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Friday, May 19, 2017

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, MAY 19, 2017

PROTECTING OUR MOST VULNERABLE POPULATION

By my count, I estimate the FY 2018 General Budget contains about $123 million or so dedicated to Georgia's most vulnerable population in protection, care, provider increases and waivers to help sustain children, the disabled and the elderly in our state. This column will touch on legislation applying to children, the elderly and the disabled and next week we'll present budget items focused on these populations. Services to these populations may not be as sexy as a new building on a campus, but Governor Deal and the leadership of the House and Senate deserve kudos for addressing human needs that may have been neglected for too long in some cases.

LEGISLATION AFFECTING CHILDREN

SB 206 - Requires health insurance companies to include coverage (up to $3000) in policies for hearing aids for children age 18 and younger. Allows for a replacement every 18 months. Higher priced hearing aids would require a copay.

HB 241 - Authorizes the Department of Public Health to conduct newborn screenings for Krabbe disease. Optional for parents with a copay from $3.00 to $5.00. The disease is usually fatal in infants.

HB 198-Requires local school boards who are already providing information to students on immunizations and health issues to include information on flu and flu vaccines.

HB 463-Allows the Department of Early Care and Learning to establish a foundation to support academic excellence and to issue grants through a competitive process.

SB 250-Prohibits sexual offenders from another state who are on Georgia's registry or should be, from "loitering" in any area where minors congregate, including day care facilities or schools.

HB 86-Expands the definition of sexual abuse to include sex trafficking.

HB 341-Updates sexual offenses law to target and punish customers and makes actions in sexual trafficking involving a captive minor a felony. Punishment ranges from 5 to 20 years according to age of offender.

SB 168-Adds certain agencies of law enforcement to the access list for child abuse records.
SB 149-Clarifies that "best practice" for school resource officers would include a training course provided by POST.

SB 175-Allows courts to require parents to take certain actions concerning their school age child including monitoring homework, transporting a child to counseling or completing a substance abuse course, all to promote a delinquent child's rehabilitation and welfare.

HB 136-Amends present law allowing a 14 year-old to drive for visually impaired parents incapable of driving and repeals the requirement for the parent to have had a license. Would apply to 15 year-olds as well.

SB 137-Changes the payment of the federal fee of $25.00 that the Child Support Agency collects so that the absentee parent pays the entire $25.00 fee.

LEGISLATION AFFECTING SENIORS

HB 206 - Two provisions in this bill. One prevents DCH from recouping full payment for medical assistance in the event of clerical or record-keeping errors. Second, this bill increases the personal needs allowance for nursing home residents from present $50.00 per month to $70.00 per month.

SB 102 - Creates an Office of Cardiac Care within the Department of Public Health to designate hospitals as Levels I, II or III emergency cardiac care centers. Grants are a part of this legislation as well.

SB 103 - Imposes restrictions on pharmacy benefit managers administering prescription drug plans. Prevents mandatory mail-order delivery or attempts to persuade plan members to use a less expensive drug. Puts some controls on co-pays.

SB 200 - Requires a prorated prescription when a whole month's supply is not ordered. Will help seniors refill prescriptions all at the same time, making it safer and simpler.

SB 41 - Requires suppliers of durable medical equipment to secure a license from the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy.

HB 196 - Affects Vets and Seniors - Requires income approach in determining the fair market value of property if income data supplied by owner. Also allows consideration of certain tax credits on rental property. Allows disabled veterans to receive a retroactive homestead tax exemption after receiving final determination of disability from Veterans Administration.

SB 18 - Allows retired law enforcement officers, separated in good standing and possessing an ID card from POST, and meeting the yearly training requirements, to carry a handgun as some officers can presently carry. Also allows those retiring on disability to retain their badge and weapon.

HB 322 - Expands eligibility for war veterans to be residents of the War Veterans homes. Expands to those who served between Jan. 31, 1955 and August 1, 1990.

LEGISLATION AFFECTING THE DISABLED

HB 486 - Adds to present proxy caregivers who are allowed to serve as caregivers to disabled individuals, a licensed health care provider facility which is selected as a caregiver. DBHDD and DCH must select training curricula for caregivers.

HB 343 - Changes state code to replace references to "mentally retarded" individuals with "intellectually disabled" in all sections of the code.

Next week, we will look at funding addressing the needs of children, seniors and the disabled.

Full transcripts of bills may be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx . Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

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