Greetings dear friends! We have successfully completed 25 legislative days of 40. Friday, March 6, brought to a close week eight of our legislative session. It was an eventful week as we passed more than 40 bills and resolutions on the House floor. As our Crossover Day deadline is quickly approaching, we are all working hard to ensure passage of sound policy and beneficial legislation on behalf of our citizens and state.
Sadly, Atlanta was listed by the FBI as one of14 U.S. cities with the most sex trafficking activity. Last week, we continued our efforts to combat this vile practice through House Bill 823. HB 823 would 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 to commit any type of human trafficking.
In recent years, many of our citizens in need of medical care have been plagued with “surprise billing.” Surprise billing occurs when an insured patient receives treatment from an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility. These instances leave patients with huge medical bills which they were not made aware or expecting. To lessen the impact of surprise billing, we passed House Bill 888 and House Bill 789.
HB 888, the “Surprise Billing Consumer Act,” seeks to prevent patients from receiving out-of-network surprise bills after they undergo medical procedures by establishing a process for dealing with disputed bills. Under the bill the insurer and the medical provider would be allowed set various rules for arbitration proceedings in hopes of reaching an agreement in a timely manner.
House Bill 789 would create a health benefit plan rating system to provide transparency for patients by letting them know whether certain specialty doctors are in-network with patient plans.
Prescription Drug Costs
In addition to our work in protecting citizens against surprise billing, we also passed several bills which will improve regulations for Georgia’s pharmacy industry while reducing the cost of prescription drugs.
House Bill 946 works to create transparency for prescription drug prices by allowing the state to better oversee pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs). PBM’s 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.
In addition to HB 946, we also passed House Bill 947. This bill works to address issues such as PBMs reimbursing pharmacies for Medicaid prescriptions at a lower rate than actual drug costs.
Last but not least, we passed House Bill 918 which updates the “Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights” and “Pharmacy Anti-Steering Act.” This bill works to end the practice of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) steering patients to pharmacies that are owned by or affiliated with them. The elimination of this practice will give patients more access to the healthcare providers of their choice. Further, this bill seeks to reform the burdensome audit process on pharmacists, ultimately allowing them more time to assist patient needs.
Through these bills, we can ensure that Georgians are receiving their prescriptions at fair and competitive prices while also having the freedom to choose their preferred pharmacy.
Military & Veteran Support
Last week, we continued our support of Georgia’s military and veteran population through the passage of House Bill 914. HB 914 would streamline 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 our state. Under the bill, professional licensing boards will be required to issue expedited licenses to those who hold a current job license and are in good standing with another state.
Foster Care Updates
Last Thursday, we continued our work to assist children in foster care through House Bill 855. HB 855 would require that the Department of Education (DOE) provide guidance to local school systems in determining whether a newly enrolled foster care child has been exposed to trauma which negatively impacts the student’s academic performance or behavior. Following protocol, as determined by the BOE, these assessments will help identify whether the child in question meets criteria to receive special education and other services, such as individual education plans (IEPs). Removal from one’s home is traumatizing for anyone, but especially for our children. We are hopeful this protocol will assist in identifying these students early, so that they can receive the educational tools needed to ensure their academic success.
Georgia Hemp Updates
Before the conclusion of week eight, we passed House Bill 847 to expand and improve Georgia’s hemp farming laws. This legislation builds upon the Georgia Hemp Farming Act of 2019. Under the bill, any college or university in Georgia will be allowed to operate a pilot hemp research program. Further, it would permit our schools within the university system to work with third parties to assist in research programs. The bill also requires that any hemp or hemp products that are shipped, transported or delivered have proper documentation stating that the product meets federal hemp guidelines. Finally, HB 847 would increase the initial permit fee for a hemp processor from $25,000 to $50,000 and revise background check requirements for licensees and permittees.
We are patiently waiting on the Senate to take action on House Bill 545. HB 545 works to reduce losses of the state’s agricultural and forest land resources by limiting the circumstances under which agricultural facilities and operations or support facilities may be deemed to be a nuisance. Agriculture is the number one industry in the state of Georgia. Without a strong right to farm law, our farmers could be subjected to frivolous nuisance lawsuits, which could upend their operations and bankrupt their families. It is vital that we pass House Bill 545 to preserve the production of food and fiber in our state. I look forward to working with our Senate colleagues in the Senate to ensure this bill passes on to Governor Kemp and is signed into law.
All bills passed by the House are now under consideration in the Senate. As always, I will continue to send updates regarding our efforts for the remainder of this year’s legislative session.
In addition to our regularly scheduled session, our Georgia Secretary of State also hosted qualifying week for the upcoming election cycle. After much prayer and consideration, I am excited to announce that I will be seeking re-election to continue my service as your House Representative within the Georgia General Assembly. Our family sincerely appreciates the guidance and wisdom so many have lent over the years and we are grateful to have your support as we work to continue serving our home communities.
As always, I will continue to update you for the remainder of the legislative session. In the meantime, if you need anything at all, please feel free to contact me.