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3/20/2017 - It is hard to believe that we have ten weeks down and two weeks to go, until we adjourn the 2017 legislative session! We had a busy week of committee hearings and policy debate as both the House and Senate passed bills now under consideration by Governor Deal. Murray County Leadership was at the Capitol as well as a number of residents of our district visiting on a number of subjects. On Thursday night I was in a Senate committee meeting with other Representatives explaining our bills until 8:30 pm! Whew-- long day. Initiatives such as healthcare and public safety remain top priorities as we make our way through the final days of session. These are a few of the bills we voted on this week in the House.

Reduced Regulation
The Pickens Progress wrote an editorial last year about this subject, and it is now close to being law. Georgia’s craft beer brewery and distillery industries will benefit from the passage of Senate Bill 85. This bill would allow our craft breweries and spirit distilleries to sell limited amounts of product directly to visitors. Current Georgia law only allows facilities to distribute their product through “tours.” SB 85 would lift this requirement, allowing facilities to sell limited amounts for consumption on and off the premises. Conditions of the legislation are as follows:

• Brewers/manufacturers can sell up to 3,000 barrels per year for consumption on and off the premise.
• Limits sales to 288 ounces per consumer per day for consumption off-premises.
• Spirit distilleries could sell up to 500 barrels of distilled spirits per year for consumption on or off the premises.
• Limits sales of spirits to 2,250 milliliters per consumer per day for consumption off-premises.
Lessened regulation will help these small businesses grow, keep us competitive with neighboring states, and solidify our reputation as a business-friendly state.

New License Tag
To show support of our law enforcement officers, we overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 169, which creates a specialty license plate with the phrase “Back the Badge.” Proceeds from plate sales will be distributed to the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Georgia. This fund prepares Georgia’s peace officers for retirement and provides retired law enforcement officers with pension benefits. We are so grateful for our officers’ selfless service, and this measure gives Georgians an opportunity to express support for the brave officers who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.

Healthcare Initiatives
This week we passed a number of measures dealing with quality healthcare access. The first came in the form of Senate Bill 96, dealing with organ donations. Because organ donations are so time sensitive, we must support policy that will increase the success of transplant surgeries, which is why we unanimously passed this bill. SB 96 expands the list of non-physician medical personnel authorized to pronounce the death of a patient in a nursing home or hospice care facility. Physicians are the only ones permitted by current law to make a determination or pronouncement of a registered organ donor’s death. This bill fixes that exclusion and allows professional nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to make the determination under certain circumstances. Incredibly, one organ donor can save as many as eight lives, and this streamlined process will ensure those willing to donate are able to do so, in the timely manner required for successful transplant surgeries.

Another healthcare measure passing last week was Senate Bill 47, which would permit medical personnel, and athletic trainers traveling with sports teams, the ability to provide care for athletes and coaches while visiting our state. As we continue to host to a number of major sporting events, this legislation will allow visiting teams to use their own physicians and trainers, familiar with the patient’s history, to provide timely and familiar care.

Similarly, we also passed Senate Bill 109, which would create the Recognition of Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact (REPLICA) to legally allow out-of-state emergency management services (EMS) over state lines during declared “states of emergency.” This bill would allow EMS personnel, not licensed in Georgia, to provide care within our state during times of extreme need. This compact has been enacted in eight states, and will become fully operational once enacted by the tenth state. Georgia has been battered by storm systems over the last year, and this legislation was passed in an effort to provide relief, quality, and timely care to our citizens during times of need.

Water Measures
Over the last few years, Georgia and neighboring southern states have been in battle over each state’s water rights. Better known as, “Water Wars,” we are taking steps to further protect our water sources through the passage of two resolutions calling for Joint Study Committees in the House and Senate directly dealing with water issues. Each study committee will hold meetings to explore problem areas and file final recommendation reports by December 31, 2017.

The first, Senate Resolution 152, would establish the Joint House and Senate Study Committee on Stream Buffers. Buffers are strips of natural vegetation along the banks of a stream, lake, or body of water that separates the water from lawns, buildings, roads, driveways, and other structures, usually located on private property. The joint committee would review collected data and current practices relating to the problems associated with stream buffers. Further, the committee would be tasked to find ways we can protect our water supplies, while keeping in line with private property rights.

Senate Resolution 224 would establish the Joint Study Committee on Storm-Water Management Fees. Many of our local governments have storm-water management plans and utilities in place to lessen storm-water runoff; however, these plans charge private property owners a fee to collect and dispose of storm-water. Further, collection and disposal often take place without consideration of the property damage an owner may incur because of chosen practices. To help remedy this, the committee would study ways to protect water quality, while holding stakeholders equally responsible for storm-water systems that impact individual property owners.

On Monday, the five-day countdown begins as we make our way to Day 40, Sine Die! Please reach out to me with questions or concerns. The best way right now is to call my Capitol office at 404-656-7857. It is an absolute pleasure to work for the betterment of our District, and I am honored that you have chosen me to be your voice under the Gold Dome. If you are in Atlanta over the next few weeks, please come by and say hello.

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