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Session ends in flurry of activity

Legislative update

POSTED: March 26, 2014 10:30 p.m.

The final days of the Georgia General Assembly concluded last week, and much was accomplished this legislative session. There was a flurry of activity as both the House and Senate carefully considered and passed legislation that will now go before Governor Deal for his consideration.
Regarding health care, a bill was passed that will make Georgia the 25th state to ban insurance coverage of abortion under the Affordable Care Act. The only exception to this would be in the case of a narrowly defined “medical emergency.”
This legislation not only is a victory for unborn children, but also for taxpayers who do not want their hard-earned tax dollars being used for abortions. As a pro-life supporter and fiscal conservative, I believe this bill makes sense and there is good reason why half of the states in our great nation have passed a similar bill.
You have undoubtedly heard of e-cigarettes being touted as healthier for second-hand smokers and for the environment. Although void of tobacco, these cigarettes still contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance.
This week, we approved a bill that would fine retailers $300 for selling noncombustible nicotine alternatives to anyone under the age of 18. In addition, any minor who buys or tries to buy e-cigarettes would face up to 20 hours of community service for this infringement. As a pharmacist, I understand the effects of nicotine on the brain, and I think this legislation wisely protects our youth.
Also related to health care, State Bill 391 passed, which states that every medical facility in the state should make a good-faith application to the southern regional TRICARE health insurance provider no later than July 1, 2015.
TRICARE is the health insurance provider for current and retired military personnel who have placed their lives at risk for the protection of our freedoms. The ability to access medical care at the facility of their choice should be available to these brave men and women.
Another bill passed that I believe addresses fiscal responsibility. It is House Bill 772, which would allow drug testing for food-stamp and welfare recipients if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the applicant is using illegal drugs. This would help alleviate state money intended for food or other necessities from being used for illegal substances.
Since most employers, including the military, require applicants to submit to a drug test, I do not believe this infringes on one’s rights but upholds the legal standards of receiving state assistance.
A bill was amended and passed that I helped author regarding the appointment of the Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority. The amendment allows for one member appointed by each member of the General Assembly representing a portion of Chatham County; one member appointed by the majority vote of the board of commissioners of Chatham County; one member appointed by the majority vote of the mayor and aldermen of the city of Savannah; the president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, who will serve ex officio and have a vote; and the president of the Savannah Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, who will serve ex officio and have a vote. The terms of all members except the ex officio members will be for three years.
Although the legislation session for 2013-14 is complete, your input and concerns always are important to me.
  I can be reached at 404-656-5115 or at ron.stephens@house.ga.gov. My address at the capitol is State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334.

 

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