summer, I started working on this legislation with domestic violence experts and advocates. It proposed changing the work primary to dominant aggressor when police received more than one complaint of family violence. The goal was to help provide law enforcement with factors to consider when responding to calls concerning domestic violence. The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence endorsed this bill. I asked for a hearing on the legislation, and that may occur after Crossover Day.

House Bill 403: Private prisons
I do not believe there should be a profit motive to incarcerate people. In addition, a recent audit found that private prisons were not cheaper. Consequently, I filed a bill to ban private prisons in Georgia. Here is a story about the bill.

House Bill 433: Election system
This bill provides for hard-marked paper ballots to be used in Georgia's elections. This is the recommendation of cybersecurity experts. In addition, hand-marked paper ballots are less expensive. I requested a hearing on this bill but the request was denied. Instead, the House passed House Bill 316, which authorized computerized ballot marking devices as the primary system in Georgia.

House Bill 228: Child marriage
I co-sponsored this measure to increase the legal age for marriage from 16 to 17. It also requires a 17 year old to be emancipated. I spoke on behalf of the bill during floor debate, and discussed an Open Records Act request that I filed this summer which revealed that more than 10,000 child marriages had taken place in Georgia from 2000-2015.

House Bills 272 and 273: Chamblee homestead exemptions
These bills provide for referenda in Chamblee to change the homestead exemptions from $30,000 to $50,000 and to provide for homestead exemptions for city residents over 65 or older, or who are totally disabled. These measures passed the House on the local calendar on March 7th.

House Resolution 460: Electric vehicles
I authored a resolution regarding electric vehicles and recognizing March 7th as Electric Vehicle Day at the Capitol. Transportation in the United States is moving toward electrification and we need to be prepared for what's coming.

Summary of major issues:

There was a proposed major overhaul of the regulatory system, the Certificate of Need (CON), for Georgia hospitals. CON currently regulates the construction of new hospitals, and the bill (HB198) would eliminate CON except in regard to nursing home and home health agencies. You can read more about it https://www.georgiahealthnews.com/2019/02/states-health-care-current-bills-pass/. I did not support this bill, and it failed to pass on Crossover Day.

There are two different paths for Georgians to expand healthcare coverage: Medicaid expansion or expansion through waivers (Georgia would propose the terms under which it would provide Medicaid coverage to its citizens and request a "waiver" from the federal government to do so). You can read more about those two options here.
I am in favor of the Medicaid expansion, which has been adopted by a majority of states, because it would save Georgia money and provide healthcare to more than 500,000 Georgians. Here is the fiscal note showing that it would cost between $188.4 and $213.2 million. The state currently provides a tax credit for rural hospitals that costs $60 million and is under consideration to be raised to $100 million. This doesn't insure a single individual. If Georgia expands Medicaid, it will receive federal dollars and it would see additional revenues of between $45.5 and $59.2 million per year due to the increased economic activity generated by the additional healthcare spending. (See fiscal note).

Technology and Internet
Connecting rural areas with internet and adequate technology is a challenge. With technology's increasing role in our everyday life, it is important that rural areas have accessibility. Two bills passed the House and will move to the Senate. HB 23 would provide rural Georgians with that access through partnerships to increase broadband across the state, and it has passed the House. Also, HB184 would enact the "Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act" that will help to streamline the process of deploying wireless broadband.

Women's reproductive rights
HB 481 passed the House. This is a highly restrictive and controversial anti-abortion bill that wou

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DNA Evidence Will be Stored for 50 Years Under New State Law

Kate Elizabeth Queram
Route Fifty

Holcomb proposed the new rules after a CNN investigation found that law enforcement agencies in multiple states had destroyed rape kits while the statues of limitations for the crimes were still running. Georgia was not named in the story, but Holcomb said he wanted to ensure that the state had appropriate rules in place to preserve evidence. Read More »

Here are some of the state laws going into effect Monday

Curt Yeomans
Gwinnett Daily Post

"This bill builds upon our state's prior work to address the backlog of untested sexual assault kits," Holcomb said in a statement after the bill was signed into law in early May. "Now that we have the evidence, we need to preserve it. And bring cases." Read More »

Lawmakers Commended for Helpful Legislation

Thomasville Times-Enterprise

Another piece of forward-thinking legislation will require law-enforcement agencies to hang on to DNA evidence for a longer period of time.

Law-enforcement agencies will soon be required to save evidence collected from sexual assaults for as long as 50 years. That is about 40 years longer than they are required to keep it now.
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