Weeks Ending on February 28, and March 3, 2020
March 10, 2019 – State Capitol, Atlanta, GA
In this newsletter, I will briefly share a few highlights of legislation and other activities the House dealt with during this two-week period.
In my legislative update newsletters, I normally provide commentary and opinions about legislation, political maneuvering and other Capitol activities. Due to time constraints, this issue is strictly a legislative recap issue. Thank you for your understanding, and of course, your support.
Each year, the General Assembly holds a joint session to hear the State of the Judiciary address. Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Herold D. Melton delivered his second annual address. During his address, Chief Justice Melton implored the General Assembly to continue to ensure that all Georgians, rich and poor, have access to justice. Click the link above to watch the address.
Key Legislation Considered and Passed by the Full House
- House Bill 820, sets up the Georgia Freight Railroad Program (GFRP) to improve efficiencies of Georgia’s rail freight system. With over 4,600 miles of active rail lines, Georgia has the largest rail network in the Southeast. Georgia’s location provides direct rail access to the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States and is one of the reasons Georgia continues to be a great place to do business. Tonnage on Georgia’s rail is projected to more than double by 2040. Our rail system reduces traffic that would otherwise travel on our roadways, reducing emissions and wear and tear on Georgia’s roads;
- House Bill 823 – In Georgia’s continuing battle against the scourge of Human Trafficking, the House unanimously passed HB823, which will allow the Georgia Department of Driver Services to revoke a person’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) and impose a lifetime CDL ban in Georgia for those who are convicted and knowingly used a commercial vehicle in the commission of a human trafficking crime, which includes trafficking an individual for labor servitude or sexual servitude. Over 3,600 children are sold into sex trafficking in Georgia every year, and our largest city, Atlanta, was listed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as one of 14 U.S. cities with the most sex trafficking activity.
- House Bill 888, the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act. One of the leading causes of bankruptcy is surprise medical bills, which is a medical bill that results when an insured patient receives treatment from an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility, even after verification and certification of benefits. As a member of the House Insurance Committee, my fellow committee members and I have struggled for several years to design legislation to deal with this financially destructive problem. In HB888, we believe we have crafted a workable legislative solution.
- In both emergency and non-emergency care, the medical provider would only bill a patient based on their deductible, co-insurance, co-payment or other cost-sharing amount. Furthermore, health care plans would not be able to deny or restrict covered benefits from a participating provider to a covered patient solely because the patient obtains treatment from a non-participating provider leading to a balance bill.
- HB888 requires insurance providers to pay for emergency medical services without need for any prior authorization and without any retrospective payment denial for medically necessary services, regardless of whether a health care provider giving emergency medical services is a participating provider.
- Finally, HB888 would establish a process for dealing with disputed bills by allowing for arbitration between the insurer and the provider and would set various rules for arbitration proceedings.
- House Bill 946 – Licensure and Regulation of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). Another problem facing Georgia consumers and artificially inflating drug costs has been the improper way that Pharmacy Benefit Managers have been allowed to operate in our state. PBM are third-party prescription drug administrators that pay for, reimburse and cover the cost of drugs, devices or pharmacy care on behalf of a health plan. It’s somewhat complicated to summarize the bill, but HB946 creates transparency for prescription drug prices and allows the state to better oversee these pharmacy benefits managers.
Related to HB946, we passed House Bill 918, the Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights” to place limitations on the size and frequency of pharmacy audits by PBMs. We also passed House Bill 947 to require the Department of Community Health (DCH) to initiate an independent, third-party actuarial study to determine the potential savings associated with carving out prescription drug benefits from Medicaid care management organizations (CMOs) and providing those benefits through the DCH’s Medicaid fee-for-service program.
As you can read from my summary of these three prescription drug bills, legislatively managing health care costs to the benefit of consumers without restricting free-market access to the quality health care we all want is complicated!
- House Bill 987 , Disabled Adults and Elder Persons Protection Act. Georgia has a rapidly growing population of older citizens, many of whom reside in personal care homes and assisted living facilities where these citizens can maintain independence and receive help. Sadly, we have all heard horror stories about the poor care some seniors receive in some of these facilities. The Act reforms senior care in Georgia to better protect these elderly individuals residing in personal care homes and assisted living facilities in our state.
- House Bill 914 – Military Spouse Professional Licensing. The bill streamlines and expedite the professional licensing process for military spouses, as well as service members who are transitioning into the private sector, when they move to Georgia. HB 914 would require professional licensing boards to issue expedited licenses to those who hold a current license for their job and are in good standing with another state.
- House Bill 842, Gracie’s Law, as this bill is known, prohibits discrimination of individuals with physical and/or mental disabilities from receiving an organ transplant. Individuals who are candidates for an organ transplant would not be deemed ineligible or denied insurance coverage solely based on the individual’s physical or mental disability, as can happen in today’s transplant environment.
- House Bill 521, Provides for temporary licenses for dentists licensed in other states to provide dental care to indigent populations in Georgia. Accessing affordable dentistry services is often one of the most difficult health care challenges that some low-income Georgians face. The bill allows non-Georgia licensed dentists and dental hygienists who are licensed and are in good standing in other states to provide dental treatment and services to low-income Georgians on a volunteer basis. These out-of-state dental care providers would be able to treat patients at free or charitable dental events, approved dental clinic sites or a private dental office owned by a Georgia licensed dentist.
- House Bill 855 – Protecting foster care students after exposure to traumatic events and situations. Studies has shown that foster care children, which are some of the most vulnerable of our state’s citizens, quite often suffer from severe traumatic events in their lives. Recognizing this, the bill will require the Department of Education (DOE) to provide guidance to local school systems to assess whether a newly enrolled foster care child has been exposed to trauma which may adversely impact the student’s educational performance or behavior. The goal is to improve the quality of education that these vulnerable citizens receive by recognizing the trauma they experienced in their young lives.
Partial List of Miscellaneous Legislation Voted on by the House
Follows is a partial listing of just a few of the other miscellaneous pieces of legislation Legislators are required to understand and that were passed by the House during the seventh and eighth week of the 2020 session:
- House Bill 417, which would provide regulations for trauma scene cleanup services and would require those who offer professional trauma scene cleanup services to register with the Georgia Secretary of State;
- House Bill 463, which would change the description of the type of three-wheeled motor vehicle that a driver with a Class C driver's license is permitted to drive;
- House Bill 555, which would add Division of Family and Children Services case managers to a list of officials for whom an evidentiary hearing is required before issuing an arrest warrant for offenses alleged to have been committed while in performance of their duties;
- House Bill 583, which would create additional regulations for the travel insurance industry to establish uniform meanings of key terms and clarify sales practices and application of Georgia’s unfair trade practice laws;
- House Bill 752, which would require psychologists, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants to submit a fingerprint record check report conducted by the Georgia Crime Information Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to receive a Georgia license;
- House Bill 779, which would modify the distribution of proceeds for ad valorem taxes on motor vehicles to counties, municipalities and school districts;
- House Bill 799, which would bring driving under the influence (DUI) of controlled substances and marijuana in line with alcohol DUIs by giving Georgia’s trial judges the discretion to reinstate a driving license early or allow for a limited driving permit;
- House Bill 808, which would allow vehicles owned by a dealer to remain exempt from the Title Ad Valorem Tax for up to 45 days when the vehicle is used as a loaner vehicle;
- House Bill 846, which would create the direct pay reporting program to allow qualified taxpayers to accrue and pay sales and use taxes owed directly to the Department of Revenue;
- House Bill 486, which would prohibit an individual from advertising as a journeyman plumber unless they hold a valid license from the Division of Master Plumbers and Journeyman Plumbers;
- House Bill 755, which would require local boards of education to provide itemized allotment sheets to local charter schools;
- House Bill 815, which would add an exemption from sales and use taxes for authorities which provide public water or sewer service;
- House Bill 816, which would allow chiropractors and physicians to organize and jointly own a professional corporation within their scope of practice;
- House Bill 830, which would allow eligible large retirement systems to invest up to 10 percent of assets in alternative investments;
- House Bill 859, which would set a maximum penalty of $50 for the first violation and $75 for the second violation, without the addition of surcharges, to the misdemeanor violation of the window tint law;
- House Bill 885, which would grant district attorneys access to all information regarding a violent or sexual offender's record, including confidential state secrets, when the offender is found guilty of serious violent felonies or dangerous sexual offenses and is eligible for parole;
- House Bill 932, which would allow podiatrists practicing within the scope of their practice to jointly own a professional corporation with any doctors of medicine or osteopathy, as well as add a criminal background check to the list of license requirements for podiatric medicine;
- House Bill 957, which would allow teachers at Georgia charter schools to be eligible for state health insurance plans;
- House Resolution 962, which would amend the Georgia Constitution to authorize the General Assembly to allow local boards of education to call for local referenda to authorize an assessment of residential homestead property at 20 percent of fair market value;
- House Bill 969, which would update Georgia’s laws regarding fair housing to meet the "substantially equivalent" threshold, which is required for all state housing laws in order to be certified by the Fair Housing Assistance Program;
- House Bill 972, which would provide penalties for violations of pipeline safety standards and regulations in Georgia that are enforced by the Public Service Commission.
- House Bill 1054, which would authorize the Department of Public Health to promulgate rules and regulations creating a newborn screening system for the prevention of serious illness, severe physical or developmental disability and death caused by inherited metabolic and genetic disorders;
Next House Session Convened on Monday March 9, 2020
The House and Senate reconvened on Monday March 9, 2020 for Legislative Day 26 of the 40-day 2020 session. Crossover Day is day 28 of the session and falls on Thursday, March 12. Crossover Day is the day by which bills must pass either the House or Senate in order to be “alive” for the remainder of this session.
The remaining 12 days of the 2020 session after Crossover Day will be extremely busy!
As you might expect, my active service on seven standing committees of the House of Representatives of which I am a member – 1) Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications; 2) Motor Vehicles; 3) Regulated Industries; 4) Insurance; 5) Interstate Cooperation; 6) Science & Technology; and 7) Small Business Development – keep me very busy. Not including, of course, meeting with the Governor’s staff on legislation; working on legislation that I sponsor or co-sponsor; studying bills as they move through the House and Senate; participation in Caucus meetings; and meetings with constituents and persons representing various interests, and of course participating in House sessions on a daily basis.
One of the important jobs we hold as Legislators is to study and understand the large volume of bills moving through the pipeline so that we can vote intelligently when they come to the House floor.
As always, I will be working diligently on behalf of our entire district and our state in my service to you. I encourage you to read 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 2020 legislative session. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/votejeffjones and on my personal page facebook.com/jeffjones11, and by phone at my Atlanta office (404) 656-0178.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative, which I consider to be an honor and privilege.
With kind regards,