Medical Marijuana Issue Reprised this Session; House Expected to Pass Amended FY16 Budget Soon

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Legislators spent most of last week focused on budget presentations and committee hearings on the Amended FY16 budget, but they were also in session Wednesday through Friday. Bills aimed at licensing lactation consultants and helping individuals save and pay for disability-related expenses are already on the move through the committee process, as is a new medical marijuana bill.

In 2015, legislation allowing for the regulated use of cannabis oil to treat eight medical conditions was passed and signed into law. The Department of Public Health (DPH) created a Low-THC Patient Registry, and DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald announced in budget hearings last week that the registry currently has 210 physicians and 465 patients who are mostly being treated for seizure disorders. The logistics of obtaining the cannabis oil have proved difficult for most patients, however, as there is no legal source for the product in Georgia.

Rep. Allen Peake (Dist. 141), who authored last year’s medical marijuana legislation, introduced HB 722 to legalize additional forms of the substance in Georgia and to broaden the list of qualifying conditions that can be treated by cannabis. The bill also allows for up to six in-state manufacturers of medical cannabis. The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee is scheduled to hold hearings regarding HB 722 on Monday and Wednesday this week.

Budget News

The full House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on the House version of the Amended FY16 budget Wednesday morning, and it could be on the House floor for a vote by Thursday, Jan. 28.


The House and Senate passed an adjournment resolution establishing the legislative calendar through the end of session. The final day is scheduled for Thursday, March 24, and Crossover Day, when legislation must pass out of at least one chamber to be eligible for further action, is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 29. This week, legislators will be in session Monday through Thursday.



HB 649 (Rep. Sharon Cooper, 43rd), the Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act, creates a process for licensure of lactation consultants and an advisory committee under the authority of the Georgia Composite Medical Board.
Status: The bill is assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee, which is scheduled to discuss the bill today, Jan. 26.

HB 701 (Rep. David Casas, 107th) amends existing law that mandates classroom instruction related to drug and alcohol use, imposing a new minimum of 12 hours of drug and alcohol use prevention curricula in grades 3–12. Current law requires instruction in grades K–12, but doesn’t provide a minimum number of hours of instruction.
Status: The bill is assigned to the House Education Committee.

HB 727 (Rep. Paul Battles, 15th) amends legislation passed last year allowing the sale and use of fireworks in Georgia by limiting the hours of use from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Exceptions provided for in the bill include New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, when fireworks can be used until 1 a.m. and midnight, respectively. Under the current law that went into effect in 2015, fireworks can be used until 2 a.m. throughout the year. HB 774 (Rep. Alex Atwood, 179th) is a similar bill providing for local government regulation of the use of fireworks.
Status: HB 727 is assigned to the House Regulated Industries Committee. HB 774 is assigned to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

HB 777 (Rep. Mike Dudgeon, 25th) allows school bus drivers to use cellular telephones while the bus is in motion for live communication with school or public safety officials.
Status: The bill is assigned to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

SB 268 (Sen. Donzella James, 35th) requires prosecuting attorneys to forward information to the local office of the Department of Family and Children Services when a person is convicted of endangering a child by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs a second time.
Status: The bill is assigned to the Senate Public Safety Committee.


HB 739 (Rep. Kevin Tanner, 9th) requires the state Board of Education and local boards of education to establish procedures that provide an opportunity for public comment and parental input prior to the adoption of any proposed instructional materials and content.
Status: The bill is assigned to the House Education Committee.

HR 961 (Rep. Keisha Waites, 60th) proposes a constitutional amendment ballot measure to authorize the General Assembly to dedicate existing fees and assessments for driver education and training courses for public school students in grades 9–12.
Status: The resolution is assigned to the House Education Committee.

SB 281 (Sen. William Ligon, 3rd) requires schools to provide information to students and parents prior to using interactive digital learning platforms, including video games that collect and analyze student data. The bill prohibits the use of digital learning platforms unless they include a portal or other mechanism that allows parental access to the platform and all content available to students. Parents are also given the option of opting out of the instruction.
Status: The bill is assigned to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.


HB 710 (Rep. Scot Turner, 21st) and HB 768 (Rep. Lee Hawkins, 27th) establish a qualified Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) program in Georgia, allowing eligible individuals to contribute to tax exempt accounts to pay for qualified expenses related to disabilities.
Status: Both bills have been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee. HB 768 was scheduled for a hearing in the Income Tax Subcommittee of Ways and Means on Jan. 25.

HB 746 (Rep. Tommy Benton, 31st), the Family Care Act, allows workers in businesses with 10 or more employees to use up to five days of earned and accrued sick leave to care for immediate family members. The bill is an amended version of HB 92 (Rep. Tommy Benton, 31st), introduced last session, and incorporates changes recommended by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. SB 242 (Sen. Michael Williams, 27th) is a similar bill in the Senate.
Status: HB 746 is assigned to the House Industry and Labor Committee. SB 242 is assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.


HB 705 (Rep. Katie Dempsey, 13th) requires mental healthcare providers, including physicians and psychologists who provide treatment to a patient, to provide periodic opportunities for patients to designate a family member or other individual with whom the provider may discuss the patient’s medical condition and treatment plan.
Status: The bill is assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 713 (Rep. Brad Raffensberger, 50th) amends current law so that causing a child to be conceived as a result of rape, incest, or sex trafficking is grounds for terminating parental rights. HB 803 (Rep. Keisha Waites, 60th) is a similar bill.
Status: Both bills are assigned to the House Juvenile Justice Committee.

HB 725 (Rep. Wes Cantrell, 22nd) extends the presumption of confidentiality of child abuse records to child advocacy centers.
Status: The bill is assigned to the House Juvenile Justice Committee.

HB 770 (Rep. Chuck Efstration, 104th) expands the current definition of sexual servitude to include sexually explicit conduct induced or obtained from individuals with developmental disabilities.
Status: The bill is assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.