I wanted to focus this legislative update on some of the more positive and interesting legislation that I was happy to support and which passed the House last week.
HB 64 (Rep. Brian Prince) requires child welfare agencies to determine whether a parent or guardian of a child who is the subject of abuse allegations is on active duty in the military, and then to notify military law enforcement of the abuse allegations. This good measure will better protect children and close a significant notification gap in current law. It passed 169 to 0.
HB 187 (Rep. Katie Dempsey) expands resources to treat obesity through the state employees’ health insurance plan by establishing a pilot program to provide coverage for treatment and management of obesity and related conditions. Obesity remains a major health issue for many Georgians and this program should help get a better handle on some effective solutions. It passed 148 to 14.
HB 213 (Rep. John Corbett) known as the Hemp Farming Act came out of Georgia’s Agribusiness sector. The bill seeks to promote the preliminary exploration of the cultivation and processing of hemp for the purpose of opening new commercial markets for farmers and businesses through the sale of hemp products. It overwhelmingly passed the House 163 to 3.
HB 319 (Rep. Noel Williams, Jr.) ensures Georgia’s firefighters’ pensions make it to their next of kin by mandating that monies in a pension fund without a designated beneficiary get routed to the pension-holder’s estate. This measure passed 168 to 0.
On February 28, I voted yes on the $27.5 Billion proposed appropriations budget for FY 2020. I voted in favor of the bill because the good outweighed the bad – it contains good funding for good initiatives. You can read the budget’s highlights here. However, despite my overall support, I had reservations about three issues with this budget that I wanted to share with you:
- This budget does not address Georgia’s healthcare crisis. It does not contain funding for Medicaid Expansion OR Medicaid Waivers. Even if some form of Medicaid enhancement passes this year, the state won’t fund coverage for Georgians until July 1, 2021 at the earliest. I think that’s inexcusable given that Georgians are literally dying from lack of heath care.
- The budget does contain $150 million to fund electronic voting machines. As I’ve mentioned in the past, those machines are far more expensive and far less secure than hand-marked paper ballots. This is a big expense for an inferior product.
- Governor Kemp ran on a campaign promise to give Georgia teachers a $5,000 raise. When we received the supplemental budget, that number had dropped to $3000. Now, in the current budget, the amount has dropped to $2775. Teachers are the backbone of our communities, educating and caring for our children. Schools are the first institutions to be hit with cuts in times of economic downturn. Now that we’re experiencing prosperity, I think it’s essential that we make good on our promises to increase teacher salaries.
Crossover day is Thursday, March 7th. It’s the last day a bill can leave its originating chamber and make it through the full legislative process. As we approach it there will be a lot to watch out for, both good and bad. Rest assured I will keep you up to date from my end.
In the meantime, you can examine bills and resolutions that have been introduced here. Please let me hear from you about the things you support and oppose and let me know why.
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Representative Betsy Holland, House District 54
The Georgia General Assembly reconvenes Monday, March 4, 2019 for Day 26.