Gold Dome Update 
Highlights from the House 
Week Ten
Thursday, March 15, marked the 35 th day of the 2018 legislative session. We had a productive week of committee hearings and policy debate as both the House and Senate passed bills now under consideration by Governor Deal. Initiatives for the benefit of our healthcare systems and our military remain as top priorities, as we make our way through the final days of session. 
Healthcare Measures

The Health Act
Last week we passed Senate Bill 357, also known as the Health Act. If signed into law, SB 357, will establish the Health Coordination and Innovation Council. The 18-member council, made up of academic, industry leaders and government experts, will be responsible for streamlining and coordinating all components of our state’s health care system. They will work to coordinate major functions of our health systems, while developing strategies to stabilize costs and improve access to quality care. The bill also establishes an advisory board that would provide guidance to the council. The council’s responsibilities include:
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of previously enacted and ongoing health programs
  • Determining how to best develop new approaches and promote innovation
  • Effectiveness of existing resources, expertise and improvement opportunities

We are confident this bill is a major step forward in addressing the health care-related challenges our state faces. 

Autism Support
Children with autism will now have additional access to vital treatments and therapies, thanks to the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 118. SB 118 increases the age of coverage for autism treatments from six-years-old to 20-years-old. The bill also increases the coverage limit from $30,000 to $35,000 annually. Further, SB 118 requires insurers to provide coverage for applied behavior analysis, which is a necessary medical treatment for autism. If signed into law, SB 118 would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

Elder Abuse Prevention
Sadly, elder abuse in our state has been on the rise in recent years. In an effort to address this issue, we passed Senate Bill 406. This bill would create the Georgia Long-term Care Background Check Program, requiring elder care providers in personal care homes or other assisted living facilities to undergo a comprehensive, fingerprint-based criminal background check. Care facility owners, applicants, and employees of personal care services will be subject background check requirements, taking effect Oct. 1, 2019. Further, the bill implements a central caregiver registry so that those looking to hire a personal caregiver could access information on eligible and ineligible applicants.
Rural Hospital Assistance
In an effort to assists our struggling rural hospitals, we passed House Resolution 1376. HR 1376 urges the newly developed House Rural Development Council (RDC) to gain input from state hospitals regarding their financial condition. The resolution also encourages the RDC receive recommendations from the hospital industry on any legislative or regulatory changes that could assist in sustaining our state’s health care systems. While many of Georgia’s hospitals are very profitable, others, especially those in rural areas, are at risk. We are hopeful the recommended provisions in this measure will provide the council with information needed to turnaround and financially stabilize our state’s rural hospitals.
Agriculture Education Act
We continue support of Georgia’s largest industry, agriculture, through the passage of Senate Bill 330, also known as the Georgia Agricultural Education Act. Georgia’s agricultural education program for grades 6-12, will now be developed by the Dept. of Education and industry experts to adhere to the nationally recognized three-component model of school-based agricultural education. The three-component model consists of the following:
  • Daily classroom and lab instruction
  • Hands-on, experimental learning through a supervised agricultural experience program
  • Leadership and learning opportunities through participation in agricultural education programs, such as the Future Farmers of America (FFA) 

Further, the bill authorizes the establishment of an elementary agricultural pilot program to determine whether a statewide implementation of such would be of benefit to Georgia students.
Military Measures
This session we have passed a number of bills to benefit our state’s military. The two bills passing last week expand on legislation we introduced during the 2017 session, including Senate Bill 395, which passed unanimously. This bill establishes the 18-member Georgia Joint Defense Commission, responsible for advising the governor and the General Assembly on state and national military issues. The commission will be responsible for the following:
  • Recommending policies to support the long-term sustainability and development of Georgia’s active and civilian military
  • Developing programs to enhance communities’ relationships with military installations
  • Preparing a task force for potential base realignment or military installation closures in the state
  • Submitting an annual report to the governor and the Georgia General Assembly on the state of Georgia’s military installations in preparation for possible BRAC closures

Further, this bill establishes the Defense Community Economic Development Grant Program which will assist military communities with projects, events and activities promoting our military installations. This bill further expands the grant fund we established during last year's legislative session through the passage of House Bill 470.
The second pro-military measure passing the House last week was Senate Bill 82. This bill allows members of the Georgia National Guard or reserves, located in Georgia, to be classified as legal residents under the eligibility requirements for HOPE scholarship and grant programs. This expansion would only apply to those stationed in Georgia or who list Georgia as their permanent home. Currently, only active-duty military service members, their spouses and children are eligible to receive Georgia’s HOPE scholarships and grants. SB 82 has the same language as last session's House Bill 222 that was part of our military affairs working group initiative. Thank you to Senator Lester Jackson and Senator Walker for their help in getting this important measure across the finish line.

VECTRE Center Funding
Great news for our Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center where state funding is concerned! The VECTR Center is a state resource located in Warner Robins that helps Veterans transition into civilian life after completing their service. The House has allocated a portion of the state budget, nearly $2 million, towards expanding VECTR services. Special thanks to Rep. Terry England, our House Appropriations Chairman, for recognizing the importance of funding this project in support of our many Veterans.

The primary reason our delegation is so passionate about pro-military measures is largely because most of us grew up near Robins AFB. In fact, the reason our family resides in Houston County today is due in part to my grandfather's WWII service. Following the war, his knowledge of the armed forces and it's aircrafts, led him to continue his service on Robins AFB in the sixties. Because of his example and teachings, serving our men and women in the armed forces is something for which my family has great conviction. Ensuring our military members are well taken care of is a small way we can say "thank you" for the countless sacrifices they make on behalf of our nation and her citizens. Last week, our family laid my grandfather to rest at 97 years of age. While he will be greatly missed, we were blessed to have him for as long as we did; and we are grateful for the life lessons, legacy and love for country he leaves behind.
Monday, March 19, began our 5-day countdown as we make our way to Day 40. I will continue to send updates regarding legislation and in the meantime, please reach out to me with questions or concerns. It is a pleasure to work for the betterment of our district and I am honored that you allow me the privilege of serving as your voice under the Gold Dome as we work for smart, simple and effective government.

Shaw Blackmon
Representative of Georgia's 146th House District

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.