The House hit the first of two crescendos last week that we see every session. Reaching crossover day, we had considered 63 bills and resolutions. Here are some of the more interesting among them.
HB 33 seeks to apply zero-based budgeting to the state government.
The General Assembly passed a zero-based budgeting measure last year, but Governor Perdue felt it would be too cumbersome and expensive for state agencies to comply with. This version would require that agencies undergo a zero-based review once every six years, and would apply to the Board of Regents (the University System) as well as to the normal agencies of the state. I supported the bill, and it passed by 126 to 45 in a not-quite-party-line vote.
HB 248 deals with "health care sharing" arrangements. These are agreements, primarily seen among members of the same denomination of faith, in which members voluntarily help each other with health care costs. It is a way of "pooling" and thus averaging out those costs. Various versions of such agreements have been around for decades. Some states in the nation have begun treating these groups as if they were insurance companies, and subjecting them to the full array of insurance regulations. They have done this even though these groups are completely voluntary agreements solely between private citizens. While Georgia's insurance commissioners have not been interested in following other state's lead, this bill will make sure a future commissioner would not be able to do so. I agree that we should respect these private arrangements, and voted in support. The bill passed unanimously.
HB 371 seeks to ensure that state and local governments cannot take insurance out on active or retired employees without the proceeds being payable to those individuals. Last year, a bill was offered that would have allowed the state to take out life insurance policies on employees and retirees with the state being the beneficiary. The premium would have been paid out of retirement allocations. Needless to say, that bill raised a storm of controversy. HB 371 is thus intended to prevent such a possibility. I agreed this is a necessary step, and it passed unanimously.
HB 415 revises jury selection processes in Georgia to make the selection process broader. Potential juror lists will be compiled from vital records and drivers' license lists, in addition to the long relied on registered voter lists. Apart from simply being more fair, broadening jury selection will also make juries selected in this state less vulnerable to constitutional challenge. I voted "yes", and the bill passed by 171 to 1.
HB 461 would enroll Georgia in a health care compact that could be extended to other states. Compacts among the state have been created on other topics, with over 200 still being in force. As sovereign bodies, the states retain the power of setting up such legal agreements among themselves, sometimes just among a few, other times among many states. Such agreements can be submitted to the U.S. Congress, and if passed, supercede federal law. This bill seeks to set up a compact whereby member states would reserve the right to suspend federal rules and law on health care. It would also require that Congress appropriate monies equal to total present federal health care spending in member states to be directly distributed to those states, with no strings attached. The bill saw a long debate, even though I suspect most folks knew how they were going to vote beforehand. I supported the measure, and it passed by a nearly party line 108 to 63.
On Thursday, Lee Lundy was at the Capitol for a meeting we held on issues affecting the water treatment industry. I appreciate his time in helping work on these concerns.
Contact Rep. Doug Holt (R-Social Circle) at (404) 656-0152, or e-mail to doug@DougHolt.org.