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REPORT FROM THE CAPITOL

3/2/2018 - Going into week eight under the Gold Dome I knew it would be undoubtedly the busiest week of the 2018 legislative session so far. Cross Over Day was this week, and it is a critical deadline in the General Assembly, as it is the last day a piece of legislation can pass out of its original chamber and still remain eligible for consideration by the opposite legislative chamber. We worked well past midnight on Cross Over Day and passed many significant House bills for the State of Georgia. I made a face book post from the House Chamber at 1 am. When we finished at 1:20 am and there was one page still on duty, we gave her a standing ovation for her work.
Georgia’s economy has tremendously grown in recent years, but not all parts of Georgia have experienced the same level of economic success. For that reason, the House created the House Rural Development Council last session, and this session, we have prioritized legislation based on the Council’s recommendations. This week, we passed several important measures to benefit our rural communities and help rural Georgia prosper, such as House Bill 951, which passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. HB 951 would create the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation (CRPI) to serve as a central information and research hub for rural leadership training and best practices, including community planning models, industry-specific assistance, and cooperative efforts with nonprofits, religious organizations, and other higher education partners. This center would serve as a rural think tank.
The House passed another bipartisan, rural-friendly bill that implements several recommendations from the House Rural Development Council. House Bill 887 seeks to expand broadband and other communications services throughout the state by establishing the Georgia Communications Services Tax Act. HB 887 would allow municipal corporations and electrical membership corporations (EMCs) to provide broadband service in unserved areas within its corporate limits. .
The House passed legislation to expand Georgia’s medical cannabis oil program to help more suffering Georgians. House Bill 764 received overwhelming bipartisan support and would add two additional illnesses, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intractable pain, to the current list of qualifying medical conditions to allow those patients to be treated with low THC oil. Eligible individuals could apply for Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry under the Georgia Department of Public Health at the recommendation of their physicians, and once approved, such individuals would receive an identification card exempting them from prosecution in Georgia for possessing medical cannabis oil that meets our State’s requirements.
We also unanimously passed Representative Jason Spencer (R.-Woodbine) should be commended for working on this subject tirelessly. House Bill 605 would hold negligent individuals or entities that conceal child abuse accountable for these actions.
Our State has seen a growing rise in automobile accidents and fatalities in recent years, and it is highly likely that increased cell phone usage has made this problem worse. To address this public safety issue, the House passed House Bill 673 this week, which would establish a hands-free device driving law in Georgia. The bill changed a lot from when it was first introduced and I will imagine it will change a lot more in the Senate as we try to address this problem. I don't have to tell anyone who is driving right now we have to do something to turn the tide of cellphone usage and not paying attention to the road.
Identity theft and credit fraud cases are also increasing annually, and in light of this growing problem, the House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 866. This legislation would prohibit credit reporting agencies from charging a fee for freezing or unfreezing a consumer account. Currently, consumer credit reporting agencies may charge consumers a fee up to $3 for each security freeze placement, any permanent security freeze removal, or any temporary security freeze lifting for a period of time. Additionally, under current law, consumer credit reporting agencies may charge protected consumers up to $10 for each placement or removal of a security freeze. HB 866 would remove all of these fees.
Finally, I would like to update you on the status of House Bill 930, legislation that would create a new regional governance and funding structure for transit in the 13-county metropolitan Atlanta region. This will help many of us in the future, as most of us have to travel past the Etowah River and need better transit options in the Atlanta region. House Bill 930 seeks to improve transit in the metropolitan Atlanta region by facilitating transit coordination, integration, and efficiency and by promoting a seamless and high-quality transportation system for the area. The bill would create the Atlanta-region Transit Link (ATL) Authority and would establish state and local funding sources to improve transit access..
The General Assembly has officially passed the Cross Over Day deadline, and from this point forward, my House colleagues and I will be thoroughly considering Senate measures in our respective committees. Legislative Day 40, our last day to conduct business for the 2018 legislative session, is quickly approaching on March 28, and with this end in mind, I hope that you will contact me with input you might have regarding any pending legislation. I welcome your thoughts and opinions, and I encourage you to reach out to me anytime. My Capitol office phone number is 404-656-7857, and my email address is rick.jasperse@house.ga.gov. FYI, a constituent asked me while we were talking in the grocery store how many emails I get per week; last week about 1800.
I appreciate and treasure the Honor of your allowing me to serve as your State Representative.


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