Week Eight 2016 Update
Last week was the eighth week of the 2016 session, and it also contained “Crossover Day.” This day is the deadline for legislation to be sent out from its chamber of origin to remain eligible for consideration. It is a long day, due to passing House bills to be sent to the Senate.
One bill that we passed on Crossover Day was House Bill 722, AKA, Haleigh’s Hope Act – Part II. This bill would expand the list of medical conditions permitted to legally possess cannabis oil in Georgia. It would also allow manufacturers of low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil in other states to ship this oil directly to Georgians who are properly registered. And, the bill would add low THC oil into the Georgia code section related to driving under the influence to promote safe usage, administration, and also maintaining the safety of citizens.
The House also passed bipartisan legislation this week in an exciting push to bring the commercial space industry to Georgia. House Bill 734, the Georgia Space Flight Act (GSA), would define procedures for commercial space flight activity to allow Georgia to be more competitive with our neighboring states. The GSA is modeled after Texas legislation, and would protect space flight entities, and also inform willing space flight participants of their rights. It would limit a participant’s ability to sue, and would not protect against injuries suffered by non-consenting parties. Participants would have to provide informed consent and sign a waiver. This bill would make Georgia a competitor in the estimated $330 billion per year industry.
We unanimously passed House Bill 862, which updates current laws allowing disabled veterans to qualify for the homestead exemption on ad valorem taxes. This will allow veterans to qualify for the exemption by meeting either, rather than both, of the standards. Veterans honorably discharged as being 100 percent disabled or compensated at the 100 percent level would qualify, as well as any veteran entitled to receive a statutory award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for loss of one or both feet, loss of one or both hands, or loss of sight in one or both eyes may also qualify for the exemption.
Another bipartisan measure unanimously passed was The Fallen Heroes Bill, or House Bill 54. This bill would honor public service officials killed in the line of duty and their families. The bill would provide cost free college tuition to children of those who have fallen. This would supplement the existing Georgia Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant. Georgia taxpayers would be able to voluntarily contribute to the program.
Both House Bill 934 and House Bill 957 will continue our efforts to aid Georgia kinship care providers. HB 934 would allow the Department of Human Services to provide a dedicated section on their website for kinship givers. This would provide information, applications, and knowledge about resources for the children in their cate. HB 957 would require judges and clerks of the probate courts to publicly post notice of the availability of the affidavit of indigence, which is a court document excusing an individual from paying court fees at the time if they can prove they do not have the funds. This would ensure kinship caregivers are aware of this resource when filing for guardianship with the probate court.
Now that Crossover Day is behind us, we will be spending time in committee hearings as we take time to carefully review Senate Bills. There are only nine legislative days left to complete our work for the 2016 legislative session, so if you have any questions about the bills I mentioned, or about any that will be considered by either chamber, I hope you will reach out to me in the remaining days. As your representative, your thoughts and opinions on these important issues are essential to my decision-making process, and I appreciate your input. If you are nearby, you are always welcome at your State Capitol, and I would be happy to serve as your host. You can reach me at my Capitol office, which is 404-656-0213, or by email at Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.