Report from the Capitol: April 9, 2016

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Lost in the shuffle of a busy legislative session was all of the good work the General Assembly did to make sure Georgia remains the best state in the country to live, raise a family and do business. Several bills were especially important to me because I either carried them when they crossed over from the House or signed on as a co-sponsor of a bill that originated in the Senate.
SB 367, introduced by Sen. John F. Kennedy, is part of our state’s continuing efforts to reform the criminal justice system. The bill comes from the Criminal Justice Reform Council and is a substantial bill addressing various sections of Georgia law. It creates a new division of courts for DUI offenses and family treatment issues to move those to a more specific judicial process than our general criminal court system. The bill also makes changes to the First Offender Program and how probation through a private company can work to make sure Georgians can comply with their sentence.
An important portion of the measure deals with re-entry for offenders who are completing their sentence. A major barrier they face is a lack of productive, employable work skills. Criminal justice reform in our state includes making sure inmates in our jails and prisons have the ability to live a life without returning to the system. The bill continues this effort establishing a more thorough list of programs charter schools in our corrections and juvenile justice system can offer.
SB 158, authored by Sen. Dean Burke, is one of the best consumer protection bills of the session. The bill defines what a health care provider must do when they rent or sell their coverage network to a third party. Unfortunately for consumers, a doctor visit that is supposed to be in network can cost substantially more if the health care insurance network has changed owners without the consumer knowing. Even responsible, proactive consumers who check with resources and databases still could fall victim to bad records and information. The bill requires all lists of in-network providers be kept up to date and that any company that rents or purchases a network complies with the original service contract.
HB 166, introduced by Rep. John Yates, makes a small, simple change to Georgia law. It increases the maximum allowable handlebar height for motorcycles from 15 inches to 25 inches. I was honored to carry this bill in the Senate for Rep. Yates, who is a 94-year-old World War II veteran and the Dean of the House.
Of course there are a lot of great bills that came through the General Assembly this year. Legislation from this session is online if you have specific questions about these bills or others. It was my privilege to represent District 13 during the 2015-16 term in the Senate. Even though the session has ended, please contact my office at the Capitol or in the district if I can be of service to you.

Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, represents the 13th Senate District which includes Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Tift, Turner, and Worth counties and portions of Sumter and Wilcox counties. He can be reached by phone at 404-463-5258 or email at