LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR

This week the General Assembly convened on Monday, February 24 for legislative day 17 and worked through Friday, February 28 to complete legislative day 21 of 40. The legislature will reconvene on Monday, March 2 and work through Thursday, March 5.  To view the latest adjournment resolution click here.

ELECTIONS

2020 election cycle candidate qualifying for both partisan and nonpartisan races will begin Monday, March 2 at 9am at the state capitol and will end on Friday, March 6 at 12pm. To view the 2020 State Elections and Voter Registration Calendar, please visit the Secretary of State’s website here.

ACTION ALERT: STATEWIDE BUSINESS COURT 

Please join the statewide business community in urging your legislator to vote YES on the conference committee report to Senate Bill 110.

In 2019, the State-wide Business Court enabling legislation was passed and signed into law. The statute currently requires both parties to consent to the transfer of a case from superior or state court to the Business Court. This model has proved to be inefficient in the Atlanta-metro Business Court as well as in other states. So, there is legislation to remove the two-party consent provision and allow one party to file a motion to transfer the case to the Business Court. This important change is needed to make the Business Court accessible and successful.

To find your legislators, click here.

Statewide Business Court Facts

Do Business Court cases have to be heard in Atlanta?
No, the law provides for a number of location options including Atlanta and Macon; pre-trial matters can also be by video conferencing. A motion may be made by either party to hear the matter in the original venue chosen by the plaintiff. Finally, any jury trials will take place in the original filing location.
(Section 15-5A-2, Lines 49-64)

What types of cases are heard in Business Court?
Complex business litigation, mergers, high-level contract disputes, trademark litigation, securities litigation, typically between two or more businesses.  No personal injury, landlord tenant, family law cases will be heard by the business courts.
(Section 15-5A-3, Lines 89-155)

What is the threshold for cases before the business court?
The amount in controversy must be at least one million dollars ($1,000,000) involving commercial property or five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) if the claim does not involve commercial property.
(Section 15-5A-3, Lines 128-132)

 

LEGISLATION OF INTEREST

Senate Bill 374:

Chamber Position: SUPPORT and SCORECARD

Sponsor: Senator John Kennedy (R- Macon)

SB 374 establishes reasonable parameters for settlement demand letters in civil cases. Currently, plaintiffs' lawyers can make settlement demands so complex that when an insurance company asks for clarification or cannot fulfill every request, it is seen as a rejection of the settlement offer and the insurance company is said to be acting in "bad faith”. Claims of bad faith allow a plaintiff’s attorney to sue an insurer for more than the policy limits of the defendant. This bill requires offers of settlement to be reasonable, limited in scope, professional, and clear, so that bad actors cannot continue to issue specious and purposely complex offers of settlement. SB 374 moved out of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee on Monday and is now eligible to be heard on the floor of the Senate.

Senate Bill 415:

Chamber Position: SUPPORT and SCORECARD

Bill Sponsor: Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega)

SB 415 is a comprehensive pro-business bill tackling several issues important to Georgia’s legal climate. The climate of lawsuit abuse in Georgia leads to higher insurance rates for all Georgians, higher costs for goods and services, and genuine concern from the business community about the unpredictability of liability management in Georgia.  This bill addresses many areas of concern including premises liability, trucking lawsuits, seat belt admissibility in civil cases, asbestos litigation, truth in medical damages, among others. SB 415 was heard in a subcommittee of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee on Wednesday and Friday of this week where it was ultimately voted out and moves on to full committee for consideration next week.  To gain a better understanding of the lawsuit abuse crisis Georgia is currently facing, please watch and share the “Meet Mary” video at Facebook and and Twitter at https://twitter.com/balancescalesGA.

House Bill 488: Organized Retail Crime

Chamber Position: SUPPORT

Bill Sponsor: Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas)

House Bill 488 creates a new statute for "organized retail theft" in the criminal code. HB 488 addresses the challenges with stolen goods, fraudulent returns, and gift card scams. This legislation will tackle the organized nature of these schemes allowing law enforcement to capture all of the people involved, not just the ones doing the individual shoplifting, and sets a standard of evidence and punishment appropriate for the size and scope of said criminal operations. HB 488 passed out of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Friday morning and is now eligible for consideration before the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 306: Audiology and Speech Pathology

Chamber Position: SUPPORT

Sponsor: Senator Valencia Seay (D- Riverdale)

SB 306 is a bill that allows audiologists and speech pathologists to obtain a license to practice in Georgia through an interstate compact agreement which would recognize other state licenses with similar requirements. By providing this type of licensure agreement for these specialties, as the state has also  done with physicians, nurses and physical therapists, we can increase access to critical health services throughout our state. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted the bill out unanimously on Wednesday, February 26. The bill is now eligible for consideration by the full Senate.

Senate Bill 316: Military Spouse Licensure 

Chamber Position: SUPPORT 

Bill Sponsor: Senator Bruce Thompson (R-White) 

Senate Bill 316 would provide reciprocity to military spouses who are licensed in other states to practice certain professions and occupations in Georgia. By presenting a reciprocal licensing process that is similar to other states, SB 316 would ultimately circumvent obstacles for military spouses to help these families begin working upon relocation. The bill was voted out of the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 55-0.

House Bill 820- Freight Rail Program at GDOT

Chamber Position: SUPPORT

Sponsor: Representative Kevin Tanner (R- Dawsonville)

On Monday, the Georgia House of Representatives passed HB 820, 162-1, which creates a line item in the Georgia Department of Transportation budget to allocate funds, as needed, directly to freight rail. Georgia has the fastest growing port in the country. By 2028, port volume is projected to increase from 4 million to over 8 million containers annually. Over 80% of that cargo will travel by truck on Georgia’s highway system. In order to be prepared for this growth, investment in freight and logistics infrastructure should be a top priority as we look for solutions to the increasing truck traffic on our roads. HB 820 allows for direct state investment specifically in railways and railroad as the amount of freight moving through our state continues to grow.

To learn more about the Chamber’s engagement on this critical issue, please visit www.cantwaitforfreight.com or follow us on Facebook.

GEORGIA CHAMBER POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE

The Georgia Chamber's Political Affairs Council (PAC) provides an opportunity for Chamber investors and partners to play an active role in shaping the future of our state. The PAC strengthens our collective voice by providing support to our business champions serving under the Gold Dome, as well as pro-business candidates running for office.

If you are interested in attending a PAC event, contributing to the PAC, or need additional information, please contact Allison Plummer at aplummer@gachamber.com. We ask that you consider supporting the Georgia Chamber PAC today.  If you would like to donate online today, click here.

GEORGIA CHAMBER PUBLIC AFFAIRS STAFF

David Raynor
Senior Vice President, Public Affairs
404-223-2267 | draynor@gachamber.com

Cosby Johnson
Vice President, State & Political Affairs
404-223-2285 | cjohnson@gachamber.com

Daniela Perry 
Senior Director, Public Policy & Federal Affairs
404-223-2270 | dperry@gachamber.com

Nancy Palmer 
Director, Government Affairs
404-223-2489 | npalmer@gachamber.com

Allison Plummer
Manager, Government and Political Affairs
404-223-2295 | aplummer@gachamber.com

Jasmine King 
Manager, Government Affairs
404-223-2285 | jking@gachamber.com

Emily Pateuk 
Manager, Public Policy
404-223-2475 | epateuk@gachamber.com

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