1. Home
  2. >
  3. GHF Blog
  4. >
  5. GHF legislative update: February...
« All Blog Entries

GHF legislative update: February 19

Legislative Update: Week 6

In this week’s update:

  • Thank you for showing up! 
  • Cover Georgia Advocacy Day: Feb. 26th 
  • Budget update
  • Legislation: workforce, workforce, workforce!
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

Thank you for the support!

Thank you for supporting HB 404!  

Thank you for your support in helping improve housing for Georgia renters! HB 404, known as the Safe at Home Act, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last Monday! Thank you to those of you who called committee members and encouraged them to pass this bill! The bill now sits in the Senate Rules Committee, which will determine when it can be voted on by the full Senate. We will keep you updated about any further action needed to support the Safe at Home Act.

The bill will provide protections for Georgia renters by ensuring: 

  • Residential rental properties are fit for human habitation;
  • Cooling as a utility cannot be shut off after an order for eviction has been issued by the court;
  • Allows a tenant three (3) business days following a written eviction notice to pay money that is due prior to a lawsuit seeking to evict them may be filed with the court; and
  • Limiting landlords from requiring a security deposit that exceeds two months’ rent.

These protections are necessary to ensure Georgia renters have more housing stability for themselves and their families. To live healthy lives, Georgians need stable, affordable, healthy housing.

Thank you for attending Mental Health Parity Day at the Capitol!  

Thank you to those that attended Mental Health Parity Day at the Capitol. Together with The Carter Center Mental Health Program and the Georgia Parity Collaborative partners, we celebrated the Georgia Mental Health Parity Act and all the work that is being done to make this law real for Georgia families. Alongside our partners, we are monitoring implementation of the law closely to ensure that Georgians get as much benefit from it as possible. When this law reaches its full potential, Georgians will be able to access mental health and addiction recovery services with fewer insurance headaches; affordably manage chronic mental health and substance use conditions; and more easily navigate mental health crises when they arise.

Here’s a fact sheet that explains the major parts of the bill.

Let’s close Georgia’s coverage gap together!

Join GHF and Cover Georgia to close the coverage gap! 

As we shared in our January 22nd update, Georgia’s Republican leaders are taking a new look at closing Georgia’s Medicaid coverage gap this year! Cover Georgia is urging state leaders to take action on this important issue this session to protect and improve health and well-being for all Georgians. We are asking you to join us on Monday, February 26th for Cover Georgia’s 2024 advocacy day! During this event, we will work together to educate our state leaders and let them know that we can no longer wait to provide Georgians with the health care they need and deserve, regardless of how little money is in their wallets. 

With your help, we can ensure Governor Kemp and your state legislators know Georgians want them to act now to close Georgia’s coverage gap. RSVP now to join us for this impactful event!  You will receive more updates leading up to the event. Join us on Monday, February 26th from 9:00 am-noon!

Legislation GHF is tracking

Budget Update: After the House passed its version of what is known as the “little budget” (HB 915), the House Appropriations Committee turned its attention to the FY25 budget (HB 916), which will begin on July 1, 2024. This week, many state agency leaders presented their budget requests to the committee again, before committee members begin making their changes. Please see our previous budget summary for more information on both budgets. 

Authority of prescribing controlled substances 

HB 557, introduced by Rep. Ron Stevens, was created as a recommendation from Gov. Kemp’s 2022 Georgia Healthcare Workforce Commission. The commission’s aim was to study and provide recommendations to address challenges in the hiring and retention of health care workers. HB 557 seeks to bring Georgia more in line with the rest of the nation by allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances, with the exception of certain addictive drugs.

Different versions of HB 557 were passed by the House and Senate in 2023, so the bill was sent to a conference committee to reconcile differences between the two versions. The conference committee met and completed its work when the 2024 session began. Both the House & Senate approved the conference committee’s final version on Feb. 8th. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

Woman holding baby

Passed in House: Parental Leave increase and new Juvenile Treatment Court

HB 873 was approved by the House on Tuesday. Sponsored by Rep. Stan Gunter, this bill would provide alternative ways of handling juvenile delinquency and truancy cases with the creation of new Juvenile Treatment Court divisions within the juvenile court system.

These new court divisions aim to reduce family disruption or removal to an alternative placement and increase juvenile rehabilitation and treat their mental and behavioral health needs.  The bill now sits in the Senate, where it has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

The House also passed HB 1010 on Thursday. This bill would increase state employees’ paid parental leave from three weeks to six weeks. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorses paid leave for at least eight weeks, as paid parental leave has recognized benefits including decreased infant mortality, decreased rehospitalization rates, decreased post-partum depression and intimate partner violence.  

HB 1010 now heads to the Senate.

Increasing the behavioral health workforce 

Legislators have made addressing workforce shortages across the health care industry a top priority this session. At least five bills are specifically focused on mental health and substance use providers. Here we’ve covered four that we think are particularly important. 

HB 793, from Rep. Matt Barton, would allow students in Masters programs for Counseling, Social Work, and Marriage and Family Therapy to take the licensing exam in their final semester of study, rather than having to wait. HB 793 was approved by the House Regulated Industries Committee last Tuesday, and now awaits a vote by the House. 

HB 1077, introduced by Rep. Sharon Cooper, would create a grant program administered by the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce that would fund more behavioral health workforce training. This bill would support residency training for psychiatrists and psychologists, and clinical training for social workers, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists and others. HB 1077 also creates the Behavioral Health Provider Student Loan Repayment Program. Program participants could recieve loan repayment assistance for up to six years in annual amounts ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the share of Medicaid patients the provider sees. Both the training program and loan repayment program will need funding from the legislature before they can be implemented. HB 1077 was approved by the House Public Health committee on Feb. 7th. 

Both HB 1190, introduced by Rep. J Collins, and SB 336, sponsored by Sen. Kirkpatrick, hope to streamline the licensure process that providers have to go through. In HB 1190, if a provider applicant (including social workers, counselors, and marriage & family therapists) has met all licensure requirements, this bill would allow the division director of the licensure board to issue the license, even when the professional licensure board has not been able to act. This would help address the lengthy amount of time it can take for behavioral health and other professionals in the state to become licensed, or move to the state with a license so that they can practice. HB 1190 was referred to the House Regulated Industries committee.

SB 336only applies to Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage & Family Therapists. It would authorize the professional licensure board to waive all or a portion of the usual experience requirements for providers who are already licensed in another state, and has maintained full licensure in good standing for a minimum of two years. SB 336 has been referred to the Senate Regulated Industries committee. 

Avoiding step therapy before medication prescriptions

HB 1179, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, would prohibit the use of some step therapy protocols for those with a serious mental illness (SPMI). (You may remember that this idea was part of last year’s big mental health bill, HB 520, which died in committee.)Step therapy is a process by which insurers (public or private) require patients to try one or more alternative medications before they can access the medicine prescribed by their provider.

People suffering from SMI’s often require medications to address their disease and symptoms. Getting the right medications for a person’s condition can be a difficult, draining, and lengthy process. Working through one or more drugs (while also managing side effects) to find what works leaves people in mental distress for too long.

GHF supports this bill.

HB 1179 has been referred to the House Public Health committee.

Approval processes for new public health leadership   

Sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson, SB 293 aims to address some of the state’s public health workforce shortages. This bill would allow  someone with a Master’s degree in Public Health (MPH)–as opposed to a doctor (MD)–to serve as the director of a public health district. If the district health director (DHD) is not a doctor, they must employ a physician to be Chief Medical Director for the district. DHDs are approved by a vote of the county Boards of Health within their district. 

The Commissioner at the Georgia Department of Public Health would be allowed to appoint an interim DHD until a permanent replacement is approved by the county boards of health.

SB 293 has passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Naloxone availability in schools, vending machines, and government buildings! 

Three of this year’s bills aim to increase the availability and presence of naloxone in community settings to help reverse opioid overdoses. Naloxone is a safe and effective way to save lives when a person is overdosing from opioids.

SB 395, introduced by Senator Dixson, allows students, staff, and visitors at school and school events to carry naloxone. It will require that all school systems – both public and private – acquire and have naloxone available. The Senate Education and Youth committee approved this bill on February 9th, but it has not yet received a vote by the full Senate.

HB 1035 would allow the the sale of opioid antagonists, including naloxone, through vending machines to increase availability in communities. The House approved this bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper. HB 1035 currently sits in the Senate Health and Human Services committee.

Similar to SB 395, HB 1170 would require certain state government buildings, courthouses, and university buildings to acquire and have naloxone available. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Lee Hawkins and currently sits in the House Public Health Committee

GHF enthusiastically supports all three of these bills!

Advocate with us at the capitol

Check out these advocacy events: 

Each week during the legislative session, we’ll highlight legislative advocacy days hosted by partner groups. These are great opportunities for you to participate in the lawmaking process by meeting your legislators and speaking up about important health issues. Upcoming:

If you have an upcoming advocacy event that you’d like included, please contact Alex McDoniel at amcdoniel@healthyfuturega.org

GHF has you covered

Stay up-to-date with the legislative session

GHF will be monitoring legislative activity on a number of critical consumer health care topics. Along with our weekly legislative updates and timely analysis of bills, here are tools to help you stay in touch with health policy under the Gold Dome.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive updates from GHF!

GHF In The News

Apr 17, 2024
Medicaid expansion gains momentum in holdout states
Erin Durkin

The idea of expanding Medicaid is gaining momentum in the last holdout states, with eyes on Mississippi as the next potential state to take up the policy. As of 2024,…