Session Update: Week Eight

On Monday, March 2, 2020, the General Assembly began Week Eight of the 2020 Legislative Session. Every year, my colleagues and I meet for 40 days to work for the betterment of Georgia.

We kicked off the week by unanimously passing legislation to aid in the fight against human trafficking in Georgia. House Bill 823 would allow the Georgia Department of Driver Services to revoke a person’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) and impose a lifetime CDL ban in Georgia for those who are convicted and knowingly used a commercial vehicle in the commission of a human trafficking crime, which includes trafficking an individual for labor servitude or sexual servitude. Over 3,600 children are sold into sex trafficking in Georgia every year, and our largest city, Atlanta, was listed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as one of 14 U.S. cities with the most sex trafficking activity. 

My colleagues and I also passed two important pieces of legislation to protect our citizens from incurring unexpected medical costs. We passed House Bill 888, or the “Surprise Billing Consumer Act,” which would require insurance providers to pay for emergency medical services without need for any prior authorization and without any retrospective payment denial for medically necessary services, regardless of whether a health care provider giving emergency medical services is a participating provider or not. In addition to HB 888, we also passed the “Surprise Bill Transparency Act” to increase awareness and provide a resource regarding insurance coverage for hospital-based specialty groups. House Bill 789 would create a health benefit plan surprise bill rating system to determine if a patient’s benefit plan would apply to certain hospital-based specialty groups, including anesthesiologists, pathologists, radiologists and emergency medicine physicians.

We also passed House Bill 946 which creates transparency for prescription drug prices and allows the state to better oversee pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), who are third-party prescription drug administrators that pay for, reimburse and cover the cost of drugs, devices or pharmacy care on behalf of a health plan. Similarly, we also passed House Bill 918 to amend the “The Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights” to place limitations on the size and frequency of pharmacy audits by PBMs, which PBMs currently use as a way to recapture money from pharmacists around the state. Additionally, the House passed House Bill 947 to require the Department of Community Health (DCH) to initiate an independent, third-party actuarial study to determine the potential savings associated with carving out prescription drug benefits from Medicaid care management organizations (CMOs) and providing those benefits through the DCH’s Medicaid fee-for-service program. 

The House also unanimously passed House Bill 914 to support our military families and veterans as they make our state their home. This bill would streamline and expedite the professional licensing process for military spouses, as well as service members who are transitioning into the private sector when they move to our state. HB 914 would require professional licensing boards to issue expedited licenses to those who hold a current license for their job and are in good standing with another state. Members of the military, along with their spouses and families, make immense sacrifices as they move from state to state to serve our country, but this legislation would help them quickly secure professional opportunities and would make Georgia a more military-friendly state.

We passed House Bill 855, which would require the Department of Education (DOE) to provide guidance to local school systems in order to assess whether a newly enrolled foster care child has been exposed to trauma which adversely impacted the student’s educational performance or behavior. The Department of Education would develop a protocol for schools to immediately assess foster children who are removed from their homes and are subsequently placed in a new schooling environment. 

Before we finished week eight, we passed legislation to expand and improve Georgia’s hemp farming laws. House Bill 847 would allow any college or university in Georgia to operate a pilot hemp research program, and it would permit colleges and universities to engage third parties to assist in these research programs. The bill would also allow a licensed provider to provide or sell hemp to a Georgia college or university or to another provider who is not licensed in Georgia but is located in a state with a hemp regulation plan that is in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. HB 847 would increase the initial permit fee for a hemp processor from $25,000 to $50,000 to help keep Georgia’s hemp program sustainable and would revise background check requirements for licensees and permittees.

This week, I qualified to run for State House again. It has been an honor serving District 109, and I look forward to serving you again! 

My colleagues and I also passed the following bills and resolutions on the House floor this week:

House Bill 486, which would prohibit an individual from advertising that he or she is a journeyman plumber unless he or she has a valid license from the Division of Master Plumbers and Journeyman Plumbers

House Bill 576, which would change the distribution order of payments collected from driving under the influence and reckless driving fines by moving the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund up to the fifth on the list in order to receive payments

House Bill 830, which would allow eligible large retirement systems to invest up to 10 percent of assets in alternative investments

House Bill 885, which would grant district attorneys access to all information regarding a violent or sexual offender’s record, including confidential state secrets, when the offender is found guilty of serious violent felonies or dangerous sexual offenses and is eligible for parole

House Bill 957, which would allow teachers at Georgia charter schools to be eligible for state health insurance plans

House Resolution 962, which would amend the Georgia Constitution to authorize the General Assembly to allow local boards of education to call for local referenda to authorize an assessment of residential homestead property at 20 percent of fair market value

House Bill 1054, which would authorize the Department of Public Health to promulgate rules and regulations creating a newborn screening system for the prevention of serious illness, severe physical or developmental disability and death caused by inherited metabolic and genetic disorders

House Resolution 1094, which would authorize non-exclusive easements for the construction, operation and maintenance of facilities, utilities, roads and ingress and egress in, on, over, under, upon, across or through state property in the following Georgia counties: Barrow, Calhoun, Chatham, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Crisp, Dougherty, Douglas, McIntosh, Muscogee, Paulding, Polk and Richmond

Each week, you can return to my blog to read updates on what the General Assembly is working on for the State of Georgia. You are always welcome to visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for the 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!

Below, I’ve listed out leaders from both chambers. You can click through each of their names to find more information about them.

House:

Speaker of the House: David Ralston

Speaker Pro Tempore: Jan Jones

Majority Leader: Jon Burns

Majority Whip: Trey Kelley

Majority Caucus Chair: Matt Hatchett

Majority Caucus Vice-Chair: Micah Gravley

Minority Leader: Robert Trammell

Minority Whip: William Boddie

Minority Caucus Chair: James Beverly

Minority Caucus Vice-Chair: Erica Thomas

Senate:

President Pro Tempore: Butch Miller

Majority Leader: Mike Dugan

Majority Whip: Steve Gooch

Majority Caucus Chair: John Kennedy

Majority Caucus Vice-Chair: Larry Walker

Minority Leader: Steve Henson

Minority Whip: Harold Jones

Minority Caucus Chair: Gloria Butler

Minority Caucus Vice-Chair: Emanuel Jones