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Busy time at the capitol
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The past two weeks have been extremely busy at the Capitol.

The House passed the amended 2017 budget, and we started our work on the 2017-2018 budget in the Appropriations Committee.

I am honored to serve on the Appropriations Committee where the heavy lifting occurs on the state's budget. I look forward to continuing this process and to getting the full budget to the House floor soon for a vote.

I have also been busy working on legislation that I plan to introduce this session. Over the past several months, I have been working on a bill that would attempt to help turnaround failing schools in our state. There are approximately 153 schools that the Georgia Department of Education considers to be failing. I have had dozens of meetings with school board members, superintendents, parents and other stakeholders from all across the state. I am also working with my colleagues on the House Education Committee and in the State Senate on this important issue. I am hopeful that I will be ready to introduce this important piece of legislation at the end of this week. Once the legislation is introduced, I will provide you with a more detailed analysis of the bill.

Last week, I also introduced another measure that I have been working on for sometime, a heroin/ opioid bill. Over the past nine months I have worked closely with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, Georgia Drug and Narcotics, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the treatment community and others to look for ways to decrease the number of people using and dying from heroin.

One statistic states that 80% of those using heroin started out using a prescribed pain medicine. Heroin and opioid abuse is an epidemic in many parts of our country, and the number of overdose deaths in Georgia is continuing to grow.

Many individuals that abuse prescription based opioids obtain this medication by "doctor shopping." That is where they go to multiple doctors, without letting each doctor know, and receive prescriptions for the same medication. My legislation would require that doctors check a database that has been established by the state prior to prescribing a schedule 2 narcotic.

The database is updated when a person gets a prescription filled at a pharmacy. The doctor will then be able to determine whether or not the person has already received the medication or a similar medication from a different doctor.

The legislation also accomplishes some other important objectives. This includes, allowing the product, Naloxone, to be purchased without a prescription. This is the drug that reverses the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose and has already saved many lives. It is easy to use and many of our public safety personnel already are carrying this with them on the job today. There have been several lives saved in one of the counties I serve with Naloxone, and I look forward to ensuring that the product is more widely available.

As the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, I had the honor of attending the ribbon cutting for the state's first reversible express lanes on Interstate 75 in Henry County with Governor Deal and DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry. The lanes have now been open for just over a week and are already improving traffic on this corridor. The Georgia Department of Transportation is currently constructing similar lanes on Interstate 575 with more locations planned in the future. As someone who travels our state's interstate system on a regular basis, I am excited to see this progress.

While our schedules are oftentimes full of important legislative business, it is also imperative that my colleagues and I take the time to honor the dedicated Georgians we are privileged enough to serve. Last Tuesday, we remembered and recognized the lives of two courageous officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Peach County Sheriff's Deputy Daryl Smallwood and Sgt. Patrick Sondron were both shot and killed while responding to a call on November 6 of last year.

State Representative Robert Dickey presented House resolutions honoring each officer to the families of Deputy Smallwood and Sgt. Sondron. Their colleagues also joined us in the House chamber as we paid tribute to the lives of these brave officers and commended the ultimate sacrifice they made to their community and to the state of Georgia.

We need to all look for ways to support and to thank the brave men and women in the public safety community that keep us safe. Recently, too many of our heroes across our country are having to pay the ultimate sacrifice for protection.

As you know, I am continuing the tradition of holding a weekly informational breakfast each Saturday during session. This Saturday we will be meeting at 9 a.m. in the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, breakfast will be provided. I look forward to seeing you there.

I am honored to serve as your Representative at the State Capitol. I am always available to assist you and encourage you to contact me with questions or your opinions. I can be reached on my cell phone at (678) 776-5059, at the Capitol at (404) 656-3947 or by email at