Legislative Session Report Week 3

January 31, 2020

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The General Assembly reconvened at the Capitol on Monday for day five of the legislative session. The legislature was in all five days this week, concluding with day nine on Friday. The pace at the Capitol has picked up significantly as both chambers started taking up legislation on the floor and committee meetings are in full swing. This week was filled with more appropriations committee hearings as the House of Representatives sorts through changes to the supplemental budget. Last week's presentations during joint budget hearings were an overview of the supplemental budget and the cuts that were proposed. This week, subcommittees dove deeper into each agency and department budget to see exactly how the proposed cuts will affect them.


Legislators will return to the Gold Dome on Monday, February 3rd for day ten and are scheduled to work through Thursday to take us a quarter of the way through the session. To read which bills have been proposed affecting Georgia agriculture, please see the Bills of Interest section below.


The Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee met this Tuesday, January 28, to discuss what is looking to once again be one of the most hotly contested bills of the legislative session, and Georgia Farm Bureau's top priority, House Bill 545 - The Right to Farm Bill. Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) has continued to engage with legislators as well as the numerous cross-industry allied organizations that have come together to support this bill. 


This week marked the first meeting of the Senate Ag Committee where HB 545 will begin its process this year. While this was a hearing only, numerous groups and ag partners gave testimony in support of the legislation, speaking to the importance and time-sensitive nature of these protections. The committee also heard from a poultry farmer, Jody Sullivan, who has had unfortunate, first-hand experience with ag-related nuisance lawsuits, serving as a prime example of why these protections are needed. Mr. Sullivan traveled to the Capitol from Gordon County to urge quick action on this legislation so that other producers will not have to go through the onslaught of unfounded nuisance lawsuits that his family has had to endure in recent years.


We have continued to work with legislators on perfecting a version of the bill to fully balance private property rights while providing the necessary protections for our farmers. Progress has continued this week and we look forward to seeing our collaborative efforts realized in next week's hearing. Special thanks to Rep. Tom McCall, Sen. John Wilkinson, and Sen. Larry Walker for their continued support as we work together to perfect the bill and move it forward in the coming weeks.


Farm Monitor Reporter John Holcomb recently sat down with House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Chairman Tom McCall and Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Chairman John Wilkinson to preview the 2020 legislative session. The veteran legislators touched on two of the bills that Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) staff worked diligently on during the 2019 session and that are still eligible for passage in the 2020 session. Learn more about House Bill 545 and Senate Bill 211, two of GFB's priorities this legislative session.



On January 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army released the final version of the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which replaces the Obama Administration’s 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. The new rule scales back the expanded regulatory authority of the 2015 WOTUS rule. Unlike the 2015 WOTUS rule, which threatened to bring under federal control virtually every type of waterway imaginable, the new rule clearly identifies four categories of waters that will be federally regulated, along with twelve categories of waters that will be regulated by state and local governments. Going forward under the new rule, farmers in Georgia should expect to have a great deal more clarity and certainty when making regulatory determinations for waterways on their properties. Georgia Farm Bureau—which opposed the 2015 WOTUS rule in multiple forums—is pleased with the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule and looks forward to working with our members as it is implemented in our state. If you would like to learn more about the new rule, click here.



This year is a significant one in Georgia as we are positioned to elect a President and not one, but two, U.S. Senators, as well as a number of U.S. Representatives. As Election Day nears, Georgia Farm Bureau's Public Policy team will keep you up to date on what is happening in the political arena to ensure that you are prepared to make well-educated, informed decisions at the ballot box. 


House District 171

This week, a special election was held in House District 171 to fill the seat previously held by Rep. Jay Powell, who passed unexpectedly in November. Joe Campbell, chair of the Mitchell County Republican Party, received 58.3% of the nearly 5,000 votes cast in the three-way race for the position. He will serve the remainder of Powell's term, which ends in January 2021. A general election for the seat will be held in November. House District 171 covers parts of Colquitt, Mitchell, and Decatur counties. 


Senate District 13

Next Tuesday, February 4, a special election will be held in Senate District 13 to fill the seat previously held by Sen. Greg Kirk, who passed away in December following a battle with cancer. Senate District 13 includes parts of Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Sumter, Tift, Worth, Turner, and Wilcox counties. To see if this election impacts you, visit our Action Center to find your legislator. If it does, make sure you get to the polls on Tuesday to vote! You can find a list of polling places here.


Collins Announces Bid for U.S. Senate, Wilkinson Announces Bid for U.S. House

Wednesday morning, U.S. Representative Doug Collins announced his bid for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler was appointed to the Senate by Governor Kemp in December after Sen. Johnny Isakson announced he would be retiring due to health concerns. Collins will be challenging Loeffler, as well as Republican Kevin Tanner, and Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock, Matt Lieberman, and Ed Tarver in November's special election, a "jungle primary" in which all candidates from all parties will be included on the same ballot. If one candidate does not receive more than 50% of the votes, a runoff will be held in January 2021 between the two candidates with the highest number of votes. The winner will serve the remaining two years of Isakson's term.


With his decision to run for the Senate, Collins will vacate his current U.S. House seat. Quickly following Collins' announcement, current Georgia Senate Ag Chairman John Wilkinson announced his bid for Collins' seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. We will keep you up to date on both of these important races as they develop. The deadline to qualify for both seats is March 6.


House Bill 757 

On Tuesday, the House Governmental Affairs Committee approved House Bill 757, which would effectively eliminate November's "jungle primary" and instead require a special primary on May 19, the same day as Georgia's regularly scheduled primary elections (excluding the Presidential Primary, which is set for March 24). Under this legislation, only the top candidate from each party would move forward to November's election. Governor Kemp has already vowed to veto the bill if it passes both chambers.


Senate Bill 283

A bill introduced in the Senate this week would designate the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of each year (i.e., Election Day) as a state holiday. Sponsored by Sens. Anderson, Williams, Jones, Harrell, and Seay, SB 283 was assigned to the Government Oversight Committee.


Presidential Primary

Georgia's Presidential Primary will be held on Tuesday, March 24. The deadline to register to vote in the primary is February 24, 2020. Visit the Georgia Secretary of State's website to check your voter registration status. Other key dates related to Georgia's Presidential Primary are below.


  • February 24: Voter Registration Deadline
  • March 2: Early Voting Begins
  • March 14: Saturday Voting 
  • March 24: Georgia's Presidential Primary



Hosted by John Holcomb, Jay Stone, and Katie Duvall, "Growing On" is a new podcast produced by Georgia Farm Bureau, covering agriculture related issues and topics to help promote and advocate for Georgia agriculture as well as educate consumers about the production of food and modern farming practices.


In this week's episode, the primary focus is on the start of the 2020 Georgia Legislative Session. Katie Duvall sits down with Alex Bradford, State Affairs Coordinator for Georgia Farm Bureau. They discuss how the session is expected to go this year and even discuss some important agricultural bills expected to be debated under the gold dome. 


Also in this episode is the Farm Monitor interview with the EPA about glyphosate, a chemical used by producers that is at the center of a lawsuit in which plaintiffs say it caused Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. 

Lastly, Jay Stone shares his interview with Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH) Outreach Coordinator, Megan Schossow and National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC) Communications Specialist, Scott Heiberger. They discuss what their organizations do and how their organizations are approaching key safety issues in ag.


With episodes dropping every two weeks, Public Policy staff will be reporting from the Capitol, providing a deeper look into the legislative session in a digestible, audio format. You can subscribe to the podcast and download on Apple Podcasts by clicking here or on Spotify by clicking here. Be sure to look for a new episode every other Tuesday!


HB 13: Livestock & Rodeo Sales Tax Exemption
Reps. Williams, Mathiak, McCall, Blackmon, and Jones
This bill will provide an exemption from sales tax on the entry fee or admission of non-profit livestock, horse shows, or rodeo events and exhibits. This exemption will apply to any participation fees paid for entrants and any admission paid by the public.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee.


HB 22: Telephone Cooperatives Authorization for Broadband Services
Reps. Houston, Powell, England, Watson, Corbett, and Greene
House Bill 22 is a bill that comes from a recommendation of the Rural Development Council. This bill will authorize telephone cooperatives and their broadband affiliates to provide broadband services to its members, as well as, apply for federal grants to provide broadband.
Assigned to House Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

HB 23: EMC Authorization to Provide Broadband Services
Reps. Houston, Powell, England, Watson, Corbett, and Greene
House Bill 23 is another bill to come out of the Rural Development Council. This bill authorizes electric membership corporations (EMC) to establish or partner with another entity to provide broadband services to its members independent from its electrical services. This bill will also allow for EMCs to apply for federal grants to provide broadband.
Passed the House on 2/11/19. Assigned to Regulated Industries and Utilities.


HB 49: Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District Interbasin Transfers
Reps. Morris, Jones, Tanner, Lumsden, Powell, and Carpenter
House Bill 49 relates to water supply and water conservation plan in the Metropolitan Georgia Water Planning District to allow for certain interbasin transfers on rivers with an annual flow of at least 15 billion gallons per day at the withdrawal point.
Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.
HB 104: Boll Weevil Eradication Tax Exemption
Reps. Watson, Powell, McCall, Meeks, and Pirkle
This bill would propose a constitutional amendment to provide the Boll Weevil Eradication program an ad valorem tax exemption for all of their supplies used for trapping, baiting, luring, and pesticides, as it regards to detecting and preventing the return of boll weevils.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee.


HB 105: State Income Tax Exemption for Disaster Payments
Reps. Watson, Powell, Meeks, McCall, Pirkle
In an effort to provide further relief in the wake of Hurricane Michael, this bill exempts payments from USDA as part of a disaster relief payment or program in connection to Hurricane Michael from state income tax.
Passed the House on 2/25/19. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee.
HB 286: Right to Repair
Reps. Turner, Pirkle, and Dickey
House Bill 286 is known as the Right to Repair Act. This bill would require a manufacturer to provide documents, tools, and parts that are necessary for diagnostic, maintenance, or repair services on digital electronic equipment to independent service providers.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.
HB 371: Securing Animals in the Back of Motor Vehicles
Reps. Drenner, McCall, Powell, Williams, Trammell
This bill would require a person to secure or contain a live animal in the back of a motor vehicle if the vehicle is within the arc of Interstate 285 and on any portion on Interstates 20,75 or 85 or Georgia Highway 400.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.


HB 450: Commercial Shellfish Farming
Reps. Jones, Hogan Kelley, Stephens, and Oliver
This bill creates rules and regulations for commercial shellfish farming in the state of Georgia through work between the Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources.
Assigned to House Game, Fish, and Parks Committee.
HB 455: Georgia Agriculture Marketing Authority
Reps. Houston, England, McCall, Gilliard, and Stovall
This bill creates the Georgia Agriculture Marketing Authority, the purpose of the authority is to manage the facilities and activities of farmers markets. The Authority will market and promote agricultural products to agribusinesses and the public in an effort to boost the state's economy.
Passed the House on 3/5/19. Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

HB 545: Right to Farm
Reps. McCall, Burns, England, Watson, Pirkle, and Dickey
This legislation seeks to strengthen and protect farmers from loopholes in our states right to farm laws. This clarification in language helps producers by clearing up language that is vague and could be interpreted in ways detrimental to agriculture.
Passed the House on 3/7/19. Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.
HB 592: Surface Mining in FLPA
Reps. Meeks, Corbett, England, and Rhodes
House Bill 592 would provide for under certain circumstances for short-term mineral surface mining to not be considered a breach of FLPA. The property would remain under the covenant only if they return the property to premining condition within three years.

Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment.


HB 847: Hemp Regulation Updates
Reps. Corbett, McCall, Dickey, Pruett, and Gilliard
This bill is aimed to sure up the hemp legislation that was passed by the General Assembly last legislative session. The bill creates a new license for a hemp nursery grower, which allows you to grow and sell to another permittee. The cost of the processor fee was increased from $25,000 to $100,000. HB 847 would require samples be. Collected 15 prior to harvest, and you cannot harvest until samples are collected and tested.
Assigned to the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.


HR 930: Endorse Stand4Forests Platform and its Objectives
Reps. Gilliard and Clark 
House Resolution 930 encourages the State of Georgia to endorse the Stand4Forests platform and its objectives.
Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.


SB 45: "Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act"
Sens. Beach, B. Jones, Mullis, Harbison, E. Jones, Sims
Senate Bill 45 would provide for pari-mutuel horse racing in the state at a limited number of licensed equestrian centers, create the Georgia Horse Racing Commission, and provide for the comprehensive regulation of pari-mutuel horse racing and related activities.
Assigned to Economic Development & Tourism.


SB 76: Veterinary Nurses
Reps. Black, Wilkinson, Harper, Anderson, Burke, and Karinshak
This bill has been proposed in order to change terms used by the State Board of Veterinarians. This bill would change the term veterinary technician to veterinary nurses.
Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.
SB 182: Development of Mariculture
Sens. Ligon, Miller, Watson, Hill, Gooch, and Jackson
This bill creates rules and regulations for commercial shellfish farming in the state of Georgia through work between the Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources.
Passed the Senate on 3/1/2019. Assigned to House Game, Fish, and Parks.


SB 211: Meat Labeling
Sens. Harper, Wilkinson, Black, Anderson, Walker, Heath
This bill will prohibit the sale and advertisement of nonanimal and non-slaughtered animal flesh from being called meat.
Passed the Senate on 3/7/19. Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.


SR 84: Propose Pari-mutuel Betting on Horse Racing
Sen. Beach
Senate Resolution 84 proposes an amendment to the Constitution so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide by law for pari-mutuel betting on horse racing and to provide for the disposition of licensing and taxation revenues from such activities.
Assigned to Economic Development and Tourism.



In late March, you will begin receiving requests to complete the 2020 Census. Georgia Farm Bureau is proud to be partnering with the Governor's Complete Count Committee to encourage our members to complete the census in a timely manner. The 2020 Census will be the first year you can fill out your census online.


The census website is safe, secure and confidential. The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.


In addition to shaping legislative districts, the census dictates how key funds are distributed. The federal government distributes over $675 billion dollars to states based on the population for healthcare, food, education, and roads. Key programs using census data to drive funding include:

  • Federal Medical Assistance Programs (FMAP)
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Medicare Part B
  • Highway Planning and Construction
  • The Federal Pell Grant Program
  • Cooperative Extension Service


Georgia’s rural assistance programs received more than $1.4 billion annually in the federal FY 2016.


Census Dates to Remember:

  • March 2020: The Census Bureau will begin mailing invitations to participate in the 2020 Census to homes. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail.
  • April 1, 2020: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. When you respond to the census, you tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.
  • April 2020: Census takers begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people. Census takers also begin conducting quality check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.
  • May 2020: The Census Bureau begins visiting homes that haven't responded to the 2020 Census to make sure everyone is counted.
  • August 2020: The online form of the Census will close.
  • December 2020: The Census Bureau delivers apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.
  • March 31, 2021: By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.




  • January 28: Conservation District Day at the Capitol
  • February 4: Equine Youth Day
  • February 5: Georgia Agribusiness Council Breakfast
  • February 11: Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol
  • March 2: PB&J Day at the Capitol
  • March 2-5: GFB YF&R Trip to Washington
  • March 4-5: GFB Commodity Advisory Committee Spring Meetings, Macon
  • March 11: Steak Biscuit Day at the Capitol
  • March 24: Georgia's Presidential Primary
  • March 31-April 2: GFB Presidents' Trip to Washington
  • April 2-4: Georgia Cattlemen's Convention, Perry



Public Policy Department Staff

Jeffrey Harvey, Director
Joe McManus, Assistant Director
Alex Bradford, State Affairs Coordinator
Raynor Churchwell, Agricultural Programs Specialist
Tripp Cofield, National Policy Counsel
Katie Duvall, Advocacy and Policy Development Coordinator
Renee Jones, Office Coordinator
Blake Raulerson, Governmental Affairs Specialist
Jeremy Taylor, Agricultural Programs Specialist



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