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2022 Session: Week 4 Update

It’s unbelievable to me that the Georgia General Assembly 2022 Session is over a quarter of the way through! The House convened Tuesday through Thursday to cast our votes on legislation last week, and I want to bring your attention to a few bills that may impact our communities and citizens in House District 156.

To start the week, we took up House Bill 385 to address the recent teacher shortage in Georgia. This legislation would allow retired certified pre-K and K-12 teachers who have completed 30 years of service to return to the classroom full-time while receiving their full retirement benefits. After a year of retirement, eligible members of the Teachers Retirement System would be able to return to work in an “area of highest need.” If this bill is signed into law, HB 385 would go into effect before the next school year and would sunset after a few years. Not only would this legislation offer an immediate solution to the state’s overall growing need for teachers, but it would also ensure that our students are able to continue to receive quality classroom instruction from experienced teachers.

We unanimously passed House Bill 752, or the Psychiatric Advance Directive Act, to help ensure that competent adult Georgians have the ability to make decisions regarding their mental health care in a way that best suits their needs and desires before they find themselves in a crisis. They would be able to legally establish their expectations and preferences for future mental health treatment and medication. These individuals could appoint someone as a “mental health care agent” to act on their behalf if they become incapable of making decisions for themselves. This legislation is the result of over a decade’s worth of work, and I am proud of the bipartisan efforts that led to the passage in the House last week.

In an effort to lower prescription drug prices for Georgians, we passed House Bill 867, or the Truth in Prescription Pricing for Patients Act. This bill would specifically address how pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) calculate the price for prescriptions that individuals and their insurance plans pay in a way that is more transparent to consumers. Under HB 867, PBMs would be required to calculate a prescription’s “true cost” based on what the drug cost to purchase at a pharmacy, minus any eligible rebates. Currently, PBMs are not required to pass the rebate savings they receive on to consumers. This bill would not apply to state administered health plans, including the State Health Benefit Plan, Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids. House Bill 867 would ensure that PBMs conduct their business fairly and transparently in our state, and ultimately, lower the out-ofpocket costs Georgians pay for prescription drugs.

Last Wednesday, four local bills for Montgomery County (HB 1014 – 1017) passed including two which updated the county’s school board districts and Board of Commissioners districts.

Members of the House Rural Development Council updated the rest of the House about their work. More than five years ago, Speaker David Ralston launched an initiative that specifically focused on the needs of our rural communities. Since then, this council has consistently produced effective, sound policies that have already benefited our rural regions. In December, the council released its legislative recommendations for the 2022 legislative session, which include supporting agriculture, economic development, education, health care, and mental health needs across rural Georgia. During the update, the council announced that 11 House bills based on its recommendations have been introduced and assigned to seven different committees. The council members also mentioned that eight other House bills are in the pipeline and will be introduced in the coming weeks. I look forward to providing further updates about these rural development initiatives as they make their way through the legislative process.

In other news, Governor Kemp announced last week that the state will provide approximately $408 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to help bring faster and more reliable internet to homes and businesses in rural areas like ours, including almost $5 million to the Altamaha EMC area. Georgia has been a leader in broadband development for several years, and these funds go handin- hand with efforts to provide a major boost to rural communities that are without adequate, high-speed internet. Several Toombs and Montgomery counties leaders came to the Capitol last week for the exciting announcement including Romanous Dotson, CEO and General Manager of Altamaha EMC, who delivered remarks at the Governor’s press conference. Others who attended were Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Leland Adams, Ginger Morris, and Chad Kenney, County Manager Brandon Braddy, Altamaha EMC Board Member Brett Williams, and Altamaha EMC engineer, Phil Proctor.

As we continue to make our way through the legislative session, I encourage you to contact me with your questions about the bills that have passed so far or any other issues that interest you. Please contact me at [email protected] or 404-656-0325. As always, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your state representative. It is an honor and a privilege.

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

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