Bill Heath

Senator Bill Heath

The Senate convened for four more legislative days last week moving through Legislative Day 24. With 60 percent of the session now complete, Legislative Day 30, or Crossover Day, is only six legislative days away. This week, the General Assembly will meet for five Legislative Days with a sense of urgency in both chambers in order to move on legislation so that it can “cross under” to the other chamber before this important deadline.

As part of the business last week, the Senate passed a compromise bill to better protect the religious community and religious leaders in our state. House Bill 757 combines language from a bill introduced in the Senate called the “First Amendment Defense Act”, as well as the “Pastor Protection Act” which originated in the House.

The Pastor Protection Act portion of the bill protects a minister, cleric, or religious leader who chooses not to perform a marriage for a couple if that ceremony would violate that religious leader’s beliefs. The First Amendment Defense Act language in the bill restricts the state government from taking punitive action against a person or organization based on that person or organization’s belief about the definition of marriage.

This week, the business of the Senate will focus on vetting numerous Senate Bills currently in committees. In addition, the General Budget for the 2017 Fiscal Year is now before the Senate for its review.

This past week the Senate passed the following 13 bills:

Senate Bill 115

This bill would allow physician assistants, who are authorized by a physician, to prescribe schedule II substances to patients. Schedule II substances include drugs such as Adderall and Vicodin.

Senate Bill 158

This bill requires greater transparency from health insurance providers by requiring health insurance rental networks to register with the Insurance Commissioner.

Senate Bill 290

This bill explicitly prohibits attorneys acting in a capacity to advise clients on insurance matters and employees of credit or character reporting firms who report to insurers from becoming insurance agents.

Senate Bill 320

This bill changes Georgia law to treat foreign issued driver’s licenses as valid in the state of Georgia. This bill changes existing law, which previously required drivers to have an international driving permit.

Senate Bill 319

This bill updates the definition of “professional counseling” for Licensed Professional Counselors to add the word “diagnose” into their scope of practice definition. SB 319 changes the scope of practice by giving LPCs the ability to not only evaluate and recommend a course of treatment for emotional and mental problem conditions but to also diagnose them.

Senate Bill 282

The bill makes it unlawful for those providing credit or financial services to discriminate against any person, business, public entity or trade association engaged in the lawful sale of firearms or ammunition.

Senate Bill 305

This bill requires the Department of Public Health to notify both the House and Senate Committees on Health and Human Services at least 60 days prior to making any changes to its Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. POLSTs are used as a reference by doctors in determining a patient’s end of life decisions.

Senate Bill 277

This bill clarifies that franchisees and employees of a franchisee are not considered employees of the franchiser.

Senate Bill 309

This bill would prohibit high schools receiving state funding from participating in sporting events that prohibit student athletes from expressing their religion. The bill would also allow student athletes to compete in matches, games or scrimmages between member and nonmember schools.

Senate Bill 314

The bill does not change licensing requirements but updates the definitions of such nurses and establishes a new code section for license applications and reinstatements. The bill also creates criminal penalties for fraudulent nursing practices.

Senate Bill 329

Under this bill, students will be awarded a high school diploma if they have completed post-secondary dual credit coursework and have earned certification to work in an “in-need” industry as described by the Technical College System of Georgia. Additionally, SB 329 would expand the availability of the HOPE scholarship to students who meet these requirements. 

Senate Bill 370

This bill expands the list of institutions a superior court clerk may attend for training to also include professional court management associations and accredited colleges and universities.

House Bill 757

This bill protects a minister, cleric or religious practitioner who is authorized to perform marriages from being compelled to perform a marriage ceremony that goes against his or her religious beliefs. The bill also restricts state government from any discriminatory action against a faith-based organization based on a sincerely held religious belief regarding the definition of marriage.