Rep. Shaw proposes special turkey season for young and disabled hunters


As a means of promoting the sport of turkey hunting among young people and providing additional access for disabled hunters, I introduced legislation to establish a special turkey-hunting permit and extended turkey season for young and mobility-impaired hunters.

Under HB 207, hunters confined to wheelchairs or having permanent restrictive disabilities as well as those 16 years old and younger would receive special authorization to hunt turkeys on the Saturday and Sunday before the open season for other turkey hunters begins each year.

HB 207 has bipartisan support and has already been heard in the House Game, Fish & Parks Committee, where a vote on the legislation is expected soon.

As chairman of the Georgia Legislative Rural Caucus, it was my pleasure to meet with and address members of the Georgia Rural Health Association (GRHA), who were in attendance for Rural Health Day at the Capitol on Feb. 20. Georgia’s 109 rural counties, with a population of more than 2 million, continue to face challenges with regard to the availability and quality of health care providers.

Our rural areas have the highest cancer and cardiovascular mortality rates and infant mortality, child abuse and teen pregnancy rates, and the growing uninsured and elderly populations far exceed existing health care resources. I applaud and support the efforts of the GRHA to meet these challenges.

In that regard, it was good news that funding for the South Georgia Medical Education and Research Consortium, which seeks to address the shortage of medical residency positions across the state, was restored in both the House and Senate versions of the amended state budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2013.

The $523,000 appropriation will lend start-up support to the more than $1 million in capital funds provided by the Consortium’s member hospitals toward the development of approximately 100 new medical residency positions in South Georgia. The five community hospitals making up the Consortium are South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta, Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie, Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville, Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany.

Feb. 22 marked the 22nd legislative day, which puts us more than halfway through the 2013 legislative session. Now that we are in the last half of session, more bills are making their way out of committee to receive a vote from the entire House of Representatives. Last week, we passed several bills that would help protect Georgians and make their lives easier.

HB 234, for example, would protect Georgia consumers from getting trapped in contracts with automatic renewal provisions. This legislation is necessary because businesses now frequently include provisions in service contracts that automatically renew the contract on the cancellation date without notice. HB 234 would require sellers to make sure consumers are aware of any automatic renewal provisions in a service contract before the consumer signs the contract.

Additionally, the bill requires sellers to notify consumers one to two months before their contract’s cancellation date. This would give consumers a chance to prevent an unwanted automatic contract renewal. Several other states have already passed legislation similar to HB 234 in response to consumer complaints. If this bill is approved by the senate and then signed into law by the Governor, this legislation would give the state another tool to help protect consumers.

HB 254, which I co-sponsored, would make it easier for Georgia drivers to prove that they have state required auto insurance when pulled over or involved in a car accident. Although most insurance companies now provide smart phone applications or other ways to electronically access policy information, current state law only recognizes printed policy information cards as valid proof of insurance. If a driver does not have a policy card, state law allows law enforcement to access state records to verify the driver’s insurance coverage.

However, these records only confirm insurance coverage, and do not provide policy numbers and other information needed for accident reports. HB 254 would simplify this process for both drivers and law enforcement by allowing drivers the option of using an electronic proof of insurance, like a picture of their policy card or application on their phone, if they do not have a printed proof of insurance card.

HB 178 would protect Georgians from the practices of “pill mills” that can lead to prescription drug addiction problems. Pill mills are set up as walk-in pain management clinics that accept cash only in exchange for prescription drugs. They often operate without a physician, and conduct fraudulent medical exams to “justify” unnecessary prescriptions.

While pill mills may initially help Georgians with chronic pain, the type of drugs and dosages they prescribe has led many well intentioned patients to become addicts and has even resulted in death. HB 178 would combat this problem by allowing the Georgia Medical Composite Board to regulate the licensing of pain management clinics.

It would also require pain management clinics to be owned and operated by either a licensed physician or hospital, because the risk of losing their medical license gives them a greater incentive to properly manage pain clinics than owners with non-medical backgrounds who have less to lose. Additionally, HB 178 would give law enforcement the tools it needs to shut down pill mills.

All of these bills now go to the Senate for its consideration.

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