April 2 marked “Sine Die” — the final day of the 2019 Legislative Session. Shortly before midnight, Speaker David Ralston adjourned the House after nearly 14 hours of legislative business and hundreds of votes on various pieces of legislation.
Once again, I am incredibly proud of the work of my caucus in advancing policies aimed at keeping Georgia’s children safe, supporting our educators, advancing access to quality, affordable health care, and maintaining our state’s designation as the best place in the nation to work, live and raise a family.
We began the 2019 Session by passing a strong Amended FY 2019 budget which contained a number of necessary school safety measures, including: $8.4 million in additional funding for the Depart-ment of Behav-ioral Health and Develop-mental Disa-bilities to expand the Georgia Apex Program, which provides support counselors in high schools for students suffering from mental health issues and $69.4 million to provide school security grants of $30,000 each for 2,314 schools across Georgia.
On Sine Die, we continued our work on school safety by adopting Senate Bill 15, which requires public schools to conduct site threat assessments and submit a school safety plan to the Department of Education after a local law enforcement agency has approved the plan. Together, I believe these policies will make a real difference in preventing future violence in our schools.
Further, the 2019 Session saw the General Assembly make a tremendous investment in our teachers: beginning July 1, 2019, teachers and certified school personnel, including counselors, social workers and others, will receive a $3,000 pay raise. This investment will ensure our state is able to continue to attract and retain the best and brightest educators.
This session also marked a continuation of efforts to strengthen Georgia’s health care infrastructure across our state. Beyond empowering Gov. Kemp to pursue two Medicaid waivers to enable our state to implement innovative solutions to address the unique health challenges facing Georgia’s most vulnerable populations, we enacted legislation — HB 321 and HB 186 — reforming Georgia’s Certificate of Need (CON) laws, which regulate health care investments across our state. We required additional financial transparency by our non-profit hospitals, in order to provide accountability, extended the rural hospital tax credit until 2024, and loosened CON regulations on smaller hospitals who want to expand services.
Besides addressing burdensome regulation in health care, we also worked to ensure Georgians have access to the most effective treatments for disease possible. House Bill 63, known as the “step therapy measure,” ensures patients can access the right treatments when their doctors prescribe them – not when the insurance company wants to pay for them. In addition, both the House and Senate also came to an agreement on House Bill 324, which will provide for the in-state cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensing of low-THC cannabis oil for treatment of seizure disorders, cancer, and other approved conditions.
As we work hard in the days ahead to strengthen Georgia families and businesses, please do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail (Jon.Burns@House.Ga.Gov) or engage on Facebook (www.FB.com/JonBurnsGA) with your feedback. It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly where he serves as the House majority leader.