2019 GNA Legislative Update - Crossover Edition
The 157th Georgia Legislature met four days last week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for legislative days twenty six through twenty nine. Last week started at a hectic pace as House committee meetings had incredibly lengthy agendas, since members were attempting to get bills out of committee before Thursday’s crossover day deadline. Legislation must have passed at least one chamber by this day or it is effectively dead for the session. The Senate’s schedule was less chaotic as Senate Bills that had not received a “do pass” committee recommendation by last Monday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. ran out of time pursuant to Senate rules.
H.B. 287 sponsored by Rep. Matt Dubnik (R - Gainesville), changes the Preceptor Tax Incentive Program (PTIP) to an income tax credit for licensed physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, and physician assistants who provide uncompensated preceptorship training to Georgia medical, advanced practice registered nurse, or physician assistant students. The PTIP legislation passed the House on March 5th by a vote of 163-2. It was read and referred to the Senate Finance Committee, which had its first committee hearing today, Tuesday, March 12th at 10:00 a.m.
On Thursday, February 28th, the House took up H.B. 31 sponsored by Rep. Terry England (R - Auburn). Better known as the “Big Budget,” it is the $27 billion state spending plan for fiscal year 2020, which runs July 1st 2019 through June 30th of 2020. The highlights include: a salary increase for teachers by $2,775 (extended to more than 9,000 other certified employees including psychologists, counselors, social workers and special education specialists); $119 million in funding for 2-percent merit-based salary increases for state employees; and $150 million in bond funding to replace the state's outdated voting machines.
Most importantly, the Georgia Nurses Foundation’s (“GNF”) appropriations request was partially granted in the amount of $150,000 to help bolster the current Peer Assistance Program into a full-time program. The appropriation granted by the House now sits in the Senate Appropriations Human Development Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Renee Unterman (R - Buford), which oversees much of the Department of Public Health’s budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee has the ability to add, maintain, or remove the GNF funds from the House recommendations in the current version of the FY‘20 budget during their committee process which was set to begin this Monday, March 11th.
Governor Brian Kemp’s Senate Bill 106, sponsored by Senator Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) gives the Governor a wide latitude to apply by June 30, 2020 for 1115 Medicaid waivers which could be used to extend coverage to uninsured Georgians living under 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL). The bill allows the Governor to apply for 1332 state innovation waivers by December 31, 2021. The 1332 waiver would be designed to address the affordability and availability of private insurance. Most states have used 1332 waivers to create a reinsurance program or high-risk pool. The House is expected to take up this measure next week in the Special Committee on Access to Quality Healthcare.
In GNA specific legislative news, H.R. 448 sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R - Marietta) was introduced last week. The resolution proposes to create a study committee on safe staffing levels of nurses in Georgia. During the utter chaos of crossover day, Speaker of the House David Ralston (R - Blue Ridge) made the decision that the House was not going to take up any resolutions creating study committees due to time constraints. However, it is important to note that resolutions creating study committees are not subject to the same time constraint rules as other measures. This means that Rep. Cooper will amend her House Resolution to create a House Study Committee, while an identical resolution will be introduced in the Senate.
S.B. 109 sponsored by Sen. Larry Walker (R - Perry) which expanded the Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) radiological testing scope was tabled on the Senate floor on Tuesday, March 5th. The measure was amended during Senate Health & Human Services Committee meetings the prior week to require an APRN to have at least five years of experience before obtaining the authorization to order a radiographic imaging test in non-emergency situations. This issue is likely dead for the remainder of the 2019 legislative session.
Lastly, S.B. 76 sponsored by Sen. Ellis Black (R - Valdosta) never moved from the Senate Rules Committee to the Senate floor for a vote. The legislation proposed to rename “veterinary technicians” to “veterinary nurses” by opening up the Nurse Practice Act and providing an exception to the title protection provided to nurses. GNA worked together with the chairman of Senate Health & Human Services Committee, Sen. Ben Watson (R - Savannah), and the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, Sen. Jeff Mullis (R - Chickamauga), along with Sen. Renee Unterman (R - Buford), to educate Senators, and ensure Rules Committee members knew the importance of stopping this legislation and maintaining the public trust in the title “nurse.” The GNA team will continue to be vigilant during the rest of the session to ensure that the issue remains stalled.
The General Assembly will return to the capitol on Monday for legislative day thirty, use Tuesday as a committee work day and stay in session Wednesday and Thursday ending the week on legislative day thirty-two. This coming week will begin the first full week of Senate bills exclusively being heard by House committees and vice-versa. Also, the FY’20 budget will be worked on in Senate subcommittees this week, prepping for its time on the Senate floor likely the following week. The General Assembly is poised to start the sprint down the homestretch towards day 40, Tuesday, April 2nd sine die.
The following bills have been introduced during the 2019 Legislative Session and are available for consideration.
H.B. 287 (Dubnik - Gainesville) -- PTIP; Passed House 163-2
H.B. 409 (Powell - Hartwell) -- APRN Radiological Testing Scope Expansion;
S.B. 76 (Black - Valdosta) -- Veterinary Nurses;
S.B. 106 (Tillery - Vidalia) -- “Patients First Act”; Passed Senate 31-20
S.B. 109 (Walker - Perry) -- APRN Radiological Testing Scope Expansion;
Other Bills of Interest:
H.B. 10 (Bazemore - Riverdale) --Best practices for feminine hygiene products;
H.B. 42 (Turner - Holly Springs) -- Prohibition on professional licensure boards from refusing to issue a license or suspending or revoking the license of a person who is a borrower in default under an educational loan;
H.B. 160 (Dempsey - Rome) -- Department of Community Health to reinstate bariatric surgery coverage pilot program; Passed House 146-20
H.B. 166 (Silcox - Atlanta) -- Licensure of Genetic Counselors; Passed House 148-13
H.B 168 (Taylor, D. - Thomasville) -- Extend tax exemption for five years of property sold to nonprofit health centers; Passed House 164-1
H.B. 187 (Dempsey - Rome) -- Create a pilot program to provide coverage of obesity; Passed House 148-14
H.B. 198 (Smith, R. - Columbus) -- Certificate of Need reform, plus Rural Hospital Tax Credit; Failed on House Floor 72-94
H.B. 370 (Cooper - Marietta) -- Revise the number of APRNs with which a delegating physician can enter into a protocol agreement in an emergency medical system;
H.B. 374 (LaHood - Valdosta) -- Authorize certified medication aides to administer liquid morphine to residents in hospice care pursuant to written orders; Passed House 165-0
H.B. 442 (Schofield - Atlanta) -- Create a grant program to encourage certain physicians to practice in underserved areas of the state;
H.B. 508 (Harrell - Snellville) -- Fees from licensing boards deposited into the treasury;
S.B. 92 (Beach - Alpharetta) -- Prohibits professional licensure boards from refusing to issue a license or suspend or revoke the license of a person who is a borrower in default under an educational loan; Passed Senate 55-0
S.B. 114 (Burke - Bainbridge) -- Certificate of Need reform;
S.B. 168 (Kirk - Americus) -- Update to the Nurse Licensure Compact; Passed Senate 55-0
H.R. 448 (Cooper - Marietta) -- Joint Study Committee on the Safe Staffing of Nurses;
S.R. 202 (Hufstetler - Rome) -- Study Committee on Evaluating and Simplifying Physician Oversight of Midlevel Providers;
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