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Highlights from a busy session
Hitchens Bill
State Rep. Bill Hitchens

The 2015 legislative session has concluded and much sound legislation was researched, deliberated and passed for the betterment of our state. I will highlight the ones that most significantly affect the livelihood of Georgia families.

Each year, the budget is given careful consideration with education needs being a high priority. With this in mind, the budget was passed with $530 million earmarked for kindergarten through 12th grade education provisions including providing for the increase in school enrollment along with the construction and renovation of schools. This allocation also allows for a broadband internet system to enhance instruction and learning. Our population continues to grow and we must adequately supply our schools with quality educators and equipment. An investment in our schools is an investment in the next generation to be productive members of society.

Our state has a reputation for being fiscally responsible and this budget allocation properly equips education needs so that our children’s potential will not be limited. As a grandfather, it brings me joy to see children live up to their capabilities and I want this for all Georgians.

In health care news, Haleigh’s Hope Act, or HB 1, was legislation that received much attention this session and one that I co-sponsored because it balances responsibility with helping suffering Georgians. HB 1 will allow the use of low-THC derived from cannabis oil for the treatment of chronic illnesses such as cancer, MS, ALS, chronic seizure disorders, Parkinson’s , Crohn’s, mitochondrial and sickle cell diseases. This legislation does not make Georgia a “medical marijuana state” and because the bill was written carefully, we can rest assured that the use of cannabis oil cannot be exploited for recreational purposes.

As a protective measure to ensure further responsibility, the Department of Public Health would oversee patient registration and physician oversight. We heard testimony from family members whose children were experiencing between 100-200 seizures in one day and how they traveled to other states to receive this treatment. These families celebrated the passing of this legislation as the treatment has proven to greatly alleviate seizures. I am pleased that this medicinal treatment will be available for those who suffer from debilitating diseases and may now have a better quality of life.

There was more healthcare legislation passed that was a victory for Georgians. SB 1 prohibits insurance companies from discontinuing physician-prescribed services to those with terminal illnesses. And HB 429, known as Ava’s Law, provides insurance coverage for children with autism.

The session also addressed the protection of children when HB 17, the Hidden Predator Act, was passed. Currently, a victim of child sexual abuse has only five years after they’ve turned 18 to pursue justice. This legislation opens a two-year window of discovery for cases after July 1, 2015 and a retroactive window from this same date to July 1, 2017 to anyone who has a claim and was shut out of the court system under Georgia’s current short statute of limitations. Child sexual abuse is a horror that no child should experience and most victims know the perpetrator but don’t identify their abusers until adulthood. This legislation will never take away the emotional torment but will at least give victims a path to justice.

Regarding the protection of our senior citizens, HB 72 protects elderly and disabled adults from abuse and financial exploitation. This legislation pursues individuals who unscrupulously target seniors, through identity theft and other means, in order to steal their social security and other benefits. This is also sound legislation that protects people who are most vulnerable from underhanded victimization. I am proud that the legislature values the elderly and that this safeguard is for their protection.

Thank you for allowing me to represent you! Although the legislative session has concluded, your comments and concerns are always important to me. Please continue to keep in touch with me at (404) 656-0178 or at