Week 9 & 10, Ending March 15 and March 22, 2019
At this stage of the 2019 session, with “Crossover Day” behind us, legislative and political posturing and maneuvering is in full-court press, to borrow from NCAA Basketball “March Madness” jargon. For a few days during Week 9, the Legislature is in a bit of a holding period while each body holds committee hearings on legislation that has “crossed-over.” During the upcoming week, two full days are set aside for committee hearings giving each body has ample time to consider and discuss bills that are still in play. This is also that time when Legislators have to be on full alert so bad legislation doesn’t slip through the cracks. As always, please contact me if you read, see or hear of legislation that I need to be alert to; I count on your eyes and ears to watch all of these moving parts.
This is a very personal, emotional issue for many and I believe I understand the argument that some women make that they do not want the government or anyone telling them what to do with their bodies or the babies they carry in their wombs.
In stark contrast to that view, I believe every life is precious and that abortion should not be used a “birth control” as opponents of HB481 support.
When a heartbeat is detected, then that is a clear, definitive sign of life, a precious life that deserves the full legal protection of the State of Georgia. In the Senate, there were a couple of substantive changes made to make the bill even better that I also support. Here is a link to an excellent explanation of the “Heartbeat Bill” by Sen. Ligon, of Senate District 3, with the Senator’s permission.
Here are a few of the highlights of the improvements made by the Senate to HB481, each of which I fully support:
- Provides the additional legal protection of an affirmative defense from prosecution to doctors, nurses, PA’s, and pharmacists, as well as women seeking emergency abortions
- Provides additional definitions: abortion, detectable human heartbeat, medically futile, medical emergency, spontaneous abortion, natural person, unborn child
- Limits access to abortion related records to District Attorneys
- Allows mothers access to child support for unborn children, up to direct pregnancy costs
- Provides the clear threshold of detectable human heartbeat for all benefits/restrictions
- Recognizes that in cases of rape/incest, mandatory reporters such as doctors, nurses, teachers, counselors, or clinic personnel may file report on behalf of pregnant woman
- Includes unborn child in the definition of natural person; important for court challenge • Simplifies legislative findings to provide more avenues of defense for court challenge
- Clarifies that removing an ectopic or naturally miscarried pregnancy is not an abortion
I am so proud of the actions of the Georgia General Assembly in passing this measure, standing up to those who seem not to fully recognize the sanctity of life, preferring instead to support abortion as a method of birth control. I strongly urge Gov. Kemp to sign HB481 into law, which I understand he plans to do.
Electronic Voting with Verifiable Paper Trail HB316 Passes Georgia Senate;
After months of public testimony and hours of robust debate where Georgia citizens from all walks of life had the opportunity to voice both support and objections to advancing much needed improvements to Georgia’s voting systems and technology, the Senate also passed HB316. Key to my support of voting in favor of this measure is that it provides and requires that our voting systems have a “voter verifiable paper trail”. This will greatly reduce the opportunity for voter fraud.
Directing DDS to Clarify Non-Citizen DLs are not acceptable for Voter ID HB270
Related to HB316, I have sponsored HB270 and HB400. HB270 directs the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) to make it make it clear that non-citizen drivers licenses ARE NOT acceptable as voter ID, as the DDS website currently says (in paragraph two on the web page I have linked to here). To save you looking it up, here is that language as it appears on the DDS website:
“Although marked as “LIMITED-TERM,” these cards grant the same privileges as regular Georgia driver’s licenses, permits and ID cards.”
There is other language on the DDS website that further affirms that the “Limited Term” DL shall be treated just like any other Class C DL.
HB270 also directs DDS participate in the Federal E-Verify System that is set up for state DMV’s so our state knows whether an applicant for a Georgia Driver’s License or State ID is a citizen of the US.
Georgia Mariculture Development Act – HB565 (LC 45 0293ERS)
Despite that good Oyster Mariculture legislation (HB565) was subverted by House politics and turned into HB501 / SB182, bills that are not supported by the very industry that this legislation is intended to help, many of us have continued to work hard to put together good, industry supported legislation. HB565 satisfies every regulatory and food safety regulation that are required to make Oyster Mariculture a successful industry in Georgia. Many of us agree that the fledgling Oyster Mariculture industry would be better off if Gov. Kemp vetoes HB501, holding out until 2020 to reconsider and debate good legislation that is supported by the industry, that will indeed grow Oyster Mariculture into a multi-million-dollar industry.
A constituent, whose county will directly benefit with the passage of good Oyster Mariculture legislation, gets it:
“I am so upset that politics crushed your excellent reasons for not wanting the "oyster bills" passed as written. Your reasons seem so rational and important! I am not anywhere near an expert in this field, but this "new" industry needs to get it right the first time!!!
Thank you, Jeff.
- Langford - Darien, GA”
Streamlining School Districts Ability to Repair Damaged or Aging Schools – SB67
This important measure could help school systems in southwest Georgia as they work to rebuild after Hurricane Michael and would ensure that all Georgia schools could receive urgent assistance in the unfortunate event of a fire or natural disaster. SB 67 would allow school systems which have experienced damage from a fire or natural disaster to immediately qualify for regular state capital outlay funds, regular advance capital outlay funds and low-wealth capital outlay funds to repair these damaged school facilities
House Study Committee on Heat-Related Injuries, Cardiac Injuries and Other Sports-Related Injuries (In memory of Johnny Tolbert III) – HR259
Currently, the leading cause of death among young athletes is sudden cardiac arrest, and in recent years, there have been several deaths of adolescent athletes due to heat-related conditions in Georgia. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than 2.6 million children under 20 years old are treated in the emergency department each year for sports and recreation-related injuries, and more than 1.4 million injuries have occurred among high school athletes practicing or competing in various sports. The CDC also reports that more than 9,000 heat-related illnesses occur annually among high school athletes
Expanding Rural Broadband – SB17
SB 17 would provide the groundwork for increasing broadband services throughout our state and especially in our rural areas. Specifically, this bill would expand the Rural Telephone Cooperative Act by authorizing nonprofit telephone cooperatives and their broadband affiliates the ability to furnish, improve and develop broadband services in rural areas. The bill would allow broadband services to be offered in conjunction or separately from the cooperative’s telephone service in areas with less than 15,000 people.
Improving Georgia’s Foster Care System – SB167
To continue in our efforts to improve our state’s foster care system, SB 167 would enhance court proceedings regarding the custody of children in foster care. This legislation would increase the amount of preference given to foster parents when the court has exhausted its options for a child to be placed with a family member or relative
Increased Penalties for Hit & Run Accidents “C.J.’s Law,” – SB1
Currently, and as a great surprise to me, Georgia lacks strict regulations that allow for harsh prosecution against a driver who strikes a pedestrian unintentionally but leaves the scene while knowing they could have caused serious, irreparable harm to the person. If SB 1 is signed into law, anyone convicted of an unintentional hit-and-run that results in bodily injury and/or death of another person would be guilty of a felony. This impactful legislation would also assist our courts in prosecuting these crimes by increasing Georgia’s current maximum sentence from five years to ten years.
Other Legislation Passed by the House
SB99 – expands on organ donor opportunities for purchasers of GA hunting licenses
HR403 – encourages convenience store owner/operators to increase access for Georgians with disabilities.
SB18 – the “Direct Primary Care Act,” which would give Georgians the option to keep health care directly between the patient and a doctor without requiring insurance. This arrangement occasionally known as “Concierge Medicine,” would allow patients to pay a monthly fee to a participating physician in order to receive care, and the agreement would not be considered insurance and therefore, would not be subject to state insurance laws or insurance billing. The bill provides citizens with an alternative avenue towards efficient and affordable health care by removing the unnecessary “red tape”; this “red tape”, which as we all know, greatly increases the cost of health care for everyone
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On Friday, March 22, we completed Legislative Day 35. With only five legislative days remaining in the session, the House will be busier than ever during this crucial time to guarantee that the legislation being considered is good policy for Georgia and its citizens.
As I have cautioned before, this is the time of the legislative session where we have to be very careful and alert to be sure that bad legislation does not slip through unintended.
Please Contact Me
With the 2019 session finally winding down, I continue to work 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.
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I welcome you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as we wind up this busy legislative session. 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,