My House Colleagues and I completed Legislative Day 35, our tenth week, on Thursday March 15th. It’s hard to believe that we only have five working days remaining of the 2018 session! This week was very busy, as we met with in our respected committees and passed measures from the Senate in the House Chamber. Here are some details of all that we covered.

Healthcare

Senate Bill 357 – This week, the House passed SB 357 in an effort to better coordinate state health care policies in order to address the unique health challenges facing our state. This bill is also known as “The Health Act,” and would establish the Health Coordination and Innovation Council of the State of Georgia under the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget to streamline and coordinate all components of our state’s health care system. This council would bring together academic, industry and government experts and leaders to share information, coordinate the major functions of Georgia’s health care system and develop innovative approaches to stabilize costs and improve access to quality health care. This would be an 18-member council.

Senate Bill 118 – This bill was passed unanimously by my House Colleagues and I. SB 118 is a measure that would ensure children with autism in Georgia have access to vital treatments and therapies needed to lead full and healthy lives. This bill would increase the age of coverage for autism spectrum disorder treatments from six-years- old to 20-years-old and would increase the coverage limit from $30,000 to $35,000 a year. In addition, this bill would require insurers to provide coverage for applied behavior analysis. If signed into law, SB 118 would take effect on January 1, 2019. This bill would greatly benefit our state’s autistic youth and their families. I am excited to see how so many lives will be changed for the better if the bill is signed into law.

Elder Abuse

Senate Bill 406 – Cases of elder abuse have risen significantly across the state in recent years. In response to this, the House passed SB 406 in order to address this alarming trend. This bill would create the Georgia Long-term Care Background Check Program, which would require elder care providers in personal care homes, as well as other assisted living facilities, to undergo comprehensive, fingerprint based criminal background checks. If SB 406 is signed into law, the background check requirement would take effect on Oct. 1, 2019, for new applicants and on Jan. 1, 2021, for existing employees and owners. In addition, under SB 406, the Department of Community Health would establish and maintain a central caregiver registry so that a family member or guardian looking to hire a personal caregiver for an elderly person could access information on eligible and ineligible applicants and employers.

Economic Development

House Resolution 1376 – HR 1376 urges the House Rural Development Council (RDC) to solicit input from Georgia’s hospitals on their financial conditions, including profitability, community benefit, cash revenue and viability projections for hospitals in financial crisis. Georgia’s hospitals are extremely important to the areas they serve. They play a key role in a community’s economic development and provide indigent care to those in need. This measure would provide the RDC with valuable information needed to help our state’s rural hospitals flourish.

Education

Senate Bill 330 – This bill creates Georgia Agricultural Education Act. Under this bill, Georgia’s agricultural education programs for students in grades 6-12 would be required to be based on the nationally recognized three-component model of school based agricultural education. This model would consist of daily classroom and lab instruction; hands on, experimental learning through a supervised agricultural experience program; and leadership and learning opportunities through participation in agricultural education programs, such as the Georgia Future Farmers of America Association. This agriculture educational program would provide our students with valuable and unique learning opportunities outside of the traditional classroom setting.

Military

Senate Bill 395 – This bill passed the House unanimously this past week. This bipartisan bill would establish the 18-member Georgia Joint Defense Commission, which would be responsible for advising the governor and the Georgia General Assembly on state and national-level defense and military issues; recommending policies and plans to support the long-term sustainability and development of Georgia’s active and civilian military; developing programs to enhance communities’ relationships with military installations; and serving as a task force to prepare for potential base realignment or military installation closures in the state. The council would submit an annual report to the governor and the Georgia General Assembly on the state of Georgia’s military installations, as well as a tactical plan for navigating a possible base realignment or military installation closure. Finally, this bill would establish the Defense Community Economic Development Grant Program to assist military communities with projects, events and activities that promote military installations. The Joint Defense Commission and the Defense Community Economic Development Grant Program would help to further strengthen Georgia’s military-friendly reputation, bolster our state’s military installations and ultimately enhance the quality of life for Georgia’s active-duty military members and veterans.

Senate Bill 82 – This bill would allow members of the Georgia National Guard or reserve component of the United States Armed Forces located in Georgia to be classified as legal residents under eligibility requirements for HOPE scholarship grants. This expansion only applies to Georgia National Guard or reserve members who are stationed in Georgia or those who list Georgia as his or her home of record. SB 82 allows the brave men and women who serve in the Georgia National Guard and the reserves to reap the same educational benefits as their active duty military counterparts.

Brunch Bill

Senate Bill 17 – Finally, the House passed SB 17, also known as the “Brunch Bill.” This legislation would allow local governing authorities to authorize alcoholic beverage sales beginning at 11 a.m. on Sundays, subject to the passage of a local referendum. This bill would only apply to licensed establishments that derive at least 50% of their total annual gross sales from food sales or room rentals for overnight lodging. If SB 17 is signed into law, it is estimated that it should increase sales by approximately $100 million and generate $11 million in additional state and local taxes. This measure would not change existing local alcohol sales laws, but it would allow voters to decide whether or not to approve of early Sunday sales within their  communities.

With just five legislative days remaining until we adjourn sine die, the 2018 session is quickly coming to a close. It is more important than ever that you reach out to me to express any concerns or share any input you have regarding pending legislation. I highly value your thoughts and opinions, and I want to know what you, your family and our neighbors think about legislative matters that impact our community and our state. I can be reached by phone at 404-656-0287, or by email at karen.mathiak@house.ga.gov. Or you can stay up to date on my Facebook Page!

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.

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