Weekly legislative update: Paroles, budget & health care
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 23, 2016
The fifth week of the legislative session was extremely productive and again we deliberated about a wide range of topics.
A few weeks ago we considered HB 724 that would require earlier notices of the release of violent criminals put on parole. I’m pleased to report that the Board of Pardons and Paroles has agreed to a 60-day comment period six months before the board considers early release for a violent criminal or someone convicted of a sex crime or dealing drugs.
This will allow time for law enforcement, prosecutors and judges to object to the criminal’s release. Additionally, this agreement has been reached without having to draw up any new legislation and without a cost to taxpayers.
The Parole Board has shown insightfulness in this matter and this is a great example of how effective communication and cooperation can better our state without the need for legislation.
The fiscal year 2017 budget, also known as HB 751, was passed by the House. The budget is set by a revenue estimate of $23.7 billion, an increase of 2.9 percent over the amended FY 2016 budget.
Many priorities were funded in this budget including a one-time 3 percent COLA adjustment for retired state employees, salary adjustments for teachers, bus drivers, nutrition workers and school nurses, and rate increases for health and human services providers.
As I have mentioned in past articles, the General Assembly remains steadfast in being a fiscally responsible state, therefore our resources must be used wisely. With this in mind, the House passed HB 847, a bill that imposes penalties for any person who falsely receives public assistance or Medicaid through deceptive statements or impersonation.
Georgians are generous people who want to see those in need receive help with basic needs such as food and medicine. But we must not allow state funds to be used through fraudulent behavior. This bill passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 140-26.
A couple of bills were passed regarding health care. HB 902 states that assisted living communities must provide their residents with educational information about the flu no later than Sept. 1 of each year.
The flu can be life-threatening for the frail and elderly, and this is good, common sense legislation. HB 34 was passed unanimously, which states that patients suffering from a terminal illness have the right to access investigational drugs in consultation with their healthcare provider and with full awareness of potential risks.
Investigational drugs often go through many years of trials before they are approved, but terminally ill people often don’t have the luxury of waiting this long. I voted for this bill and believe that people have a right to try every option available to them when facing a critical illness.
In education news the Georgia Seal of Bi-literacy was created through HB 879. The purpose of this bill is to encourage foreign language studies in public schools and to recognize high school graduates who have achieved a high level of proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English.
School participation in the bi-literacy program is voluntary and participating schools can recognize bi-literal students with an appropriate insignia on their diploma or transcript.
It is a great privilege to serve you in the State House! As the legislative session continues your input is invaluable to me as we deliberate about issues that impact your family.
Please contact me with your thoughts 404-656-5087 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve you!