My colleagues and I convened for the third week of the 2022 legislative session on Monday, January 24. Session is in full-swing, and the pace certainly picked up this week. We convened in the House Chamber for four days to tackle our legislative business, and our committees and subcommittees also held 30 meetings throughout this busy week to discuss issues that impact Georgians across our state.
Some of the biggest news of the week came on Wednesday morning as Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) filed House Bill 1013, which was followed by a press conference to announce this important legislation. This bipartisan bill would bring monumental and comprehensive reforms to our state’s mental health care delivery system. First, House Bill 1013 would increase patient access to care by expanding the list of practitioners who are able to see patients, expanding telemedicine options and requiring insurers to cover certain mental health services, among other provisions. The bill would also ensure mental health parity for providers and patients so that mental health coverage is equal to physical health coverage. HB 1013 would strengthen the state’s mental health workforce development initiatives by providing service cancelable loans for mental health/medical professionals who work in pediatrics, psychiatry, mental health and substance abuse care. Additionally, this legislation would expand the state’s transparency and accountability requirements for consumers, as well as enhance resources and tools for frontline responders and local communities. HB 1013 incorporates many recommendations made by the Georgia Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission, which was established by the General Assembly in 2019. This commission has worked tirelessly over the last three years to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s behavioral health system and will continue to identify other areas that need to be overhauled. Mental health reform will likely be one of the most important issues we address this legislative session as nearly every family has been touched by mental health struggles, especially during the last two years, and House Bill 1013 would take the necessary first steps to address this dire issue. After being introduced, this legislation was assigned to the House Health & Human Services Committee, and I will share additional details as the bill makes its way through the legislative process.
What’s more, the recently formed Mental Health Policy Caucus also held its first meeting this week at the State Capitol. This bipartisan, bicameral caucus will work to create a unified legislative vision to transform mental health and substance abuse care for Georgians. During its first hearing, members of the caucus listened to an eye-opening presentation from the co-founder of the Georgia Mental Health Policy Partnership, which is a statewide alliance of organizations seeking to eradicate the stigma surrounding these illnesses. This group of legislators hit the ground running this week and will continue to meet with area experts and further the overarching goal of improving mental health care for Georgians this session.
The House also gave final passage this week to a piece of legislation that was carried over from the 2021 legislative session. Several years ago, the General Assembly passed legislation that would prohibit the state from participating in commercial discrimination against businesses that operate in Israel, and during the 2021 session, the House passed House Bill 383 to clarify a portion of this law. Through the legislative process, our counterparts in the Senate made updates to the original bill that was passed by the House and, in return, passed an updated version of the bill out of their Chamber. This week, the House voted to agree to the Senate’s changes before sending HB 383 to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Israel is one of our many important economic trading partners, and this bill would reaffirm the state’s commitment to protecting this vital relationship with Israel.
I look forward to sharing new developments with you after we return to the Gold Dome on Tuesday, February 1 for another full week. As your state representative, my number one goal is to advance legislation that protects, serves, and supports the people of House District 8. To help me in my efforts this session, I encourage you to reach out to me about legislation or policies that interest you. You can contact my Capitol office staff at 404-646-0325, and you can email me at Stan.Gunter@House.ga.gov
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.