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Rep. Ron Stephens: State needs outdoor recreation director
Ron Stephens
Rep. Ron Stephens

Rep. Ron Stephens, Guest columnist

During week six of the 2023 legislative session, we reached Legislative Day 20, marking the halfway point of the session. We only have 20 legislative days left to complete our business, and the “Crossover Day” deadline is rapidly approaching. 

Crossover day is the last day a bill can reach the other body (House of Representatives or Senate) and be considered this legislative session. 

Because many of us that live and breathe for being outdoors in our efforts to hunt, fish, boat etc., many of us felt that the State Department of Natural Resources to create a position in the agency to focus on and enhance our great outdoors. 

To that end, I introduced legislation, House Bill 314 that would do such that. We have sought, through this legislation, that the DNR Commissioner create the position of director of outdoor recreation as a position in the department and tasked with the direction to increase outdoor recreation based economic development, education, tourism, and ecotourism by attracting outdoor recreation industries to Georgia.

Health care and education are the two biggest institutions we are tasked in supporting and seeking better pathways. The first bill we passed this week seeks to improve the maternal health of extremely low-income pregnant women. House Bill 129 would expand the eligibility criteria for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits to pregnant women. This federal program provides monthly cash assistance to extremely low-income families with the goal of moving these families toward economic freedom and self-sufficiency.

Extending these benefits to pregnant mothers is one of our priorities for this session, and I am glad that the House took a step toward alleviating some of the financial burden for these expectant mothers so that they can focus on their prenatal health.

We passed another bipartisan measure this week that would encourage better health outcomes for all Georgians, especially those with cancer. House Bill 85 would require health insurance benefit policies in Georgia to cover biomarker testing for the diagnosis, treatment, management or ongoing monitoring of a disease or condition, such as cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, biomarker testing analyzes a patient’s tissue, blood or other biospecimen to look for genes, proteins and other substances, which are called biomarkers or tumor markers. Each person’s cancer has a unique pattern of biomarkers that can help clarify a diagnosis and even determine the best treatment for an individual.

Next, my colleagues and I passed House Bill 143, which would require the Georgia Department of Community Health to cover continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) as a pharmacy benefit through Medicaid. Medicaid recipients would be eligible for this benefit if they have a diabetes mellitus diagnosis and use insulin daily or have a history of problematic hypoglycemia. Furthermore, the patient or caregiver would be required to participate in training for the device, and an in-person or telehealth visit would be required before and after the initial prescription to continually assess the patient’s diabetes treatment plan. My colleagues and I also passed House Bill 87, or the “Completion Special Schools Act,” to create additional educational pathways for at-risk students to earn their high school diplomas. H.B. 87 would authorize the State Board of Education to adopt policies to allow the establishment, funding and operation of “completion special schools.” These completion special schools would allow students who are behind on high school credits, at-risk of dropping out of high school or have already dropped out to enroll in these non-traditional schools to earn their diplomas with greater flexibility through online instruction or night classes.

I will continue to be your voice in dealing with problems or questions about your state government. 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) 6565115 and my email is I look forward to continuing this session and serving all of you.

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