Opinion/Editorial

House approves bill to allow opioid drug testing

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The House kicked off the fifth week of the 2018 legislative session on Monday, February 5, and with only a few weeks left until “Cross Over Day,” we had a very busy legislative agenda to tackle. We passed several bills, but the most significant was House Bill 683, the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget. After thorough consideration and debate, the budget passed the House overwhelmingly by a vote of 167-8, and I thought you might be interested in some of the highlights.

Amended state budget highlights

The original state budget for fiscal year 2018, which was approved during the 2017 legislative session, set state spending at $24.9 billion. Since that budget was determined by estimated state revenue, we must pass an amended budget each year to account for any differences between the estimated and actual state revenues.

There was $306.7 million in additional state revenue and this new revenue was allocated in large part to fund required growth in education, healthcare and human services. It also provides some targeted funding for key recommendations by the House Rural Development Council (RDC) which are designed to spur development and meet needs in rural communities throughout the state.

There are several other important appropriations in the 2018 amended budget to meet a variety of critical needs across the state and the House carefully crafted this year’s amended budget to address Georgia’s widespread and sometimes unpredictable needs.

HB 683 is now being reviewed by the Senate and will come back to us for final review and passage when they finish with their recommendations . With the passage of the “small budget,” our House Appropriations subcommittees have now shifted our focus to the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.

Opioid testing

Another important piece of legislation the House overwhelmingly passed this week was House Bill 701. It is aimed at helping reduce Georgia’s horrible opioid problem. HB 701 would update Georgia law by allowing us to test candidates for all forms of opioids during state employment drug testing but would not affect those with valid and legal opioid prescriptions.

Georgia is ranked 11th in the nation in opioid overdoses, and 68 percent of Georgia’s 1,307 drug overdoses in 2015 were caused by opioids and heroin.

The federal government recently added opioids to federal drug testing laws, and HB 701 would modify state law to reflect this national change. According to the Substance Abuse Research Alliance, Georgia is ranked 11th in the nation in opioid overdoses, and 68 percent of Georgia’s 1,307 drug overdoses in 2015 were caused by opioids and heroin. That’s more fatalities from overdoses than from automobile accidents.

The General Assembly has worked diligently in recent years to pass measures to tackle Georgia’s devastating opioid crisis, and this bill is another example aimed at fighting this epidemic.

Adoption bill update

Finally, I would like to update you on the status of House Bill 159, the adoption bill which has been stalled since last year. After much anticipation, the Senate overwhelmingly passed HB 159 on Monday, February 5. The final version of this bill as passed by the General Assembly, would update Georgia’s adoption laws for the first time in almost three decades and streamline and speed up all types of adoptions in Georgia, allowing thousands of children to more quickly and efficiently find their forever families.

My friend, Representative Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), who authored the bill, spent nearly two-and-a-half years working on this legislation, and its final passage was a major victory for all of Georgia’s current and future foster care children, birth mothers and adoptive parents.

This legislation is one of the first bills of the 2018 legislative session to go to the governor’s desk for final approval, and I am proud of Bert and the entire legislature for working so hard in passing such a significant and meaningful measure.

Contact me

It was a great week for me as I had a number of visitors from home come by and actually had five local students as pages. I always enjoy these young adults and they do an excellent job representing their schools and our area!

As always your thoughts, opinions, and concerns are important to me, and I want to know which issues are significant to you and your families. If you find yourself in Atlanta during the session, please drop by and visit our office, which is located in room 113 in the Capitol. You can also reach me at 404-651-7737, or by email at terry.rogers@house.ga.gov Thank you for allowing me to be YOUR Representative!

About the author: State Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville) represents the 10th District of Georgia which includes portions of Habersham and White Counties. He serves as the Governor’s Floor Leader and Vice-Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee, Economic Development & Tourism, and State Planning & Community Affairs Committees. Rep. Rogers also is a member of the Georgia House of Representatives’ Defense & Veterans Affairs, Human Relations & Aging, Regulated Industries, and Rules committees. 

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