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Sen. Ben Watson's update from the State Capitol (week of March 18)
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

The General Assembly has completed 35 legislative days with five days remaining. Our adjournment is scheduled for Tuesday, April 2 and we have been diligently considering legislation passed by the House.

This week the Senate passed bills on a variety of issues. HB 501, a bill sponsored by my colleague Rep. Jesse Petrea, authorizes the Board of Natural Resources to set regulations necessary to develop and cultivate the oyster farming industry. Georgia was the world’s number one producer of oysters around 1910. The bill changes the permitting requirements for fishermen to obtain a commercial fishing license with a shellfish endorsement. In addition, the bill allows the leasing of intertidal water bottoms for a maximum of ten years at a time. I believe this is good legislation that will help rejuvenate our oyster industry.

Regarding healthcare, HB 374 overwhelmingly passed which allows trained medication aides to administer liquid morphine to hospice patients in an assisted living home, with the initial dose administered by a licensed hospice health care professional. The bill also limits the amount of morphine administered by the trained medication aide to no more than 50 milliliters of morphine per hospice patient. This bill is compassionate legislation that will allow patients to get the care they need in a more timely manner.

House Bill 471 passed updating the script that an arresting officer must read when arresting a person suspected of DUI, hunting under the influence, or operating watercraft under the influence. When arresting a person suspected of DUI, the arresting officer must state that the privilege to drive on Georgia's highways is based upon the person's submission to chemical tests of blood, urine, breath, or other bodily substances and notes that the driver's refusal to submit to a blood or urine test may be offered into evidence against the driver at trial. If the person is found guilty of driving under the influence after refusing to submit to a state-administered chemical test, their license will be suspended for a minimum of one year. This bill was brought to the attention of the General Assembly following a recent State Supreme Court case. In the case, it was ruled that under the Georgia Constitution it is a person's right against self-incrimination to refuse a breathalyzer test in criminal cases, which prevents prosecutors from bringing up a refusal to take a breathalyzer in a trial. I believe this bill clarifies Georgia’s DUI law so there is no uncertainty or misunderstanding.

As we quickly approach the end of the session, please know that your input continues to be valuable to me as I consider legislation that could affect our community. I encourage you to contact me at or at 404-656-7880.

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