The fifth week of the 2017 Legislative Session began with many bills finally making their way to the House floor to be voted on. As a result, my colleagues and I were excited to see many bills passed this week that improve the lives of the citizens in our districts.

 

House Bill 146 – HB 146, a legislation requiring fire departments to provide and maintain insurance coverage for firefighters diagnosed with cancer, was passed with overwhelming support. Firefighters who have served on-duty for their department for 12 consecutive months, been diagnosed with cancer, and are unable to continue working would receive insurance benefits including a lump-sum of $6,250 or $25,000, depending on the severity of their cancer. In addition to this lump-sum, firefighters that are unable to work due to the condition of their health would receive a monthly benefit equal to 60% of the firefighter’s monthly salary at the time of diagnosis, or $5,000, whichever is less. This would begin six months after the firefighter has submitted proof of their diagnosis and would continue for three years. This legislation would also provide coverage for volunteer firefighters who would receive a monthly benefit of $1,500. Under this bill, firefighters would also be allowed to maintain their insurance coverage upon retirement, or if they change careers, however, they would be responsible for paying the insurance premium. Because firefighters are so often exposed to cancer-causing carcinogens in their line of work, firefighters are at higher-risk for certain kinds of cancer. Because of the extreme conditions under which these men and women work, it was an honor to vote in favor of a legislation that takes care of those that so selflessly protect our communities.

 

House Bills 83 & 84 – These two bills, which were passed unanimously, would support the Georgia Firefighter’s Pension Fund. This group, which was created in 1955, provides a supplemental pension benefit to Georgia’s firefighters and their beneficiaries. HB 83 would allow the Georgia Firefighter’s Pension Fund to invest up to 10% of its assets real estate, which has previously been prohibited. This would be beneficial to those involved because if the fund’s assets decrease in value, the fund may retain the real estate investments if they were made prior to the decrease in value. This is an opportunity that is fiscally sound and would provide peace of mind for future beneficiaries. Similarly, HB 84 would give the Georgia Firefighter’sPension Fund the ability to invest up to 10% of its assets in alternative investments, or nonconventional assets, like privately placed invest pools, private investment funds, and venture capital funds. In summation, HB 83 & 84 would provide flexibility and investment options for firefighters.

 

HB 176 – This legislation works to improve the efficiency of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. It would allow the Department of Agriculture to enter into agreements with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FSMA requires the inspection of certain farms and packing houses. HB 176 would allow the Georgia Department of Agriculture to assist the FDA in the inspection of certain farms and packing houses, as well as any other duties that would deem appropriate in aiding the FDA in carrying out the FSMA. The intention behind this is to create more consistency while serving Georgia farmers, and ultimately, Georgia consumers.

 

HB 75 – This legislation would protect Georgia’s youngest citizens by allowing law enforcement or prosecution agencies to confidentially share information regarding child abuse or neglect with the Department of Human Services, including the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), and other child protective agencies. According to current law, any information shared between law enforcement and child protective agencies about a case is recorded in case files and subject to open record requests. The sharing of information privately between law enforcement and child protective agencies is necessary to protect children in certain cases.

 

The pace of session has certainly quickened, and with this comes the passing of more legislations and resolutions with each day. Each day we consider you, the citizen, in our decisions, and because of this, I welcome any suggestions and feedback you have about the current proceedings of the legislative session.

 

You are welcome to visit me at my office located at 607-F Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.Atlanta, GA 30334. You may also feel free to call me at 404.656.0287 or send me an email at karen.mathiak@house.ga.gov. You can also stay up-to-date by following my Facebook page.

Thank you for letting me continue to serve and represent you.

 

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