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2022 Session: Week 3 Update

Session is in full-swing, and the pace certainly picked up this past week! We convened in the House Chamber for four days to tackle our legislative business, and our committees and subcommittees held 30 meetings throughout this busy week to discuss issues that impact Georgians across our state.

My week began with a visit from some friendly faces. Michele Johnson, Trent Williams, Eric Smith, and Mike Hagan, representing the Greater Vidalia Chamber of Commerce and the Toombs County Development Authority, stopped by the Capitol during a visit to Atlanta with the Region 9 Economic Development Authority. We also enjoyed some fellowship at dinner, where I was thrilled to see other representatives from around the 156th District. If you are able, I’d love for you to visit me at the Capitol during Session which ends on April 4. Some of the biggest news of the week came on Wednesday as Speaker David Ralston filed House Bill 1013. As someone who has cared for a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease and has witnessed several loved ones deal with depression and substance abuse, I am honored to have signed on to this bill. This bipartisan legislation would bring comprehensive reforms to our state’s mental health care delivery system. It would increase patient access to care by expanding the list of practitioners who are able to see patients, expanding telemedicine options, and requiring insurers to cover certain mental health services. HB 1013 would strengthen our mental health workforce initiatives by providing service cancelable loans for relevant professionals who work in pediatrics, psychiatry, mental health, and substance abuse care. Additionally, this legislation would expand the state’s transparency and accountability requirements for consumers and enhance resources for frontline responders and local communities. HB 1013 incorporates many recommendations made by the Georgia Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission, which was established in 2019. This commission has worked over the last three years to review the state’s behavioral health system and will continue to identify other areas that need to be overhauled. Mental health reform will likely be one of the most important issues we address this legislative session as most of our families have been touched by mental health struggles. House Bill 1013 would take the necessary first steps to address this widespread issue.

Furthermore, the recently formed Mental Health Policy Caucus also held its first meeting last week. This bipartisan caucus will work to create a unified legislative vision to transform mental health and substance abuse care for Georgians. During its first hearing, members of the caucus listened to an eye-opening presentation from the co-founder of the Georgia Mental Health Policy Partnership, which is a statewide alliance of organizations seeking to eradicate the stigma surrounding these illnesses. This group hit the ground running and will continue to meet with area experts and further the goal of improving mental health care for Georgians.

Of particular significance since Holocaust Remembrance Day was last Thursday, the House gave final passage to a bill that was carried over from the 2021 Session. Several years ago, the General Assembly passed legislation that would prohibit Georgia from participating in commercial discrimination against businesses that operate in Israel. During the 2021 session, the House passed House Bill 383 to clarify a portion of this law. Through the legislative process, the Senate made updates to the original bill and, in return, passed an updated version out of their Chamber. Thursday, the House voted to agree to the Senate’s changes before sending HB 383 to Governor Kemp’s desk to be signed into law. Israel is one of our many important economic trading partners and friends, and this bill would reaffirm the state’s commitment to protecting the vital relationship with Israel. I was proud to vote yes in support of this bill.

As your state representative, my number one goal is to advance legislation that protects, serves, and supports the people of House District 156 and upholds our Constitution. I encourage you to reach out to me about legislation or policies that interest you. You can contact my Capitol office at 404-656-0325, and you can email me at [email protected] It is an honor to work for you, and I thank you for trusting me represent you in Atlanta.

By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)

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