State Rep. Jan Tankersley (Photo: Georgia House of Representatives)

The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not those of AllOnGeorgia.


Legislative Days 26-29

Eight weeks have come and gone. We have now completed our busiest week of the 2019 session thus far. Last Thursday brought, “Cross Over Day,” which began in the chamber that morning and went late into the evening as we worked to pass legislation for the betterment of our great state. Cross Over Day is a critical deadline in the General Assembly, as it is the last day a piece of legislation can pass its original chamber and remain eligible for consideration by the opposite legislative chamber. All measures passing the House, are now under review in the Senate.

Heartbeat Bill

I am pleased to report that last Thursday, the Georgia House of Representatives voted in favor of life. Known as the Heartbeat BillHouse Bill 481 would restrict abortion procedures after a doctor has detected a heartbeat. I am proud to stand tall with my House colleagues in declaration that the unborn deserve the right to life! We will continue our push for this legislation through the Georgia Senate and onto the Governor’s desk for his final signature into law.
Public Safety Measures 
House Bill 234
Did you know that the underground human trafficking economy is the second largest black market in the U.S.? In Atlanta alone, this underground economy is estimated to be worth approximately $290 million a year. This activity is not isolated to any specific geographical location, nor does it target certain races or socioeconomic classes. Because of these staggering numbers, we have worked for years on strengthening our human trafficking laws.

We continued these efforts through the passage of House Bill 234, also known as the Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act. This bill, if passed, would authorize the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to provide emergency care and supervision of any child who is the victim of human trafficking without a court order or consent of the parents or legal guardian. Further, the bill requires DFCS/law enforcement to take the child to an available victim services organization, certified by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, to provide comprehensive trauma-informed services. Further, HB 234 limits the prosecution of prostitution to individuals who are 18 years of age or older.

House Bill 79
Last week, we took steps to protect Georgia families through the passage of House Bill 79, which would safeguard the rights of legally blind Georgians and their children. This bill would prevent courts, the Department of Human Services, and child-placing agencies from discriminating or denying child placement, custody, visitation, guardianship or adoption to an individual because he or she is legally blind. Exceptions are made under the bill to include that the interested parties above must have clear evidence that the welfare of a child is at risk before removing them from their legally blind parent or guardian. This bill passed the House unanimously and would protect the more than 202,000 blind Georgians from unfair biases that deny these families their basic right to stay together.

House Bill 247
We also strengthened penalties against individuals taking advantage of our elderly population through the passage of House Bill 247. This bill increases the criminalization all forms of battery against a person 65 or older to a felony. Further, this bill changes the definition of exploitation to include the illegal taking of resources belonging to a disabled adult or elderly person when access to resources was obtained due to the victim’s incapacity. This bill also allows law enforcement to conduct inspections of unlicensed personal care homes when acting as an agent of Department of Community Health.

Healthcare 

During the 2015 legislative session the Georgia General Assembly passed, Haleigh’s Hope, which changed Georgia code regarding the use of Low THC medical cannabis oil. The bill allows patients with certain medical conditions, causing debilitating pain or seizures, to register with the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) THC Oil Patient Registry. While the bill did allow the legal possession of up to 20 fluid ounces of oil containing up to five percent THC, there was no way to legally obtain the oil in Georgia. This meant that the 8,000 patients registered would be forced to illegally obtain the oil from other states. Upon the recommendation of our General Assembly Joint Commission, which studied issues involving medical oil access, we passed House Bill 324.

HB 324, also known as Georgia’s Hope Act, would allow for the cultivation, manufacturing and dispensing of low THC oil with a lawful valid license issued by an oversight board. Stipulations of the bill are as follows:

  • Issuance of two classes of licenses to produce, grow, and manufacture low THC oil in Georgia.
  • Issuance of separate retail licenses for qualified Georgia applicants by January 1, 2020.
  • Creates a seed-to-sale tracking system.
  • Require facility inspections and sample testing of medical cannabis oil products.

Our main concern is to ensure that Georgians receive access to quality care, while following the laws of our state. No patient should be forced to choose between debilitating pain or breaking federal law.

Statewide Transit Improvement

In order for Georgia to continue its record-breaking economic growth and development, proper infrastructure and transit options statewide for our citizens is necessary. Keeping this in mind, we passed House Bill 511, which creates the Department of Mobility and Innovation. This department will be tasked to govern and coordinate transit services across the entire state. If passed, this measure would establish a fee on ride-share services to be used for the benefit of future transit initiatives and projects. Further, the bill creates a pilot program which offers incentives to employers who provide transit benefits to employees. This bill also abolishes the Georgia Regional Transit Authority and moves current employees to the new department.

House Bill 456

This week House Bill 456 which I sponsored passed out of the House. Under current law cities with under 1,500 residents or expenditures less than $300,000 may opt to use a bi-annual audit or agreed upon procedures (AUP) with a CPA. The Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts reviews AUP just like an audit. These expenditures extend to SPLOST projects and other expenses that require separate reporting as well. These expenses oftentimes disqualify cities from participating in this cost saving option, even though they are reporting the expenses elsewhere. HB 456 would raise the expenditure cap from $300,000 to $500,000 using CPI plus 35% for inflation. The same formula was used in 2004 to raise the expenditure cap. It has now been 15 years since it has been raised. HB 456 has been endorsed by the Georgia Municipal Association and was passed in the House with a vote of 163 to 5. It will allow and estimated 125 cities to exercise this cost saving option.

Capitol Hill Happenings

We are pleased to welcome visitors to Capitol Hill from all over our state and especially our district. On any given day, the Capitol halls are buzzing with excitement as various groups and individuals take an active interest in their government at work. We sincerely hope that you will take time and come see us while in session! If you are interested in doing so, you may contact my office anytime to set up a tour or meeting.
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