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Taking on spice and bath salts
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Last week we welcomed many local friends to Atlanta, continuing the tradition by celebrating Effingham Day at the Capitol on Monday. Informational meetings with several key state leaders were conducted, allowing for questions and informing these decision-makers of local needs.

On Thursday, members of the Screven County Development Authority were welcomed to the House floor to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Screven IDA’s formation. This milestone was recognized by a resolution and comments from Dorie Bacon, the IDA’s executive director.

The House heard and passed several important pieces of legislation this week. House Bill 55 would allow superior court judges to issue a warrant with statewide application. To issue such a statewide warrant, the superior court judge must have jurisdiction over a particular crime under investigation. HB 55 is written in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling that placed a multitude of wiretaps in jeopardy of being found unconstitutional.

The problem is particularly compelling because modern technology makes it easier than ever for criminal enterprises to extend beyond one small area or jurisdiction. Judges, therefore, need the ability to grant statewide wiretaps, so that law enforcement can launch effective investigations against large-scale organized crime. The House approved this legislation with near unanimous support, so it will now go to the Senate for consideration.

We approved House Bill 57 to protect Georgians from the growing problem of synthetic marijuana and narcotic “bath salts.” These designer drugs can cause extreme paranoia, suicidal tendencies, hallucinations, or even death in some cases. HB 57 helps remove these dangerous substances from store shelves by expanding the list of substances that are considered illegal by the state of Georgia.

The General Assembly passed similar legislation last year, but the makers of these drugs constantly change their chemical formulas to avoid the newly-passed laws. Consequently, HB 57 is needed to add the most recently developed components that give these substances their narcotic effects to the state list of Schedule I narcotics.

The final bill the House passed this week, Senate Bill 24, will provide much-needed funding for Georgia’s Medicaid program, which provides health care for indigent women and children, as well as elderly patients. This legislation essentially continues a funding mechanism first created in 2010 to cover a Medicaid shortfall that was in the hundreds of millions.

The General Assembly enacted the 2010 mechanism after hospitals asked to enter into a payment agreement with the state in order to provide a funding stream that could be used to draw down additional federal Medicaid funds. This self-imposed provider payment allowed the state to eliminate a 10.25 percent Medicaid rate cut that would have been devastating for Georgia hospitals and physicians. In fact, this financial program is so successful that 49 states and the District of Columbia now have similar provider payment agreements.

I always welcome you in-person or your views at the Capitol. Please feel free to call my Capitol office at (404) 656-5099 or email me at to tell me what you think about the issues facing our state.