News from under the Gold Dome
by Whitley Clifton | April 11, 2019 4:44 pm
by REP. BUTCH PARRISH, 158th District
On Tuesday, April 2, we returned to Capitol Hill one last time for Legislative Day 40 before we adjourned Sine Die for the 2019 legislative session. Under the Gold Dome, Legislative Day 40 is our longest day of the year and is often referred to as “Sine Die,” which is a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for further meeting.” We reconvened Tuesday morning and passed more than 80 pieces of legislation that will now go to Governor Brian Kemp’s desk for final approval. I have highlighted a few of them below.
Throughout this legislative session, the House has supported various initiatives to improve safety in Georgia public schools. We passed SB 15 last week which would create the “Keeping Georgia’s Schools Safe Act.” SB 15 to improve school safety. SB 15 requires:
• Public schools to conduct, evaluate and implement a safety plan for a school to effectively respond to threats of violence, mass casualty incidents and other acts of terrorism, natural disasters and hazardous materials or radiological accidents before January 1, 2021
• Reevaluate their school safety plan every five years
• Submit safety plan to the Department of Education (DOE) after their local law enforcement agency has approved the plan
• DOE’s website would keep an updated list of schools that have submitted school safety plans, as well as a list of schools that have not met this requirement
• Designate a single individual, typically the school’s principal, as a school safety coordinator
• Designate an agent with the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center to track and share information that could help our schools develop strategies to combat threats of violence
• Require schools to use and promote a statewide mobile application, the “See Something Send Something” app, to anonymously report suspicious activity or potential threats
House Resolution 48 seeks to protect Georgia’s fishing and tourism industries by opposing oil and gas exploration and drilling activities, including seismic testing, along Georgia’s coastal waters. Georgia’s coastline stretches over 368,000 acres of saltmarsh that provide essential habitats for our fisheries and provides our state with a robust fishing and tourism industry, which supports Georgia’s economy with approximately 21,000 jobs and more than $1.1 billion of Georgia’s gross domestic product. Drilling activities could result in spills, which could have detrimental effects on Georgia’s fishing and coastal tourism industries for years, and because offshore drilling requires onshore infrastructure, such as pipelines or refineries, this industry could bring unwanted changes to Georgia’s coastal landscapes and communities.
House Bill 282. HB 282 would require law enforcement agencies to maintain physical identity-related evidence, such as DNA evidence, of the perpetrator of an alleged sexual assault until the case is solved. This evidence from a perpetrator would be preserved 30 years from the arrest date, or seven years from completion of their sentence, whichever occurs last, and if there are no arrests, this crucial evidence would be preserved for 50 years. Currently in Georgia, sexual assault evidence is only stored up to ten years from the date of an alleged sexual assault. This measure would further improve standards to preserve vital evidence and protect victims of sexual assault.
Georgia is proud to call itself a military-friendly state, and we approved a measure that would honor veterans living in Georgia. Senate Bill 103 would require airports owned or operated by a county, city, or other government entity to establish at least two priority parking spaces for veterans.
Another impactful measure that received final passage just minutes before we adjourned Sine Die was House Bill 324, or the “Georgia’s Hope Act.” HB 324 would allow for the cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensing of low THC oil with a lawful valid license issued by the Low THC Oil License Oversight Board to allow registered patients to obtain low THC oil in Georgia.
Currently in Georgia, patients with certain medical conditions, such as terminal cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, severe autism among others, can register with the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) THC Oil Patient Registry to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of medical cannabis oil that contains up to five percent THC. While we have decriminalized the possession of this oil, these patients cannot legally purchase this oil in Georgia, and therefore, patients must still break the law to purchase low THC oil from other states. To address this issue and provide methods for patients to access this oil HB 324 would:
• Authorize the DPH to issue six private licenses to grow cannabis or hemp products to produce low THC oil. These products would only be grown in controlled, indoor environments, and the owners or operators of these facilities would be required to demonstrate their ability to safely and securely produce low THC oil products.
• HB 324 would also require each production licensees to establish, utilize, and maintain a sophisticated tracking system for all phases of production to allow for real-time department access.
• Low THC oil products would be dispensed through approved pharmacies, but the Low THC Oil License Oversight Board would work closely with the State Board of Pharmacy to issue a private dispensary license in order to reach more Georgians while maintaining safe dispensing practices.
• This legislation would allow two universities to obtain a research growing license to better study, examine and determine the benefits and risks of cannabis and hemp production as this new industry grows in the state. There are currently more than 8,000 patients registered with the THC Oil Patient Registry, and as this treatment becomes more accessible, the number of registered patients on the THC Oil Patient Registry will likely increase. For this reason, this bill would also create a two-year and four-year disparity study to monitor the participation rates of this treatment and to study the participation of minority demographics to ensure equal opportunity in receiving low THC oil.
This groundbreaking legislation would help thousands of registered Georgians who suffer from serious medical conditions by establishing a secure, regulated and legal way to obtain this vital treatment.
Since the 2019 legislative has come to an end, Gov. Kemp will begin reviewing legislation that received final passage in the House and Senate chambers. Gov. Kemp will now have the opportunity to sign or veto legislation over the next 40 days, and any legislation that has not been signed or vetoed will automatically become law.
Now that the Georgia General Assembly has adjourned Sine Die for the 2019 legislative session, I will be spending more time back home in our district, where I look forward to continuing to serve you and your family.
I hope you will look for my next newsletter with all the highlights!
Chairman: House Health Sub-Committee on Appropriations
Member: Economic Development, Banks and Banking, Rules
I remain dedicated to serving your interests as your state representative, and I hope that you will contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the 2019 legislative session or with any proposals or recommendations for future legislation.
You can also stay in touch by visiting our website at www.house.ga.gov to watch a live stream of the House in action, as well as archived committee meetings, and review legislation that we are considering.
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Capitol address: 245 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
Capitol phone number: 404-463-2247
District address: 132 Victory Drive, Swainsboro, GA 30401
District phone number: 478-237-3838
Thank you for allowing me to be your representative.