Andrew Allison, Acting Director
Kessarin Horvath, Sr. Communications Associate
Week Four Highlights
By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
With four weeks, or twelve legislative days complete, we’re now just a little under a third of the way through the legislative session. This week the Senate addressed six bills related to topics like electric scooter regulations, expanding retirement benefit options for veterans and ad valorem taxation decals on mobile homes. In committee meetings, we marked up several proposed solutions to Georgia’s greatest challenges – healthcare, broadband and gang violence.
On Wednesday, I had the privilege of speaking to the Senate Committee on Public Safety about one of my recommendations to revise how we handle prison violence. We have a lot of prisons in our district. When an inmate commits a crime inside the prison system, it creates a heavy burden on our local sheriffs, jails and court systems to adjudicate that criminal activity. Senate Bill 301 seeks to alleviate part of the burden prison violence places on our local systems, while also seeking to limit the spread of street gangs and gang recruitment in our local jailhouses and hopefully slow the spread of big-city criminal problems into our small town communities. While we’re still editing the wording, the Committee seemed to grasp our region’s need for the measure, which gives me hope for its eventual passage.
This week, I also signed on as a co-sponsor to Senate Bill 359, the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act. As I mentioned last week, under the current policies of our state’s health insurance networks and providers, you and I could go seek treatment at a medical facility we believe is in our network, only to find out at a later date that some providers aren’t covered under the same policy. As a result, you or your loved one get a large bill for an “out of network provider” that you have to pay for out of pocket. Not only can this reach some financial extremes, it can also cause a heavy emotional burden on families. SB 359 seeks to mitigate issues by creating a health claims database of in-network costs and a negotiation process that does not bill the patient until an agreement is made. The goal is to take the consumer out of a process that can be rather complicated, to allow them to focus their efforts on just their health.
I also co-signed a measure championed by Gov. Kemp. We’ve heard for years that Georgia students hop from one assessment to the next, forcing teachers many times to simply teach to the next test, not teach for students to truly learn. Senate Bill 367 reduces the number of high-stakes tests in our school houses and allows our teachers to focus on their passion – teaching! I expect it will pass the General Assembly quickly.
Several times I’ve used this column to relay my concerns about state revenues and this year’s state budget. It appears many of my colleagues now share those concerns as well. To make more sense of our revenue numbers and ascertain the impact of each budget line, the Senate will take a some-what unprecedented step of pausing the legislative session mid-stream to revisit our state’s budget. For the next twelve calendar days, we will focus on the 2020 and 2021 budgets alone. While we will not be in official “session” for this time, we will be doing major work, making tough, but necessary, decisions on how your tax dollars are allocated. We want to make sure every funding choice we make is done to achieve a larger goal of making Georgia, particularly rural Georgia, stronger in the long run. If you have any concerns about this process, or want to ask any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. I want to make sure you understand the decisions we make.
The pause of the legislative session has caused many of you to reassess your group visits during this period. If you do still decide to come to the Capitol, please still reach out; I’d love to see and meet with you. As always, if there is anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to call and thank you for the opportunity to serve our area.
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Sen. Blake Tillery serves as a Governor’s Administration Floor Leader. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.