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Preserving religious freedom for Georgians
Hitchens Bill
State Rep. Bill Hitchens

In the fourth week of the legislative session much of our focus was on issues that affect daily family living. Many in our community are considered the “sandwich generation,” which means they are taking care of children as well as elderly parents. Perhaps this describes your situation.

As you consider the needs of your family, their health care, education, and a myriad of other important decisions the Georgia General Assembly is also deliberating issues of this nature. I will highlight the bills that passed this past week that I believe you will find interesting regarding family life.

HB 649 passed which provides licensure and regulation for lactation consultants. Any person seeking licensure as a lactation specialist much have a certification from the International Board of Lactation Consultants and demonstrate the appropriate education and experience necessary for independent clinical practice.

Many new parents are choosing breastfeeding for their babies and although this is an exciting time in the life of a family, it can also prove to be challenging with the many changes a baby can bring to a home. A licensed lactation consultant will offer the experience necessary to assist breastfeeding mothers and put her mind at ease as she transitions into a new phase in her life.

On the other side of the pendulum the House passed HB 509, a bill that implements initiatives to improve the quality of palliative care in the state. Palliative care differs slightly from hospice in that it is comfort-care offered in a hospital or nursing home for those suffering from life-threatening medical conditions. Hospice care is typically provided in one’s personal residence.

Watching a loved one suffer from an irreversible disease is one of life’s most difficult experiences. This bill ensures that seriously ill Georgians receive the best end of life care available and are treated with dignity while their families receive the medical support they need.

Regarding our teen population, HB 870 was passed which protects the religious expression of high school students. This bill states that any high school that receives state funding cannot participate in an athletic association that prohibits religious expression on the clothing of student athletes. This is good news that supports the U.S. Constitution and an individual’s right for religious freedom. Our youth face much peer pressure now more than ever. It’s good to see a high school student stand up for his or her beliefs and not be intimidated by another person’s opinions. I am pleased to know that the House supported this bill with a vote of 136-25.

Also in the protection of religious freedom, HB 757 passed unanimously stating that religious officials will not be required to perform marriage ceremonies or administer sacraments in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion. I firmly believe that no religious official should be forced to perform any religious ceremony that is in opposition to his or her beliefs. We must continue to protect our religious freedom and the great tenants upon which our country was founded.

The legislative session continues to move forward and as always, your input is invaluable to me. It is a great privilege to serve you in the State House. Please contact me with your thoughts at 404-657-1803 or