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2023 Georgia General Assembly

Tuesday, March 28  Legislative Day 39

Yesterday the General Assembly concluded Day 39, the penultimate day of the 2023 session. Day 40, “Sine Die”, is this Wednesday and will end the session. Last week the Governor promptly and privately signed SB 140, which would prohibit doctors from providing hormone replacement therapy and surgery on minors. Doctors would be subject to sanction by the state medical board, including license revocation, and subject to criminal and civil penalties. We opposed this bill as an unwarranted intrusion on the doctor-patient relationship, and our assertion that these youth and their families deserved compassionate care as they went through the process of their treatment of gender dysphoria and gender-affirming care.

This session has been characterized by more straight party line votes than have been seen in many years. The gender-affirming care bill and the prohibition of COVID vaccine requirements are two classic examples. See the details below.

A quick review of our major issues and bills that related to them as of today:

1. Protecting Immunization laws:
A. SB1 which passed the Senate, would permanently ban the state from requiring COVID vaccinations for schools or to enter other public buildings. Passed Senate, and passed House. On Gov.’s desk
B. HB 266, would eliminate current requirements for vaccines for children to attend school. Did not crossover but we are watching this as the anti-vax crowd is active at the state capitol.

2. Scope of Practice:
HB 557, allows PA’s and NP’s to write for Schedule II drugs to adults on emergency 5-day basis. This has been tangled up in political battles—having little to do with the original bill–and its fate is uncertain.

3. Protect the Practice of Medicine and Physician’s Right to Treat
A. SB 140, would prohibit surgical procedures and hormone Rx for gender-affirming care on minors. See above.

4. Gun Safety & Injury Prevention
A. HB 161, makes it offense to make firearm accessible to a child, i.e. “safe storage.” Did not crossover. However, a hearing was held last Thursday, and Sofia Chaudhary, MD of the Chapter Injury Prevention Committee testified in support of the bill. And did a great job!

5. Medicaid rate increase/FY 2024 budget
The state budget for FY24 (year begins July 1, 2023) is still not been finalized. However, we are reasonably confident that our budget request of $18.4M state funds (about 3x that in total) will be included. This would increase Medicaid rates in Georgia for the 99213 and the 99214 to 2021 Medicare levels. This amounts to increases of 21.4% and 18.8% respectively.

6. Other
A. HB 147, would require public schools to conduct x2 annual “intruder alert” drills. Schools could allow certain young students to opt out with parental permission. Passed, and part of Governor’s package.
B. SB 47, adds vaping to the state’s Clean Air Act. Passed House & Senate. On Gov.’s desk.
C. HB 520, takes further steps to improve last year’s mental health omnibus bill, HB 1013, championed by late Rep. David Ralston, then Speaker of the House. Passed House nearly unanimously, but Senate opponents have raised objections and its fate is doubtful. It is also caught up in House-Senate disagreements.

For a complete list of bills on our “watch” list, click HERE.

Melinda Willingham, MD, FAAP
Chair, Legislative Committee

Key House Leaders on Child Health Issues

Matt Hatchett, Dublin
Chair, Appropriations Committee

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

Rep. Katie Dempsey, Rome
Chair, Appropriations Sub-committee on Public Health (DPH, DBHDD, DHS)

Rep. Jon Burns, Statesboro
Speaker of the House

Rep. Jan Jones, Milton
Speaker Pro Tem

Rep. Chuck Efstration, Dacula
House Majority Leader

Rep. Sharon Cooper, Marietta
Chair, Health & Human Services

Key Senate Leaders on Child Health Issues

Lt. Governor Burt Jones, Jackson
President of the Senate

Sen. Blake Tillery, Vidalia
Chair, Appropriations Committee

Sen. Ben Watson, MD, Savannah
Chair, Health & Human Services Committee

Sen. Dean Burke, MD, Bainbridge
Chair, Appropriations Sub-committee on Community Health (Medicaid)

Sen. Steve Gooch, Dahlonega
Senate Majority Leader

Sen. John Kennedy
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 mhudson@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.