March 3 was the 30th legislative day of the 2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly, the final day for legislation to pass either the House of Representatives or the Senate in time to be considered by the other chamber this year.
Among the bills pushed through by the House majority on “Crossover Day” were two partisan political attacks on the federal Affordable Care Act — House Bill 707, which would prohibit state employees or agencies from using state resources to support the health-care law, and HB 990, which would prohibit any department, board or representative of the state (including the governor) from expanding the eligibility requirements for Medicaid without approval of the General Assembly.
I voted against both of these bills because they are nothing but political statements directed at President Barack Obama and only will continue to deny access to affordable health-care coverage for Georgians who need it.
These actions by the House majority will have a chilling effect on health-care delivery in Georgia, where many rural hospitals have closed for financial reasons. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would bring in billions of federal dollars into the state each year and provide coverage for approximately 650,000 Georgians who are uninsured.
With the leaders of our state and the majority of our Georgia’s congressional delegation in constant “attack mode” on the Obama administration, it should come as no surprise that federal funding needed for the Port of Savannah deepening project has yet to make its way into the White House’s budget requests.
Too many members of Georgia’s political majority seem more interested in partisan posturing instead of public policy, and the people of our state continue to suffer the consequences.
• Medicinal cannabis: Also March 3, the House voted overwhelmingly to approve legislation that would allow research into the use of cannabis oil, a derivative of marijuana, to treat some medical disorders.
HB 885, also known as “Haleigh’s Hope Act,” was narrowly drafted to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis oil to treat seizure disorders in children. The purpose of the legislation is the compassionate, potentially life-saving use of medical cannabis. Cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, has health benefits as shown by studies on the treatment of seizure disorders in children. HB 885 would permit academic medical centers approved by the Patient Qualification Review Board to authorize the use of the drug in clinical trials on seizure disorder patients.
The board would sponsor statewide studies utilizing academic medical centers and approved pediatric neurologists selected by the board. The program would be limited to patients certified to the board by selected academic medical centers and pediatric neurologists as being cancer patients, glaucoma patients and seizure disorder patients.
Other legislation approved on Crossover Day included:
• HB 138, which would prohibit the use of electronic benefit-transfer cards, issued as part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Family program, in liquor stores or adult bookstores or for the purchase of lottery tickets, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, pornographic material, firearms, ammunition, vacation services, tattoos, body piercings, jewelry, salon services, gambling, gift cards or payment of government fines or fees.
• HB 702, which would authorize the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds.
• HB 772, which would require drug testing for food-stamp applicants. I voted against this legislation in part because a similar law in Florida was overturned as a violation of citizens’ constitutional rights against unreasonable searches.
• HB 1080, which would authorize the placement of a privately funded statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the grounds of the Capitol.
All of these measures go to the Senate for its consideration.
Local honors: The House recently adopted two resolutions I introduced to honor local citizens. HR 1596 commends Raekwon McMillan, a senior football player at Liberty County High School, who was selected as the 2013 National High School Butkus Award recipient, and invites him to the House for recognition.
HB 1583 honors the life and memory of Lola Dixon, who in 1961 became the first African-American member of the nursing staff at Liberty Memorial Hospital, and expresses condolences to her family and friends on her passing last year.
It is an honor to represent you at the Capitol. Please contact me with your views on the issues, or whenever I can be of service.
Williams, D-Midway, represents District 168 in the Georgia House. Contact him at 511 Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; by phone at 404-656-6372; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.