Week Seven 2016 Update
The seventh week of session began on Monday, February 22. The House had a busy week, convening on the floor every day, working hard to pass legislation ahead of Crossover Day.
A meaningful and possibly life-saving bill was passed, House Bill 965 (“The Honorable Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Act”). This bill would provide patients diagnosed with stage four metastatic cancer increased treatment, and any health benefit plan issued in Georgia cannot deny coverage for a drug covered by the USFDA if a patient does not have a previous history of failing to respond to initial cancer treatment medications.
The House unanimously passed House Bill 831, or the “Protecting Guardsmen’s Employment Act.” This bipartisan legislation will provide employment protections to Georgia workers called into service by the national guard of a neighboring state. This legislation will ensure reemployment to National Guardsmen who are called into service.
Another bipartisan bill passed in the House this week was House Bill 614, the Landon Dunson Act. With this bill, video monitoring camera equipment would be installed, as a safety measure, in self-contained classrooms that provide special education services. Participation would be voluntary, and consent from parents would be needed. Camera footage access would be strictly limited to school administrators for educational and safety monitoring purposes. The Department of Education has final approval of the schools that opt-in, but each school is responsible for providing their own equipment.
The House passed House Bill 768, known as the Georgie Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. The bill would include the following:
- ease financial strains on disabled individuals, allowing them to save private funds in tax-exempt accounts without becoming Medicaid ineligible
- Georgia ABLE Program governed by board of directors (appointed by the Governor)
- The board would have several duties/tasks
- oversee the operations (including tax-free savings account criteria)
- establish insurance policies to protect assets of the funds
- Office of the State Treasurer would ensure proper management of funds and bank accounts
- The following state departments will work with the board of directors to define qualified ABLE applicants and program material:
- Department of Community Health
- Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
- Department of Human Services
- Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
- Department of Education
House Bill 962 was a bipartisan measure, and would create the position of Kinship Care Enforcement Administrator at the Department of Human Services. A kinship caregiver is a relative of a child (other than a child’s parent), that raises the child. Anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 children are in kinship care in Georgia. During last year’s session, House Resolution 474 was passed to develop a study committee, which investigated the state’s kinship services. The study resulted in HB 962. The Kinship Care Enforcement Administrator would be appointed by the Commissioner of Human Services to monitor, facilitate, and ensure compliance with all federal and state laws related to any programs available to kinship caregivers or the children in their care.
We took the time to recognize the University of Georgia’s new head football coach, Kirby Smart. Smart is a Bainbridge, Georgia native who played four years at UGA. Before coaching at our state’s flagship university, Smart coached at the University of Alabama, where he helped the Crimson Tide gain four National Championships.
We were honored to have Presidential candidate, Governor John Kasich, join us last Tuesday. He reminded my colleagues and I to uplift each other, and reminded us that we are Americans before we are Democrats and Republicans.
The House, and the state, lost a true public servant last week. State Representative Bob Bryant from Garden City passed away last Thursday. Bob was a loving husband, father, grandfather, veteran, and friend to all. He served his constituents with grace and humility as their voice under the Gold Dome for 12 years, and the positive impact he made on the House chamber and in his community will not soon be forgotten.
We are gearing up for another extremely busy week at the Georgia State Capitol next week. On Monday, February 29, we are scheduled to complete the 30th legislative day, which is also known as “Crossover Day.” Crossover Day is the last date in which a piece of legislation must pass at least one of the General Assembly’s two chambers to be considered for final passage this legislative session. If you have any questions, you may reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-0213 or by email at Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov.