Gold Dome Update  
Highlights from the House  
Week Five

Friday, February 10th brought to a close the 16th legislative day. That means by the end of next week, we will be halfway through this year’s session! Last week under the Gold Dome could have been deemed, “Firefighter Protection Week,” as we passed a number of bills for the benefit of our brave firefighters. Georgia’s firefighters selflessly risk their lives and long term health to ensure we are kept safe. While containing a fire is the short-term risk, very rarely, do we hear about the long-term risks associated with their heroic actions. 

Firefighter Legislation

On Tuesday, January 7 the House passed House Bill 146 with overwhelming, bipartisan support. HB 146 would require fire departments to provide and maintain adequate insurance coverage for firefighters serving 12 consecutive months, unable to work due to a disabling cancer diagnosis. Due to the nature of their work, firefighters are increasingly exposed to cancer-causing carcinogens and studies show that these brave individuals have higher rates of certain types of cancers than the rest of the population. Listed below are provisions of HB 146:

  • Provides for a lump-sum benefit of $25,000 or $6,250 based on the severity of the cancer.
  • Provides a monthly benefit equal to 60 percent of the firefighter’s monthly salary at the time of diagnosis, or a monthly benefit of $5,000, whichever is less.
  • Benefits would begin six months after the firefighter has submitted proof of their diagnosis and would continue for three years.
  • Provides coverage for volunteer firefighters who are unable to work due to a cancer diagnosis.
  • Provides volunteer firefighters would receive a monthly benefit of $1,500 for the same three-year period.
  • Would allow firefighters to maintain their insurance coverage upon retirement or a career change, but recipient would be responsible for paying insurance premiums in those scenarios.
  • Authorizes counties and cities to use tax revenue to purchase insurance for firefighters covered under this bill.

Eligible cancers covered under HB 146 include bladder, blood, brain, breast, cervical, esophageal, intestinal, kidney, lymphatic, lung, prostate, rectal, respiratory tract, skin, testicular, thyroid, leukemia, multiple myeloma or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

In addition to passing HB 146, we also unanimously passed House Bills 83 and 84, two bills that would support the Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund. The Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund was established in 1955 to provide a supplemental pension benefit to Georgia’s firefighters and their beneficiaries through assets held in trust. HB 83 would allow the Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund to invest up to 10 percent of its total assets in real estate, which is currently prohibited. If the fund’s assets decrease in value, the fund may retain the real estate investments as if they were owned prior to the decrease in the fund’s assets. This measure will ensure that this fund remains healthy for future beneficiaries.

Similarly, HB 84 would give the Georgia Firefighters’ Pension Fund the ability to invest up to 10 percent of its total assets in alternative investments, such as private investment pools, private investment funds and venture capital funds, amongst others. Under current law, the Pension Fund can invest up to 5 percent of its total assets in alternative investments. If passed, HB 84 would double the investment percentage allowance from 5 to 10 percent. HB 83 and HB 84 offer greater flexibility and investment options for the Firefighters’ Pension Fund, in turn, helping the organization provide better benefits for our firefighters. 


Our work for the protection of Georgia’s AG industry continues as we passed House Bill 176. HB 176 is intended to improve the overall functionality of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. As it currently stands, under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) the federal government is responsible for directing inspections of certain farms and packing houses.  However, HB 176 gives the Georgia Department of Agriculture the ability to conduct inspections, as well as, take other regulatory actions necessary to assist the FDA within the provisions of the FSMA.  In short, HB 176 allows the Georgia Department of Agriculture the ability to enforce federal law independently of the federal government, which will only help streamline the inspection process.


Child Welfare

This week, we unanimously passed legislation that would change open records laws involving minors. House Bill 75 would protect Georgia’s youth by allowing law enforcement agencies to confidentially share vital information regarding child abuse, neglect or dependency investigations within the Department of Human Services and other governmental child protective agencies. Currently, any shared information between law enforcement officials and child protective agencies are subject to open records requests.

Sponsored Legislation   

HB 64 which ensures that consumers have an advocate working on their behalf with respect to their health care plans, overwhelmingly passed the House on Wednesday, February 9th with a 172-1 floor vote. The bill which also provides local insurance agents receive compensation from carriers for health benefit plan services provided to individuals and small businesses now heads to the Senate for further review.  

NCSL Appointment

Earlier this week Speaker Ralston announced his appointments to serve on the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) Legislative Effectiveness Committee for the duration of the 2017-2018 session. NCSL is an organization which brings state legislatures’ together for discussions on hot topic issues nationwide. NCSL’s efforts include fighting unwarranted federal preemption of state laws, unfunded mandates and federal legislation that threatens state authority and autonomy.

The NCSL Legislative Effectiveness Committee examines strategies, practices and procedures for making legislators, staff and legislatures more effective. The committee focuses both on key skills for legislators and on key operations and powers of state legislature. The issues include education and training for legislators and legislative staff, legislative structure and management, rules and procedures, leadership, committees, staffing, information resources, constitutional issues and ethics. The committee also addresses topics concerning the executive branch of government and Congressional procedures and reform. I look forward to serving in this capacity and feel sure that I will learn a great deal to further benefit our state and district.  

As we continue to move forward with our efforts for simple, smart and effective government, I will continue to send updates. Please reach out to me anytime with questions or concerns regarding legislation. As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your voice under the Gold Dome as we work to better our state and local communities. 


Shaw Blackmon

Representative of Georgia's 146th House District

  This week I had my picture taken with
the  Georgia Southern Eagle.  Not everyday you get a picture with an Eagle!
Representative Shaw Blackmon
District 146
Phone: 404-656-0177
Address: 501-E Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Rep. Shaw Blackmon represents District 146.  He currently serves as a Deputy Whip and as a member of  Ways & Means, Economic Development and Tourism, Special Rules, Insurance and
Governmental Affairs Committees. Shaw is also a member of the Military Affairs Working Group.