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2013 Georgia Legislative Wrap-Up

A roundup of the 2013 Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

The 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly, convening the morning of January 14th and concluding at midnight on March 28th, tackled high-profile topics like the state budget, renewal of the hospital provider fee to finance Medicaid, ethics reforms, and expanded gun controls. Gains for the sector include some positive budget developments (see HB 106) and valuable new protections for old gifts. Sadly, Gov. Deal undid what may have been the sector’s biggest legislative victory of the session when he vetoed HB 193, which would have reinstated a nonprofit tax exemption for food purchases—and provided an additional 800,000 meals for Georgia’s hungry.

Herewith, a wrap-up of this year’s legislation affecting the nonprofit sector:

PASSED

HB 101 amends the definition of a "food service establishment" specifically exempting from the definition of "food service establishment" a nonprofit who holds an event on property owned by the sponsor or other property of a party whose owner has provided written consent for use of the property. 

HB 106 is the new budget beginning July 1, 2013, totaling more than $19.9 billion in State funds.  It includes funding for health, education, economic development, public safety, and transportation in addition to a $850 million bond package to address the needs of schools, Georgia's University System, roads, and other local projects.

HB 142 was the "hot topic" ethics bill that passed.  It adds provisions about lobbyist reporting and defines "expenditure" (now limited to $75 for transportation, travel, lodging, registration, food and beverages); "lobbyist expenditure" (permits food, beverage and registration expenses); and "lobbyist" (person who receives $250 per calendar year in compensation to promote or oppose the passage of legislation).

HB 143 amends how locally elected officials must report campaign contributions.

HB 188 creates a Committee to permit expedited licensing for military personnel or veterans who have obtained training in the military relevant to particular licenses.

HB 193 (vetoed) adds various sales and use tax exemptions to nonprofits including purchases of food by food banks; donations of prepared foods for disaster relief; donations of prepared foods for hunger relief; purchases of tangible property by Federally Qualified Health Centers and nonprofit health clinics; and sales to qualified job training organizations. 

HB 242 is the comprehensive reform of Georgia's juvenile justice laws and adopts many recommendations from the Governor's Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform which the Pew Center on States guided. 

HB 338 amends the law governing the Georgia Council for the Arts, noting the vital importance of the arts and how the arts community "fuels cultural heritage tourism" as well as other economic development and community revitalization efforts. The Council will now be composed of nine members appointed by the Governor.

SB 14 creates the six-member Georgia Alzheimer's and Related Dementias State Plan Task Force with the Director of Aging Services, within the Department of Human Services, serving as the Chair of this Task Force. 

SB 24 enacts the "Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act," establishing a provider fee to be paid by hospitals for the purposes of obtaining federal matching moneys for the State's Medicaid program.

SB 105 amends the "Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act" defining the terms "charitable organization" and "private foundation."  A "transfer made to a charitable organization shall be considered complete unless it is established that a fraudulent transfer has occurred  […] and such charitable organization had knowledge of the fraudulent nature of the transfer." 

SB 160 enacts modifications relating to laws pertaining to security and immigration compliance and contains modifications regarding verification procedures and conditions, exceptions, regulations and criminal and other penalties for violations while verifying lawful presence to obtain a "public benefit." 

HR 107 creates an 18-member Joint Study Committee on Medicaid Reform, which is to look at appropriate levels of service and expenses of Medicaid as well as ways to ensure the program's sustainability.

HR 502 creates the Joint Study Committee on Mental Health Access, focusing "on examining community infrastructure, crisis services, provision of services across the life span from youth to older adults, geographic gaps and diversity, workforce needs, provider network development and accountability, funding and the need to keep dollars within the system as we transition away from hospital based delivery models of treatment, and support services."

FAILED (and eligible for 2014 discussion)

Numerous changes were offered on abortion laws. Some included attempts to amend the State's coverage options for individuals covered by the State Health Benefit Plan and the ethical treatment of human embryos.

Attempts to address clearly and affirmatively the policy of the State as it relates to hospital authorities' exercise of the powers so that they "shall be immune from antitrust liability to the same degree and extent as enjoyed by the State of Georgia" did not pass.

No broadened permission to carry guns passed this Session although there were many attempts to amend Georgia's permissions for individuals to carry weapons.

Amendments to Georgia's minimum wage laws were proposed but failed to pass.

Health insurance coverage mandates (including coverage for autism, hearing aids and special dietary foods) failed. 

Stan Jones serves as lobbyist for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and is a Partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.
Helen Sloat is Legislative Consultant at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

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