Local legislators tackling — among other issues — insurance, adult education and impeachment

Bartow’s State Senators focusing on consumer billing, high school athletics changes

By JAMES SWIFT
Posted 1/23/20

Bartow County’s two State Senators have sponsored slightly over a dozen bills and resolutions so far in the 2020 Legislative session, with the bulk of the legislation largely revolving around …

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Local legislators tackling — among other issues — insurance, adult education and impeachment

Bartow’s State Senators focusing on consumer billing, high school athletics changes

Posted
Bartow County’s two State Senators have sponsored slightly over a dozen bills and resolutions so far in the 2020 Legislative session, with the bulk of the legislation largely revolving around proposed changes to the State’s insurance and education systems.

District 52 State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R, Rome) is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 293, also known as the “Balance Billing Consumer Protection Act.”

The proposed legislation would add a new chapter to the Georgia Code section pertaining to insurance practices, with an emphasis on addressing “surprise bills” — i.e., unanticipated health care costs stemming from insured patients “inadvertently” receiving services from an out-of-network provider.

“No health care plan shall deny or restrict the provision of covered benefits from a participating provider to a covered person solely because the covered person obtained treatment from a non-participating provider leading to a balance bill,” the bill text reads. “Notice of such protection shall be provided in writing to the covered person by the insurer.”

With the bill in effect, if an insured patient receives health care services from a non-participating provider he or she will not be required “to pay more to the insurer than the same amount such covered person would have to pay to the insurer for the same health care services received from a similar participating provider at a similar in-network facility.”

The bill also makes an amendment to Georgia Code pertaining to selling and trade practices. Under SB 293, any health care provider that doesn’t comply with the provisions of the act could be penalized for “unfair or deceptive practices in consumer transactions.”

The bill was read in the Senate on Jan. 15 and referred to the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.

Hufstetler has also sponsored Senate Bill 302, alternately known as the “Tax Credit Return on Investment Act of 2020.” The proposed legislation would require “independent economic analyses to be procured by the Office of Planning and Budget for certain tax benefits upon request by the chairpersons of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee.”

Under the bill, the heads of those committees would be able to request up to five economic analyses “on or before May 1 of each year,” examining net changes in State revenue, expenditures, economic activity and public benefit.

“Each request shall be limited to one existing provision of law or proposed law and shall specify one particular exemption, exclusion or deduction from the base of a tax, a credit against a tax, deferral of a tax, a rebate of taxes paid, tax abatement or preferential tax rate to be analyzed,” the bill text reads.

To date, the furthest SB 302 has gotten in the General Assembly is a Jan. 16 Senate hopper.

Hufstetler has also sponsored Senate Bill 294, which would allow the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia (TRSG) to invest in alternative investments. Currently, the TRSG is the only exemption listed by name in O.C.G.A. 47-20-87, which allows “large retirement systems” in Georgia to invest in privately placed pools, including venture capital funds, debt funds and leveraged buyout funds, among others.

SB 294 was read in the Senate on Jan. 15 and referred to the Senate Retirement Committee. 

Another legislative proposal sponsored by Hufstetler is Senate Bill 134, which would reassign the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust from the Department of Community Affairs to the Office of the Secretary of State “for administrative purposes only.” The bill was Senate recommitted on Jan. 13.

Hufstetler has also sponsored House Bill 276, a piece of legislation that would, essentially, reclassify  Georgia’s “marketplace facilitators” as dealers for taxation purposes. 

“A marketplace seller shall not be obligated to collect and remit or be liable for the taxes levied or imposed by this chapter on any retail sale for which its marketplace facilitator is obligated and liable,” the bill text reads. 

HB 276 passed in the House by a 111 to 54 vote on Jan. 16. That same day, the bill was approved by the Senate 40 votes to nine.

Hufstetler has sponsored two Senate resolutions since Georgia’s lawmakers reconvened last week. SR 547 honors and commends the Service Providers Association for Developmental Disabilities while SR 559 honors and congratulates Lester Lawton Rampy, Jr., a Calhoun resident who served as a member of the Georgia State Patrol for 32 years and spent 10 years on the Georgia Public Safety Board.

SR 559 made it to a Senate hopper on Jan. 16. SR 547 was read by the Senate and adopted on Jan. 15. 

To date, District 14 State Sen. Bruce Thompson (R, White) has sponsored three bills in the 2020 Legislative session, two of which were prefiled in the Senate on Jan. 6.

Senate Bill 285 would amend Georgia Code to allow “military spouses licensed in other states to practice certain professions and occupations without being required to obtain a license” in Georgia. Among other changes, the bill would address reciprocal licenses for Class I electrical contractors, journey plumbers, Class I conditioned air contractors and utility foremen.

Senate Bill 284 would amend Georgia Code pertaining to elementary and secondary education, essentially allowing individuals over the age of 20 to enroll in charter schools “that provide instruction only for over-age students.”

The legislation would allow such students to enroll in charter schools until they attain either a high school or GED diploma.

“The State Board of Education shall establish rules, regulations, policies and procedures to provide for charter petitions for start-up charter schools that serve only an over-age population,” the bill text reads. “Such funds appropriated by the General Assembly shall be made available for the operation of such schools under rules and regulations prescribed by the State Board of Education.”

Thompson is also the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 165, a piece of legislation introduced to the General Assembly last year, that would create a nonprofit organization to govern high school athletics throughout the state.

“The organization’s membership shall be divided along existing county lines into four contiguous and compact administrative regions, each containing an equal or nearly equal number of member schools to ensure equitable representation on the organization’s board of directors, representative assembly and committee on appeals,” the bill text reads.

SB 165 was Senate recommitted on Jan. 13.

So far in the 2020 Legislative session Thompson has sponsored four Senate resolutions. SR 544, which was read by the Senate and adopted on Jan. 15, recognizes longtime City of Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon, while SR 543 — read and adopted by the Senate the same day — commends the Marietta High School football team for winning the 2019-2020 Class 7A State Championship.

Thompson has also sponsored SR 348, which would create a “Senate Freedom from Property Taxes Study Committee” to “determine the steps necessary to implement a permanent ban on property taxes.” That resolution, another holdover from the previous Legislative session, was Senate recommitted on Jan. 13. 

Thompson is also one of many elected officials to sponsor Senate Resolution 538, which condemns the United States Congress “for pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump” and not “adhering to the responsibilities outlined in the United States Constitution that the American people elected them to fulfill and that each member swore an oath to uphold.”

SR 538 was prefiled on Dec. 18. To date, the furthest it has progressed under the Gold Dome was a Senate hopper on Jan. 17.