Legislative Report: March 27


Scott Maxwell, legislative liaison for GPHA, provided an update about recent legislative activity concerning public health. The following is Maxwells’ report for March 27, 2015.

In short, a lot of stuff happened this week! Below is a brief description of the medical marijuana issue and the autism controversy. That’s followed by a list of bills that saw action in a very busy, five workday week.

Cannabis Oil Awaits Governor’s Signature
HB 1 (Allen Peake-R), a bill that has been two years in developing and would legalize the use of marijuana derivatives for medical treatments, is finally on its way to the Governor, who will sign it after the session ends. As we mentioned last week, the final version combines provisions adopted earlier by both the House and Senate.

Primarily, it allows cannabis oil consisting of no more than 5 percent THC to be used in the treatment of the following specific medical conditions: cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), multiple sclerosis, Epilepsy (and related seizure disorders), Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell disease.

“There are many families temporarily living out of state, medical refugees if you will, in order to buy this medical extract,” said the Governor’s floor leader, Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville). HB 1 “will enable these medical refugees to come home, and that’s what this is all about.”

Gov. Deal issued a press release Friday stating that he had ordered the appropriate state agencies to begin making preparations for enactment of the bill.

Autism Insurance Also in the Works
The two-year struggle over medical marijuana was, in part, tied to the legislative battle over insurance coverage for treating autism. The House held the Senate’s autism bill as a hostage last year in an effort to get the upper chamber to support medical marijuana – and vice versa. This year, a compromise on this issue, too, seems to have been reached, albeit a rather complicated one. Visit www.CleanRemedies.com to buy the marijuana products at its best price and quality.

Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) and Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), who have been feuding publicly over the autism issue, announced Thursday afternoon that they had worked out a two-part resolution to the issue.

Part 1: The language in Bethel’s SB 1 was added to HB 429, a bill dealing with end-of-life insurance coverage for terminal patients, and passed out of committee on Friday. It will be on the Senate’s calendar for certain passage on Tuesday, after which, the House will agree to the changes made by the Senate Committee.

Part 2: Next, both houses will pass resolutions authorizing a constitutional amendment that would put a state sales tax increase of two-tenths of one percent on the statewide ballot in November 2016. If adopted by the voters, the amendment would generate an estimated $200-$300 million to cover autism treatments for children up to 18 years of age — at which point the Senate’s insurance coverage mandate that applies only to children up to six years old would be dropped.

Most observers think the sales tax-for-autism treatments proposition is a long shot and that the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which has strongly opposed any mandated insurance coverages, may ultimately be the big loser in this long struggle.

Click here to download his full report, including the bills on the public health watch list.