2024 Legislative Updates - Week 2
Budget Takes Center Stage
The House and Senate did not officially convene this week. Instead, members of the Appropriations Committees held budget hearings. The Governor, the state economist, and more than forty agency heads presented over three days.
With this information now in hand, various House Appropriations Subcommittees will begin to drill down on specific spending areas for the amended FY24 budget, which shores up spending through June 30. Those puzzle pieces will then be fitted together by Chairman Matt Hatchett and his team, ensuring a balanced budget. The House will pass this budget, likely in mid-February. The House will then shift its attention to the FY25 budget, which begins July 1. The Senate, meanwhile, will begin its work on the amended FY24 budget, making its mark on the state’s spending plan.
Passing a balanced budget is the only constitutionally required item the legislature must address during its forty-day legislative session. Much of the proposed calendar is dependent on internal budget benchmarks being met. Lawmakers return to Atlanta on Monday, January 22 for a five-day work week.
The Governor’s Priorities
The Governor presented his statewide budget priorities to legislators remotely, as he was attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. His priorities include:
- Pay raises for state employees to promote retention, including additional supplements for K-12 teachers.
- Funding for infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water, and sewer systems.
- Funding for site development and workforce housing to promote economic development.
- Investments in retirement, risk, and health portfolios to maintain fiscal solvency.
- Funding for school buses and school security enhancements.
Tort Reform Update
The Senate and the Lt. Governor are expected to introduce legislation to advance several tort reform efforts, which may include premises liability and direct action against trucking companies. The Association is organizing a call to action to support these efforts, especially related to premises liability.
In late June 2023, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed a jury’s $45 million verdict awarded to a man shot in the parking lot of an Atlanta drugstore in CVS v. Carmichael in 2012. The court held that CVS failed to provide sufficient security and apportioned the pharmacy chain 95% of the blame. The court assigned 5% of the blame to Carmichael, the man who was shot. The shooter remains at large.
Georgia's premises liability law allows accident victims to hold the owner or occupier of property liable for injuries sustained on the property. The General Assembly enacted the general premises liability statute in 1895. For nearly 100 years, Georgia's courts applied the law to incidents caused by an allegedly hazardous physical condition of the property.
Over the last several decades, the courts have rendered decisions that have gradually relaxed standards of liability, especially related to third-party crime. Under today's post-CVS standard, past crimes can create a present hazard for similar violent third-party crimes on the premises. Juries may even be permitted to consider the overall crime of a neighborhood, which is especially troubling for businesses in so-called "high-crime" areas. For those who can continue to find insurance coverage, premiums will certainly increase.
The Association is calling on the General Assembly to pass legislation that sets a reasonable standard of liability when an unrelated third party commits an act against a person on the landowner’s property. The standard would require some overt act on the part of the landowner that directly causes the harm.