House delegation sponsoring local legislation

2/3/2014

At the request of city and county governments in House District 176, and in cooperation with my fellow members of the House of Representatives from our area, I am sponsoring and co-sponsoring a number of local legislative measures during the 2014 session of the General Assembly.

These include HB 800, which would change the office of probate judge in Lanier County to a nonpartisan election; HB 850,which would implement a hotel/motel tax in the City of Valdosta, with revenues going toward tourism development promotion; and HB 884, which would provide for an additional Superior Court judge in the Waycross Judicial Circuit.

All of those bills are presently under consideration in their respective House committees, as is the following general legislation I am sponsoring or co-sponsoring: HB 645, dealing with electronic transmissions of notices and documents from an insurance transaction; HB 679, which would exempt crop dusters from ad valorem taxation, subject to referendum approval; HB 773, which would modify the laws on discharging a gun or pistol near a public highway or street; HB 782, the Facilitating Business Rapid Response to State Declared Disasters Act of 2014; HB 825, which would allow licensed farm wineries to produce distilled spirits and wines under certain conditions; HB 840, which would clarify insurance regulations; and HB 849, which would specify that excess wear and use waivers are not to be construed as insurance.

Legislative activities at the Capitol were suspended for two days last week following the winter storm that hit the state and caused gridlock on metro Atlanta’s highways, but some major legislation was introduced just before the snow fell. HB 875, which would expand the number of places where licensed persons can legally carry firearms, was revised to remove the controversial provision allowing guns on college campuses. The new proposal would make it possible for gun owners to carry their weapons into more public buildings, excluding jails and courthouses.

HB 875 emphasizes private property and the ability to use the trespass law to enforce this provision. The bill lists churches and bars as private property and would allow the private property owner to prohibit a license holder or anyone from carrying a weapon on his or her property. The bill would also make it harder for applicants who have judged mentally incompetent to stand trial, found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity or have been involuntarily committee for mental health treatment to obtain gun carry licenses.

The bill’s sponsors dropped the “campus carry” provision after a compromise that would allow the presidents of individual colleges and universities to decide whether weapons could be legally carried on campus was declared unconstitutional by the Office of Legislative Counsel, citing a potential “improper delegation of legislative authority,” which would violate the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. HB 875 was referred to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee for its consideration.

Meanwhile, legislation now pending in the House Health & Human Services Committee would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Georgia in certain circumstances. HB 885 was narrowly drafted to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis oil, a marijuana derivative, to treat seizure disorders in children.

The proposal is supported by the Medical Association of Georgia and has received generally positive response from the public about the medical uses of marijuana to effectively treat patients with certain illnesses.

The proposed legislation deals only with a particular strand of cannabis, called “Charlotte’s Web.” It is low in THC (the compound that makes a user “high”) and very high in CBD (the medical component). “Charlotte’s Web” is applied orally in an oil based form and is not smoked. In the only published study on the treatment, significant seizure reductions have been seen in 85 percent of patients.

HB 885 includes tight restrictions and regulations for physician management and is limited in scope to individuals with seizure disorders. The medication would be applied in an oil-based formula orally, intravenously or by pill form, not in dry form. I will keep you posted on the progress of this legislation in the weeks ahead.


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