Legislature starting to wind down

Published 4:18 pm Monday, April 4, 2011

Thursday, March 31, marked legislative day 37, leaving only three legislative days in the current 40-day session.

Since first starting in January, we have been hard at work introducing, reviewing and voting on legislation, but there is still much work to be done before the session ends on April 14. Much of the legislation this week involved bills that create a safer and more prosperous Georgia.

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The following pieces of legislation will bring you up to date.

Senate Bill 36 strives to improve public health and safety by helping doctors and pharmacists identify prescription drug abusers. Currently, Georgia physicians do not have the ability to know if their patients are obtaining similar prescriptions from other doctors. This lack of information enables patients to pursue multiple prescriptions for similar medications from different doctors. This problem not only results in abuse of these medications that results in patient overdoses, but it also results in some patients abusing the system so that they can illegally sell the addictive medications on the street.

SB 36 ends this by giving doctors and pharmacists the tools they need to stop the abuse. Specifically, SB 36 creates an electronic database of the prescribing and dispensing of Schedule II, III, IV, and V controlled substances in Georgia. This information is already recorded by the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, which receives all prescriptions once they are filled by pharmacists. SB 36 simply allows that information to be put into a database that will only be accessible by doctors and pharmacists who would have to use a secure password. As a result, doctors and pharmacists will be better able to identify prescription drug abusers. In turn, abusers will be able to get the help they need and prescription drugs will have less of a chance to end up in the wrong hands with potentially dangerous outcomes.

Senate Bill 94 is another piece of legislation aimed at increasing the safety of Georgians. This bill creates a limited exception to criminal liability for service providers that knowingly harbor runaway youth. The exception allows the service provider to offer the runaway child necessary care and protection without the risk of criminal liability. To fall under this exception, the provider must have reasonable cause to believe the minor has been abused or neglected and must report the child abuse. Additionally, the service provider must either attempt to inform a guardian of the child or contact the Division of Family services within 72 hours after assisting the child. Further, these service provider organizations must register with the Department of Human Services or a child welfare agency. Ultimately, this measure will allow young victims of abuse to receive the help they need without fear of being turned away by organizations limited by legal liability.

This week we also passed Senate Resolution 312, legislation that will help promote greater economic growth in our state. This measure enacts the General Assembly’s support for the harbor deepening efforts in Savannah. With the expansion of the Panama Canal expected in 2014, this joint resolution is necessary because ports in the Southeast must be deepened so that they can accommodate larger container ships that require deepwater ports. These large ships have already begun looking for accessible ports along the U.S. East Coast and will bring jobs and economic development in their wake. Georgia is working to secure its place in this growing global market through harbor deepening efforts in Savannah. To assist in securing out of state funding for the project, the General Assembly passed SR 312 to let the world know that we fully support the continued growth and economic well-being of our ports.

Lastly, I would like to update you on the new schedule for the remaining three days of session.

Under House Resolution 791, the House and Senate revised the schedule for the last three remaining days of session. As a result, we will still break during the first full week in April, which will allow us time to hear your questions and concerns about pending legislation before the final three legislative days. After the break, the House will resume session on Monday, April 11, at 1 p.m., which will be legislative day 38. The last two days will then fall on Tuesday, April 12, and Thursday, April 14.

As we continue to review and vote on legislation, please use this last remaining time to let met know of any concerns that you might have regarding our state. Though the legislative session may be coming to an end, there are still many issues left to debate. I need to know your opinions on these issues so that I can effectively represent you and your family. You can reach me at my Capitol office at (404) 656-0152.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Rep. Gene Maddox