Session Update: Week Three

Dale Rutledge Session 2019 update - Week 3

On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, the General Assembly began Week Three of the 2020 Legislative Session. Every year, my colleagues and I meet for 40 days to work for the betterment of Georgia. I will update you weekly on what is happening at the Capitol.

After the 2019 legislative session, my colleagues and I spent time studying several important issues that impact our state to prepare for the 2020 session. House Resolution 37 was adopted last session and established the Georgia Commission on Freight & Logistics for the 2019 calendar year. The commission was authorized to analyze and recommend a comprehensive public policy that would support our freight and logistics industries. Over the course of several meetings, the commission heard from industry experts and worked to identify ways to move freight more efficiently to spur economic growth and job creation in our state. We also adopted House Resolution 214 that reauthorized the House Rural Development Council, and over the last year, the council continued its work to find solutions to improve economic opportunities in rural areas of the state. Finally, House Resolution 589 was adopted in 2019 to create the House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality to study the state’s high maternal mortality rate and issues that impact maternal health. Each of these groups issued in-depth final reports that included policy recommendations, which will guide us as we craft sound and effective legislation this session. 

The Joint House and Senate Transportation Committee approved the Georgia Commission on Freight & Logistics’ final report and legislative recommendations. The commission’s proposal seeks to address top issues that were identified last year, such as workforce development, truck parking, freight rail investment, and funding gaps. Additionally, the commission recommended that their work be extended through 2020 to continue to develop solutions for some of these key issues. As a result, the House Transportation Committee approved House Resolution 935 this week, which would reauthorize the commission for the 2020 calendar year. If this resolution is adopted by the House and Senate, the commission would spend the next year further exploring the challenges and opportunities for change for Georgia’s freight movement and mobility. 

The House Transportation Committee approved another important legislative measure this week that was a recommendation of the Georgia Commission on Freight & Logistics. House Bill 820 would establish the Georgia Freight Railroad Program within the Department of Transportation (DOT), and this vital program would enhance the state’s investment in our freight rail system, which handles approximately 27 percent of all freight in Georgia. The program would be comprised of three subprograms that specialize in different aspects of improving our freight rail systems across the state: Rail Enhancement Plan, Rail Preservation Plan, and the Rail Industrial Plan. 

The House Rural Development Council submitted several legislative recommendations that continue to support communities and businesses in rural Georgia. The council’s recommendations include supporting our agriculture industry, which is one of our state’s largest industries, as well as expanding funding for rural broadband deployment and addressing mapping issues that currently overestimate the amount of broadband coverage across the state. The council also proposed solutions for providing adequate health care by creating tax incentives for rural physicians and developing a state-funded residency program to bring health care workers to rural areas. Since its inception in 2017, the council has passed a number of bills to help rural Georgia and provided incredible insight on how to best support our rural communities, and it will continue to do so through the 2020 calendar year.

Members of the House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality spent several months last year developing ideas and strategies to decrease and prevent maternal deaths in Georgia. The study committee’s final report includes several of these strategies, such as extending Georgia’s Medicaid coverage for pregnant and postpartum women and introducing legislation that would mandate a postmortem examination for any maternal death. The study committee also seeks to increase accessibility to health care for pregnant and postpartum women through telehealth services. Members of the study committee encouraged the state to continue to fund vital programs that support mothers and babies, as well as support various university research initiatives that collect important data on maternal deaths and pregnancy and postpartum related health issues in the state. 

This week, my colleagues and I also observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday, January 27, 2020, which marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. This powerful day commemorates the catastrophic genocide that resulted in the deaths of 6 million Jews and 11 million others. To honor the lives that were lost during the Holocaust, the General Assembly passed legislation during the 2019 session to create a memorial in the State Capitol. Members of the General Assembly, along with Israel Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon, joined together to unveil the new memorial this week. This tribute in the State Capitol will serve as an important reminder that we should never forget the events of the Holocaust, and it will educate Georgia citizens to help ensure that such atrocities are never committed again. 

The House adopted House Resolution 961 this week to dedicate the House Ways & Means Committee’s conference room to our friend and colleague, Jay Powell. The late State Representative Jay Powell served as the chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, which serves as the chief committee for tax-writing legislation. This conference room will now be known as the Alfred Jackson “Jay” Powell Jr. conference room.

Governor Brian. Kemp signed the first major piece of legislation of the 2020 session on Thursday, January 30. House Bill 276 was passed via a conference committee report during the first week of session and allows the state to collect taxable revenue from marketplace facilitators whose online platforms or apps are used to sell goods or services. The new revenue will be collected from marketplace facilitators who collect in excess of $100,000 or more annually. This new law will go into effect on April 1 and will help level the playing field for small brick-and-mortar businesses that currently have sales tax charged to their products.

Each week, you can return to my blog to read updates on what the General Assembly is working on for the state of Georgia. You are always welcome to visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for the legislative term here. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

Below, I’ve listed out leaders from both chambers. You can click through each of their names to find more information about them.

House:

Speaker of the House: David Ralston

Speaker Pro Tempore: Jan Jones

Majority Leader: Jon Burns

Majority Whip: Trey Kelley

Majority Caucus Chair: Matt Hatchett

Majority Caucus Vice-Chair: Micah Gravley

Minority Leader: Robert Trammell

Minority Whip: William Boddie

Minority Caucus Chair: James Beverly

Minority Caucus Vice-Chair: Erica Thomas

Senate:

President Pro Tempore: Butch Miller

Majority Leader: Mike Dugan

Majority Whip: Steve Gooch

Majority Caucus Chair: John Kennedy

Majority Caucus Vice-Chair: Larry Walker

Minority Leader: Steve Henson

Minority Whip: Harold Jones

Minority Caucus Chair: Gloria Butler

Minority Caucus Vice-Chair: Emanuel Jones