Each bill that receives the governor’s signature does so with an effective date, the day when the law goes into effect.
Many bills that passed in this year’s legislative session have effective dates of July 1, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year.
Many of those laws were sponsored by two local lawmakers, Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb, and Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-east Cobb. Both Cooper and Kirkpatrick came to politics from medical professions, and much of their legislation has to do with health care or insurance.
Cooper called this year’s session “unusually good,” and credited new leadership with helping to move health care legislation through.
“Certainly we passed more health care bills this year than we had previously,” she said. “There was a change in the Senate with the chairman of the health care committee, and some bills that had been stymied before, we were able to move them. But I also had a good working relationship with the governor, and he seemed to understand that there were some very important bills that needed to be moved for our citizens … and he gave me great support all the way through the process.”
Sen. Kirkpatrick also said Senate leadership, new Gov. Brian Kemp and Let. Gov. Geoff Duncan helped clear what she called the “logjam” of stalled health care bills.
“It was a productive session across the board for health care, which is my area of expertise, in that we passed 22 health care bills that I could count, and we’ve got more work to do, but I think we’ve made some good progress this year,” she said.
Here’s a rundown of some of the significant legislation set to go into effect Monday, along with the Cobb legislators who sponsored them, when applicable.
House Bill 62 – MammogramsKnown as Margie’s Law, this will require mammogram providers to inform women of their breast tissue density. Dense breast tissue is not a problem in itself but it can create more opportunity for breast cancer to form and make cancer more difficult to detect in scans. It was sponsored by Rep. Cooper.
House Bill 63 – Step therapyStep therapy is the medical practice of beginning a patient on the safest, most cost-effective treatment before moving on to riskier or more expensive options.
This bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Cooper and in the Senate by Sen. Kirkpatrick, requires health benefit plans to establish step therapy protocols and provides a legal framework.
House Bill 186 – Certificate of needGeorgia requires health care companies to file for a “certificate of need” before making major capital investments. This bill limits the ability for rival health care companies to object to such an application — only those with a 35-mile radius of the proposed project can object.
House Bill 217 – Needle exchangesNeedle exchanges allow drug users to safely dispose of used syringes in exchange for new, hygienic ones. Supporters say they keep used syringes away from the public, reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases and give addicts a chance to find support.
This bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Kirkpatrick and co-sponsored in the house by Rep. Cooper, will exempt needle exchange programs from criminal liability.
House Bill 228 — Child marriage
This bill will change the minimum age of marriage of a child from 16 to 17. It also requires 17-year-olds to be emancipated from their parents before they can get married.
House Bill 282 – Sexual assaultThis bill specifies that law enforcement agencies investigating sexual assault cases will be required to maintain all physical evidence that contains biological material for 30 years from the date of arrest or seven years from the completion of the sentence, whichever occurs last. If no arrests are made, the evidence must be maintained for 50 years.
HB 324 — Medical marijuanaThis bill allows a limited number of Georgia businesses to grow marijuana and manufacture low-THC cannabis oil from the plant to sell to patients who have one of a list of specific medical conditions.
THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. The oil does not get patients high but can be helpful in treating a number of conditions, doctors say.
The state made it legal for patients to possess and use the oil in 2015 but did not provide for in-state manufacturing of the oil, and patients were forced to break the law by importing the drug.
HB 346 – Retaliatory landlordsThis bill protects renters who report problems such as mold or rats to code enforcement from retaliation by landlords. It was sponsored by Rep. Cooper.
Senate Bill 6 – DronesThis bill, sponsored by Sen. Kirkpatrick, outlaws the use of drones to drop off items to or take photos of prisons.
Senate Bill 16 – Interstate doctorsThis bill makes it easier for doctors qualified in other states to practice medicine in Georgia. It was sponsored by Sen. Kirkpatrick.
Senate Bill 18 – Medical insuranceAlso sponsored by Sen. Kirkpatrick, this bill will allow physicians to provide health care to a patient through a direct primary care agreement without being subject to insurance regulations.
Senate Bill 31 – Hot carsSponsored by Sen. Michael “Doc” Rhett, D-Marietta, this bill ensures police who break into hot parked cars to rescue trapped people or animals will not face legal consequences. A similar bill that also would have extended such protection to civilians was sponsored by Sen. Kirkpatrick, but was voted down in the House. Kirkpatrick called that her biggest regret of the session and didn’t rule out giving it another look next year.
Senate Bill 48 – DyslexiaThis bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Kirkpatrick, instructs the State Board of Education to develop a policy of dyslexia screening for all kindergarten students, referral for students with identified dyslexia characteristics in grades first through third, as well as screening for those who did not attend kindergarten or were not screened in kindergarten. The bill will also require the Georgia Department of Education to implement guidance and training in all schools regarding the teaching of students with dyslexia and will instruct the State School Superintendent to establish a pilot program in dyslexia education.
House Bill 31 — State budgetThe state’s $27.5 billion budget for fiscal 2020 goes into effect July 1. The budget includes a $3,000 raise for teachers and $150 million to purchase new voting machines.