The Georgia House of Representatives reconvened on Tuesday, February 21 for the seventh week of the 2023 legislative session. My colleagues and I went straight to work on Tuesday morning to ensure that good, sound legislation could pass before the clock runs out. Each day spent on the House floor this week grew longer than the last, and we were able to pass and send more than 30 House bills to the Senate for its consideration by the end of the week.
We passed legislation this week that would allow the state to return up to $1 billion in undesignated income tax revenue back into the pockets of Georgia taxpayers for a second year in a row. Similar to legislation from last year and proposed by Governor Brian Kemp, House Bill 162 would provide a one-time tax refund through the Amended Fiscal Year 2023 budget to every eligible taxpayer for the 2022 tax year. The one-time tax refunds would range from $250 for single filers, $375 for head-of-household filers and $500 for married couples filing jointly. The refund would only be given to taxpayers who filed income tax returns for both the 2021 and 2022 tax years and would not be available to nonresident alien individuals, those claimed as a dependent during the 2021 and 2022 tax years or an estate or trust. Georgians are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living, but our state has been fortunate enough to see record tax revenues, resulting in this undesignated revenue surplus. Georgians will surely benefit from these extra state funds, and I look forward to examining other ways we can support families and individuals for the long run.
Additionally, we unanimously passed House Bill 167 to help parents with child support orders make good on their outstanding payments. In Georgia, parents who fail to pay their child support will have their driver’s license suspended until they pay the full outstanding amount. Due to these license suspensions, there are currently thousands of Georgia parents who cannot drive themselves to work to earn money to make their child support payments. To resolve this issue, HB 167 would amend the list of individuals with a suspended, revoked or canceled license who are eligible to apply for a limited driving permit by adding individuals not in compliance with a child support order, which would enable these individuals to drive only for certain purposes like going to and from work. Under this legislation, these individuals would be able to petition the court to apply for one of these limited driving permits, and judges could revoke the limited driving permit if the parent abuses the permit or fails to make child support payments. HB 167 has the full support of the Georgia Department of Human Services’ Division of Child Support Services, and this bill would help ensure that parents are able to earn the money they need to support their children.
For the last several years, the House has passed a number of bills to improve telemedicine, which continues to be a popular health care option for Georgians, especially those in rural or underserved areas of our state. This week, we took up another telemedicine measure to ensure Georgians could get their contact lens prescriptions renewed without visiting the doctor as often in-person. House Bill 203 would allow state-licensed optometrists or ophthalmologists to conduct vision exams to renew contact lens prescriptions electronically for patients who are between 21-50 years old and do not have certain preexisting health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. HB 203 would also require that patients have in-person eye exams every two years to remain eligible for these electronic prescriptions. This legislation would help make care more convenient and affordable for Georgians who use contact lenses, while also ensuring they still receive the same level of care from their providers as those used in traditional in-person clinical settings.
Finally, the House passed House Bill 207 to close a loophole in Georgia’s boating accident laws, including laws that address accidents that result in criminal charges. Under this bill, if a boating accident occurs, the operator of each boat involved would be required to immediately stop, remain at the scene and provide their name, address, registration, as well as their government-issued ID upon request, to the operator of the vessel struck. The involved vessel operators would also be responsible for rendering assistance to any injured person and notifying emergency medical services and law enforcement if necessary. These operators could only leave the scene immediately if they need help notifying the police or emergency responders. HB 207 would also outline criminal charges if an operator flees the scene of a boating accident that results in death, disappearance or a serious injury that requires medical treatment. This crime would be considered a felony and could result in a one to five year prison sentence. To keep Georgians safe on the water, the other portion of this bill would require boats to carry the necessary U.S. Coast Guard approved nighttime and daytime visual distress signals when operating in state coastal waters. Our lakes and waterways have become much more congested in recent years, and this congestion has resulted in a growing number of serious and even deadly boating accidents. Current law allows boating accidents to be reported within 48 hours of the accident, but HB 207 would close this loophole to ensure that our boating accident laws mirror our motor vehicle accident laws.
We will return for another eventful week of lawmaking on Monday, February 27, but the clock is ticking for House bills to pass for the first time and still remain eligible to become law this year. To make the most of our time next week, we will convene for four legislative days and designate an entire day to working in our House committees. While I will be extremely busy in the days ahead, my number one job is to be your voice at the Capitol. As such, I am always happy to speak with you about any legislation that is up for consideration. You can reach my Capitol office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-656-0152.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.