HB 481-- Abortion restrictions. Governor Kemp campaigned on passing the nation's most restrictive abortion bill, and HB 481 does just that. It passed the House 93 to 73, a three vote margin for passage, and on March 22, 2019, the Senate voted 34 to 18 for passage. Because the Senate made some changes, the bill must come back to the House for final action. HB 481, unlike any other state, attempts to modify federal census and tax laws by requiring the census taker to count a fetus as a person, and to grant a tax deduction to any pregnant woman. Last week, the Kentucky "fetal heartbeat" bill, which similarly to HB 481 bans abortion after about 6 weeks, was declared unconstitutional. The votes in both Chambers are cast along party lines, with one exception.
At no previous time in my service, has security in the Capitol been as visible, emotions as high, or demonstrations as prevalent. The HB 481 debates have been personal and painful, and you can review all the speeches online. I voted no on HB 481, and will continue to do so when it comes back to the House for final action.
SB 106, the Governor's Medicaid Waiver bill passed the Senate and is now before the House, and I have been involved in attempted negotiations with Governor Kemp's floor leaders to expand and clarify the opportunity to extend medical coverage to the 1.3 million Georgians currently uninsured. The talks have not yet resulted in any progress to convince the Governor that his current waiver proposal will cost more and cover fewer people than a simpler expansion of Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Healthcare Act, what we no longer call Obamacare. I am a co-sponsor of an Amendment to SB 106 to create a waiver for "Peachcare for Adults", and cover individuals on a sliding scale up to 138% of the poverty rate. The Amendment was not allowed in the Committee that moved 106 to the House Rules Committee. I hear rumors that possible resurrection of the defeated CON (Certificate of Need) legislation may become part of the Medicaid Waiver bill to gain more votes. Uncertain future for both measures.
SB 77 to Protect Southern Monuments passed from the Governmental Affairs sub and full committees, and is awaiting House calendaring for Floor debate. I offered Amendments in both Committees that were defeated on party lines to include provisions for local control for cities and counties to make their own decisions on what to do about monuments on their land, usually the courthouse squares. I voted NO, signed the Minority Report, and will speak on the bill when it comes for debate.
The state budget for 2020 that begins July 1, 2019 is currently in negotiations, and is the only task/bill we are required to pass each Session. The two proposals I added to the budget for increases in the relative per diem rate for foster care children and clarification to the Children's Trust Fund are still in discussion. Bills that I previously carried but were introduced this year by Republicans to unshackle children in Juvenile Court and eliminate adult prosecution of 17 years olds did not pass out of committee --the new sponsor did not ask for a vote, and took no action to the move the bills.
Please call me anytime about any other bill that interests you. The remaining days will be crammed with activities, and I need your input!
Status of Local Legislation
Local Legislation SB 89 for Decatur to annex the Decatur Methodist Children's Home has not moved yet for House passage, and the Special Chair appointed to review the bill with the Decatur Representatives has not called a meeting. SB 7 to make changes to the DeKalb County Ethics Commission was discussed today, and may or may not have the votes to pass before Sine Die. Expanding homestead exemptions for Chamblee and Brookhaven have or will pass on the local House calendars, and the voters of those two cities will decide by referendum whether to increase exemptions.