The General Assembly returned to the Capitol Jan. 27 for the third week of the 2020 legislative session. We spent more time in our committees and subcommittees to carefully review proposed legislation and hear testimonies from area experts.

As we go through the legislative session, some of the legislation that is introduced is the result of work that we do in study committees, councils and commissions that hold meetings over the summer.

After the 2019 legislative session, my colleagues and I spent time studying several important issues that impact our state to prepare for the 2020 session. House Resolution 37 was adopted last session and established the Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics for the 2019 calendar year. The commission was authorized to analyze and recommend comprehensive public policy that would support our freight and logistics industries. Over the course of several meetings, the commission heard from industry experts and worked to identify ways to move freight more efficiently to spur economic growth and job creation in our state. We also adopted House Resolution 214 that reauthorized the House Rural Development Council, and over the last year, the council continued its work to find solutions to improve economic opportunities in rural areas of the state.

Finally, House Resolution 589 was adopted in 2019 to create the House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality to study the state’s high maternal mortality rate and issues that impact maternal health. Each of these groups issued in-depth final reports that included policy recommendations, which will guide us as we craft sound and effective legislation this session. Some of these recommendations were presented in committees this week, and several pieces of legislation have already been introduced this session as a result of their work.

The House Transportation Committee approved another important legislative measure this week that was a recommendation of the Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics. House Bill 820 would establish the Georgia Freight Railroad Program within the Department of Transportation (DOT), and this vital program would enhance the state's investment in our freight rail system, which handles approximately 30 percent of all freight in Georgia.

The House Rural Development Council also submitted several legislative recommendations that would continue to support communities and businesses in rural Georgia. In 2019, the council met 10 times in five rural areas of the state to develop its proposals for the 2020 session. The council’s recommendations include supporting our agriculture industry, which is our state’s largest industry, as well as expanding funding for rural broadband deployment and addressing mapping issues that currently over estimate the amount of broadband coverage across the state. The council also proposed solutions for providing adequate health care by creating tax incentives for rural physicians and developing a state-funded residency program to bring health care workers to rural areas. Since its inception in 2017, the council has passed a number of bills to help rural Georgia and provided incredible insight on how to best support our rural communities, and it will continue to do so through the 2020 calendar year.

Members of the House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality spent several months last year developing ideas and strategies to decrease and prevent maternal deaths in Georgia. The study committee’s final report includes several of these strategies, such as extending Georgia’s Medicaid coverage for pregnant and postpartum women and introducing legislation that would mandate a postmortem examination for any maternal death. The study committee also seeks to increase accessibility to health care for pregnant and postpartum women through telehealth services. Maternal health will remain a top priority in the House during the 2020 session.

Thursday, Gov. Kemp signed the first major piece of legislation of the 2020 session. House Bill 276 was passed via a conference committee report during the first week of session and allows the state to collect taxable revenue from marketplace facilitators whose online platforms or apps are used to sell goods or services. The new revenue will be collected from marketplace facilitators who collect in excess of $100,000 or more annually. This new law will go into effect on April 1 and will help level the playing field for small brick-and-mortar businesses that currently have sales tax charged to their products.

Next week is sure to be even busier at the State Capitol as we enter into the fourth week of the legislative session. We will continue to take up legislation in our committees and on the House floor in the coming weeks, so I encourage you to provide me with your input and thoughts on any proposed legislation that is important to you. You are always welcome to visit your Capitol office, which is located at 228, anytime. You can also reach me at your Capitol office at 404-656-5099 or by email at tom.mccall@house.ga.gov.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

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