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Crossover Day closing in
Hitchens Bill
Rep. Bill Hitchens

The Georgia General Assembly returned to the Gold Dome on Feb. 16 for the sixth week of the 2021 legislative session. We spent three productive days in session this week and passed more legislation on the House floor and in our committees.

 By the end of the week, we finished Legislative Day 19, and the halfway point of the session and the important “Crossover Day” deadline are both right around the corner. Two pieces of legislation that I proudly supported are designed to help our children.

One piece of legislation I am most happy about is our effort to reform adoption and foster care laws, and the House overwhelmingly passed one of these measures this week to make several changes to these laws. House Bill 154 would lower the age at which a person can petition for adoption from 25 to 21 years old. It is exceedingly rare for a young adult to try to adopt in our state, but this change in HB 154 would allow an older sibling or another close relative to petition for adoption as an avenue for the child to remain with these family members if it is deemed as the best option. Additionally, this legislation would recognize other state’s adoption processes and clarify venue alternatives for out-of-state adoption proceedings.

 Since the House first modernized and overhauled adoption laws in 2018, the number of adoptions in our state has grown tremendously, while the number of children in foster care continues to decrease. With these important changes in HB 154, even more Georgia children could be adopted and placed in loving homes, including homes with their own family. My family has been a strong believer and in my case, I’m thankful that my mom was adopted by her neighbors who had been caring for her from her birth until her mother passed from tuberculosis.

The House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation which seeks to automatically enroll thousands of Georgia’s most vulnerable children in health insurance. House Bill 163 would require the Georgia Department of Community Health to submit an amendment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement “express lane” eligibility in Medicaid and the PeachCare for Kids Program. Upon federal approval of this plan, the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) would automatically enroll and renew eligible children who have already qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids. There are approximately 120,000 children enrolled in SNAP who are also eligible for our state health insurance programs, yet some of these children miss out on this coverage because they must complete a separate application with the DHS. By eliminating the need for families to submit the same information twice with the DHS, this legislation could close this coverage gap and help ensure that uninsured children receive the health care coverage that they deserve.

We readed the halfway point of the 40-day session Monday and we will continue to work diligently to pass House bills before Day 28, or “Crossover Day,” which is the last day that a House bill can pass in the House Chamber and still be eligible to become law this session.