We returned to Capitol Hill for week eight of the legislative session, which ended with day 29, following our annual Crossover Day Deadline. Any legislation that did not pass out of its respective chamber last week, will not have time to make it through the process prior to adjournment. This means many bills brought forth will be tabled until we convene for the 2020 legislative session. We passed a number of measures which included healthcare, public safety and transportation initiatives. As day 40 quickly approaches, we continue our goal of positive reform and sound policy to benefit progression of the Peach State.
I am pleased to report that last Thursday, the Georgia House of Representatives voted in favor of life. Known as the Heartbeat Bill, House Bill 481 would restrict abortion procedures after a doctor has detected a heartbeat. I am proud to stand tall with my House colleagues in declaration that the unborn deserve the right to life! We will continue our push for this legislation through the Georgia Senate and onto the Governor’s desk for his final signature into law.
Did you know that the underground human trafficking economy is the second largest black market in the U.S.? In Atlanta, alone, this underground economy is estimated to be worth approximately $290 million a year. This activity is not isolated to any specific geographical location, nor does it target certain races or socioeconomic classes. Because of these staggering numbers, we have worked for years in strengthening our human trafficking laws. We continued these efforts through the passage of House Bill 234, also known as the Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act. This bill, if passed, would authorize the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to provide emergency care and supervision of any child who is the victim of human trafficking without a court order or consent of the parents or legal guardian. Further, the bill requires DFCS/law enforcement to take the child to an available victim services organization, certified by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, to provide comprehensive trauma-informed services. Further, HB 234 limits the prosecution of prostitution to individuals who are 18 years of age or older.
Last week, we took steps to protect Georgia families through the passage of House Bill 79, which would safeguard the rights of legally blind Georgians and their children. This bill would prevent courts, the Department of Human Services and child-placing agencies from discriminating or denying child placement, custody, visitation, guardianship or adoption to an individual because he or she is legally blind. Exceptions are made under the bill to include that the interested parties above must have clear evidence that the welfare of a child is at risk before removing them from their legally blind parent or guardian. This bill passed the House unanimously and would protect the more than 202,000 blind Georgians from unfair biases that deny these families their basic right to stay together.
We also strengthened penalties against individuals taking advantage of our elderly population through the passage of House Bill 247. This bill provides that all forms of battery against a person 65 or older is a felony. Further, this bill changes the definition of exploitation to include the illegal taking of resources belonging to a disabled adult or elderly person when access to resources was obtained due to the victim’s incapacity. This bill also allows law enforcement to conduct inspections of unlicensed personal care homes when acting as an agent of Department of Community Health.
Statewide Transit Improvement
For Georgia to continue its record-breaking economic growth and development, proper infrastructure and transit options statewide for our citizens is necessary. Keeping this in mind, we passed House Bill 511, which creates the Department of Mobility and Innovation. This department will be tasked to govern and coordinate transit services across the entire state. If passed, this measure would establish a fee on ride-share services to be used for the benefit of future transit initiatives and projects. Further, the bill creates a pilot program which offers incentives to employers who provide transit benefits to employees. This bill also abolishes the Georgia Regional Transit Authority and moves current employees to the new department.
Over the last few years, Georgia has been examining the medical benefits of low THC medical cannabis oil. After years of debate and numerous study committees, our state took a step forward where access to quality medical care is concerned with the passage of House Bill 324. This bill, also known as Georgia’s Hope Act, allows for the production, manufacturing, and dispensing of low THC oil with a lawful valid license issued by the Low THC Oil License Oversight Board for the sixteen diseases currently allowed under Georgia law.
The last day of session, Day 40, is set for April 2. Over the next few weeks, we will begin consideration of the many Senate bills that are now in the House chamber. I will continue to update you through session and beyond regarding your government at work. As we move into the final stretch of the 2019 legislative session, please reach out to me with concerns or questions. We welcome and encourage your input. It is a privilege to serve as your voice on Capitol Hill and I thank you for the honor of doing so.