Greh Kirk: We’ve adjourned sine die

Published 5:30 pm Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The 2017 Legislative Session came to an eventful end Thursday as the General Assembly rushed to get as much done for our constituents as we could. We passed along dozens of bills to Governor Nathan Deal in a night that will stick in the memories of everyone who was there. Although the session has ended, my work for you is far from over.
One of the bills we passed on Sine Die was Senate Bill 106, a bill that I sponsored that would make it easier for certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) to provide care to patients. Now a CRNA can work in the clinic even when the doctor has to leave as long as they have the doctor’s order and having the patient sign a consent form. SB 106 will help extend care to patients by CRNAS in pain clinics like the one we have in Tift County,
Another bill I sponsored is Senate Bill 137 which also received final passage on Thursday. SB 137, also known as the Child Reduction Recovery Act, would change the current law so that only the parent responsible for paying child support has to pay an annual $25 fee under the federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. It doesn’t make any sense that the recipient of child support funds should have to pay the government to receive payments. I’m proud of the fact that this legislation will help single parents.
I carried House Bill 486 on Thursday after it was tabled on Tuesday. HB 486, or the Georgia Registered Professional Nurse Practice Act, would expand the definition of a “proxy caregiver,” which is someone who some disabled individual choses to care for them. This could be a loved one, a friend, or any person who is unlicensed. HB 486 would expand this definition to include licensed health care facilities and requires non-licensed caregivers to receive training from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Community Health. If the governor signs this bill, our disabled Georgians will have easier and greater access to care.
It’s been almost two months since powerful storms tore through South Georgia, but ever since I’ve been working to ensure that we can recover in a more efficient manner in future disasters. Disaster recovery is truly an all-hands-on-deck effort, which is why I carried House Bill 251. HB 251 would allow for officials from the Department of Corrections to bring work crews into areas where the Governor has declared a state of emergency for the purpose of rebuilding communities and generally assisting in recovery efforts after a natural disaster. Know, though, that Department of Corrections officials cannot impede on your constitutional rights; so, if you want their crew off of your property, you’ll have every right to tell them to leave.
Senate Bill 16, a bill that I co-sponsored, would allow anyone to have up to 5 fluid oz. of THC oil if it’s in a pharmaceutical container. Five oz. THC oil is already a legal drug here in Georgia for patients with certain illnesses. However, SB 16 would expand the list of diseases treatable by cannabidiol oil to include Tourette’s syndrome, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, severe Alzheimer’s disease, severe AIDS, or peripheral neuropathy. I was happy to be a part of the compromise created between the House and Senate so we can provide further relief to suffering Georgians who desperately need it.
In order for a bill to be signed into Georgia law, it has to be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, including all changes made by the two bodies. Often, legislators put years of work into their bills, so it’s no wonder that the two bodies often stand by their versions of the bill. In cases like this, a Conference Committee is appointed, which is made up of three members from each legislative body who are charged with brokering a compromise on a specific bill that both chambers can agree on.
I had the privilege of serving on one of these Conference Committees to broker a deal on House Bill 280, this year’s campus carry bill. This year’s version addresses the concerns Gov. Deal had regarding carrying a weapon on-campus daycare’s. HB 280 would allow those 21 or older who have a valid weapons carry permit to conceal carry in any building or real property that is owned by or leased to any public postsecondary education institution. Athletic sporting events, campus buildings designated for the education of high school students, student housing, fraternity and sorority houses and on-campus daycare centers or preschools would remain handgun-free zones. This legislation will allow our students and faculty to protect themselves and others around them if an attack of any sort were to happen. I am proud to have been at the table and played such an important role in keeping the students and faculty at our public colleges and universities safe.
There was a lot to get done on Sine Die, and we certainly did as much as we could. Eager to provide for Georgians as much as possible, we didn’t adjourn until nearly 1 a.m. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to reach a deal with the House of Representatives when it comes to reducing our state income tax rates. I will not give up on this legislation and will continue to fight for lower income tax rates so you can keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket.  As always, it has been an honor to serve Senate District 13 under the gold dome and I look forward to seeing everyone back home.
Sen. Greg Kirk represents the 13th Senate District which includes Crisp, Dooly, Lee, Tift, Turner, and Worth counties, and portions of Sumter and Wilcox counties. He may be reached at 229.854.9706 or by email at