2018 Legislative Session – Week 10 Update

March 14th was Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the Capitol. Gov. Deal addressed several members from GA’s law enforcement agencies to recognize them for their service.

My colleagues and I reconvened for the 10th week of session on Monday, March 12th. There are only a few working days left in this year’s session, so the House is busy with committee meetings and passing Senate measures. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the bills we were able to pass.

Senate Bill 357 – The Health Act

In order to improve our state’s healthcare policies, the house passed Senate Bill 357”The Health Act.” This bill would establish the Health Coordination and Innovation Council of the State of Georgia under the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget to coordinate components of our state’s health care system. SB 357 would also establish an advisory board to provide guidance to the council. Responsibilities of this 18-member council would be to bring together academic, industry, and government experts and leaders to share information, organize functions of Georgia’s health care system, and develop innovative ways to stabilize costs and improve access to quality care. Members would conduct research in order to identify Georgia’s health needs and would promote cooperation between private and public agencies. This council will consist of commissioners and directors from health and human services-related departments and divisions, including a director of health care policy & strategic planning, and health care professionals appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the House of Representatives. This bill is vital for addressing issues in our health care systems and providing citizens with the best quality care.

Updates in Autism Treatment

Another health care related bill that my colleagues and I were able to pass is Senate Bill 118. This bill would ensure that children with autism have access to the necessary treatments and therapists in order to lead healthy lives. SB 118 would increase the age coverage for autism spectrum disorder treatments from 6 years old to 20 years old and would increase the coverage limit from $30,000 to $35,000 per year. Lastly, this bill would require insurers to provide coverage for applied behavior analysis, which is considered a necessary medical treatment for Autism. If signed by Gov. Deal, SB 118 would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. I hope to see every child with autism receive the treatment they need to live a healthy, successful life.

Preventing Elderly Abuse

The House passed Senate Bill 406 which would create the Georgia Long-term Care Background Check Program. This program would require elder-care providers in personal care homes or other assisted living facilities to undergo fingerprint-based criminal background checks. This would apply to owners, applicants for employments, and current employees. If signed into law, SB 406 would take effect on Oct.1, 2019 for new applicants and on Jan. 1, 2021 for existing employees and owners. Additionally, the Department of Community Health would establish and maintain a central caregiver registry so that a family member or guardian seeking to hire a caregiver for an elderly person would have access to information on eligible and ineligible persons.

House Resolution 1376 -The RDC and Health care

House Resolution 1376 urges the House Rural Development Council (RDC) to solicit input from Georgia’s hospitals on their financial conditions, including profitability, community benefit, cash revenue, and viability projections for hospitals in financial crisis. This resolution would encourage the RDC to hear from the hospital industry on any changes or legislation that would help sustain our state’s health care system. There is a wide discrepancy among hospitals concerning how much indigent and charity care they provide. Some Georgia hospitals are doing well while others suffer or are even at risk of closing their doors. This measure would provide the RDC with the information they need to improve hospitals in rural Georgia.

Senate Bill 330 – Improvements in Agriculture

The House passed Senate Bill 330, also known as the Georgia Agricultural Education Act. This bill would require agricultural education programs for students in grades 6 through 12 to be based on the nationally recognized 3-component model of school-based agricultural education. This 3-component model would consist of:

-daily classroom and lab instruction,

-hands-on learning through a supervised agricultural experience program,

-and leadership & learning opportunities through participation in agricultural education programs.

The Department of Education would be in charge of creating curriculum and standards for the program with input from agricultural educators. Lastly, this bill would allow the Department of Education to create an elementary agricultural education pilot program to determine whether such a program should be implemented throughout the state. Agriculture is the biggest industry in Georgia, so we would do well to encourage the proper instruction and opportunities to our young citizens.

HOPE & Georgia’s Armed Forces Members

Senate Bill 82 would allow members of the Georgia National Guard or of a reserve component located in Georgia to be classified as legal residents under eligibility requirements for HOPE scholarships and grants. Eligible individuals would be Georgia National Guard members or reservists stationed in Georgia or those who list Georgia as their home. Under current law, only active-duty military service members, their spouses and dependent children are eligible to receive HOPE scholarships and grants. This bill would expand this benefit so more men and women who serve the state of GA can have access to higher education.

Senate Bill 17- The “Brunch Bill”

Senate Bill 17 would allow local governing authorities to authorize alcoholic beverage sales beginning at 11 AM on Sundays. This bill would only apply to licensed establishments that derive at least 50% of their total annual gross sales from food sales or from room rentals for overnight lodging. If signed into law, the results of this bill is expected to increase sales by $100 million and generate approx. $11 million in additional state and local tax revenue. SB 17 would allow voters to decide whether to approve of early Sunday sales within their communities.

As this year’s session comes to a close, I encourage you to reach out to me with questions and concerns about the bills the General Assembly is working on passing. You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for 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!