Last week the House passed numerous measures for the benefit of our Georgia citizens. We addressed issues relating to increased insurance coverage for cancer patients, military job protections, special needs education and kinship care.
Today, we reconvene for Day 30, "Crossover Day." Crossover day is extremely important because it is the last day bills can transfer or "crossover" to the other chamber with time for consideration before day 40, the last day of session. In essence, Crossover Day is the “move or die” moment for legislators and their respective bills. Emotions ranging from anticipation and hope to disappointment and defeat run high, as we vie for a floor vote on our bills before the clock strikes midnight.
The Honorable Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Act
Among legislation we passed last week was House Bill 965, “The Honorable Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Act.” HB 965 would provide increased access to treatments for those diagnosed with stage four metastatic cancers. Under the legislation, health benefit plans issued in Georgia cannot deny coverage for drugs approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for metastatic cancer treatments.
Currently, insurance companies require that patients show a history of failing to respond to initial cancer treatments, before covering additional medications. This bill will allow doctors to take the initial course of action they feel will yield the best results, allowing patients to receive more aggressive treatments regardless of past attempts.
HB 965 is a result of former President Jimmy Carter’s miraculous recovery from stage four metastatic melanomas. After a grim diagnosis in August, President Carter entered remission in December as a result of his advanced treatment. This legislation would ensure that all Georgians with insurance covering cancer have access to the best available treatment and drugs. I can’t think of one person, myself included, that hasn’t been affected by cancer in one way or another. Whether it’s a family member, friend or acquaintance, we all know people who have dealt with this devastating disease. We are hoping that more aggressive treatment programs will have a positive affect for our citizens and most importantly, save lives.
Protecting Guardsman's Employment Act
The House unanimously passed House Bill 831, the “Protecting Guardsmen’s Employment Act.” If enacted this legislation would offer employment assistance to active duty military personnel. This bill would provide employment protections to Georgia workers called into service by the national guard of a neighboring state. HB 831 would ensure the reemployment of National Guardsmen in their civilian job once their service is complete.
The Landon Dunson Act
The Landon Dunson Act, House Bill 614, was bipartisan bill that passed the House last week. HB 614 would install video monitoring camera equipment as a safety measure in self-contained classrooms providing special education services. Local school participation would be voluntary providing the following:
Consent of the parents of the children in the self-contained classroom
Access to the footage from the cameras would be strictly limited to school administrators for educational and safety monitoring purposes
Department of Education would have final approval of the local schools that choose to opt-in to the program
Each individual school would be responsible for providing their own video monitoring equipment.
This legislation was introduced in response to concerns of alleged abuse in special education classrooms. We are hopeful with the passage of this legislation; video footage will serve as a valuable tool in evaluating educational environments in special needs classrooms. This legislation would help improve our special needs programs while providing teachers and administrators additional tools to review work and assure the safety of the students.
The Georgia Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, House Bill 768, passed the House and now heads to the Senate. The bill is aimed at easing financial strains on individuals with disabilities, allowing them to save tax-exempt private funds without being ineligible for Medicaid. An ABLE account is a tax-free savings account which allows individuals to cover costs for the following:
The Georgia ABLE Program would be governed by a board of directors appointed by the Governor, and would oversee the operations of the ABLE Program, including criteria for the tax-free savings accounts and establishing insurance policies to protect the assets of the funds. The Office of the State Treasurer would ensure the proper management of funds and bank accounts for the program. Various Georgia agencies will work with the board of directors to define qualified ABLE applicants and program material.
Currently, 34 states have ABLE legislation and we are hoping Georgia will become the 35th. Every citizen has different needs, and we feel that allowing Georgians further financial freedom will be helpful in covering future expenses.
Last year we passed House Resolution 474 which created a study committee to investigate Georgia’s kinship services. A kinship caregiver is any relative of a child, other than the child’s parents, raising the child. According to statistics, approximately 100,000 to 300,000 children are in kinship care in Georgia.
The committee’s hard work resulted in House Bill 962, which would create the position of Kinship Care Enforcement Administrator within the Department of Human Services. This position would monitor, facilitate, and ensure compliance with all federal and state laws related to programs available to kinship caregivers or the children in their care. There is no doubt that kinship caregivers play a vital role in the lives of Georgia children and this bill will help address their needs while providing adequate resources to assist with their kinship care.
House Bills of Interest
Please see below additional bills that passed the House and are now in the Senate for further review:
HB 579- Would allow farmers, as well as their family members and employees, to drive farm vehicles on any road in order to transport livestock or farm equipment, as long as the municipality or county do not deem this to be dangerous.
HB 763- Would extend the exemption from state sales taxes on food and ingredients going to a qualified food bank until June 30, 2021.
HB 777- Would allow school bus drivers to use cell phones in a similar manner as a two-way radio.
HB 859- Would allow the concealed carry of handguns on college campuses by adult permit holders, excluding sporting events and student housing.
Capitol Hill was buzzing this week as we welcomed a number of distinguished guests to the House Chamber. Presidential hopefuls, Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio) and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton (D-New York) stopped by to say hello. We were also excited to see Bainbridge native, Kirby Smart, the new Coach for the University of Georgia.
Sadly, we unexpectedly lost our friend and House Colleague, Representative Bob Bryant. Bob was a loving husband, father, grandfather, veteran, and servant leader. Thursday morning, we held a special series of morning orders to honor Bob’s life and his legacy. House Speaker David Ralston noted, “he served the way he lived with a kind and gentle spirit. When he left us early today, he took part of the best that we have here.”
Representative Jan Tankersley and House colleagues honored Clark Howard with House Resolution 1214 to acknowledge his successful efforts to ensure that all foster children in Georgia have gifts for Christmas. Well deserved honor.
Representative Jan Tankersley and Speaker David Ralston welcome Page for the Day, Lauren Akers from Statesboro, Georgia.
Representative Jan Tankersley welcomes the
Ogeechee River Medical Society to Capitol Hill.
Dr. Scott Bohlke, Dr. Suketu Patel, Dr. Ranni Reddy, Dr. Michelle Zeanah
Representatives Dave Belton, Andy Welch, Penny Houston, Jan Tankersley, Tom Dickson and Barbara Sims catch up in the Capitol Rotunda.
Representative Jan Tankerlsey addresses fellow House members from the well.
The countdown towards Sine Die, Day 40, in underway. As we move through the last days of the 2016 session, I will keep you informed on issues important to Georgia citizens. Please feel free to contact me anytime with questions or concerns regarding legislation. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your voice under the Gold Dome. It is an honor and pleasure to work on your behalf.
Representative of the 160th
Georgia House of Representatives