Your Legislature reconvened for its the ninth week of the session on March 9. Crossover week, as it’s called, has certainly been unprecedented with the national threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Your House worked on Thursday - Crossover Day, from 8 a.m. until after midnight to move legislation forward for the Senate process and for the House to receive the Senate’s ‘as passed’ legislation.
When I describe the week as unprecedented, this is first time your Legislature has suspended action for this session without a time certain, meaning we will reconvene when this medical emergency — and the unknown surrounding it, has been corrected.
Adding to these actions, we were called back into a Special Session on March 16, wherein the Legislature voted to grant the governor certain emergency powers, per State Constitution Article V, Section II, Paragraph VII, to deal with the current health crisis by Declaration of a Public Health Emergency. These powers are broad, sweeping and specific and provide a 30-day window to deal with matters to protect the public’s welfare. Action taken by the General Assembly required a two-thirds vote of members of both houses and provides that we be called back into Special Session on April 15 to re-evaluate the need to extend these powers. Anything less would have set a dangerous precedent of allowing any Governor to extend these powers on their own independent decision.
The events of late around this pandemic virus affect many nations, and the ease at which it is spreading has caused great anxiety with our citizens. I suggest to all to use common sense and heed health care advisories about congregation and social distancing where possible. Sunshine and fresh air are natural disinfectants!
I’ll briefly touch on several other issues addressed last week, with more specifics to come in future reports.
•The House passed HB 793, the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, and awaits Senate action when we return.
•An adopted conference committee report to HB 792 gave final passage to the Amended FY 2020 Budget. The amended budget restored the House priorities of providing funds to public health, public libraries, and fully funding QBE, adding $100 million in special funding for COVID-19 (coronavirus) demands and many other critical services.
•HB 1114 passed, allowing the Department of Community Health to pursue a Medicaid waiver to extend postpartum coverage for mothers with life threatening health issues.
•HB 949 passed to lower personal income tax to a flat rate of 5.375 percent.
•HB 913 passed, strengthening the state’s adoption laws by clearing up a number of antiquated rules and legal provisions, building on the House’s previous efforts to overhaul, streamline and expand adoption opportunities.
•As a point of interest to the citizens of Franklin and Madison counties, HB 857 passed the House unanimously and is now awaiting Senate action. This bill would ban the burning of creosote-treated railroad ties in bio-mass power generating plants.
•All local acts concerning senior homestead exemptions are on hold until the General Assembly returns from suspension.
I am honored to serve you and, as always, appreciate your thoughts and interest. Please feel free to contact me via phone at 404-656-0276 (Legislative Office) or 706-206-6500 (Cell) or email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Powell represents the 32nd District, which includes Franklin, Hart and a portion of Madison counties, in the Georgia House of Representatives.