2/18/2019 - We completed our fifth week of the 2019 legislative session. My, has it been busy! This week I was glad to welcome Matt Barton to the House of Representatives. Matt has stepped into the seat that was held by Mr. John Meadows who passed away in November. Matt and I share Gordon and Murray Counties in the legislature. I know he is glad to have the opportunity to work for the folks of our area as I am.
We all know how important internet access is to our families and business owners. We have been working hard to put forth the right legislation that will encourage the spread of this vital utility. I was fortunate to be a member of the House Rural Development Council, and as we worked across Georgia, we all learned how we had to do something big to help improve access. We voted for unanimous passage of House Bill 23 to expand internet access in rural Georgia. It would allow electric membership corporations (EMCs) to provide broadband services. HB 23 would prohibit cross-subsidization between an EMC’s broadband service and its electric or natural gas services, and it would also require that yearly audits be conducted to ensure that cross-subsidization does not take place. Lastly, the bill would prohibit EMCs from disconnecting broadband service if a customer fails to pay their electric or gas bills or vice versa. Subsequently, if HB 23 is signed into law, EMCs could apply for federal grants and loans through the USDA’s Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program), which a total of $600 million to aid improvement efforts for access to quality broadband services.
In addition to passing legislation to improve broadband access in our rural communities, the House also passed a bill this week that would provide a pathway for deployment of small cell and 5G technology in public rights-of-way in Georgia. Over the past seven months, the House has worked with advocates, area experts, and local authorities to craft a bill that would support the growing consumer-driven demand for high-speed wireless access while also preserving the ability of our local governments to protect historic districts and community aesthetics. Starting in urban areas, this groundbreaking technology would eventually deploy 5G streaming services to all of Georgia using small boxes that are attached to utility poles in public areas, providing coverage up to 1,000 feet in any direction of the poles.
Also this week, my colleagues and I overwhelmingly passed House Bill 62, or "Margie's Law," to assist in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer. This bipartisan measure passed by a vote of 166-1 and would require mammography examiners to notify patients when dense breast tissue is found. The bill also encourages women to speak with their health care provider about whether other supplemental tests in addition to a mammogram may be appropriate, based on their individual risk. While dense breast tissue is common and not always abnormal, it can make it more difficult to detect cancer through a mammogram and can increase the risk for breast cancer. Findings show that dense breast tissue is detected during annual exams in at least 40 percent of women over the age of 40. If signed into law, Georgia would join 30 other states that have passed similar legislation to allow women to become active participants in this area of their health and help save lives from breast cancer.
We had a lot of visitors from our area this week to our Capitol. Pickens Adult Leadership, Pastors from around Georgia, Classroom Educators, Young Farmers, Library Supporters, Farm Bureau, CASA, Probate Judges, and Dental Hygienists just to name a few. I enjoyed making time to talk with them.
Our committees are working every day, all day, looking at legislation that has been given to the Clerk. I think we are up to 300 bills being placed into consideration. We have lots of ideas out there for sure.
This week we will hear the State of the Judiciary Address and welcome more folks from home. Please contact my office with questions or concerns as we make our way through the legislative session. My Capitol office number is 404-656-7153, and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for giving me this great opportunity to serve as your State Representative.