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Wrapping up the legislative session
Kevin Tanner
Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville.

On March 15, my House colleagues and I completed Legislative Day 35 and our tenth week of the 2018 legislative session.

 Legislative Day 40 is the last day the House will take up business for the year, and since we only had a few days left to wrap up our legislative work, last week was extremely busy in committees, and our agendas were very full as we reviewed and passed Senate measures in the House Chamber.

Last week, the House passed a critical measure that seeks to better coordinate state health care policies in an effort to address the unique health challenges facing our state. 

Senate Bill 357, also known as “The Health Act,” would establish the Health Coordination and Innovation Council of the State of Georgia under the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget to streamline and coordinate all components of our state’s health care system. 

The council would bring together academic, industry and government experts and leaders to share information, coordinate the major functions of Georgia’s health care system and develop innovative approaches to stabilize costs and improve access to quality health care. The council would serve as a research forum to identify our state’s greatest health issues and promote cooperation between private and public agencies to test new ideas. 

The council’s responsibilities would include evaluating the effectiveness of previously enacted and ongoing health programs; determining how to best develop new approaches and promote innovation to improve Georgia’s health care system; and maximizing the effectiveness of existing resources, expertise and improvement opportunities.  The 18-member council would consist of commissioners and directors from health and human services-related departments and divisions, including a new position for a director of health care policy and strategic planning, and health care professionals appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

 The bill would also establish an advisory board that would provide guidance to the council. The council and advisory board would help lead the way to a higher quality and more effective health care system in Georgia and improve health care access and outcomes for all Georgians, and this bill is a major step forward in addressing the health care-related challenges our state faces.

Elder abuse cases have risen significantly across the state in recent years, and on March 15, the House passed a measure to address this alarming trend.  Senate Bill 406 would create the Georgia Long-term Care Background Check Program, which would require elder care providers in personal care homes or other assisted living facilities to undergo comprehensive, fingerprint-based criminal background checks.  This provision would apply to owners, applicants for employment and employees of personal care homes, assisted living communities, private home care providers, home health agencies, hospice care, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities or adult day cares. 

If SB 406 is signed into law, the background check requirement would take effect on Oct. 1, 2019, for new applicants and on Jan. 1, 2021, for existing employees and owners.  In addition, under SB 406, the Department of Community Health would establish and maintain a central caregiver registry so that a family member or guardian looking to hire a personal caregiver for an elderly person could access information on eligible and ineligible applicants and employers.  SB 406 is based on the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform’s recommendations, and this significant measure seeks to protect our state’s senior citizens and decrease cases of elder abuse.

Last legislative session, the House championed 12 military-friendly bills and six resolutions in honor of Georgia’s military, and this session, we have passed almost a dozen additional bills to benefit our state’s military, including Senate Bill 395, which passed the House unanimously last week. 

This bipartisan bill would establish the 18-member Georgia Joint Defense Commission, which would be responsible for advising the governor and the Georgia General Assembly on state and national-level defense and military issues; recommending policies and plans to support the long-term sustainability and development of Georgia’s active and civilian military; developing programs to enhance communities’ relationships with military installations; and serving as a task force to prepare for potential base realignment or military installation closures in the state. 

The council would submit an annual report to the governor and the Georgia General Assembly on the state of Georgia’s military installations, as well as a tactical plan for navigating a possible base realignment or military installation closure. 

Finally, this bill would establish the Defense Community Economic Development Grant Program to assist military communities with projects, events and activities that promote military installations.  The Joint Defense Commission and the Defense Community Economic Development Grant Program would help to further strengthen Georgia’s military-friendly reputation, bolster our state’s military installations and ultimately enhance the quality of life for Georgia’s active-duty military members and veterans.

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 the Wagon Wheel located in Dahlonega at 9 a.m.  This will be our final meeting of the session.  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 kevin.tanner@house.ga.gov.

 

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