On Monday, March 20, the Georgia House of Representatives reconvened under the Gold Dome for our last full week of the 2023 legislative session. The end of session is quickly approaching, and we will reach Legislative Day 40, also known as “Sine Die,” on March 29. While some might assume that our official business is winding down in these final days, we have actually ramped up our House efforts to perfect and pass legislation before the legislative session comes to an end next week.
I am excited to announce that the Georgia House of Representatives passed legislation this week to help support women with high-risk pregnancies, particularly in underserved communities, in an effort to address infant and maternal mortality. Senate Bill 106, or the “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Act,” would create a Medicaid program to provide virtual maternal health clinical services to women with high-risk pregnancies through the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) pilot home visiting program. Georgia currently has evidence-based home visiting programs that provide family-centric support services to at-risk pregnant women and families with children up to five years of age, but SB 106 would offer these services virtually to Medicaid recipients. These at-home interventions can reduce the risk of preterm birth and improve the management of various risks during pregnancies, such as gestational diabetes, hypertension and depression. By allowing virtual check-ins, we could improve maternal health outcomes in our state in several ways and make it easier for the program’s workers to reach high-risk pregnant women living in rural or underserved areas.
We gave unanimous final passage to Senate legislation this week to ensure that Georgia businesses do their part to help spread awareness and stop human trafficking in Georgia. Senate Bill 42 would revise the penalty for certain businesses that fail to post required signage about the human trafficking hotline, which handles tips about potential sex and labor trafficking and reports such incidents to law enforcement. Under this bill, a business would have 30 days to post the appropriate signage if a law enforcement officer notifies the business of its noncompliance. The fine for this violation currently has a maximum of $500, and this bill would increase the fine to between $500 and $1,000. For multiple violations, the fine would also increase and range between $1,000 and $5,000. Currently, these fines are discretionary, meaning they are not always enforced, and this bill would guarantee that these businesses comply with this crucial law. Recognizing and reporting potentially dangerous situations are the first steps to ending human trafficking in our state. To report suspected human trafficking in Georgia, you can call the statewide 24-hour hotline at (866) 363-4842.
This week, we passed a bipartisan Senate measure to support Georgians as they rebuild their lives after prison. Senate Bill 218 would allow state identification cards to be issued to inmates after they have completed a term of incarceration. The Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Georgia Department of Driver Services would work together to process these ID cards, which would look like any other state-issued ID and would not include any stigmatizing information about their status as a past offender. Additionally, when an inmate is released from a DOC facility, the individual could request documentation regarding programs he or she completed at the request of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles or the DOC. These individuals could also request documentation if they have obtained a state-approved high school equivalency diploma, other educational degrees and their institutional work record, including skills obtained through job training. Providing this necessary documentation and identification through this legislation would enable these Georgians to gain employment and start to rebuild their lives after incarceration.
The House also unanimously passed Senate Bill 93 to prohibit the use of certain foreign-owned social media platforms on state-owned devices. This ban would only apply to social media platforms that are owned or operated by a foreign adversary or by a company which is domiciled in, has its headquarters in or is organized under the laws of a foreign adversary. The prohibition would also stand when a foreign adversary has substantial control over the content moderation practices of the platform or if the platform uses software or an algorithm that is controlled or monitored by a foreign adversary. Gov. Kemp previously issued a memo to state agencies in December to prohibit employees from using TikTok on their state-owned devices, such as cellphones or laptops, and this legislation would make his ban an official law. Gov. Kemp and other proponents of this legislation aim to prevent TikTok from accessing critical, private information or collecting data about our state government’s operations.
My colleagues and I also approved legislation on the House floor that would amend Georgia’s “Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act,” which was a House-led initiative in 2020 aimed at increasing affordable, quality health care options for Georgians. Senate Bill 20, or the “Consumer Access to Contracted Healthcare (CATCH) Act,” would update this law to require insurers to contract with and maintain a sufficient and appropriate number of participating network providers, including primary and specialty care, pharmacies, clinical laboratories and facilities. Furthermore, if a network plan offers coverage for mental health or substance use disorders, the insurance company would also need to maintain contracts with a range of providers that specialize in mental health or substance abuse services. Additionally, insurers would be prohibited from denying preauthorization of services rendered by an in-network provider just because the referring provider is out-of-network. The bill would also give the state’s insurance commissioner the authority to review network adequacy, which is a health plan’s ability to deliver the benefits promised through reasonable access to enough in-network primary and specialty care and all other health care services included under the terms of the contract. This legislation builds upon our work to provide Georgians with access to quality health care by setting better network adequacy standards so that our citizens get the most out of their health insurance plans.
On Thursday, the House passed Senate Bill 86 to expand access to the HOPE grant program to high school students who are already preparing themselves to join our state’s workforce by earning college credit before graduation. SB 86 would allow eligible dual enrollment students to access HOPE grant funds for eligible career, technical and agricultural education (CTAE) courses, regardless of whether a student has reached the maximum credit hour cap to receive these funds. To ensure this grant funding is put to good use, the Georgia Student Finance Commission would collaborate with the Technical College System of Georgia to collect and report certain data related to the dual enrollment program to track the program’s impact. Local CTAE courses are crucial to supporting high-demand career fields throughout our state, and these funds would help students pay for the necessary technical training to launch their careers and contribute to our state’s workforce.
We passed Senate Bill 26, or the Georgia Electric Vehicle Future Act, to advance the electric vehicle (EV) industry in the state. This legislation would authorize the Georgia Department of Economic Development to establish and support a statewide electric vehicle manufacturing program, which would focus its efforts on developing, marketing and promoting investments and job creation for Georgia’s EV industry. Our state’s economic development arm would also work with our state’s transportation department and technology and tollway authorities to build out the appropriate infrastructure, such as EV charging stations, to support this growing industry. Additionally, this legislation would establish the Georgia Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Commission. Comprised of private sector and public officials, this commission would serve as an oversight body for our state-led EV initiatives, work to develop policy recommendations for the General Assembly to consider, as well as coordinate with our higher educational systems to determine our workforce needs and help train future workers for this industry. The Georgia Electric Vehicle Future Act would promote public-private partnerships to develop forward-looking EV solutions, support this job-producing industry and strengthen Georgia’s position in EV manufacturing and innovation.
We also gave final passage to Senate Bill 61 to permanently allow Georgia’s private sector workers to continue to utilize their paid sick leave to care for a family member in need. This legislation would remove the end date of the current provision under the Family Care Act that requires employers to allow employees to use up to five days per calendar year of earned sick leave for the care of an immediate family member who is ill. The current law was set to expire this July, and SB 61 would ensure that eligible Georgians can continue to take their earned time off to take care of their sick family members.
Next week, the Georgia General Assembly will convene for two legislative days before the 2023 legislative session adjourns “Sine Die” on Wednesday, March 29. My House colleagues and I will be hard at work during these final two legislative days to pass meaningful legislation for our state and its citizens, which will surely be our busiest and longest days of the entire session. Before we complete our legislative business for the session, I urge you to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or input on any measures being considered in the House or Senate. I can be reached at my Capitol office at 404-656-0152 or at email@example.com.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.