Session 2017: Week 11

Session 2017: Week 11

On Monday, March 20, day 36 of the 2017 legislative session, my colleagues and I met at the Golden Dome to review, vote, and give final passage to bills for consideration by the Governor Deal. With sine die less than a week away, we continue to work with dedication to refine legislation before the conclusion of the 2017 session.

Senate Bill 206

Also known as the Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Act, this bill would make it a requirement for Georgia health insurance plans to cover the cost of hearing aids for children 18 and under who have been diagnosed with hearing loss, limiting coverage to $3,000 per hearing aid. Georgia health insurance plans would also be required to repair or replace one hearing aid per hearing impaired ear every 48 months, cover all medically necessary services/supplies, and cover initial hearing aid examinations and subsequent appointments. These restrictions would not prohibit a health benefit plan from supplying coverage more altruistically to an insured individual, nor can a health benefit plan deny coverage to a previously diagnosed individual, as clarified in the bill itself. Early diagnosis of hearing loss in children is critical to their future well-being, as hearing loss can often result in speech/literacy deficiencies.

Senate Bill 108

Passed unanimously, this bill would assign the Department of Veterans Service with the creation of a women veterans’ office to improve the overall experiences of Georgia’s nearly 100,000 female veterans. This office would be responsible for reaching out to female veterans to inform them of federal and state veterans’ benefits/services eligibility, reviewing programs, research projects, and initiatives on child care and military sexual trauma, and recruiting/training women veterans to serve as mentors for those participating in a veterans’ court division.

House Resolution 462

Yet another bill that was unanimously approved, this resolution would serve as affirmation of the House’s commitment to the improvement of military personnel’s quality of life while simultaneously maximizing the value of our military installations. As the fifth largest military population in the country, Georgia’s military is one of the state’s biggest economic contributions. Georgia is the eighth largest state in terms of veteran population and it is home to an estimated 750,000 veterans, employing approximately 150,000 Georgians to the Department of Defense and an additional 330,000 jobs in the state. Future federal Base Realignment and Closure proceedings threaten to downsize and close our federal bases, so the House has passed many bills and resolutions that hope to work against this threat.

Senate Bill 219

This bill would alter Georgia’s motor vehicle laws to permit the operation of fully autonomous vehicles without the presence of a human driver on Georgia’s roadways. The vehicles must have an engaged automated driving system that obeys all traffic laws, the vehicle must be certified by the manufacturer that it complies with federal motor vehicle safety standards, the vehicle must be registered as a fully autonomous vehicle, and the vehicle must have motor vehicle liability coverage. If the vehicle were to fail, it must have the ability to achieve a low-risk operating mode to bring the vehicle to a state of safety. If the vehicle were to be involved in an accident, it must remain on the scene while the vehicle’s operator reports it to local law enforcement officers. Operators of the autonomous vehicles will be absolved from Georgia’s driver’s license requirements and will be expected to comply with Georgia’s safety belt and child passenger restraining system requirements. These autonomous vehicles will increase mobility, reduce congestion, improve land use, and position Georgia for future growth, so it is exciting to bring this new technology into Georgia.

Senate Bill 174

This bill would permit the Council of Accountability Court Judges to conduct a peer review and certification process to ensure that veteran court divisions are following council standards and adhering to council policies, procedures, and standards of other accountability courts in Georgia. Additionally, this bill would permit the Board of Community Supervision to support probationers, offering education, skills-based programs to encourage them to become employed and ensure a successful reentry into society for them. Judges would also be allowed to require fines, fees, or restitution payments as a probation condition with the option to waive the payment if the court finds a significant hardship.. The Department of Community Supervision would also be permitted to terminate probation if the probationer has served for three years, paid all restitution owed, has not had their probation revoked, and has not been arrested for anything other than a non-serious traffic offense.

Senate Bill 175

When determining the procession of cases involving an incompetent, crime-committing child, this bill would expand the court’s options, permitting them to delay the release of the child if they pose a threat to public safety.

Senate Bill 176

Offering a lower cost alternative to arrest and incarceration of an individual who fails to appear in court for a non-serious traffic violation, this bill would allow such individuals to be issued with a traffic citation and would allow the officer to release the individual for further appearance before the proper judicial officer. After the individual fails to appear for court, they would be notified a second time by mail and would then be issued with a bench warrant, allowing 30 days to dispose of the charge or waive arraign and plead not guilty.

House Bill 44

This bill is the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget, and it guides all state spending from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. Set by a revenue estimate of $24.9 billion, it focuses on funding for child welfare, military communities, services members, and rural communities, supporting those who care for Georgia’s vulnerable children through a per diem rate for foster parents, Division of Family and Children Services positions, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and an increase in hourly payment for Special Assistant Attorneys Generals who support child welfare cases. This bill will also fund supplementary school counselors in school systems with large military student populations, supplementary scholarships for Georgia National Guard members, and supplementary veterans support positions. In regards to health care, this bill will create four Federally Qualified Health Centers in rural counties and extend the loan repayment programs for rural medical providers. House Bill 44 will now go to Governor Deal’s desk for final approval.

I hope you will reach out to me if you have any questions on bills that are under consideration during this last week of the 2017 legislative session. As your representative, your thoughts and opinions on these important issues are essential to my decision-making process, and I appreciate your input and am happy to answer your questions.

You are always welcome to stop by my office located at your 228-A State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, and you can reach me at my Capitol office phone number, which is (404) 656-5099, or by email at


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