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Crossover Day is benchmark for Georgia legislation

Legislative report

POSTED: March 9, 2017 11:28 a.m.
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Sen. Ben Watson, MD, represents Bryan County in the Georgia senate.

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The Georgia General Assembly ended the week on what is known as "Crossover Day." This is the 28th legislative day in which bills that passed the Senate and the House "crossover" to the other chamber for consideration before becoming law. There were many bills that passed the Senate on a wide variety of issues ranging from education to healthcare.

Senate Bill 168 passed unanimously and would expand the list of individuals and agencies that can gain access to child abuse records. The bill would also give access to any federal, state or local governmental entity that is investigating a possible child abuse case and allow a potential foster or adoptive household to acquire background information. There are thousands of caring foster and adoptive families in Georgia and bringing a child into a home who has been a victim of abuse takes special consideration. I believe that this legislation has the best interest of abused children in mind.

When a child is struggling with serious behavior issues in school, many times a different environment with specialized teachers can steer them in the right direction. I supported SB 152 which would require schools to reassign students who would otherwise be suspended or expelled to an alternative education program. The bill limits how long the student would attend the alternative school and is dependent on the student’s behavior. Nearly 3,000 students attend the 72 alternative schools in Georgia and results have been positive. SB 152 passed with a vote of 52 to 0.

Our children not only deserve a second chance, they also deserve to be in schools and child care centers with safe water. Senate Bill 29 passed unanimously which would require that drinking water fountains and faucets used in schools and child care centers be tested for lead contamination by June 30, 2019. If lead is detected, the bill requires the school to submit a corrective plan to the Department of Public Health.

Senate Bill 153, which I view as common sense legislation, passed overwhelmingly. This bill would allow for the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids to people 18 and older with proof of an audiogram taken within the last six months. The hearing aids must be registered with the Food and Drug Administration and use specific technology. I believe that allowing easy access to hearing devices is an improvement benefit for those who are hindered by hearing loss.

A bill that will lessen confusion when patients visit various healthcare providers, SB 164, would require providers to charge the same copayment, coinsurance or office visit charge for patients when they visit a primary physician, osteopath, physical therapist, occupational therapist or chiropractor. As a physician, I can attest that this is good news to the patient who accesses multiple healthcare services. The bill passed overwhelmingly.

Another bill, SB 200, is one that I believe will be well-received by patients. Under this legislation pharmacies would be allowed to dispense more than one prescription at once while charging only one fee based on the total number of medications given. This will allow pharmacists to synchronize the timing of prescriptions. It will be easier for the pharmacist and less expensive for the patient to get all prescriptions timed so that you will not have to pick up prescriptions at irregular intervals. SB 200 passed unanimously.

As we continue the session your input is important to me and I encourage you to contact me with your concerns and questions. I can be reached at ben.watson@senate.ga.gov or at 404-656-7880.

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