Monday, March 13th began Legislative Day 32 and the tenth week of the 2017 legislative session. Because the end of this session is quickly approaching, our week was very full. Sine die will be here soon, which has certainly quickened the pace of our work as we continue reviewing and passing legislation.

Concerning Georgia Breweries & Distilleries
Senate Bill 85 would allow craft breweries to sell limited amounts of their products directly to their visitors. SB 85 would remove the requirement for breweries and distilleries to only be allowed to distribute their products to customers through facility tours. This would allow these individuals and organizations to sell their products to the public for consumption both on and off the facility’s premises. Under this legislation, malt beverage brewers and manufacturers would be permitted to sell up to 3,000 barrels of malt beverages per year for consumption on and off the premises with a limit of 288 ounces per consumer per day for consumption off-premises. In addition, spirit distilleries could sell up to 500 barrels of distilled spirits per year with a limit of 2,250 milliliters per consumer per day for consumption off-premises. Under current legislation, Georgia’s three-tier system requires breweries and distilleries to sell their products to a wholesale distributor who then sells the products to a retailer where the products are then sold directly to consumers. SB 85 would provide exception to this system and Georgia would join the 49 other states that allow direct sales from breweries, bringing Georgia’s policies in line with other states.

Concerning Georgia Law Enforcement
Senate Bill 169 would create a specialty license plate with the phrase “Back the Badge” displayed across the bottom of the plate to support Georgia law enforcement officers. The proceeds from the purchase of these plates would be distributed to the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Georgia. This fund helps retired law enforcement officers in the state of Georgia.

Concerning Organ Donation
Senate Bill 96 would expedite the organ donation process. This legislation passed unanimously and would expand the list of non-physician medical personnel authorized to determine or pronounce death if it appears the patient has died of natural causes. Furthermore, this legislation would authorize registered professional nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to pronounce the death of a patient in a nursing home or hospice care facility in the absence of a physician, regardless of the patient’s organ donor status. Timely organ donation is often necessary to protect the integrity of the organs being donated. One organ donor can save as many as eight lives, so this legislation would improve the quality of care of recently deceased individuals in Georgia while also improving the lives of many organ donation recipients.

Concerning Georgia Healthcare
Senate Bill 47 would permit out-of-state physicians, physician assistants, and athletic trainers traveling with a sports team to provide care for athletes and coaching staff during sporting events in Georgia. If a visiting practitioner is licensed and in good standing in another state, this licensure exemption would require an agreement with the sports team before care could be provided. The legislation would allow these individuals to perform their medical duties while visiting our state.

Concerning Emergency Management Services
Senate Bill 109 is a legislation designed to quickly and effectively mobilize the day-to-day movement of out-of-state emergency management services (EMS) personnel across state lines during a declared state emergency. SB 109 would create the Recognition of Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact (REPLICA) to allow emergency EMS personnel to enter Georgia and provide care to communities and citizens during declared emergencies by the governor. This legislation would also support the licensure of military members separating from active duty tours and their spouses, promote compliance with EMS personnel laws in member states and authorize member states to mutually recognize member state licenses. Additionally, SB 109 would encourage member state cooperation and regulation and facilitate the exchange of information regarding EMS personnel licensure and rules between member states. This legislation was introduced because of recent natural disasters that have devastated Georgia, such as Hurricane Matthew and the tornadoes in South Georgia earlier this year.

Concerning the Georgia Water Supply
Senate Resolution 152 would create the Joint House and Senate Study Committee on Stream Buffers. This organization would review existing data and current practices that pertain to the conditions, needs, issues, and problems associated with stream buffers. Buffers are strips of natural vegetation along the bank of a stream, lake, or other body of water that separates the water from lawns, buildings, roadways, driveways, and other structures located on private property areas. They would look at ways to create a balance between water protection and private property rights related to stream buffers. On the other hand, Senate Resolution 224 would create the Joint House and Senate Study Committee on Stormwater Management fees to examine information and current best practices regarding stormwater collection and disposal fees. Georgia’s current stormwater management plans charge private property owners stormwater collection and disposal fees without considering the owner’s individual impact on the storm water collection and disposal system. The committee is intended to study ways to protect our water quality while also holding stakeholders equally responsible for stormwater system impacts. All necessary research and committee meetings would take place before December 31, 2017.

Concerning Georgia Firefighters
The House saw the final passing of House Bill 146 this week: a legislation that would require fire departments to provide adequate insurance coverage to firefighters that have been diagnosed with cancer. Their line of work exposes them to dangerous cancer-causing carcinogens, and according to research, firefighters are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the general population. This legislation will now go to Governor Deal’s desk for final consideration.

Tuesday, March 14th, the House recognized members of the National Guard as part of National Guard day at the Capitol. Adjutant General Joe Jarrard and members of the National Guard were presented with House Resolution 173 commending the Georgia Department of Defense’s 10,908 Army National Guard Soldiers, 2,896 Air National Guard Airmen, and 509 State Defense Force members. Georgia’s Army National Guard is the eighth largest in the country, and last year, the Georgia National Guard deployed more than 600 soldiers and airmen.

There are only five days left in the 2017 session, and the House will be busier than ever thoroughly examining the legislations and their benefit to the citizens of Georgia. I welcome your suggestions and questions as we move forward. 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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