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Guest column: Gun measures
Guest columnist

By State Rep. Ron Stephens

Your Georgia General Assembly has crossed the halfway point of the 2021 legislative session. By the end of the week, we completed legislative day 25 and are moving closer to the end point of the 40-day session which will be targeted for the end of March.

One bill of significance to many of us who believe in 2nd Amendment rights, we passed House Bill 218, a bill designed to further the rights of legal, law-abiding citizens to carry a weapon in this state. H.B. 218 allows reciprocity for any state’s weapons carry license if the holder carries it according to Georgia’s laws. The bill also requires the attorney general to enter into a reciprocity agreement with any state that requires one to recognize and give effect to a Georgia-issued license in their state. The legislation also prohibits, during a declared state of emergency, any action on behalf of the state to seize the possession of ammunition, reloading equipment, supplies, or a weapon that was not prohibited by law before the state of emergency. Additionally, the state cannot prohibit the sale or transfer of firearms, ammunition, equipment, or weapons. Suspension or revocation of a weapons carry license and the refusal to accept an application for a license that is properly submitted is also prohibited under House Bill 218. Essentially, this bill allows any person who is a United States citizen can lawfully carry a firearm in this state.

Much like my unwavering support of the 2nd Amendment, I proudly stand with our men and women who serve in our various law enforcement agencies. I was sickened to watch many cities in this country, and some in Georgia, making efforts to defund their police departments. We passed legislation, mainly along party lines, that restricts the ability of any of Georgia’s counties and cities to defund their police departments. H.B. 286 prohibits counties and municipalities from reducing their police force budgetary appropriations by more than five percent unless specified conditions exist. Those conditions include changes in county revenues that fall below certain levels, an intergovernmental agreement that provides greater police service or of a court order for an emergency of some sort.

With innovations like Zoom and FaceTime, we passed H.B. 307 or the Georgia Telehealth Act. The bill allows health care providers to provide telehealth services from home and patients to receive telehealth services from their home, workplace, or school. Additionally, HB 307 prohibits insurers from requiring separate deductibles or an in-person consultation before paying for telehealth services. This bill allows for audio-only care under certain circumstances, such as a lack of broadband connection. HB 307 restricts insurers from requiring providers to use a specific telehealth platform or vendor. Insurers are not allowed to restrict the prescribing of medications through telehealth that are more restrictive than what is required under applicable state and federal laws for in-person prescribing of medications. Additionally, this bill requires that each provider maintain documentation of each health care service provided through telehealth in a manner that is at least as extensive and thorough as documentation maintained for in-person services.

One piece of legislation that effects Chatham County is House Resolution 119 which dedicates the bridge on State Route 307 over the Georgia Ports Authority Mega Rail Site in Chatham County as the Senator Johnny Isakson Bridge. Senator Isakson served in the Georgia General Assembly and in the U.S. Senate. He is a humble man of dignity and fairness.

We will return to the State Capitol on Monday, March 1. I encourage you to contact me with your input and thoughts on proposed legislation or current events that may impact our community. I am in 226-A of the State Capitol. My office phone number is (404) 656-5115 and my email is ron. I look forward to continuing this session and serving all of you.

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