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Georgia House advances medical-marijuana measure
Legislative update
RonStephens GA Rep

The Georgia House of Representatives has been incredibly busy these past weeks. I want to take the opportunity to explain a few of the biggest pieces of legislation that we considered.
The budget for fiscal-year 2016 was passed and will be effective for state spending beginning July 1 and ending on June 30, 2016. As governed by our state Constitution, and mirroring our federal Constitution, the House of Representatives must originate all spending and taxation bills.
House Bill 76 is a spending bill of approximately $21.7 billion. This reflects an increase of $946 million, or 4.5 percent, over the original fiscal-year 2015 budget. The House Appropriations Committee went through the submitted budget of the governor line by line in careful review, determining how the budget should be allocated.
According to the House budget, a number of the priorities in the FY 2016 budget included enhanced funding for transportation, maintaining State Health Benefit Plan coverage for non-certificated school employees, salary adjustments for critical positions in state agencies and support for rural hospitals and provider rate adjustments.
The Senate will now review our spending plan and make their recommendations and we will sit down in a conference committee to come up with an agreement for the governor to sign.
In addition, I am pleased to report that the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will move forward, allowing newer, more massive class of ships sailing through the Panama Canal the ability to navigate the Savannah harbor. Keeping pace with this ever-advancing industry, a bill I sponsored in the House, Senate Bill 5, recently passed both the House and Senate, which will allow the Port of Savannah to remain competitive on the worldwide market and assist the port to be ready for the influx of federal money earmarked for this project.
Our colleagues collectively agreed that this is a responsible, sound bill which will have a positive economic impact on our state. It was passed unanimously on every level — in both committees, and in the full Senate and House. The governor signed it into law Feb. 23.
The Georgia Ports Authority has been a leader in its industry, using the latest technology, streamlining procedures and making the Savannah port an attractive and viable place for the world to do business. This is good news for our community and our state as we move forward in a global economy.
Many of you have heard the controversy surrounding the use of cannabis oil, a substance found in marijuana, for the treatment of several illnesses. I have mentioned our deliberations in past articles and the careful consideration of this measure known as HB 1 or “Haleigh’s Hope Act.” This bill was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 157-2. I supported the bill and was pleased that the wording allows help for suffering patients, yet with enough regulation so that the use of cannabis oil cannot be exploited for recreation.
Georgians suffering from debilitating diseases such as cancer, multiple seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, sickle-cell anemia and Lou Gehrig’s disease will have access to the drug and its medical benefits. Research already has shown that children suffering up to hundreds of seizures per day are experiencing much relief when administered this drug. In fact, the drive for this legislation mostly has been led by parents who found help for their children by traveling to states that have legalized cannabis oil to purchase the drug.
The Department of Public Health will have the responsibility for patient registration and physician oversight, ensuring that the administration of this drug is done reliably and legally. This is sound legislation that will help many of our suffering family members, friends and neighbors.

Thank you for allowing me to represent you. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously. Your concerns and comments are important to me, so please contact me at 404-656-5115 or

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