As the 2018 Legislative session draws to a close, I will confirm what I said back in January: This has been a strange legislative session. Important legislative initiatives always are delayed until the end of the session and this year has been that to an extreme. I attribute this to the high number of senators who are aspiring for higher office. There is a lot of calculation and recalculation going on about how legislation is going to affect their campaigns.
By the time you read this article, whatever is going to happen will have happened. Here are the important initiatives that I hope we will have seen progress on:
Rural Broadband – There are competing legislative initiatives with various incentives to promote high speed internet for rural Georgia. The proposals have details ranging from making right-of-way permitting easier for companies to install new fiber optic cables to reducing poll attachment taxes so that new providers can move into rural Georgia with less cost. (Currently, the EMC’s and Georgia Power own most of the power poles. If an internet provider wants to put a wire on their poles, the company must pay a tax per pole used. The tax per pole can be very expensive and many see the tax as a barrier to new internet companies coming to our area.)
School Safety – School safety has been an ongoing issue for some time now. However, after the tragedy in Florida, it is has gained additional focus. The legislature has allocated $18 million in new money to school safety in the 2018 budget. In addition, the Georgia House of Representative has created a House Study Committee on school safety. This committee will travel the state during the off-session and hold hearings on the issue. The goal will be to return to the state capitol next year to implement and fund a comprehensive plan to improve the school safety environment to protect our students and teachers. Several folks have contacted me with some good suggestions. I will publicize the hearings in our area, once they are scheduled, to promote local participation.
Balance billing or “Surprise Billing” – A surprise medical bill occurs when an out-of-network doctor or health care worker is a member of a treatment team during an elective procedure or a visit to the emergency room. One in three Americans has received one of these bills, which may be ten times higher than one which solely involves in-network charges. Patients may not receive notification that they could encounter an out-of-network provider or do not receive an estimate of what the cost of that care might be. This issue pits the doctors against the insurance companies. I have heard from many constituents in the district on this issue and I hope we can find a compromise that benefits citizens before the session ends.
It is my privilege to represent the citizens of House District 28 in the Georgia General Assembly. I would like to hear from you on this or any other issue. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 404-656-0325.
About the author: Rep. Dan Gasaway (R-Homer) represents the 28th Georgia House District which includes portions of Banks, Habersham and Stephens Counties. He serves as Secretary of the Human Relations & Aging, Intergovernmental Coordination, and Natural Resources & Environment Committees. He is a member of the House Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight, Higher Education, and Insurance Committees.