Last week, we successfully completed legislative day 16 of 40. As we near the halfway mark of this year’s session, we still have much to do to ensure sound policy passes for the betterment of our great state. This week we passed several measures dealing with rural initiatives, healthcare, public safety, as well as, a bill aimed at assisting our active-duty military service members.
Rural Internet Access
Our efforts to assist less populated areas struggling with internet access continued last week with the unanimous passage of House Bill 23. If passed into law, HB 23 would allow electric membership corporations (EMCs) and their affiliates to provide broadband services. Stipulations of the bill are as follows:
Prohibits cross-subsidization between an EMC’s broadband service and its electric or natural gas services.
Requires yearly audits be conducted to ensure that cross-subsidization does not take place.
Prohibits EMCs from disconnecting broadband service if a customer fails to pay their electric or gas bills or vice versa.
Allows EMCs to apply for federal grants and loans through the USDA’s Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program).
Grants through the ReConnect Program could bring a total of $600 million to aid our improvement efforts where broadband is concerned. Access to quality internet service is a must for economic development, therefor we are committed to finding a solution to aid our rural communities. Rural broadband is greatly needed in house district 17, and I am excited to continue to watch this bill go through the process, eventually become law and offer expanded access to all rural Georgians.
5G Streaming Technology
In keeping with our commitment to ensure every Georgian is well connected, we also passed House Bill 184, known as the Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act.
HB 184 creates an avenue for deployment of small cell and 5G technology in public rights of way. The bill would allow wireless service providers to install small-cell wireless towers throughout cities to offer greater wireless coverage. Starting in urban areas, this technology would eventually deploy 5G streaming services across the state using small boxes that are attached to utility poles in public area. Allowing small cell wireless technology on a larger scale will further assist economic development across Georgia, while ensuring all citizens have access to the latest in streaming technology.
We continued our efforts to ensure the safety of our children through the passage of Senate Bill 25. This bill clarifies language passed last year that allowed drivers to pass a stopped school bus when traveling in the opposite direction when a turn lane is present.
SB 25 clears up that confusion by enforcing the rule that drivers can only pass a stopped school bus on the other side of the road when the roadways are divided by a grass median, unpaved area or physical barrier. This is the first piece of legislation signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp Friday, Feb. 15, and the bill went into effect immediately.
As Georgia has the sixth largest military population in the nation, our body is committed to ensuring our brave service members receive the assistance and support they deserve.
Over the last two years, we have passed 23 military-friendly bills. Last week was no exception as we passed, House Bill 25. HB 25 will provide financial relief for active duty members in Georgia by allowing them to terminate contractual obligations with a service provider- television, video, and audio programming services; internet access services; or health spa or gym services. To qualify, service members must be on active duty, receive orders of deployment to a location that does not support these same exact services and give a 30-day notice.
Health Care Measures
Access to quality health care for our citizens remains priority to which we are fully committed. Last week we successfully passed two healthcare related bills which came in the form of House Bill 62 and House Bill 63.
House Bill 62, or "Margie's Law," to assist in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, specifically where dense breast tissue is concerned. While dense tissue is common and not always abnormal, it can make it more difficult to detect cancer through a mammogram, ultimately increasing the risk for breast cancer. If passed into law, this bill would require mammography examiners to notify patients when dense breast tissue is found. Further, the bill encourages women to speak with health care providers regarding supplemental tests, based on individual risk factors. As breast cancer is the second highest diagnosed cancer for women, we are hopeful that Georgia becomes the 31st state to implement this law to assist in early detection and in turn, save lives.
Currently, insurance companies in Georgia often use step therapy, which is a process that requires a patient to try and fail one or more medications preferred by their insurer, before receiving coverage for the medication that their doctor originally prescribed.
House Bill 63 works to change this as it would allow health care providers to request exceptions to step therapy protocols when medically necessary. Under the bill physicians would be allowed to submit a step therapy exemption under certain circumstances. HB 63 also ensures that patients would not have to begin a step therapy process for a medication after switching insurance providers. As we work with all parties involved, our priority is obvious- Quality and effective health care for all citizens, as prescribed by their respective physicians.
As we move towards the final days of session, the pace will continue to increase. I encourage you to follow our progress by visiting the Georgia General Assembly website, www.legis.ga.gov. All floor action and committee meetings are available through livestream. In the meantime, I will continue to update you weekly on your government at work. If you need anything at all, legislative or otherwise, please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime. Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving our community under the gold dome!
State Rep. Martin Momtahan, R-Dallas, represents House District 17 which includes part of Paulding County. He can be contacted at 404-656-0177 or firstname.lastname@example.org.