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Health care gets attention in final bills
Hitchens Bill
State Rep. Bill Hitchens

Last week the 2016 legislative session adjourned “sine die” which is a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing.”

But before we adjourned much legislation was deliberated, debated and passed regarding another broad range of topics. Most importantly, an agreement was met by the House and Senate and the budget was approved. Since this is such an intricate document that affects so many facets of our lives, next week’s update will specifically address this legislation with a focus on components related to our district.

Three bills passed concerning health care. Last year, one of the most widely publicized bills was “Haleigh’s Hope Act” which allows the use of cannibas oil for people with chronic seizure disorders and other illnesses. SB 145, “Haleigh’s Hope Act Part II,” was approved this week and expands the use of this medicinal property for additional illnesses including autism, HIV, Tourette’s syndrome and terminal illnesses with a life expectancy of less than two years.

Although still considered controversial by some in our community, it is important to note that the cannabidiol oil used for medicinal purposes does not contain more than 5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, the addictive property used in marijuana. The use of this medicine will give great relief to thousands in our state.

SB 271 allows legal counsel for a patient who has a mental illness arriving at an emergency facility and the responsibility of the facility to provide written notice to the patient that he or she has the right of such counsel. If the person is not able to afford legal counsel, the court will appoint one.

SB 1 passed overwhelmingly and allows for health care insurance coverage for autism patients. The treatment for an autism patient can be very expensive and this is a great victory for families across our state that cares for a child on the autism spectrum.

All three of these bills will benefit those who suffer from difficult physical or mental illnesses and exemplify sound legislation that cares for Georgians.

With regard to families, sometimes there is a culmination of circumstances that overwhelmingly impedes parents’ ability to care for their children. HB 887 provides a statutory method for giving temporary authority to someone who has a significant relationship with the child or children without the expense of a court proceeding or the involvement of the Division of Family and Children Services. This relative or close family friend will provide the support and care the child needs and deserves for the duration of the difficulty.

Two pieces of legislation passed concerning education. SB 329 states that a local Board of Education may award a high school diploma to a student who has completed certain coursework on the ninth and 10th grade level and completes an associate degree program or technical college diploma program. SB 275 prohibits local boards of education from any policy that would forbid freedom of speech.

There has been much publicity about the right to bear arms both on the national and state level. SB 270 allows any veteran of the armed forces to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Our military men and women are highly-trained individuals and many in our state have traveled extensively to protect our freedoms. It seems only right that our veterans should have the right to carry a concealed personal weapon for their own protection.

Our state welcomes business transactions from around the globe and Georgia truly is an international competitor throughout the world. The General Assembly made a statement last week, however, with SB 327, which states that Georgia will not enter into a contract with any individual or company that boycotts Israel. In addition, the company or individual must present a certification that no boycott will exist for the duration of the contract.

Israel is our ally in the Middle East and in an increasingly precarious position. We must stand with our ally and show our support rather than weaken our relationship by doing business with one who boycotts this nation.

Thank you for supporting me during the legislative session with your calls, emails, and helpful input! It has been my honor to represent you at the state capitol and I did so to the best of my ability. I look forward to seeing you around our district and continuing to serve you.