On Monday, March 13, my House colleagues and I resumed our legislative business on Capitol Hill for legislative day 32 and the tenth week of the 2017 legislative session. With only a few legislative days remaining to complete our work before sine die, the House had a packed legislative agenda this week. We continued meeting in committees to review bills and voted on significant pieces of legislation on the House floor. Sine die is around the corner, and the pace has surely quickened as we continually strive to make Georgia the best state to live, work and play.
We kicked off our week by passing Senate Bill 85, a bill that supports Georgia’s growing craft brewery and distillery industries. This legislation has been in the works for some time. SB 85 would allow craft breweries and spirit distilleries to sell limited amounts of their products directly to their visitors. Currently, breweries and distilleries are only permitted to distribute their products to customers through facility tours, but SB 85 would remove this requirement and allow these establishments to sell their products to the public for consumption both on and off the facility’s premises. SB 85 would allow malt beverage brewers and manufacturers to sell up to 3,000 barrels of malt beverages per year for consumption on and off the premises with a limit of 288 ounces per consumer per day for consumption off-premises. Spirit distilleries could also sell up to 500 barrels of distilled spirits per year for consumption on or off the premises with a limit of 2,250 milliliters per consumer per day for consumption off-premises. Currently, our state’s three-tier system requires breweries and distilleries to sell their products to a wholesale distributor who then sells the products to a retailer where the products are then sold directly to consumers. SB 85 would provide an exception to Georgia’s three-tier system, and with SB 85, Georgia would join the 49 other states that allow direct sales from breweries, bringing Georgia’s policy in line with other states and meeting the demands and needs of this growing marketplace. This bill supports Georgia’s small businesses and would make our state more economically competitive, further solidifying Georgia’s reputation as the No. 1 state in the country for business.
This week we overwhelmingly passed a bill to honor our state’s law enforcement officers and give Georgians a way to show their appreciation to these brave men and women. Senate Bill 169 would create a specialty license plate with the phrase “Back the Badge” displayed across the bottom of the plate in support of Georgia law enforcement officers. These license plates would be available for purchase, and the proceeds from license plate sales would be distributed to the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Georgia, a fund that prepares Georgia’s peace officers for retirement and provides retired law enforcement officers with pension benefits. My colleagues and I are immensely grateful for Georgia’s law enforcement officers’ heroic and selfless service to our state, and this measure provides a mechanism for Georgians to thank and express support for the peace officers who put their lives on the line for each and every citizen.
Senate Bill 96, a measure designed to improve lives by expediting the organ donation process, passed unanimously out of the House this week. SB 96 would:
- Expand the list of non-physician medical personnel authorized to determine or pronounce death if it appears the patient died of natural causes.
- It would authorize registered professional nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to pronounce the death of a patient in a nursing home or hospice care facility in the absence of a physician, regardless of the patient’s organ donor status.
- It would improve the quality of care of recently deceased individuals in Georgia while also improving the lives of many organ donation recipients.
The House saw the unanimous passage of another measure this week that would provide a licensure exemption to allow certain visiting, out-of-state medical practitioners to legally provide services while they are in Georgia. Senate Bill 47 would permit out-of-state physicians, physician assistants and athletic trainers traveling with a sports team to provide care for athletes and coaching staff during sporting events in Georgia. The visiting practitioners would be required to be licensed and in good standing in another state, and this licensure exemption would require an agreement with the sports team before care could be provided. Such out-of-state medical personnel would not be authorized to provide care or consultation services to Georgia residents, practice at any Georgia health clinic or facility or write prescriptions in this state. Under current Georgia law, out-of-state physicians, physician assistants and athletic trainers are not permitted to provide care to their teams while they are in Georgia for a sporting event, but SB 47 would let these traveling health care providers perform their medical duties while visiting our state. There are 22 states with similar legislation, and enacting this legislation in Georgia would further encourage reciprocity between states.
Another bill that the House passed this week was Senate Bill 109, a measure designed to quickly and effectively mobilize the day-to-day movement of out-of-state emergency management services (EMS) personnel across state lines during a declared emergency.
- It would create the Recognition of Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact (REPLICA) to allow emergency EMS personnel to enter Georgia and provide care to communities and citizens during declared emergencies by the governor.
- It would support the licensure of military members separating from active duty tours and their spouses, promote compliance with EMS personnel laws in member states and authorize member states to mutually recognize member state licenses.
- It would encourage member state cooperation and regulation and facilitate the exchange of information regarding EMS personnel licensure and rules between member states. The compact has been enacted in eight other states and would become fully operational once 10 states have enacted the compact.
The House saw the final passage of House Bill 146 this week, one of the first of many bills this session to receive final approval by both chambers of the General Assembly. House Bill 146 would require fire departments to provide adequate insurance coverage for Georgia’s firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer. Because of their line of work, firefighters are exposed to dangerous cancer-causing carcinogens, and according to research, firefighters more likely to be diagnosed with certain cancers than the general population. Georgia’s courageous firefighters selflessly put themselves in harm’s way, in spite of the health risks associated with their occupation, to keep our families and communities safe. As a reflection of the General Assembly’s gratitude for their service, this bipartisan measure received overwhelming support in both the House and Senate this legislative session. This critical legislation will now go to Governor Deal’s desk for final consideration.
On Tuesday, March 14, the House recognized some of its most admirable citizens in honor of National Guard Day at the Capitol. As we celebrated National Guard Day in the House chamber, Adjutant General Joe Jarrard and members of the Georgia National Guard joined us and were presented with House Resolution 173 commending the Georgia Department of Defense’s 10,908 Army National Guard Soldiers, 2,896 Air National Guard Airmen and 509 State Defense Force members. These men and women serve the U.S. Department of Defense’s combatant commanders as ready military forces, as well as support homeland defense and provide civil authorities with defense support with the governor’s consent. Georgia’s Army National Guard is the eighth largest in the country, and last year alone, the Georgia National Guard deployed more than 600 soldiers and airmen. Our state’s valiant warriors are true patriots and make tremendous sacrifices to defend our freedoms. It was an honor to recognize the remarkable and distinguished Georgia National Guard members under the Gold Dome.
With only legislative five legislative days remaining in the 2017 session, the House will be busier than ever during this crucial time to ensure that the legislation being considered is good policy for Georgia and its citizens. As we continue working with the Senate to ensure the final passage of legislation this year, please do not hesitate to contact me with any concerns you may have about bills being considered at your State Capitol. Stop by my office at the State Capitol, call my capitol office at 404.656.0254, or reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative!