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2020 GA Capitol Update: Week 5

The Senate had another busy week, packed with discussions on Georgia’s budget and the specific funding needs of all our state agencies. While we did not convene for any official legislative days, these budget hearings serve an important purpose and allow members of the legislature to go line by line through specific budget requests and determine what funding priorities will be reflected in the final budget.

Wednesday, I chaired the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety. This was a great opportunity to hear in detail the funding needs of our agencies which carry out the selfless task of protecting all Georgians. While all state agencies have been asked to trim their budgets by 4% for the amended 2020 Fiscal Year and by 6% for the 2021 Fiscal Year, we were pleased to hear that many of these savings will come from increased use of technology to eliminate a percentage of travel needs, and from the consolidation of services between different agencies. Georgia’s public safety community is second to none and I remain confident that our state is in good hands with these brave men and women.

Tuesday, the state unveiled the new Nathan Deal Judicial Center, where many of Georgia’s state courts and judges will be housed. The building’s name reflects the legacy of former Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and his lifelong pledge to not just ensuring justice for all, but also his commitment to reducing recidivism and rehabilitating past offenders. We were also honored to have United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas deliver the keynote speech to commemorate the new building, along with other prominent members of the Executive and Judicial Branches. This new building will serve as a message to the entire state that Georgia takes criminal justice seriously.

We also had movement on a few of the bills that look to improve Georgian’s access to healthcare and increase the transparency in costs associated with medical care. The first measure is Senate Bill 359, otherwise known as the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act. This bill, which received an important hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this week, would take the consumer out of the middle of healthcare cost disputes and instead require them to be settled directly between the insurance company and the healthcare provider. The other bill, SB 313, is directed at Pharmacy Benefit Managers and would regulate practices that unfairly steer a consumer to a pharmacy that would provide the biggest financial return to the referring provider, rather than the one that is best for the consumer. While both of these bills only received hearings and are still relatively early in the legislative process, I am confident that these measures will greatly benefit all of Georgia once passed.

Next week, the Senate is scheduled to return to the Senate Chamber to convene for four legislative days. We can expect the volume of bills that make it to the Senate floor for a vote to increase, as well as our time spent in committee meetings assessing the viability of legislation. If there is ever anything I can do to assist you, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. I am here to serve you.

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Sen. John Albers serves as Chairman of the Public Safety Committee. He represents the 56th Senate District which includes portions of Cherokee and North Fulton counties. He may be reached at his office at 404.463.8055 or by email at john.albers@senate.ga.gov