To ensure the health and wellbeing of all pregnant women, especially those with lower incomes, we passed House Bill 129. This bill would expand the eligibility criteria for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits to pregnant women. TANF provides monthly cash assistance to extremely low-income families with the goal of moving these families toward economic freedom and self-sufficiency.
Those at high risk for certain medical conditions will take comfort in the passage of House Bill 85, which would require Georgia health insurance benefit policies to cover biomarker testing. Biomarker testing analyzes a patient’s tissue, blood or other biospecimen to look for genes, proteins, and other substances, allowing for expedited diagnosis, treatment, management, and monitoring of a disease, such as cancer. This testing will assist in clarifying a diagnosis and even determine the best treatment for an individual. While biomarker testing is most used for cancer, it could soon be used for other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s.
We also passed House Bill 143, which would require the Georgia Department of Community Health to cover continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) as a pharmacy benefit through Medicaid. Medicaid recipients would be eligible for this benefit if they have a diabetes mellitus diagnosis and use insulin daily or have a history of problematic hypoglycemia. CGMs will allow those living with diabetes or hypoglycemia to better manage their health, but without insurance coverage, this device is very expensive. As such this bill ensures that Medicaid patients also have access to these lifesaving machines.
We continued our efforts of expanding quality healthcare through the passage of House Bill 203. This bill would allow state-licensed optometrists or ophthalmologists to conduct vision exams, via telemedicine. The bill also allows for the renewal of contact lens prescriptions electronically for patients who are between 21-50 years old and do not have certain preexisting health conditions. The bill also requires patients to have an in-person eye exam every two years to remain eligible for electronic prescriptions.
To support our schools in the rural areas of our state, we passed House Bill 81 to revise the qualifications of grant funding opportunities for low-wealth K-12 school systems to help build and maintain schools. Due low SPLOST revenues, many rural school systems cannot afford to build new facilities. These grants would assist in the restoration of old buildings and aging infrastructure to offer safer learning environments for our students and teachers in these areas of the state. To be eligible for funding, the local school system must meet the following:
- Currently, or within the last three years, ranked in the bottom 25 percent of special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) collections and in property value.
- System would be required to commit five years of their SPLOST revenues toward the applicable project.
- Requires that educational facilities be at least 35 years old to receive funding for consolidation projects.
- Limits systems to only receive these grants every 10 years after their need has been met.
House Bill 87, also known as the “Completion Special Schools Act,” was passed in hopes of increasing our graduation rate. This act creates additional pathways for at-risk students to earn their high school diplomas. Under the bill the State Board of Education (BOE) will adopt policies to allow the establishment, funding, and operation of “completion special schools.” These schools would give greater flexibility to high-risk students by offering online instruction and night classes, thus increasing the opportunity to earn a High School diploma. Unlike our traditional system, completion schools would also allow students who turn 18 to self-enroll in courses until they are 22 years old. Many school superintendents support this bill as an avenue to raise graduation rates across the state and produce a more skilled workforce.
Due to our fiscal conservatism, we are pleased to report that under House Bill 162 that $1 billion in undesignated income tax revenue back into the pockets of Georgia taxpayers for a second year in a row. Stipulations of the bill are as follows:
- Provides a one-time tax refund through the Amended Fiscal Year 2023 budget to every eligible taxpayer for the 2022 tax year.
- Amounts range from $250 for single filers; $375 for head-of-household filers; $500 for married couples.
- Given to taxpayers who filed income tax returns for both the 2021 and 2022 tax years.
- Not available to nonresident alien individuals.
Currently, Georgia law stipulates that parents who fail to pay their child support will have their driver’s license suspended until receipt of the full outstanding payments. This presents an issue, as those who cannot drive to work have difficulty earning money to make payments. House Bill 167 would assist these parents by allowing those with a suspended, revoked, or canceled license eligible to apply for a limited driving permit.
Public safety, a top priority, also took center stage through House Bill 207. Current law allows boating accidents to be reported within 48 hours of the accident, but this bill would close this loophole to ensure that boating accident laws mirror our motor vehicle accident laws. HB 207 increases responsibility placed on the operator of each boat involved in an incident and outlines criminal charges if an operator flees the scene of an accident resulting in death, disappearance or a serious injury that requires medical treatment. Fleeing the scene would be considered a felony and could result in a one-to-five-year prison sentence.