Session 2017: Week 12

Session 2017: Week 12

The final day of the 2017 legislative session, also known as “sine die,” was on Thursday, March 30, where my colleagues and I worked rigorously to pass on significant legislation to Governor Deal’s desk for final approval. The following bills were passed:

Senate Bill 216

Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, this bill would include six more illnesses to the list of qualifying medical conditions to allow patients to legally possess a maximum of 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil with a maximum of 5 percent THC in Georgia. Those illnesses are the following: Tourette’s syndrome when diagnosed as severe; autism spectrum disorder when the patient is at least 18-years-old and severe autism when the patient is under 18-years-old; Epidermolysis Bullosa; Alzheimer’s disease when diagnosed as severe or end stage; AIDS when diagnosed as severe or end stage; peripheral neuropathy when diagnosed as severe or end stage; and hospice patients that have been authorized by their physicians to use medical cannabis oil. After recommendation from their physicians and following approval, eligible individuals and parents of eligible patients or caregivers would receive exemption from prosecution in Georgia through an identification card. This bill would also permit mutual dependence of medical cannabis registration cards issued by other states if the medical cannabis oil meets Georgia’s legal standards; also, the individual must not have been in the state for more than 45 days. Through the removal of the requirement that individuals must reside in Georgia for at least a year to be eligible for registry, this bill would also allow individuals who have moved to our state to instantly use cannabis oil. Physicians would also be expected to produce a semi-annual report, which would include recommended dosages for specific conditions, patient clinical responses, levels of THC or THC acid present in test results, compliance, treatment responses, side effects and drug interactions.

Senate Bill 88

Also known as the Narcotic Treatment Programs Enforcement Act, this bill upgrade Georgia’s drug abuse treatment, education programs, and narcotic treatment facilities through an improved application process and license requirements. Through established minimum quality standards, regulation and oversight for narcotic treatment programs in Georgia under the Department of Community Health (DCH), this bill would concern all systems of treatment that manages narcotic drugs under physicians’ orders for either detoxification purposes or maintenance treatment for drug-dependent individuals. DCH would be responsible for administering minimum operating guidelines such as adequate buildings or housing facilities and program equipment, sufficiently trained staff, intake and discharge of drug dependent persons and coordination with other programs and agencies in the state to allow for continuity of care after discharge. Anyone who desires to open a narcotic treatment must first apply to DCH while in their annual or biannual enrollment period, attend a obligatory information forum, undergo an application review process by the DCH committee, and prove (through treatment/counseling plans data, qualifications of owners and staff, existing narcot treatment programs and those programs’ patients within a 75-mile radius of the proposed location) that communities require their services. The DCH would also be permitted to deny applicants or suspend/revoke licenses if rules/regulations are ever violated. This bill will evenly disperse access to such care across the state of Georgia by establishing 49 regions with the number of narcotic treatment programs in each region limited to four. Senate Bill 402 was passed during the 2016 session, a bill that placed a moratorium on new applications for licensure of narcotic treatment programs. Senate Bill 88 will build upon Senate Bill 402, ensuring that Georgia is no longer disproportionately over-served by these facilities.

Senate Bill 180

Unanimously passed, this bill would refine a legislation passed last session called the Rural Hospital Tax Credit legislation to encourage individual and corporate donations to rural hospitals that reside in an area with a population of 50,000 persons or less by expanding the amount of the tax credit for contributions to rural hospital from 70 percent of the actual amount expended to 90 percent of the donation or $5,000 per year for individuals, and from 70 of the amount expended to 90 percent of the donation or $10,000 per year for married couples. If corporations contributed, they would be able to receive a tax credit worth up to 90 percent of their donation or up to 75 percent of the corporation’s income tax liability, whichever is less, and would cap the tax credit at $60 million for 2017, 2018 and 2019. Through a tax credit for physicians, advanced practice registered nurses and physician’s assistants who serve as volunteer mentors who help train medical, physician’s assistant and advanced practice registered nurse students, this bill would offer a resolution to the unfortunate shortage of health care professionals in rural areas.

Senate Bill 14

Also known as the Rural Hospital Organization Assistance Act of 2017, this bill would permit rural hospital organizations to apply for state grants. The DCH would be required to allocate the grants (capped at $4 million per grant per calendar year) to rural hospital organizations; however, only hospitals that continue to deliver essential healthcare services to their communities and engage in long-term planning/restructuring programs to meet local health care needs would be awarded these grants. The purpose of these grants is to ensure infrastructure development, strategic planning, nontraditional health care delivery systems and the establishment of 24-hour emergency room services open to the public.

Senate Bill 250

Yet another unanimously passed bill, Senate Bill 250 would ban sexual offenders registered in another state or those who were convicted and failed to register from residing, working or loitering near any area where minors reside, such as child care facilities, schools, and churches. This ban is currently in practice, but it does not include sexual offenders who are registered in other states.

At the conclusion of this year’s legislative session, Governor Deal is now responsible for reviewing legislation that the House and Senate passed. If Governor Deal fails to sign or veto a measure within 40 days, it immediately becomes law. As always, I hope you will reach out to me if you have any questions on these bills. 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.

Because the House has adjourned for the year, I will be spending much more time in our district. 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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