As session draws to a close, lawmakers scramble to keep military veterans in shape | Columns

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We returned to our legislative business on Monday, March 21 and held committee meetings throughout the day.

On Tuesday, we wrapped up Crossover Day: moving nearly 60 bills from the House to the Senate. House committees worked all week to review and refine bills sent from the Senate.

As a result, the House Rules Committee passed and scheduled several Senate bills for a vote in the House last week.

Meanwhile, our Senate counterparts have given final passage to some House bills that can now be signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp.

Of particular significance, last week the Governor signed Bill 304 into law to immediately suspend the state’s fuel excise tax until the end of May 2022. Gas prices have continued to rise due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, but the move is intended to provide financial relief and save Georgians a few extra bucks when they visit the pump.

The governor also signed House Bill 1302 to create a one-time tax credit for Georgians using $1.6 billion in undesignated surplus funds from the amended fiscal year 2022 budget. Eligible Georgia taxpayers can expect to receive a tax credit based on their 2020 taxfiler status. Single filers will receive a $250 refund, head of household filers will receive $375, and joint filers will receive a $500 refund . Both measures reflect the House’s goal of making Georgia an affordable place to live.

Over the week, we and our colleagues passed many bills, including the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 358, a bill that will encourage those serving in the U.S. military to live and work in our state as they transition to civilian life. This legislation would allow the Georgia Public Safety Training Center to reimburse specific training costs incurred when serving, retired, or honorably discharged members of the U.S. military participate in basic law enforcement training.

This bill, subject to appropriations by the Georgia General Assembly, would top up tuition incurred for training costs only. It does not allow reimbursement of travel, accommodation or salary supplements.

By facilitating the participation of interested veterans in basic law enforcement training, we can provide a pathway to well-paying jobs for these veterans and help fill vacancies within our law enforcement agencies. the law across the state.

The House also passed Senate Bill 396 to help food banks buy fresh, affordable produce from Georgia farmers. This bipartisan legislation would allow the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture to implement a program allowing regional food banks to purchase surplus food products from Georgian farmers. SB 396 would clarify some of our laws and establish guidelines that would help food banks negotiate reduced prices with Georgian farmers. This legislation would also rename the Georgia State Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to Georgia Grown Farm to Food Bank (F2FB).

In addition, an annual report for F2FB would include every grower or processor of Georgia-grown produce from which the program sourced food. Currently, these food banks estimate that they are offered around 14 million pounds of food each year, but are forced to turn away four to five million pounds due to a lack of funding to purchase this fresh food.

The House and Senate are working together to ensure state funding is included in the fiscal year 2023 budget to match federal funds directed to F2FB to address unused agricultural produce and fresh produce shortages in regional food banks.

With SB 396 and increased state funding, our state could provide good, healthy, fresh food to those struggling with food insecurity, while helping local farmers across the state find new clientele. for their surplus products so that they don’t leave. to waste.

Many Georgians living with chronic illnesses, as well as their doctors, typically have to jump through hoops to get certain medications covered by insurance, and last week the House passed Senate Bill 341 to help reduce this burden on physicians and patients and provide a better avenue for obtaining mediation. SB 341 would allow these patients to go through a one-time authorization process that would take at least a year.

Under SB 341, chronic illness should require ongoing medication prescribed by a provider and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This bill would not apply to opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines, or drugs with a typical treatment duration of less than 12 months. The prior authorization process can be lengthy, leaving these patients without access to their essential medications. SB 341 would allow Georgians living with chronic illnesses to obtain these needed medications with minimal disruption to their daily lives, as well as allowing doctors to focus on treating patients instead of navigating government red tape. .

The Georgia House also passed the following Senate bills:

• Senate Bill 226, which would require local school boards to create a complaints resolution policy for local schools by January 1, 2023, to allow parents or guardians to file complaints with the school regarding inappropriate content that is harmful to minors and accessible to the public. students at school. This bill would also require the principal or designate to investigate a complaint and meet with the parent/guardian in a timely manner; SB 226 also includes requirements for an appeals process, and it would make any material deemed harmful to minors available online for parents to review; following the passage of the bill, a motion was filed to reconsider this action, and the House will again vote on SB 226 the following legislative day;

• Senate Bill 514, the Unmask Georgia Students Act, which would prohibit local public and charter schools from establishing or enforcing rules requiring students to wear face masks or face coverings while at school. school, unless the rule allows parents to exempt their child without disclosing the reason for their refusal; SB 514 would also prohibit schools from disciplining students whose parents have chosen to exempt their child from the mask policy; following the passage of the bill, a motion was filed to reconsider this action, and the House will again vote on SB 514 the following legislative day;

• Senate Bill 331, the Georgia Business and Worker Protection Act, which would prohibit local jurisdictions from enforcing any rule or ordinance that regulates the hours or schedules a private employer is required to provide to employees or which regulates the production of employees during working hours;

• Senate Bill 340, which would update provisions for accreditation of medical education by replacing “American Medical Association” with “Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education” as the accrediting body and remove the 50 resident requirement from the program;

• Senate Bill 346, which would require a company that submits a bid or proposal for a government contract to certify that the company is not owned, operated or affiliated with the Chinese government; the false certification of a company would result in its civil liability, termination of the contract and ineligibility for future government contracts; this ban would not affect state contracts with Taiwan;

• Senate Bill 469, which would align Georgian laws with federal laws regarding requirements for visual distress signals and flotation devices on watercraft;

• Senate Bill 470, which would replace the term “agent” with the term “covered employee” in the list of persons whose mortgage licenses the Department of Banking and Finance must revoke due to a felony conviction;

• Senate Bill 493, which would authorize non-judicial foreclosures of timeshare properties by a homeowners association, and this bill outlines the requirements for such foreclosures;

• Senate Bill 500, which would help ensure the state receives the full amount of the settlement in statewide opioid settlements and bar further legal action by a state entity or local government once the state has entered into opioid regulations; this bar would not apply to the landmark claims in the National Prescription Opioid Litigation, Case No.: MDL 2804;

• Senate Bill 543, which would clarify Georgia’s killer status by prohibiting an individual who kills, conspires to kill, or procures the murder of an individual from subsequently claiming a right to recover the deceased’s estate ;

• Senate Bill 581, which would designate the Georgia State Plane Coordinate System as the system for defining and reporting geographic positions for surveying property in the state, and the continued use of legal descriptions of the old system would remain valid in the new system designation.

Several House bills have also advanced in the Senate. The Senate passed an updated version of House Bill 911, or the fiscal year 2023 budget, and the House and Senate will continue to work on a final version of the fiscal year 2023 budget before he does not receive the final adoption.

The Senate passed House Bill 385, which would allow retired educators to resume teaching in the classroom while receiving their state retirement benefits; this teacher workforce initiative will head to the governor’s office for review. House Bill 1064 also received final passage and will create tax exemptions for military retirement income for active and fully retired members once it becomes law.

There are only five legislative days left in the 2022 legislative session, and the House will be busier than ever in these final days to ensure that we pass policies that are sound for Georgia and all of its residents. As we continue to work with the Senate to ensure final passage of the legislation this year, please contact us with any thoughts you may have on the bills currently before your state Capitol. during the last days of the session. Your feedback will help guide our decisions during this crucial time, and we always appreciate your feedback.

Rep. Sam Watson’s Capitol office phone number is (404) 463-2246, his email is [email protected]; Representative Darlene Taylor’s phone number is (404) 656-7857, her email is [email protected] The phone number for Representative Sam Watson is (404) 463-2246 or via email at [email protected]; Representative John LaHood’s phone number is (404) 656-0188 and his email is [email protected]

As always, thank you for allowing us to be your representatives.

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