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Senate considers bills, ready to tackle state budget
Legislative report
Ben Watson
State Sen. Ben Watson, MD, represents Bryan County in the Georgia senate. - photo by File photo

The Senate spent Days 32-35 of the 2017 legislative session considering bills that passed the House of Representatives.

These bills are first deliberated in a Senate committee, and if one word is changed or added, the bill must go back to the House for approval. The same process takes place in various House committees regarding Senate bills that have passed. This is a meticulous undertaking but it is an important one since the addition or change of a word can alter the implication of the law. I appreciate this process and the hard work of my colleagues, knowing that we are working together for the benefit of our state.

Although our calendar was filled with legislative activity, I also had the pleasure of welcoming members of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee to the capitol and recognizing them with Senate Resolution 382, which I sponsored. I was grateful that later in the week, Grand Marshal Dennis Counihan led a safe and well-attended parade in Savannah that celebrated Georgia’s Irish immigrants and rich heritage.

Before the General Assembly convenes in the next several days, our principle undertaking is passing a balanced state budget for fiscal 2018. The bill, HB 44, has been reviewed by both chambers, but there are some differing viewpoints on several line items that will require further discussion. Therefore, a conference committee has formed including legislators from both the House and Senate who will work together on a compromise bill. I will keep you updated as we move forward with this important process.

The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act, House Bill 276, unanimously passed and would grant the insurance commissioner authority to regulate specific issues regarding pharmacy benefit managers. A PBM is a third-party administrator of a pharmacy plan who typically works with self-insured companies and government programs to help keep costs down. HB 276 specifies that any HMO with a medical group contract that operates its own pharmacy and the State Health Benefit Plan do not apply to this legislation.

HB 174 also passed unanimously that would give people more options when paying for insurance claims. This bill allows for payment through wire transfer, cashier’s check, bank check, electronic funds transfer or a gift card with no expiration date. I believe that this is common sense legislation in a technology-driven world.

The Certification of Election Officials Bill, HB 268, passed and would provide training for poll workers, clear up registration issues and provide absentee ballots for seniors during primary elections. I supported this bill that would make our elections run more efficiently with clearer guidelines.

The Senate had the special privilege of honoring Leo Mazzone in the chamber to congratulate him on his many accomplishments. SR 444 outlines that Mazzone’s career includes 15 years with the Atlanta Braves as the pitching coach and many victories, including the 1995 World Series Championship. Mazzone is currently a radio sports analyst and special pitching advisor for Furman University.

My wife and I have always been huge Braves fans and have admired the work that Mazzone did with such athletes as Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.

As we move forward with the last days of the legislative session, your input continues to be important to me. I encourage you to contact me with your concerns and questions. I can be reached at or at 404-656-7880.

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