The House kicked-off the eighth week of the 2024 legislative session on Monday, February 26 with myself and fellow lawmakers gathering in the House chamber for three long days of legislative work. The House also dedicated an entire day of work in our committees so that bills could have a chance to pass out of committee and make it to the House floor for a vote. Thursday was especially important as it marked Legislative Day 28, or “Crossover Day,” the deadline for bills and resolutions to pass from their originating chamber to remain eligible for final consideration by Legislative Day 40, or “Sine Die.” On Crossover Day alone, the House passed 72 bills. We worked long hours this week working late into the night as we tackled a range of pressing issues for the citizens of our great state. 

This week, my House colleagues and I overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation aimed at modernizing and refining healthcare regulations throughout Georgia, with a strong emphasis on addressing the unique healthcare challenges faced by rural communities. House Bill 1339 would stand as a cornerstone in this effort, proposing a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s certificate of need (CON) laws. Derived from the findings of the House Study Committee on Certificate of Need Modernization, which held hearings throughout last summer and fall, HB 1339 would present a series of impactful healthcare reforms to enhance accessibility and affordability for all Georgians. As such, the bill would require the Department of Community Health (DCH) to conduct regular reviews and updates of the state health plan every five years to ensure the plan meets the evolving needs of our state. Additionally, the legislation seeks to streamline the certificate of need application process by requiring an individual to submit a letter of intent to the department at least 25 days prior to submitting an application for a certificate of need for clinical health services, shortening the timeframe that exists in current law. After receipt of a CON application, DCH would have a 120-day period to review the application, and within 30 days, an applicant would have an opportunity to meet with DCH. Any opposition to a CON application would be required to be submitted within 30 days of the receipt of the application. Further, HB 1339 would expand CON exemptions, including prolonging the allowable period for repurposing closed hospitals without a CON, raising the bed capacity expansion threshold and extending the maximum distance for healthcare facilities to relocate without a CON. Also, psychiatric or substance abuse inpatient programs or beds for Medicaid and uninsured patients would be exempt from CON requirements when an agreement is reached with a nearby hospital, and new or expanded rural hospital-based obstetric services would be exempt, as well as acute care facilities in rural counties. Moreover, the legislation would introduce measures to address noncompliance through mechanisms such as increased monetary penalties and exemption revocation. HB 1339 would also bolster rural healthcare through the expansion of rural hospital tax credits and the establishment of the Comprehensive Health Coverage Commission, which would be tasked with advising the governor, General Assembly and DCH on healthcare access and quality for low-income and uninsured communities in Georgia. This important legislation would not only address critical healthcare access and efficiency issues across the state but would also signify a significant step forward in ensuring equitable and effective healthcare delivery for all Georgians.

Also, this week, the House gave unanimous passage to House Bill 451, which would require public entities to offer additional, illness-specific insurance to first responders diagnosed with work-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This coverage would include a $3,000 cash benefit and income replacement disability benefits, which would be provided 90 days post-diagnosis. House Bill 451 recognizes that first responders are often exposed to traumatic events in the line of duty and are at greater risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, which, if untreated, can result in the inability to serve as a first responder, as well as grave health consequences, including death by suicide. By providing supplemental insurance coverage for first responders grappling with occupational PTSD, the legislation would acknowledge the sacrifices and challenges these individuals face in protecting the community. Ensuring adequate support and financial resources for those on the front lines would improve their mental health and resilience and would also promote the overall security and welfare of Georgia’s citizens. 

My House colleagues and I also championed legislation aimed at fostering a culture of firearm safety and responsible gun ownership throughout Georgia with the passage of House Bill 971, or the Firearm Safe Handling and Secure Storage Tax Credit Act. Under House Bill 971, a Georgia taxpayer would be allowed to claim a tax credit for eligible expenses incurred for firearm safe handling instructional courses and the acquisition of firearm secure storage devices in the amount of the eligible expenses or $300, whichever is less. Such eligible expenses would include the purchase of one or more firearm secure storage devices for personal use and the cost of an in-person firearm safe handling training of at least two hours that includes instruction on safe handling, use and storage of firearms. Georgia taxpayers seeking this tax credit would be required to apply with the Department of Revenue for preapproval, and approval from the department would be considered on a first-come, first-served basis until tax credit cap of $3 million is reached for that year. With an annual combined cap set at $10 million, this legislation would exemplify our commitment to fiscal responsibility while actively encouraging participation in vital gun safety education programs. Moreover, HB 971 would institute a lifetime limit of $300 per individual taxpayer and prohibits the carryover of unused credits, ensuring that benefits are distributed equitably among all eligible citizens. By promoting responsible gun ownership across the state, we could cultivate a safer and more secure environment for all Georgians.

We also unanimously passed a bipartisan measure to support Georgia’s servicemembers and their families as they relocate to our state with House Bill 880. HB 880 would bring our state in compliance with the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act by allowing the spouses of servicemembers to continue practicing their jobs without a license in certain circumstances. To qualify, the spouse would be required to hold a current license from another state and be in good standing in that state, submit an expedited license by endorsement application along with the servicemember’s military orders, which could be filed prior to relocation to Georgia, as well as be employed by an in-state employer. If the license by endorsement is not granted within 30 days after the application is submitted, the spouse could still work for the in-state employer without being licensed. However, if the spouse is denied an expedited license by endorsement, he or she would no longer qualify to practice the occupation in this state. This military-friendly legislation would streamline the licensing process by providing clear guidelines for qualification and expedited application procedures, offering timely relief to military spouses seeking employment opportunities upon relocation to our great state.

As we continue our commitment to enhancing mental health services in our state, the House gave passage to House Bill 1104, which would address mental health risks for public and participating private school student athletes. This bipartisan bill would require athletic associations, in consultation with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, to post guidelines and relevant materials on their website to inform and educate students, parents and/or guardians, school personnel and coaches about mental health risks and available resources for students. In developing such guidelines and materials, an athletic association could utilize educational videos available at no cost to the state. Additionally, coaches would be required to annually view approved educational videos, if available, and review guidelines and materials related to mental health risks in student athletes. Each public school and participating private school would be required to provide information to each student athlete’s parent or guardian at least once each school year regarding mental health risks and available resources. This legislation would not create any liability for local boards of education or governing bodies of a school or officer, employee or volunteer for any act or omission related to the removal or non-removal of a student athlete who displays an actual or perceived risk to their mental health or another student athlete’s mental health. Young student athletes can face tremendous pressure between sports and school, and that pressure can negatively impact mental health. Therefore, it is important that we support our student athletes through this bipartisan legislation that would educate and provide resources to address mental health concerns.

The House backed our promise to support victims of human trafficking by giving unanimous passage to House Bill 1201, which would allow a victim of human trafficking to have their sentence vacated when related to the conditional discharge of possession of controlled substances as a first offense, as long as the crime was a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking. The victim would be able to petition the court by providing documentation from the Attorney General, detailing their status as a victim of trafficking. A defendant convicted of an offense and sentence, or a defendant who was sentenced as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking, could petition the court to vacate the conviction and/or the sentence. If the prosecuting attorney consents in writing to the vacatur of the conviction or fails to respond to the petition within 30 days of service, the court could, without notice or hearing, issue an order vacating the conviction or sentence. If the attorney objects to the petition, the court would be required to hold a hearing within 90 days of the filing. If it is determined that the defendant committed the offense due to a result of human trafficking, then the court would issue a vacatur of the conviction and sentence, and it would result in the discharge and dismissal of the offense. If defendants are found to have committed offenses due to being a victim of human trafficking, access to criminal history record information would be restricted, and no fee would be charged to the individual by the Georgia Crime Information Center or any other entity. HB 1201 would help ensure that victims who are sentenced under The First Offender Act have the same opportunity of innocence as other victims of human trafficking. It is vital that we grant victims of human trafficking, who have been vacated of their offenses, a chance to re-enter society with clean records.  

On Crossover Day, we gave unanimous passage to legislation that would allow for a designated essential caregiver to be present with a patient or resident of a hospital or long-term care facility while they are receiving care. House Bill 663, or the “No Patient Left Alone Act,” would permit a minor or an adult who is admitted to a hospital or long-term care facility, to have a parent, guardian, person or caregiver to be physically present with them at all times while the patient remains in the hospital or facility. HB 663 would not require these designated caregivers to be allowed into operating rooms, isolation rooms, behavioral health settings or other typically restricted areas or to be present during administration of emergency care. This designated caregiver would be required to adhere to the policies of the hospital or long-term care facility, and their access could be suspended or terminated under certain circumstances. Also, the Department of Public Health would be prohibited from taking action against hospitals and facilities for granting access to visitors, harm to a visitor, failing to follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which limit visitor access and any action of a visitor or designated caregiver. Finally, these rights for caregivers could not be terminated, suspended or waived by the hospital or long-term care facility, the Department of Public Health or any governmental entity, regardless of emergency declarations by the governor. Patients who are being treated in hospitals and long-term care facilities can be in incredibly vulnerable states, and they deserve to have loved-ones or caregivers present with them in the room for support and advocacy. As we saw during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Georgians who were in these facilities could not see their loved ones. This legislation would change that to ensure that patients are never left alone without their family or caregiver by their side.  

Into the late hours on Crossover Day, the House also gave unanimous passage to House Bill 499 to support disabled Georgians. HB 499 would authorize child support and insurance policies for disabled children who have become adults and have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities. HB 499 would allow a court to require either one spouse or both spouses who are in a divorce proceeding, living separately or in a state of separation to pay child support for a disabled child who has become an adult but lacks the ability to take care of themselves independently. The legal proceeding could be filed at any time after the child reached the age of 17 and a half years old. To determine the amount of support the dependent adult child would receive, the court would consider the dependent’s income and assets; existing and future needs; required care and supervision; whether a parent or another person pays for the care or supervision of the dependent or provides it; the financial resources available to each parent; any other resources available for the care of the dependent; state or federal programs the dependent receives or will receive; and the effect that court ordered support would have on the dependent’s eligibility for any state or federal programs. The obligation for child support would be modified if there was a substantial change in a parent or dependent’s ability to provide support. Notably, the child support would be in addition to the benefits or assistance the dependent may receive from a source other than his or her parents and would not impact the eligibility of a dependent to receive the maximum benefits provided by any federal, state, local and other governmental and public agencies. The court could also direct one or both parents to maintain life insurance for a disabled child who has become an adult but lacks the ability to take care of themselves independently. Adults with disabilities may not be able to secure full-time employment needed to live independently, and in these cases, especially, it is important that we can provide support for them to receive the care and supervision that they may need well into adulthood. 

Finally, the General Assembly gave final passage this week to House Bill 915, the Amended Fiscal Year 2024 budget, via the adoption of a joint House and Senate conference committee report. Set at a revised revenue estimate of $37.9 billion, this amended budget includes $2 billion in surplus funds, resulting in a total infusion of $5.4 billion, marking a notable 16.9 percent increase over the original budget estimate. Noteworthy investments would include unprecedented funding for the state’s infrastructure, particularly for essential technology and capital projects. The Rural Workforce Housing program would receive $23.9 million to provide funding for projects that address current workforce housing needs through housing expansion or improvement. Capitol Hill building improvement projects would secure an additional $392 million, which would be allocated toward repairs and improvements to our Gold Dome for occupant safety and public access, as well as a new legislative office building. Education would also see substantial support in this budget as $102.5 million would be allocated to the Department of Education for Quality Basic Education midterm adjustments, and $8.9 million would be designated for the Summer Transition program to provide rising Pre-K students and rising Kindergarten students with extra support in language, literacy and math to close the achievement gap. Notably, the employee retirement system would receive $500 million for enhanced benefits to provide greater cost-of-living benefits to state retirees in future years, and state employees and teachers would benefit from a one-time salary supplement through an appropriation of more than $300 million. This budget would also appropriate funding for healthcare initiatives, including $178 million for a new dental school at Georgia Southern University and $50 million for the construction of a medical school at the University of Georgia. Additionally, $500 million would be earmarked for the new Freight Infrastructure Projects program to enhance the state’s rapidly growing and thriving freight network; $250 million would go to the Local Road Assistance Administration Program as a one-time infusion to support local transportation infrastructure projects across the state. HB 915 recognizes many of the House’s budgetary priorities and was signed into law by Governor Kemp on Thursday, February 29.

With Crossover Day now behind us, the House of Representatives will shift its focus to reviewing legislation that has passed by our counterparts in the Senate as we move through the final weeks of the session. We will also be tracking the progress of House legislation as it makes its way through the legislative process in the Senate to ensure final passage of our House bills. The House will return to session for Legislative Day 29 on Monday, March 4. As we move forward, I encourage you to schedule a phone call or arrange a visit to the State Capitol to discuss matters that are significant to you and your family. You can reach my Capitol office at 404-656-0152 and via email at  

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative. 

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