Governmental policy and legislation report No.8

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The Georgia General Assembly completed its 2022 session on April 4. Below are significant results from that 40 day session. Bills that have passed can be vetoed by the Governor within forty days from the end of the session but we do not expect him to veto any of the bills mentioned below.

School Choice. HB 517 proposes to make changes in the statute governing student scholarship organizations (SSO’s) such as G.R.A.C.E Scholars. As passed, the statewide cap on donations increases to $120 million in 2023 and subsequent years with no sunset provision. The new law also increases the maximum donation to $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for married couples. Additionally, the law specifies treatment of interest earned by the SSO, adds audit requirements, adds items that must be included in the annual report and allows insurance companies to obtain credit against their premium tax.

Betsy’s Law SB 116 will authorize registration of maternity supportive housing, which are homes for pregnant women or new mothers over the age of 18 when they could no longer receive welfare benefits. Up to six women could occupy the home at one time and the neither the state nor local regulators could impose more than limited requirements.

HB 1013. The bill is intended to put coverage for mental health care on the same footing as other medical services. It will expand insurance coverage for those with mental health issues, provide greater coordination, enhance workforce development (59 of Georgia’s 159 counties do not have mental health professionals) and take various steps to make it easier to get help for someone with mental health challenges. This bill fills a much needed void in providing care in Georgia.

Some significant bills did not pass.

Restrictions on chemical (medical) abortions. SB 456 would have required a pregnant woman to meet in person with a supervising physician before receiving a prescription for a pill to induce an abortion and to be administered several prenatal tests including an ultra sound. The Georgia Catholic Conference supported the bill both to protect the pregnant woman and to give a basis for reducing abortions. The bill passed the Senate but did not receive a vote in the House of Representatives.

Death penalty.  HB 1426, which would prohibit or restrict imposition of the death penalty against persons with intellectual disabilities. The Georgia Catholic Conference along with Georgia Catholics Against the Death Penalty supported this legislation but, after several hearings in the House Judiciary Non-civil Committee, it did not receive a vote.

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