Week 8, Ending March 8, 2019
Thursday, February 28 this past week was that important annual legislative date we call “crossover day” in the Georgia General Assembly. Any bills not passed by either the House or Senate have no chance of being signed into law by Governor Kemp. Sometime that’s a good thing, except of course unless its legislation I am working on. That is said only partially tongue-in-cheek.
A Crisis in House Leadership
Because of the stand I and others have taken publicly regarding a serious crisis in our State General Assembly leadership at the highest levels, important legislation I have been working on in behalf of the citizens of Georgia is “politically” stuck, and will not move in 2019. I could easily spend this entire newsletter discussing this issue, so much more information that the public has yet to hear, but instead please indulge me while I share one particularly inspiring, but typical, comment I received from a District 167 supporter, and then I will move on to other important state matters:
“Thanks, Jeff. And thank you for standing up for all of us in your efforts to assure that our state leaders are worthy of honor. I stand with you.” - Mark N. Glynn County, GA
As a position of my first campaign in 2014 to run for the District 167 Georgia House of Representatives seat I now hold, I campaigned on my support of the limited, tightly regulated legalization of medical marijuana. The medicinal marijuana extract that is legal in Georgia is in the form of a highly concentrated, refined oil. This oil is so very, very low in THC (“THC” is the element that gets users “high”) such that a person would have to drink several gallons of it at once to get a slight pot buzz.
There are now testimonials on record from members of Georgia’s local and county law enforcement that have switched their positions from OPPOSE to SUPPORT on this highly restricted, medicinal use of marijuana extracts.
The reason is simple – they have seen first-hand the incredible results amongst their own family members or relatives afflicted with the very few medical conditions for which a medicinal marijuana card can be issued.
I do not and will not support measures or laws that will make recreational use of marijuana legal in Georgia.
Key to my support is the very hard fact that these “grow” houses will be high security laboratories, with “seed-to-sale control”; the “sale” aspect is that the extracts from the plants grown in these facilities will only leave these secure facilities in the form of the highly refined, low THC oil I discussed above. All plant remnants left after the oil extraction process are garbage with no street drug value and will be properly disposed of.
As a result of previous legislation enacted in 2015, patients with certain medical conditions, such as terminal cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, severe autism and others, can currently register with the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) THC Oil Patient Registry to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of medical cannabis oil that contains up to five percent THC but the oil must be obtained illegally. We are trying to solve this problem.
If the Republican House leadership gets its way, it may soon become illegal in Georgia to have hate in your heart when commit an otherwise heinous crime such as murder or acts of vandalism. To my way of thinking, evil exists in this world; I do not like it but it exists nonetheless. I have never heard of a murderer who was not overcome by that evil in the willful commission of their crime of murder. The Hate Crime legislation supported by Republican House leadership is not a conservative principle and should be vetoed by the Governor if it passes the Senate. If you are interested in more information about the ineffectiveness of Hate Crime laws then please click here.
Human Trafficking is Alive and Well in Georgia
The House passed legislation this past week that I hope and pray will have some impact on helping victims of the horrendous crime of Human Trafficking by passing the Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act, House Bill 234, which is intended to provide treatment for human trafficking victims through a streamlined process involving the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and law enforcement. This bill would authorize DFCS to provide immediate emergency care and supervision for a child human trafficking victim without a court order or the consent of the parents or legal guardian. HB 234 would also direct DFCS and law enforcement to take the child to an available victim services organization, which is certified by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, to provide comprehensive trauma-informed services. The bill would protect minors by prohibiting victims who are under 18 years old from being prosecuted for prostitution. In addition, HB 234 would give local authorities the ability to seek civil penalties against the owner or operator of any building that has benefitted from any human trafficking activity. Local authorities could seek these civil penalties after the owner has received three or more separate sexually-related charges or indictments have occurred on the premises within a 12-month period, and the bill would permit property owners or operators to aid law enforcement in the investigation of criminal sexual-related conduct. This legislation would strengthen the state’s anti-human trafficking laws, while providing critical resources and care for victims of human trafficking.
Targeting the Cash Wire Transfers of Human Traffickers and Others
This session, I introduced HB532 which targets the scourge of the earth human traffickers, drug dealers, gamblers and other who are purposely and illegally trying to hide their cash from law enforcement when the wire their “cash” out of state in untraceable transactions. The bill proposes to asses a fully refundable fee for these cash-hiding transactions. We have worked with the Commissioner of Banking and the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue to exempt as many citizens as possible from the fee. However, when normal, law-abiding citizens like you and I are inadvertently assessed this full-refundable fee., that fee is fully refundable as a TAX CREDIT when filing a Georgia Individual Tax Return. The legislation is modeled after Oklahoma law, who have been doing this for years without any problems. Independent estimates are that this fee could raise over $100 million a year – without costing taxpayers a single dime. I have proposed that money generated be directed to help fund the expansion of rural high-speed broadband internet access vs initiating a tax on streaming services like Netflix, HULU and others.
Help for Blind Georgians – HB79
Another piece of legislation passed this week was House Bill 79, which would safeguard the rights of legally blind Georgians and their children. HB79 would prevent courts, the Department of Human Services and child-placing agencies from discriminating or denying child placement, custody, visitation, guardianship or adoption to an individual because that individual is legally blind. If a government agency is concerned that a parent’s blindness will have a detrimental impact on a child, that agency would need to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the parent's or prospective parent's blindness is endangering or will likely endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child. Parents would then have the opportunity to demonstrate how the implementation of supportive parenting services, such as nonvisual parenting techniques or alternative methods, could alleviate these concerns. This bill passed the House unanimously and with bipartisan support and would protect the more than 202,000 blind Georgians from unfair societal biases that deny these families their basic right to stay together.
Other Legislation Passed this Past Week
HB511 – creating the Department of Mobility and Innovation (GMobile)
HB224 - amend Georgia’s Investment Tax Credit, Job Tax Credit and Quality Jobs Tax Credit to assist and incentivize employers to bring dependable jobs to rural areas
HB446 – changes income tax credits for timber producers who suffered losses from Hurricane Michael.
Please Contact Me
With the 2019 session in full swing, I am working diligently on behalf of our entire district while I am at the Capitol, and while at home. The work of serving the people’s business never takes a rest. I hope you will take the opportunity to review updates like this to stay informed on legislative matters that affect our district and state. Our official House of Representatives website has a number of tools to help you stay up-to-date on what’s going on at the Capitol. You can watch a live stream of the House proceedings, view live and archived committee meetings and review legislation we are considering.
I welcome you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as we move throughout the legislative session this year. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com, and by phone at (404) 656-0177.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative.
In your service, I remain,
Rep. Jeff Jones