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Gold Dome Update: Week Five

Our fifth week under the Gold Dome brought with it some great progress that will benefit citizens across our state. With the end of this week marking the 18th legislative day, we are just two days away from the halfway point of the 2018 Legislative Session.

The Senate passed three major pieces of legislation this week relating to health care. Senate Bills 118, 352 and 357 will all bring much needed changes to Georgia’s health care system, and I am glad to have played a role in passing these bills through our Chamber. Two of these bills, SB 352 and 357, are direct results of a task force that worked over the interim to bring solutions to some of Georgia’s most pressing health care issues. I would like to thank Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Senators Renee Unterman and Dean Burke for their hard work, and I am glad that their efforts yielded such positive results.

SB 118 expands coverage for children with autism spectrum disorders. Current law states that insurance providers are only obligated to provide coverage to children ages six and below. This bill increases the age of required coverage to 12. I am very happy the Senate passed this bill and I am confident that it will bring much needed relief and care to these children and their families.  Ava’s Law has made a real difference in the lives of Georgia families and I was a proud author and sponsor of this bill six years ago.

SB 352 addresses the opioid crisis that is affecting not only Georgia, but our country as a whole. Last year alone, Georgia had over 1,400 overdose deaths, a number that is way too high and way too sad for us not to take action. SB 352 is a major step toward combatting this problem and allocating resources toward fighting addiction. The bill creates the Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery, headed by a new position – the Executive Director of Substance Abuse, Addiction and Related Disorders. This position and commission will be solely dedicated toward ending substance abuse by focusing on prevention, recovery and treatment.

SB 357, also known as The HEALTH Act, would establish the Health Coordination and Innovation Council of the State of Georgia and the Health System Innovation Center. This legislation breaks down many of the walls that paralyze our health care system and will allow it to operate more smoothly by increasing coordination between the private and public sectors, as well as involving academia to review policy initiatives.

This week, I carried House Bill 38 in the Senate, which I am happy to say passed with bipartisan support. HB 38 allows veterans of the United States military, who received an honorable discharge, to obtain a driver’s license free of charge. In addition, HB 38 will allow honorably discharged veterans to receive a veteran’s designation on the physical license. I am proud to support any benefit to our veterans and I am glad my colleagues in the Senate agree.

Senate Bill 328, which I sponsored, also passed the Senate this week. SB 328 provides an expiration date on several tax credits currently in effect: Qualified Transportation Credit, Driver Education Tax Credit and Diesel Particulate Emission Reduction Technology Equipment Credit. After careful analysis over the interim in the Senate Study Committee on Special Tax Exemption meetings, the committee determined that these three credits no longer provide a Return on Investment (ROI) and should sunset on December 31, 2018.

I also sponsored Senate Resolution 675 this week, honoring Georgia’s brave firefighters and designating Tuesday, February 6, 2018, as Firefighters Recognition Day at the Capitol. As the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee and a volunteer firefighter, the commitment and service of firefighters is near and dear to my heart. We are so thankful for their efforts, putting their lives on the line every day to protect us, and honoring them on Tuesday was the least we could do.

As always, if you have any comments, questions or concerns about the legislation I am working on, or any legislation passing through our chamber, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am always here to help and serve the citizens of District 56. Thank you for putting your trust in me, and I will continue to update you as our session progresses.