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Senate hears veterans foundation, rural health bills
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

Last week in the Senate, we continued to work in committees considering the bills that were passed by the House of Representatives. With only two weeks left in the legislative session, we are using our time constructively so that legislation that will ultimately benefit Georgians will be vetted thoroughly.

The Senate is also carefully considering proposals to the Fiscal Year 2019 budget made by the House, and it is our constitutional mandate to pass a balanced budget before the session ends.

I was pleased to carry HB 422, which would establish the Georgia Veterans Service Foundation Inc. as a nonprofit organization that would primarily seek funds and in-kind goods, services and property to promote Georgia's war veterans homes and veterans cemeteries. The bill passed unanimously with the entire legislative body in agreement that our veterans deserve to be cared for and honored late in life.

HB 769 passed, establishing the Rural Health Innovation System. This would allow an exemption to be made regarding the certificate of need in certain cases, create a grant program to incentivize physicians to practice in rural areas, increase a tax credit on donations to rural hospitals and simplify the remote order process for pharmacies.

This legislation will help Georgians in rural areas receive the health care they need and deserve, and it is my hope that the governor will sign it into law.

The Employment First Act was passed, also known as House Bill 831, which would create the Employment First Georgia Council to adopt a competitive integrated employment policy for individuals with disabilities. The legislation would also provide awareness and education parameters for the Employment First Policy so that Georgians can be informed about employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

House Bill 751 would create the Georgia Emergency Communications Authority within the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. The authority would collect and distribute 911 fees to local government 911 call centers and create a flat $1.50 fee for all types of phone lines. The bill passed overwhelmingly.

Along with my Chatham County colleagues, it was a pleasure to welcome the 2018 St. Patrick’s Day Committee and Grand Marshal Michael Kenny to the Gold Dome. We congratulated them on planning a magnificent parade that will highlight Irish heritage, faith and family. We know that our beautiful city was welcoming to thousands of visitors, and I’m also pleased that Vice President Mike Pence saw first-hand all that our community has to offer.

As we enter the final days of the legislative session, your input continues to be important to me. I encourage you to contact me with your concerns and questions at or at 404-656-7880. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve you!

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