House approves public assistance requirements
On March 3, the House of Representatives voted to approve HB 138, which would prohibit the use of electronic benefit transfer cards, issued as part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Family program, in liquor stores or adult bookstores or for the purchase of lottery tickets, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, pornographic material, firearms, ammunition, vacation services, tattoos, body piercings, jewelry, salon services, gambling, gift cards or payment of government fines or fees.
Legislation that would require drug testing for food stamp applicants based on reasonable suspicion – including demeanor, missed appointments, arrests, employment issues, etc., also won House approval. Under HB 772, any person who fails a drug test would be ineligible to receive food stamps, but the bill provides for reapplication as well as children’s food stamps.
March 3 was the 30th day of the session, which by rule is the final day for legislation to pass either the House or Senate in time to be considered by the other chamber this year. House members were in session until well into the evening and approved several major bills, including the following:
• HB 702, which would authorize the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds.
• HB 707, which would prohibit state employees or agencies from using state resources to support the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The proposal would also prohibit state employees from voicing their support for the federal health care law during working hours or through the use of government-funded resources.
• HB 885, which would allow research into the use of cannabis oil, a derivative of marijuana, to treat some medical disorders. The program would be limited to patients certified to the board by selected academic medical centers and pediatric neurologists as being cancer patients, glaucoma patients and seizure disorder patients.
• HB 990, which would prohibit any department, board or representative of the state from expanding the eligibility requirements for Medicaid without approval of the General Assembly. This prohibition does not include increases as a result of cost-of-living increases in the federal poverty level.
• HB 1080, which would authorize the placement of a privately funded statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the grounds of the State Capitol or in another prominent place.
All of these measures go to the Senate for its consideration.
On March 4, the House gave final approval to the Stacey Nicole English Act, which is intended to prohibit law enforcement agencies from mandating a minimum waiting period for filing a missing persons report. Response to the report remains in the discretion of law enforcement. SB 23 also defines a “medically endangered person” and adds those to the provisions of the Mattie’s Call law, which is law enforcement-alert system to located missing, elderly or otherwise disabled persons. SB 23 now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.
Other Senate-originated legislation approved by the House this week includes:
• SB 65, which allows licensed professional counselors to admit a person for involuntary emergency evaluation of mental illness. The bill also allows licensed professional counselors to admit a person for involuntary treatment for alcohol or drug abuse.
• SB 128, which revises the scope of practice definition of “marriage and family therapy” to include the diagnoses of emotional and mental problems and conditions.
• An amended version of SB 207, which would add private home care providers to the list of persons who may be disqualified from employment when discharged as a felony offender under a first-offender plea.
• SB 273, which directs the Department of Public Health to establish the Maternal Mortality Review Committee to review maternal deaths.
• SB 301, which disallows prohibitions on wood construction in public schools if the project is otherwise in compliance with state minimum standard codes.
• SR 736, which applies for a convention of the states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
The candidate qualifying period for the 2014 elections in Georgia came to an end on March 7, and I was pleased to have qualified for re-election without opposition to another term as your State Representative. I appreciate the continued support of the people of House District 176, and I look forward to continuing to serve you at the State Capitol.