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2020 Georgia General Assembly

Update: Monday, March 9, 2020


 2020 Session Suspends Due to COVID-19 Outbreak

Well, a lot has happened since the General Assembly convened on Thursday, March 12 for its 28th day, it’s Crossover Day, the day in which a bill needs to clear one chamber to be considered by the other chamber. And that’s the understatement of the year.

As concerns about the coronavirus mounted and public gathering seemed like a very bad idea, the legislature finished the 28th day on March 12, then met briefly for a formality on Friday the 13th for the 29th and shut the session down. They will need to return sometime before June 30 to approve the state FY 2021 budget. But they are compelled to do no more than that, e.g. pass other bills.

(Since Governor Kemp declared a state of emergency on Saturday, March 14, the legislature had to come back to the Capitol on Monday, the 16th to ratify this. However, that was a “special session” day and does not count against the 40 day normal legislative calendar. When they resume the session, that will be Day 30.)

What follows below is a status check on the bills we followed and where they stood after Crossover Day. The Chapter’s Legislative Committee, chaired by Melinda Willingham, MD will alter its meeting schedule too and resume when the session starts back up—hopefully later this spring.

The Chapter’s top state legislative priorities for this year are:

1. Support & strengthen Georgia’s childhood immunization system and strongly oppose any legislative attempts to weaken it, such as HB 416 and HR 648, which seek to spread misinformation and unwarranted concerns about the safety and benefits of immunizations.

2. Address the vaping/nicotine/e-cigarette crisis, including banning flavors including mint and menthol, and taxing vaping and e-cigarettes (which are not taxed at all now) at the same level as conventional cigarettes.

3. Strengthen the Georgia Medicaid program, so vitally important to the more than 500,000 children who live in rural Georgia. To accomplish this in part, increase primary care basic services codes from 2014 Medicare to 2018 Medicare levels.

4. Support early brain and early child development, including the findings and recommendations of the Dempsey House Study Committee on infant & toddler social-emotional health.


Below is a list of bills we will be following:

Below is a list of bills we are following:

High Priority Issues — 2020 Blueprint for Action 2020 Goals


No active bills at this time.

Tobacco, Nicotine & Vaping: Tobacco 21

HB 864 by Rep. Bonnie Rich (R-Suwanee) would provide for a 7 percent state excise tax on vaping devices and consumable vaping products. It also requires licensure for persons dealing with vapor devices or consumable vapor products. It would also require only face-to-face sales of vapor devices or consumable products. Amended in House Ways & Means Committee, by adding reduced taxes on “modified risk tobacco products and passed out. Now in House Rules. We now oppose this bill with this unacceptable provision added.

HB 731 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) proposes increase the state excise tax on tobacco products, so as to increase the amount of such tax on cigarettes from .37₡ to $1.87 per pack and on cigars and smokeless tobacco from 10 to 42 percent of the wholesale cost price. Products. Assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee: STATUS: No Action

SB 298 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) would update the state’s enforcement and education efforts on tobacco and vaping products. It defines vaping products to encompass both “vapor cartridges” and “vapor devices.” It also raises the minimum purchasing age for all tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 and creates a tiered punishment system for individuals who sell products to minors. It also requires that all vaping products include a list of ingredients and prohibits marketing practices that could be construed as marketing the products to children. STATUS: In Senate Rules.

State Budget/Medicaid rates

HB 793: the FY2021 Appropriations Bill – effective 7/1/2020. $2.3M in Medicaid PCP increases added by House Appropriations Committee.
Priority Issues: Track & Engage As Needed

Distracted Driving

HB 113 by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) specifies that anyone driving with a Class C learners permit or Class C license is prohibited from using a stand-alone electronic device or wireless telecommunications device in a moving vehicle unless it is an emergency; and reduces fines for state’s current hands free law. STATUS: House Rules Committee
Insurance: Surprise Billing

HB 789 by Rep. Mark Newton (R-Augusta) seeks to create a “surprise bill rating system” which is based upon the number of certain physician specialty groups contracted with a hospital within a health insurer’s network and that insurers would be required to include a hospital’s surprise bill ratings online and in print in provider directories. STATUS: Passed House.

HB 888 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) is a companion bill to SB359 and is the House leadership and Governor’s proposal to provide for certain consumer protections against surprise billing and provides mechanisms to resolve payment disputes between insurers and out-of-network providers. STATUS: Passed House.

SB 359 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) is a companion bill to HB 888 and is the Senate leadership and Governor’s proposal to provide for certain consumer protections against surprise billing and provides mechanisms to resolve payment disputes between insurers and out-of-network providers. STATUS: Passed Senate.

SB 352, Network Continuity Bill, Sen. Dean Burke

SB 352 would protect patients by ensuring that the physicians and other health care professionals and facilities that are in their health insurance network when they purchase a health insurance policy remain “in-network” for the duration of the policy. STATUS: Passed Senate

Medicaid Postpartum Extension

HB 1114, Rep. Sharon Cooper, would require DCH to allow mothers giving birth to newborns to retain Medicaid eligibility for 6 months (up from current 2) following such birth. Assigned to the House HHS Committee.

SB 324 by Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta) also proposes to extend Medicaid coverage for pregnant women for 12 months after childbirth. Assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee. STATUS: No action

SB 303 by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) would create a new law to provide greater transparency of prices for non-emergency health care services, et al. STATUS: Passed Senate.

Transgender Transition Therapy

HB 1060, Ginny Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) Would make it a felony for physicians to provide a minor with treatments including puberty suppressants, hormone Tx, etc. In House HHS. Oppose.

Pharmacy Benefit Managers

SB 313 by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) proposes regulations for pharmacy benefits managers, including proscribes PBMs from contracting with physicians for step therapy or prior authorizations unless the physician is licensed by the Georgia Composite Medical Board, actively sees patients, and engages with the medical practice that focuses on the condition for which they are providing advisement. STATUS: Passed Senate.


SB 321 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) seeks to revise current law relating to the number of physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses a physician can authorize and supervise at any one time from four to six (combined full time equivalent). Passed: Senate Health & Human Services Committee.

HB 791 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) would allow a pharmacist to dispense (exercising his/her professional judgment and in consultation with the patient) up to a 90 day supply of a maintenance medication (unless the prescriber has specified on the prescription that dispensing a maintenance medication in an initial amount followed by periodic refills is medically necessary – this authorization does not apply to Schedules II, III, IV or V controlled substances). Passed: House Health & Human Services Committee.

Dextromethorphan: SB 272 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Columbus) would prohibit the retail sale of dextromethorphan to minors. STATUS: Passed HHS Comm.

Guns & Churches: SB 224 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) would eliminate the exception in current law for allowing places of worship to determine if they want to allow the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders on their premises. It also would limit the carry of weapons in courthouses to only include superior court proceedings. The bill would also allow persons convicted of any misdemeanor involving the use or possession of a controlled substance to apply for a weapons license. Passed: Senate Judiciary Committee.

Guns & Churches: SB 357 by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Breman) proposes to change provisions related to carrying and possession of firearms in places of worship. Passed: Senate Judiciary Committee.

Insurance Provider Directories: SB 352 by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) provides that when a health insurer’s provider directory includes a provider as a participating provider for a network plan when a prospective covered person selects the plan, the insurer shall cover the provider charges at in-network rates for the duration of the contract year for such covered person. Assigned to the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee. STATUS: No action

Safe Places for Newborns: HB 881 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) proposes to revise provisions relating to safe places for newborns to authorize a newborn child to be left with an ambulance service or in a newborn safety incubator. Passed House Health & Human Services Committee.

Imaging by Nurse Practitioners: HB 1092 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) would allow delegation by a physician for an APRN to order radiographic imaging tests in non-life-threatening situations. It also increases the number of APRNs that a physician can enter into a nurse protocol agreement with from four to eight. Passed Committee, in House Rules.


HR 1168, Rep. Park, would create a committee to study the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Georgia children and consider policy decision to help ameliorate this condition. In House HHS Committee.


House Appropriations Committee Leadership

Terry England, Auburn
404-463-2247 Cap

Rep. Butch Parrish, Swainsboro
Chair, Sub-committee on Community Health/Medicaid

House Leadership
Rep. David Ralston, Blue Ridge
Speaker of the House

Rep. Jan Jones, Milton
Speaker Pro Tem

Rep. Jon Burns, Statesboro

Senate Appropriations Committee

Sen. Jack Hill, Reidsville, Chair

Sen. Ben Watson, MD, Savannah

Chair, Senate Health & Human Services

Senate Leadership
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Alpharetta

Sen. Mike Dugan, Carrollton
Senate Majority Leader 

Sen. Butch Miller, Gainesville
Senate President Pro Tem


Further Information

For a complete text of any these bills you can visit the Georgia General Assembly website:  www.legis.state.ga.us.   For more information on these or other bills, contact Rick Ward, at the Chapter office, at jrice@gaaap.org. Thanks to the members of the Legislative Committee for their efforts during the session and to all our members who contacted their legislators about our issues.  Your support and participation in the legislative process is vitally important to our advocacy.