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REPORT FROM THE CAPITOL

3/13/2017 - We returned to the Gold Dome on Monday, March 6 for legislative day 29, which began the ninth week of the 2017 session. Since we completed Crossover Day the Friday before that, the House began to focus on legislation that was already passed by our counterparts in the Senate. We spent much of our time this week reviewing Senate bills in House committee meetings to ensure that each bill is fully vetted and making changes we thought were important before they are voted on in the House.

Some Senate bills had already made their way through the committee process and onto the House floor for a vote. One such bill was Senate Bill 69; this would eliminate the duplicative registration requirements for those who produce, process, distribute, or handle any certified organic food or products in Georgia. Currently, these individuals are required to register with both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Georgia Department of Agriculture before producing, processing, distributing or handling any food or product labeled “organic.” Under this legislation, certified organic producers would no longer be required to register with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and would only be required to register with the USD.

SB 102 passed the House overwhelmingly and would create the Office of Cardiac Care (OCC) within the Department of Public Health. This office would be responsible for designating qualified hospitals throughout the state as “emergency cardiac care centers,” similar to Georgia’s stroke and trauma care centers. The legislation would establish a three-level emergency cardiac care designation system for these centers with each level providing various degrees of care to help emergency medical technicians quickly determine the most appropriate hospital for cardiac patients depending on the patient’s needs. The OCC would be required to conduct site visits and collect, analyze, and report data on all out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and heart attack patients in hopes of improving survival rates and providing comprehensive care to patients. SB 102 would give hospitals the option to apply through the OCC to be designated as an emergency cardiac care center if the hospital meets certain criteria, and grants would be awarded to hospitals in need of funding in order to be designated an emergency cardiac care center.

In addition to passing Senate bills this week, the House also voted on and adopted House Resolution 389, that would create the House Rural Development Council to identify the challenges and economic development opportunities in Georgia’s rural communities, an issue that has been at the forefront of many discussions this session. The House Rural Development Council would be made up of 15 members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House and would be tasked with examining the various challenges facing rural areas across our state. This council will also explore potential legislative solutions in policy areas such as education, infrastructure, health care access, and economic growth incentives to revitalize our rural areas. Beginning April 1, 2017, the council would lead a thorough, intensive, and systematic two-year study of rural Georgia by holding meetings throughout rural areas on a regular basis to hear from local officials, educational and business leaders, healthcare providers, civic groups, and individuals interested in offering input. The council would submit two reports detailing its findings and legislative recommendations, with the initial report to be submitted by December 31, 2017 and the second report to be submitted by December 31, 2018. Although Georgia is the No. 1 state in the nation to do business, not all parts of our state have enjoyed the same levels of economic success, and rural Georgia faces its own unique challenges. I look forward to seeing rural Georgia thrive as a result of this council’s work. I am working to be on this council, as I know this is an important issue for all of our State.

.In addition to passing these bills and resolutions this week, my colleagues and I also had the chance to honor some very deserving Georgians. On Thursday, March 9, Major General James E. Rainey and men and women of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield’s Third Infantry Division joined us in the House Chamber as the House of Representatives recognized Third Infantry Division Day at the Capitol. Fort Stewart is home to more than 20,000 active duty military soldiers and has been distinguished as the top U.S. Army installation worldwide six times. The Third Infantry Division, which is based at Fort Stewart, has the one of the most successful combat records of any U.S. Army division. “Rock of the Marne”.

Finally, we took time this week to celebrate Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on March 6 at the State Capitol with House Resolution 492. This day was dedicated to honoring Georgia’s highly trained and professional certified peace officers who daily put their lives on the line to serve and protect every one of us. Georgia’s approximately 54,000 certified peace officers serve across many state agencies. All of these officers must undergo a comprehensive training program that includes classroom instruction, practical skills building sessions, and advanced specialized courses based on specific sections, such as criminal investigations. Georgia’s certified peace officers enforce traffic laws and investigations, provide criminal investigation and forensic laboratory assistance, respond to natural disasters, and promote and facilitate overall crime prevention and public safety. We have lost 699 officers in the line of duty throughout our state’s history, including nine officers within the past year alone, and it was only fitting that we honor the lives of the brave men and women we have lost and those who continue to serve and protect our communities.

We are getting towards the end of the session, and people will become tense and a bit short tempered. We will work hard to pass only meaningful legislation through both houses. I encourage you to contact me in the weeks remaining with any concerns you might have about any of the bills that are up for consideration in the House or Senate. Your comments are always important to me, and I hope to hear from you soon. You can call my office number at (404) 656-7857, or email me at rick.jasperse@house.ga.gov.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your Representative.


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