Legislative Report From the People’s House
Covid-19. Right now the problem is the supply of vaccines. I think Governor Kemp's plan for expanding vaccination sites looks good. There just simply isn’t enough supply. And the vaccination sites planned appear to be equally distributed across the state. The federal government has promised a 16% increase in vaccine deliveries in the coming weeks. They also plan to get 1 million doses to 6500 pharmacies across the nation, who I believe should have been the primary access in the first place. Georgia healthcare providers have administered close to 1 million doses of vaccine statewide, with 500,000 Georgians over 62 receiving their first shot. In Georgia, about 800,000 have received at least their first dose, which is a little more than 7% of our population. About 1.2 % of
the population has received both doses. The good news is the number of new Covid cases has declined 46% from its
peak on Jan. 11, and there are 1700 less patients hospitalized.
Covid Visitation Policies. A bill that would keep nursing homes and hospitals from getting or renewing a license if their policies on patient visitation exceed the declared public health emergency has been introduced by Rep. Ed Setzler of Acworth. H.B. 290 would allow at least two family members to visit patients for no less than 2 hours a day. The bill would also protect healthcare facilities from law suits from anyone who got sick at a facility that allows patients to see visitors. The restrictions have been in place almost a year. Gov. Kemp eased restrictions in September, banning visitation only in facilities with current infections or in counties with high infection rates. Most facilities, however, have continued to have an overall ban regardless. The bill appears to be a measured approach to an awful dilemma for everyone, providers, patients and families alike. The bill would not take affect though until July 1.
Sports Betting. H.B. 86 would authorize the Georgia Lottery to manage a sports wagering system with proceeds going to fund HOPE college scholarships. Sports betting companies would pay a 14% tax on their income, which would fund an extra $40 million toward HOPE. This gambling measure is unique though. Basically, a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court ruling protected individuals' right to bet on professional sports on the internet. Which means Georgians are betting in our state unregulated and Georgia gets no revenue from it. H.B. 86 closes those loopholes by restricting players to 21 and over, and restricting wagering to professional sports. No college or high school betting. And of course, collect the $40 million from the sports betting companies that isn’t being collected now. Unlike casino gambling, this bill only requires a simple majority (91 votes), in the House, not a constitutional amendment. In my judgement this bill is on the fast track to passage.
Daylight Saving Time. Rep. Wes Cantrell has introduced legislation that would make daylight saving time permanent year round. South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida have passed the law already. Opponents say the state would be out of sync with east coast business centers, while supporters say it better suits Georgia summer outdoor activities that bring in more revenue. Sen. Ben Watson has a competing Senate bill that would make standard time permanent. However, the bill would have to be approved by the U.S. Congress to take affect. Cantrell is a preacher and Watson is a doctor. I’m sticking with the preacher and support the longer days in daylight saving time.
The pace of the 2021 Legislative Session is picking up as bills make their way through the committee system. Covid-19 continues to hover over every move, whether the threat of an outbreak at Capitol interrupting the Session or delivering vaccines and the threat to public health.
By Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia)