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Posted: March 20, 2011 12:00 a.m.

House gets busy as session winds down

The pace on the House floor continued at a fast clip last week as we closed in on crossover day.

There were floor votes on 27 bills and resolutions, to include agreeing to a final version of the supplemental 2011 budget and passing the fiscal 2012 budget.

HB 47

 

seeks to reduce health care costs through increased competition.

The bill would allow insurance companies that are already licensed in Georgia to offer health care policies that they provide in other states. Some states mandate coverage of fewer services than Georgia does, so this bill would make less expensive policies available (and just to address some misinformation being spread, mammograms are mandated by all states, so no policy would exclude them).

Current law only allows policies that contain all of the Georgia mandates. The bill would require very clear disclosure of differences to potential customers, so they can make a fully informed choice.

Also, all firms and policies would remain under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Commissioner of Insurance.

The bill passed the House last year, but bogged down in the Senate. I voted in favor. It passed 111 to 47.

HB 175

 

would direct the Ga. Department of Education to create a clearinghouse through which school systems may offer online, computer-based courses to students of other school systems, as well as to home schooled or private school students.

The idea is that students in rural areas could benefit from the wider selection of courses that larger systems can offer.

The department would set standard fee schedules for such online or "virtual" courses.

I think this is a great way of leveraging the Internet to enrich education, so I voted in favor. The bill passed 165 to 1.

HB 227

 

would let school systems authorize staff members to administer auto-injectable epinephrine ("epi-pens") to treat students suffering life-threatening allergic reactions. Staff members who assist a student this way would be granted "good Samaritan" immunity from lawsuits.

I voted "yes," and the bill 159 to 5.

HB 274

 

is the fiscal 2012 budget. This is our third tough budget in a row.

Even though we now project a 2 percent increase in revenue, the loss of almost $2 billion in federal stimulus funds still means an overall 4 precent reduction from the budget we passed last year.

The budget handles this reduction by cutting most direct arms of state government by an average of 7 percent.

Most K-12 spending is a continuation of the 2011 budget, with cuts to direct classroom instruction being held to roughly 1 percent.

Non-instructional areas will see the end of a big chunk of one-time stimulus dollars.

Overall, this budget brings our per capita, inflation adjusted spending to 20 percent less than it was even during the last recession in 2003. The efforts made to keep our state in trim have meant that we remain one of only eight states that are well managed enough to retain a AAA rating from all three bond rating agencies, which will be a great asset for Georgia in the future.

It looks like this is the low point of the recession for the state government, since revenues always lag performance of the economy.

We saw a moderate-length debate. The minority caucus disagreed with some of the allocations within the budget, and the suggestion was raised that the budget could have been balanced by raising taxes rather than cutting.

I was with the supporters, and the budget passed 132 to 33.

On Tuesday, Chiefs Stacey Cotton of Covington and Clark Miller of Oxford were here for Chief’s Day, and I enjoyed the chance to say hello.

 

Contact Rep. Doug Holt (R-Social Circle) at (404) 656-0152, or e-mail to doug@DougHolt.org.

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