2013 Capitol Update – Week 3 – Wiretaps, Marijuana and Medicaid

 Archbishop Gregory Brett

It was my great pleasure this past Tuesday to introduce Archbishop Wilton Gregory as our Chaplain of the Day in the House on Catholic Day at the Capitol.

This week at the Cap

The House reconvened this week and considered a number of major issues affecting Georgia in committee hearings including ethics reform, auto title fees, and others. Legislation reaching the House floor this week addressed wiretapping, synthetic marijuana, and funding for our state’s Medicaid program. Each received favorable passage by the House and move on during this legislative session.

Representative Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) presented House Bill 55, to allow superior court judges to issue a warrant with statewide application. This legislation is particularly compelling because modern technology makes it easier than ever for criminal enterprises to extend beyond one community 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.

House Bill 57, introduced by Representative Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) protects Georgians from synthetic marijuana and narcotic “bath salts.” These designer drugs can cause extreme paranoia, suicidal tendencies, hallucinations, or death. 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 House also approved HB 57 with near unanimous support, so it too will now go to the Senate for consideration.

On Friday, the House passed Senate Bill 24, providing much needed funding for Georgia’s Medicaid program, which provides healthcare 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. I voted in favor of SB 24, the most difficult vote I have cast as your Representative. Our Medicaid system is broken and on an unsustainable path. While SB 24 props up the program a while longer, it does not solve the long-term deficiencies. Recognizing these problems, HR 107 creates a Joint Study Committee on Medicaid Reform to determine future actions to address Georgia’s growing need and declining revenues. SB 24 has now passed both the Senate and House and awaits the Governor’s signature.

HB 159 Private Property Protection Bill

I have again introduced legislation that upon becoming law will remove non-tax fees from your property tax bills. I believe taxes and only taxes should appear on property tax bills. Originally introduced in 2011 with nearly 60 co-signers, the proposal has additional support from Realtors, Mortgage Bankers, and Americans for Prosperity among others. Please click the link to learn more about HB 159 and its’ benefits to you.

HB 159 link to legislation

HB 159 was previously HB 291 link to summary

As always, I remain appreciative that you allow me to serve as your state Representative. I encourage you to contact me with any comments or questions you have about the legislation being considered at the state Capitol.  You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-0254 or on my cell at 404-966-5804 or via email at brett.harrell@house.ga.gov.

Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your representative,

Brett Harrell