Gold Dome Report

Thursday marked the half way point of the 40-day legislative session. There are 10 legislative days left for bills to cross over to the opposite chamber to be eligible for final passage. Below are some additional highlights from this week under the Gold Dome. CALENDAR

Days 21 – 24   Tuesday, February 16 – Friday, February 19

Days 25 – 29   Monday, February 22 – Friday, February 26

Day 30 Monday, February 29

Day 31 Wednesday, March 2

Days 32 – 35   Monday, March 7; Tues, March 8; Thursday, March 10; Friday, March 11

Days 36 – 38   Monday, March 14 – Wednesday, March 16

Day 39 Tuesday, March 22

Day 40 Thursday, March 24



The Senate passed the AFY2016 budget on Wednesday morning by a unanimous vote of 49-0. The budget will now return to the House who can accept the Senate’s changes or insist on their position, in which case a conference committee would be appointed.


The FY 17 Budget is expected to be finished by the House over this weekend and will likely come before the full House Appropriations Committee this upcoming week. GHCA staff will send out alerts regarding changes to our funding and the status of the appropriations act as it moves from House to Senate.



An early draft of GHCA’s “Passive Investor” legislation, designed to diminish the scope of lawsuits aimed at skilled nursing facilities and their owners, has been dropped and assigned the number HB 920.  Representative Trey Kelley (R – Cedartown) has again agreed to serve as the lead author and the bill is expected to be heard Wednesday, February 17th before the Fleming Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.  GHCA staff will be sending out notices when a committee agenda is formally published.





The House Insurance Life and Health Subcommittee met on Monday of this week, taking up HB 306. This piece of legislation, authored by Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), would provide for the conversion of life insurance policies for funding for long-term care services to delay medical assistance. A hearing only, the bill did not move through committee.





The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee also met on Monday. SB 265 (physician agreements not with patient’s exclusion as insurance by Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) was merged into SB 291, also by Sen. Hill. SB 291 includes language to offer tax credits to employers offering HSA eligible major medical plans to employees. These two bills received a hearing only.


SB 203 (provider directories legislation) was heard on Thursday with testimony from consumer advocacy groups, the insurance industry and provider associations. Chairman Bethel delayed action on the bill so that additional amendments could be incorporated into a committee substitute that will likely be heard on Tuesday.




The Senate Health and Human Services Committee too action on the following bills this week:


SB 115, authored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), would allow a physician assistant to administer hydrocodone. An amendment was offered to change the 30-day supply of the prescription to a 15-day supply. The bill passed unanimously through committee.


SB 248, sponsored by Rep. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale), would allow a dental hygienist to perform board certified services without the direct supervision of a dentist. Language from HB 684 (similar legislation) was incorporated into the bill. The following amendments were presented and adopted:

  1. “A dentist licensed in the State of Georgia” was added throughout the bill
  2. A patient seen by a dental hygienist should seek the recommended treatment within 45 days of services. The original language called for a time frame of 90 days
  3. A dentist may only delegate a maximum of 8 hygienists, rather than an unlimited amount
  4. A dentist can only delegate services within 100 miles of their place of business, and only in the State of Georgia


The bill substitute passed out of the committee by a vote of 12-3.


SB 271, authored by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge), aims to change admission into an emergency receiving facility from 60 days to 40 days. The bill passed through committee by substitute.


SB 305, authored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), relates to the Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST). The legislation would require the department to notify the chairpersons and each member of the House and Senate Health and Human Services Committees at least 60 days prior to implementing any modification to the POLST form. The bill passed with a unanimous vote.


SB 314, authored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), would revise language relating to advanced practice nursing. The purpose of the bill is to deter individuals who have not obtained a license from posing as nurses in certain facilities. The bill changes definitions, enforces licensing reinstatements and renewals, and allows for the nursing board to conduct background checks. The bill was passed unanimously by the HHS Committee.


SB 308, also authored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), calls for alternatives for pregnancy protection programs and provides cleanup language and further definition of the current law. The bill passed with one nay vote.


SB 319, authored by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), would revise the definition of professional counseling by adding the word “diagnose” to the current statute. Currently, Medicaid CMOs are refusing to reimburse LPCs for diagnosing patients because of a new federal guideline, despite the fact that LPCs have been diagnosing patients for years. After a lengthy discussion and testimony from individuals who requested that the legislation be amended to prohibit LPCs from performing psychological testing, the bill passed through the committee.


SB 337, sponsored by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry), also passed out of committee. This bill would allow legal residents who are dependents of a military service member and who are absent from the state due to the member’s military service to be added to a data base to indicate the need for medical assistance upon their return.




The House Health and Human Services Committee met on Tuesday afternoon of this week and took up the following bills:


HB 783, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), calls for a yearly update of the controlled substances list. In a meeting last week, the bill was tabled due to significant testimony on the language relating to a “drug” called Kratom. Clarifying language changes were made to the bill and the Kratom language was completely removed. The author aims to obtain additional information and research on Kratom and will potentially bring new language to the committee in 2017. The bill passed through the committee, by substitute, unanimously.


HB 886, authored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), revises provisions relating to employing mails or common carriers to sell, distribute, and deliver prescription drugs. Essentially, the bill removes restrictions and allows pharmacists to deliver drugs safely to patients. CVS testified on behalf of the legislation, and the bill passed through the committee unanimously by substitute.


HB 588, authored by Rep. Valerie Clark (R-Lawrenceville), calls for all entities that sell products containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, utilize an electronic recording device to record the purchases of such products by individuals. The electronic recording device is free and is paid for by the manufacturers of these products. The bill passed out of committee last week unanimously, but due to a small language error it was withdrawn and recommitted to the HHS Committee. Language was added, stating that the logging of such information would also be free of charge. The bill substitute passed unanimously.


HB 826, sponsored by Rep. Betty Price (R-Roswell), would provide for certain requirements for advertisement or publication of representation of board certification. Individuals who have received certification through the American Board of Specialties or through the American Osteopathic Association may advertise their certification. The bill aims to ensure that the public is not mislead by false advertisements. The bill passed through the committee.


HB 902, authored by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), calls for educational information on the influenza disease to be disseminated to residents of assisted living communities by September of every year. This bill is not a mandate and was passed unanimously.


HB 684, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), would allow a dental hygienist to perform board certified services without the direct supervision of a dentist in the hopes of serving “desert” dental areas and providing services to those in need. Major revisions were made to the bill, with the author working with the Georgia Dental Association (GDA). The substitute calls for a dentist to be certified in the State of Georgia and can only delegate hygienists within 100 miles of his/her practice. It also states that a supervising dentist can only delegate four hygienists; dental equipment must be in the building where services are being administered but does not mandate who purchases the equipment; and a hygienist must have at least two years of experience before a dentist can delegate services. The GDA had some issues with the language relating to Medicaid patients, but were supportive of all other provisions in the bill. After a lengthy discussion, the bill was tabled for additional revisions.




The House Insurance and Labor Committee met on Wednesday morning and passed the following bills:


HB 555, authored by Rep. Joyce Chandler (R-Grayson), would provide the reporting of statistics regarding juveniles seeking abortions without parental notice.


HB 884, sponsored by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), revises the definition of company action level events to include a health organization.


HB 838, authored by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire), relates to insurance and would provide that carriers that sell certain health insurance plans in the state through an agent shall compensate the agent at a minimum of 5 percent of the collected premiums.




The Senate Science and Technology Committee met on Wednesday and took up SB 276. Authored by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), this bill would enact the Georgia Personal Data Security Act, and recognizes the need for consumer protections and business entity protections. The bill substitute stripped out most of the original language to be more business friendly. The Technology Association of Georgia testified on behalf of the bill, taking a neutral stance with the new language. The Georgia Chamber also testified, stating that they were more comfortable with the substitute. The bill was tabled due to the fact that the new language came out late in the afternoon and the committee hadn’t had a chance to read through the specific changes.


A presentation was also delivered by ControlScan, a company based in Alpharetta that provides solutions to small and medium sized businesses relating to data security. The company believes that there is a lack of emphasis being put on data security and small businesses need to raise their budgets to ensure protections from such risks.




HB 818, authored by Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland), makes changes to provisions relating to workers’ compensation. For temporary partial disability, the average weekly wage an employee is able to earn increases from $367 to $383 and compensation for death resulting from injury increases from $220,000 to $230,000. The bill passed unanimously through the committee.




HB 847, authored by Rep. David Clark (R-Buford), passed through committee by substitute. The bill relates to fraud in obtaining public assistance, food stamps, or Medicaid.




HB 916 – Rep. Dustin Hightower (R-Carrollton) authored this bill, relating to the Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights. It would provide that clerical or other errors do not constitute a basis to recoup payments made by providers of medical assistance.


HB 919 – Sponsored by Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming) this piece of legislation would provide tax credits to rural health care organizations which provide health care services to underserved areas.


HB 920 – Authored by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), this bill relates to the regulation of hospitals and related institutions, so as to restrict civil actions against passive investors in nursing homes and intermediate care homes.


HB 926 – Authored by Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), this bill would provide for the regulation of certain facilities and entities involved in the wholesale, manufacture, and distribution of drugs.


HB 934 – Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Loganville) sponsored this piece of legislation, which would authorize the Department of Human Services to provide a separate link or portal on its website providing kinship caregivers with information and access necessary to apply for public assistance benefits.


HB 944 – Authored by Rep. Sheri Gilligan (R-Cumming), this bill would provide for the pronouncement of death of patients in nursing homes who are organ donors by a physician assistant or registered professional nurse.


SB 338 – Rep. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) authored this bill, which would provide for a certificate of state law applicability to be issued by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.


SB 350 – Authored by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), this bill would dedicate moneys collected form the excise tax on the sale of consumer fireworks for trauma care, fire services, and local public safety purposes.