2017 Session after 12 Days
We kicked off the beginning of February with Week 4 and Days 9-12 of the legislative session. Here are some highlights:
Support for Autism
Coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the Medicaid program is an important priority for this Governor with an added $65 million for “behavioral health services for children under 21 who are diagnosed as autistic.” Following previous allocations for ASD in the state health benefit and federal regs that already required the coverage, it reflects a commitment to the value of early diagnosis intervention.
Legislation to raise the mandatory age cap for autism insurance coverage from 6 to 21 years of age has won the backing of Senate leadership, led by Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford. Senate Bill 118 will be introduced next week, but still faces an uphill battle.
House Democrats Make a Statement
Thursday night, the Georgia House Democratic Caucus hosted its first Georgia Resists town hall in Atlanta, to highlight Democratic legislative priorities at the Georgia Capitol and provide the community with resources for engaging with their legislators at all levels of government.
The GHDC’s Georgia Resists website georgiaresists.com was launched on Inauguration Day in response to President Trump’s dangerous agenda.
Last year, the GHDC hosted a town hall with approximately 75 attendees. Thursday night’s Town Hall welcomed more than 500 attendees.
Planning for Regional Transit Gets Underway
On Thursday, the Senate Transportation Committee approved Senate Bill 6, which would create the Georgia Regional Transit Council. Meanwhile, the House Transportation Committee held a hearing on House Bill 160, which would create the Georgia Commission on Transit Governance and Funding. The House committee expects to vote on the bill next week.
Both groups would study Georgia’s mass transit coordination and recommend specific plans. Those plans would include how to manage and pay for a mass transit expansion in Georgia. The House bill would require a report by the end of this year, making action by the General Assembly possible for 2018.
House Bill 37
Georgia’s House Higher Education Committee convened on Wednesday for a hearing on House Bill 37. If passed into law, HB 37 will permit the State of Georgia to withhold state funds from universities that embrace sanctuary policies. Georgia’s public colleges and universities are governed by the Board of Regents, which also has a policy against sanctuary campuses. HB 37 received a do pass recommendation from the House Higher Education committee. It will now go on to the Rules committee.
House Bill 51
A hearing for House Bill 51 was held by the Higher Education subcommittee of House Appropriations on Wednesday. The bill would create an obligation of university employees to report all incidents of crime to local law enforcement. Many advocates and opponents of HB 51 spoke during the three hour hearing on the bill. Advocates contended that the involvement of local law enforcement is essential for an effective investigation of the crime. Challengers of HB 51, suggest that mandatory reporting of sexual assault to local law enforcement would be exploitative to the student victim.
Next week we will be in session for legislative days 13-16. I wish everyone a safe and productive week.