The Georgia General Assembly resumed its legislative business on Monday, March 21. We completed Crossover Day last week, and with this legislative milestone behind us, my colleagues and I went back to work in our House committees to examine Senate bills. As a result, the House Rules Committee scheduled several Senate bills for a vote on the House floor this week. Meanwhile, our Senate counterparts gave final passage to some House bills that are now eligible to be signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp.
My colleagues and I unanimously passed Senate Bill 358 on the House floor to encourage those who serve in the U.S. military to live and work in our state as they transition to civilian life. This legislation would allow the Georgia Public Safety Training Center to reimburse the specific training costs incurred when active duty, retired or honorably discharged members of the U.S. military participate in basic law enforcement training. By making it easier for interested veterans to participate in basic law enforcement training, we can provide a pathway to good paying jobs for these veterans and help fill vacancies within our law enforcement agencies across the state.
The House also passed Senate Bill 396 to help food banks purchase fresh, affordable produce from Georgia farmers. This bipartisan legislation would allow the Georgia Department of Agriculture to implement a program for regional food banks to purchase surplus food products from Georgia farmers. These food banks estimate that they are offered approximately 14 million pounds of food products each year, but they are forced to turn away four to five million pounds due to a lack of funding to purchase these fresh foods. With SB 396 and an increase in state funding, our state could provide fresh food to those struggling with food insecurity, while also helping local farmers across the state find a new customer base for their surplus products so they don’t go to waste.
Many Georgians living with chronic illnesses, along with their doctors, typically have to jump through hoops to get certain medications covered by insurance, and this week, the House passed Senate Bill 341 to help lessen this burden for doctors and their patients and provide a better pathway for obtaining treatment. Oftentimes, patients with chronic illnesses have to submit prior authorization forms to their insurance provider every few months for medications used to treat chronic conditions, but SB 341 would allow these patients to go through a single authorization process that would last for a minimum of one year. This bill would not apply to opioid analgesics, benzodiazepine or medications with a typical treatment period of less than 12 months. SB 341 would allow Georgians living with chronic illnesses to get these necessary medications with minimal disruption to their daily lives, as well as allow doctors to focus on treating patients instead of navigating government red tape.
The Georgia House also passed the following Senate bills this week:
- Senate Bill 226, which would require local boards of education to create a complaint resolution policy for local schools by January 1, 2023, to allow parents or guardians to submit complaints to the school about inappropriate content that is harmful to minors and available to the students at the school. This bill would also require the school’s principal or designee to investigate a complaint and confer with the parent/guardian in a timely manner; SB 226 also includes requirements for an appeals process, and it would make any material deemed harmful to minors available online for parents to review; following the bill’s passage, a motion was filed to reconsider this action, and the House will vote on SB 226 again on the next legislative day;
- Senate Bill 346, which would require a company that submits a bid or a contract proposal with the state to certify that the company is not owned, operated or affiliated with the Chinese government; a company’s false certification would result in civil liability, termination of contract and ineligibility for future state contracts; this prohibition would not affect state contracts with Taiwan;
- Senate Bill 514, the Unmask Georgia Students Act, which would prohibit local public and charter schools from making or enforcing any rules that require students to wear face masks or face coverings at school, unless the rule would allow parents to exempt their child without disclosing their reason for opting out; SB 514 would also prohibit schools from disciplining students whose parents have elected to exempt their child from the mask policy; following the bill’s passage, a motion was filed to reconsider this action, and the House will vote on SB 514 again on the next legislative day;
- Senate Bill 543, which would clarify Georgia’s slayer statute by prohibiting an individual who kills, conspires to kill or procures the killing of an individual from subsequently claiming a right to recover from the decedent’s estate;
- Senate Bill 581, which would designate the Georgia State Plane Coordinate System as the system for defining and stating geographic positions for property surveying within the state, and continued use of the old system’s legal descriptions would remain valid in the new system designation.
Several House bills also moved along in the Senate this week. The Senate passed an updated version of House Bill 911, or the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, and the House and Senate will continue to work towards a final version of FY 2023 budget before it receives final passage. The Senate gave final passage to House Bill 385, which would allow retired educators to return to teaching in the classroom while still receiving their state retirement benefits; this teacher workforce initiative will head to the governor’s desk for his consideration. House Bill 1064 also received final passage and will create tax exemptions for military retirement income for both working and fully retired service members once it is signed into law.
There are only five legislative days left in the 2022 legislative session, and the House will be busier than ever during these final days to ensure that we pass sound policies for Georgia and all of its residents. As we continue to work with the Senate to secure the final passage of legislation this year, please do not hesitate to contact me with any thoughts you may have about bills being considered at your State Capitol during these final days of the session. Your input will help guide my decisions during this crucial time, and I always appreciate your feedback. My Capitol office phone number is (404) 656-0325 and my email address is Stan.Gunter@house.ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.