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Sen. Ben Watson's Capitol update week of Feb. 11
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

Governor Kemp unveiled his healthcare plan this week, designated the Patients First Act, Senate Bill 106. This bill would authorize the investigation of Medicaid waivers to increase access to quality healthcare and its affordability, especially for low-income Georgians. During the unveiling of his proposal, the governor said this Act is a step toward lowering insurance premiums and improving health outcomes in every part of our state with the flexibility to find innovative solutions to do so. As a physician, I see firsthand the deficits in our state’s healthcare system and strongly support the governor’s objective of finding fiscally responsible solutions to improve healthcare for Georgians in need.

Senate Bill 16, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, is another legislative initiative that will provide more accessible healthcare for Georgians, especially in rural areas. This bill would add Georgia to the list of states that allow for an expedited licensure process for physicians with no disciplinary record to practice across state borders. The bill also strengthens our review process by adding fingerprints to our background checks. There’s a need for more doctors and health professionals in our state, and this legislation would help Georgians receive better access to health care providers without having to drive great distances. I was pleased that this bill passed with bi-partisan support.

The governor announced a new mobile app, called MyGCAL, for Apple and Android smartphones, designed to reach Georgia’s youth in times of need. GCAL is staffed by caring professionals who are available 24/7 to help youth in crisis, make referrals for treatment, and dispatch mobile crisis response teams, if needed. Governor Kemp said the idea for this initiative developed as he traveled across the state and heard from parents, teachers and administrators about the growing mental health crisis in our schools and communities. This is a great tool for young Georgians in need since our youth are more comfortable reaching out to others with a text. It’s important to note, however, that GCAL is for anyone who needs help and professional responders can be reached not only by text, but also by phone call.

The Senate Public Safety Committee, of which I am a member, unanimously passed SB 6 to create no-fly zones over probation detention facilities and jails operated by federal, state or local governments or private corporations. The bill will also prohibit photography of these facilities without a permit. Prisoners, with help from people outside of these facilities, have used drones for illegal means, including running multi-state drug rings with street gangs. Criminals have also used drones to transport cell phones and weapons, with some drones having a cargo capacity of 16 pounds. This is important legislation that keeps our laws current with technological advancements and lets offenders know that we will not tolerate the use of technology for criminal activity in our prison systems.

As the legislative session continues, we will continue to address issues that affect our community. Please know that your input is valuable to me. I encourage you to contact me at or at 404-656-7880 with your questions and concerns. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve you!

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