Last week we continued our ongoing efforts to support women with high-risk pregnancies through Senate Bill 106. Also known as the, “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Act,” this bill would create a Medicaid program to provide telemedicine clinical services to women with high-risk pregnancies. While we currently provide in home check-ins to those in need of maternal care, we are hopeful that virtual in-home check-ins could further improve maternal health outcomes for our high-risk pregnant women living in rural or underserved areas.
Sadly, our state has served as a hub for sex trafficking in recent years. Last week we strengthened laws to fight against this vile form of modern-day slavery through the passage of Senate Bill 42. This bill would revise the penalty for certain businesses that fail to post required signage about the human trafficking hotline. Under this bill, a business would have 30 days to post the appropriate signage if a law enforcement officer notifies the business of its noncompliance. Fines for violation as are follows:
- Increases maximum fine to between $500 and $1,000.
- Increases fines for repeat offenders ranging between $1,000 and $5,000.
- We must all work together in order to “END IT.” We are hopeful that increased penalties will encourage businesses to post signs to assist our law enforcement officers working around the clock on behalf of sex trafficking victims.
Last week also brought bipartisan support of Senate Bill 218 which would allow state identification cards to be issued to inmates after they have completed a term of incarceration. In addition to the state issued ID, inmates are also allowed to request documentation regarding programs and degrees earned during incarceration. We are hopeful that this measure will assist those wishing to reenter the workforce with more ease.
To ensure our state government is further protected against foreign cyber-attack threats, we took action through the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 93. This bill will prohibit the use of certain foreign-owned social media platforms on state-owned devices. The prohibition would also stand when a foreign adversary has substantial control over the content moderation practices of the platform or if the platform uses software or an algorithm that is controlled or monitored by a foreign adversary. In December of 2022, Governor Kemp issued an order to ban TIK TOK from state owned devices and this bill simply makes that order official law.
In previous years, we have worked to address the ongoing issue of “Surprise Billing” within the healthcare industry. We updated current law through the passage of Senate Bill 20, the “Consumer Access to Contracted Healthcare (CATCH) Act.” Stipulations of the bill are as follows:
- Requires that insurers contract with and maintain a sufficient number of participating network providers, including primary and specialty care, pharmacies, clinical laboratories and facilities
- Prohibits insurers from denying preauthorization of services rendered by an in-network provider just because the referring provider is out-of-network.
- Grants the Insurance Commissioner the authority to review network adequacy to ensure the benefits are delivered as promised through reasonable access to enough in-network primary and specialty care and all other health care services included under the terms of the contract.
More students will have greater access to our HOPE grant program though the passage of Senate Bill 86. This bill will expand access to the HOPE grant program to high school students participating in our dual enrollment programs. We feel confident that this action will encourage more high school students to take advantage of our dual enrollment programs, allowing them to pursue their career paths earlier in their educational journey with this grant assistance. Expansion of this program includes the following:
- Expands access to HOPE grant program to high school students who are preparing to join the workforce by earning college credit before graduation.
- Allows eligible dual enrollment students to access HOPE grant funds for eligible career, technical and agricultural education (CTAE) courses.
The Georgia Electric Vehicle Future Act, Senate Bill 26, works to advance the electric vehicle (EV) industry in the state. This legislation would authorize the Georgia Department of Economic Development to establish and support a statewide electric vehicle manufacturing program. This program would focus its efforts on developing, marketing, and promoting investments and job creation for Georgia’s EV industry. Through the bill, Economic Development and the Department of Transportation would work together to build out infrastructure, to support this growing industry. Further, this legislation would establish the Georgia Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Commission. Comprised of private sector and public officials, this commission would serve as an oversight body for our state-led EV initiatives, legislatively and otherwise.
Those caring for immediate family members with medical issues will find relief through Senate Bill 61. This bill will permanently allow Georgia’s private sector workers to continue to utilize their paid sick leave to care for a family member in need. Current provisions under the Family Care Act requires employers to allow employees to use up to five days per calendar year of earned sick leave for the care of an immediate family member who is ill. SB 61 nullifies the expiration date, originally set for July, to ensure that eligible Georgians can continue to take their earned time for loved ones, need be.