2021 AARP Georgia Legislative Session

Posted on 02/23/21

Update April 1, 2021

FY22 Spending Plan:  

  • HB 81 is the spending plan for FY22 that passed late on Sine Die (March 31). The new budget has a few notable line items that AARP has been tracking: 
  • There is no new funding for home and community-based services funding 
  • A 10% increase for home and community-based service providers 
  • Aging received about $37.7 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act 
  • The budget increased funding for HealthCare Facility Regulation by over $12 million 
  • All changes to HB 81 will take effect from July 1, 2021, and all changes can be tracked in HB 81

CAREGIVING  

  • HB 605 sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) failed to pass following debate over an amendment that was added on the final day. The committee substitute allows for the installation of a visible camera in a resident’s room and a consent form to prohibit when the resident does not want to be monitored. The committee substitute also allows an exception for a hidden camera (Nuckles v. State Ga. Supreme Court decision exception).

    The bill originally limited the video or audio footage from the hidden camera to criminal proceedings only. Elder abuse advocates, including AARP Georgia, voiced concerns with certain provisions in the bill. This directly led to the addition of an amendment that allowed for footage to be admissible in civil and administrative proceedings. AARP had advocated for the addition of criminal penalty language for anyone intentionally tampering or obstructing with cameras based on legislation passed in other states.   Adoption of the amendment passed on a 29-21 vote. The bill passed the Senate with the amendment attached on a vote. The bill then passed the Senate on a 49-3 vote. The House did not accept the revised bill and the bill died on a 77-88 vote.  
  • SB 43, sponsored by Rep. Matt Brass (R-Newnan), also known as the “Noncovered Eye Care Services Act’ passed both chambers and most recently the senate on a 49-0 vote. The legislation adds clear definitions to terms like ‘covered eye care services,’ ‘covered persons,’ and ‘eye care benefit plan’ to reduce unfair or misleading practice in relation to eye care insurance.  
  • SB 290 authored by Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) presented the latest version of his designated caregiver bill called the “Patient Representation and Visitation Act” was passed as a gutted version of previous legislation. While the passed version of legislation mandates that long-term care facilities cannot institute visitor policies that are more restrictive than the minimum standards as identified by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, previous versions of this legislation established clearer timelines and policies for visitation that offered greater freedoms for those who wanted to see their loved ones.  

Health Care 

  • One of AARP’s legislative priorities for the 2021 session failed to be called to the senate floor for a vote before Sine Die. HB 369 had passed the Senate Health & Human Services committee by committee substitute on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. HB 369, sponsored by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), would have allowed advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and physicians assistants (PAs) to prescribe hydrocodone in emergency situations for pain relief.  

    The bill would have made a simple change that can reduce physician paperwork, which would provide more time with patients. The bill authorized APRNs and PAs to sign basic health care forms for disability parking placards, which can help reduce costs and promote efficiency. AARP will continue to monitor and support HB 369 in following legislative sessions. 
  • SB 215, sponsored by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry), would authorize nursing homes to hire certified medication aides to administer medications in long-term care facilities. The legislation passed after senate agreed on a 49-0 vote to a house amendment. This bill may help alleviate staffing shortages in nursing homes. 
  • SB 80, authored by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Fulton/Cobb), is also named the Ensuring Transparency in Prior Authorization Act was passed by both chambers. The bill requires authorizations to be available to providers on the insurance company websites and the clinical criteria at the time of adverse determination. The bill also sets timetables for prior authorizations to give more clarity to patients. 
  • SB 46, Sponsored by Rep. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge), passed the house on a substitute with a 109-56 vote. The senate voted to adopt and pass the substitute with a 38-11 vote. The legislation allows pharmacists to continue to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in a health emergency. During the pandemic, Gov. Kemp issued an executive order authorizing pharmacists and other medical professionals to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. 

    The U.S. Health & Human Services Department also authorized the use of these medical professionals to temporarily administer the vaccine. Now that the governor’s executive order is no longer in effect, and Georgia law needed to be updated to allow pharmacists and other medical professionals the authority to administer the COVID-19 vaccine during a health emergency. This bill will authorize pharmacists to do so. 
  • HR 236, authored by Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans), creates the House Study Committee on the Safe Staffing of Nurses in Georgia. The study committee shall examine best practices for the safe staffing of nurses in a practice environment and to provide recommendations for the implementation of a standard of safe staffing for nurses in Georgia. This resolution was referred to the House Human Relations and Aging Committee. HR 236 was heard in the House Human Relations and Aging Committee on Wednesday, March 24 but was not called for a vote and did not pass. 

Updated March 24, 2021

AARP Georgia's 2021 Legislative Priority APRN modernization passes Senate committee: One of AARP’s legislative priorities for the 2021 session passed the Senate Health & Human Services committee by committee substitute on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. HB 369 sponsored by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) allows advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and physicians assistants (PAs) to prescribe hydrocodone in emergency situations for pain relief.  

The bill also makes a simple change that can reduce physician paperwork, which will provide more time with patients. The bill authorizes APRNs and PAs to sign basic health care forms for disability parking placards, which can help reduce costs and promote efficiency. AARP Georgia will continue to advocate for HB 369 to be heard for a Senate floor vote.

Bills of Interest

FY22 Spending Plan:  The Senate passed its version of the FY22 spending package and kept the House added funding for a 10 percent rate increase for home and community-based service providers but it eliminated the addition of $168,000 in funding for the Behavioral Health and Housing CO-AGE budget priority. The budget will now go to a conference committee to work out the spending differences. To track the details of the spending plan for FY22 see HB 81.   

Caregiving:  HB 605 sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) passed the Senate Health & Human Services committee with a substitute. The committee substitute allows for the installation of a visible camera in a resident’s room and a consent form to prohibit when the resident does not want to be monitored. The committee substitute also allows an exception for a hidden camera (Nuckles v. State Ga. Supreme Court decision exception). The bill limits the video or audio footage from the hidden camera to criminal proceedings only. Elder abuse advocates, including AARP Georgia, still have concerns with certain provisions in the bill. 

During the Senate committee hearing, Nancy Pitra, Associate State Director, Advocacy testified for additional changes to the bill to include: 

  • Criminal penalty language for anyone intentionally tampering or obstructing with cameras based on legislation passed in other states. 
  • Extending video admissibility to administrative and civil proceedings for hidden camera footage.

Despite this testimony from Nancy Pitra and other advocates, HB 605 passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee with a tie breaking vote by Chairman Ben Watson. For coverage on the Senate hearing, please go here: cameras-nursing-homes-bill-advances-dispute

Health Care:  Georgia allows certified medication aides to administer medications in Assisted Living Communities. SB 215 sponsored by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry) would authorize nursing homes to hire certified medication aides for the same purpose. This bill may help alleviate staffing shortages in nursing homes. The bill passed the House Human Relations & Aging committee Wednesday March 24 by committee substitute. AARP will continue to monitor the bill in the House. HB 307 authored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), is the Georgia Telehealth Act and extends the telehealth privileges allowed during the pandemic to be extended permanently. This bill passed the House unanimously and AARP supports this measure and will continue to follow the bill in the Senate. HB 307 passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.  

SB 80, sponsored by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Fulton/Cobb) aims to add transparency to the process of prior authorizations for insurance coverage. The bill would require authorizations to be available to providers on the insurance company websites and the clinical criteria at the time of adverse determination. Additionally, the bill asks for aggregated statistics by carrier and by plan on approvals and denials, so consumers and providers may understand what to expect from their insurance plan. The bill passed the House Insurance committee and will hopefully have a vote on the House floor before the end of the session. 

  SB 46 sponsored by Sen. Dean Burke allows pharmacists to continue to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in a health emergency. During the pandemic, Gov. Kemp issued an executive order authorizing pharmacists and other medical professionals authority to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.    The U.S. Health & Human Services Department also authorized the use of these medical professionals to temporarily administer the vaccine. Now that the governor’s executive order is no longer in effect, and Georgia law needs to be updated to allow pharmacists and other medical professionals the authority to administer the COVID-19 vaccine during a health emergency. This bill will authorize pharmacists to do so. SB 46 passed House Health and Human Services Committee by committee substitute. 

  HR 236 authored by Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans), creates the House Study Committee on the Safe Staffing of Nurses in Georgia. The study committee shall examine best practices for the safe staffing of nurses in a practice environment and to provide recommendations for the implementation of a standard of safe staffing for nurses in Georgia. This resolution was referred to the House Human Relations and Aging Committee. HR 236 was heard in the House Human Relations and Aging Committee on Wednesday, March 24 but was not called for a vote. Chairman Jesse Petrea (R– Savannah) noted that he believes the Human Relations & Aging Committee could conduct an informal study on the issue before next legislative session.  
Elections: 
HB 531 sponsored by Rep. Barry Fleming (R–Harlem) is the House omnibus election legislation. The Senate referred the bill to its Ethics committee and has created a substitute. The substitute still includes voter ID rules for casting absentee ballots and a ban on giving out water or food to voters waiting in line outside polling places. However, the move to repeal “no-excuse” absentee voting and reduce weekend hours during the three-week early voting period are no longer included in the bill. This committee substitute outlines the order to confirm the identity of the elector, a name, date of birth, registered address, address where the ballot should be cast, and a Georgia driver's license number or identification card. If a driver's license or identification card cannot be provided, the elector needs to affirm this fact and provide other identification. The list of what may be provided is here: Identification list

SB 241 sponsored by Sen. Mike Dugan (R–Carrollton) is the Senate omnibus bill that has not been advanced by the House Special Committee on Election Integrity. The House Special Committee on Election Integrity amended SB 202 to create another House omnibus bill. This bill is now like House Bill 531 as passed the House with provisions to alter early voting deadlines, require a valid Georgia ID number to vote absentee by mail, reduce the number of absentee drop boxes, prohibit mobile voting sites, and appoint a statewide election board chairperson. We do not expect to see a ban on "no-excuse" absentee voting in any of the bills moving forward, but AARP will continue to watch for those provisions.

CROSSOVER REPORT: March 11, 2021

AARP Georgia's 2021 Legislative Priority APRN modernization passes: One of AARP’s legislative priorities for the 2021 session passed the House on Friday. HB 369 sponsored by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) allows advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and physicians assistants (PAs) to prescribe Schedule II drugs in emergency situations.

These prescriptions are limited to a five-day supply initial-dose only order. The bill also makes a simple change that can reduce physician paperwork providing more time for patients. The bill authorizes APRNs and PAs to sign basic health care forms for disability parking placards, reducing cost, and promoting efficiency. This change also reduces stress on family caregivers.

AARP Georgia will continue to support this measure in the Senate. The other APRN scope of practice measure HB 430 is still in House Regulated Industries committee and may need to wait until next session for legislative action.

Bills of Interest:

FY22 House Budget proposal:
The House approved a $27.2 billion FY22 spending package that included funding a 10% rate increase for home and community-based service providers. The House FY22 budget also included the addition of $168,000 in funding for the Behavioral Health and Housing CO-AGE budget priority. For more details on this budget request, please click  Behavioral Health & Housing Co-Age Fact Sheet. The budget proposal goes to the Senate for their consideration. To view the full details of the House spending plan for FY22 see HB 81.

Caregiving:
HB 290 authored by Rep. Ed Setzler (R - Acworth) presented the latest version of his designated caregiver bill called the “Patient Representation and Visitation Act.” The legislation was originally brought to address concerns by individuals who have been unable to visit their loved ones during the pandemic in nursing homes and hospitals.

In his latest version of the legislation, an essential caregiver is given access to individuals in long-term care facilities for no less than two hours each day subject to a declared state of emergency by the governor. Several committee members raised questions and concerns about the measure, but the bill ultimately passed the committee. After a vigorous two-hour debate on the House floor, the bill passed to the Senate. AARP Georgia will continue to monitor this legislation in the Senate.

HB 605 sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) passed out of committee with a substitute. The committee substitute allows for the installation of a visible camera in a resident’s room and a consent form to prohibit when the resident does not want to be monitored. Elder abuse advocates have concerns with certain provisions in the bill.

  • The bill allows the facility to turn the camera off and does not include any consequences if the camera does not get turned back on.
  • The bill does not include any consequences for someone intentionally tampering with the camera.
  • It allows the facility to remove the camera without notice to the resident and without a right to cure or correct the installation issue.
  • The bill also includes language that prevents a resident from installing a hidden camera when the resident feels there is a security risk. (As AARP Georgia has reported, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in December 2020 that a resident has a right to install a hidden camera for security purposes.)

Recommendations for changes to the bill went unanswered, so AARP Georgia encouraged House members to oppose HB 605 on the floor. Rep. Josh McLaurin (D- Sandy Springs) and Rep. Mary Frances Williams (D-Marietta) spoke on behalf of advocates in opposition to the bill. After much debate, HB 605 passed the House with a vote of 95-69. The bill moves to the Senate and AARP Georgia will continue to reach out to advocate for necessary changes to the measure.

Health Care:
Georgia allows certified medication aides to administer medications in Assisted Living Communities. SB 215 sponsored by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry) would authorize nursing homes to hire certified medication aides for the same purpose. This bill may help alleviate staffing shortages in nursing homes. The bill has bipartisan support and passed the Senate unanimously. AARP will continue to monitor this legislation in the House.

HB 307 authored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), is the Georgia Telehealth Act and extends the telehealth privileges allowed during the pandemic to be extended permanently. This bill passed the House unanimously and AARP supports this measure and will continue to follow the bill in the Senate.

SB 80, the "Ensuring Transparency in Prior Authorization Act" authored by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta), is a consumer protection measure that went through revisions after the author spoke with stakeholders. The substitute bill includes requirements for insurers, such as qualifications for reviewers, review deadlines that match current CMS guidelines (72 hours for urgent, seven days for non-urgent issues), and criteria for honoring prior authorizations. The committee substitute passed the Senate unanimously and AARP Georgia will continue to monitor this bill in the House.

SB 46 sponsored by Sen. Dean Burke allows pharmacists to continue to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in a health emergency. During the pandemic, Gov. Kemp issued an executive order authorizing pharmacists and other medical professionals authority to administer the CoOVID-19 vaccine.

The U.S. Health & Human Services Department also authorized the use of these medical professionals to temporarily administer the vaccine. Now that the governor’s executive order is no longer in effect, and Georgia law needs to be updated to allow pharmacists and other medical professionals the authority to administer the COVID-19 vaccine during a health emergency. This bill will authorize pharmacists to do so. The bill passed the Senate. AARP Georgia will continue to monitor this bill in the House.

HR 236 authored by Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans), creates the House Study Committee on the Safe Staffing of Nurses in Georgia. The study committee shall examine best practices for the safe staffing of nurses in a practice environment and to provide recommendations for the implementation of a standard of safe staffing for nurses in Georgia. This resolution was referred to the House Human Relations and Aging Committee.

Elder Abuse: HB 363 sponsored by Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta) is an elder abuse language clean-up bill. The bill clarifies the definition of the criminal offense of “abuse of access” to an incapacitated individual. There are also discrepancies in the Georgia code around sentencing. There are enhancements in other code sections that would require a felony elder abuse case to be sentenced as a misdemeanor. Provisions in this bill would clean up these discrepancies. The bill passed the House unanimously and AARP Georgia will continue to monitor and support the progress of this bill in the Senate. 

Elections:
HB 531 sponsored by Rep. Barry Fleming (R–Harlem) is the House omnibus election legislation. It is a wide-ranging election measure that includes absentee by mail ID requirements (an ID number or photo requirement), reduces drop box availability, sets earlier deadlines for requesting absentee ballots and disqualifies ballots cast in the wrong precincts. The measure passed the House by a 97-72 vote.

SB 241 sponsored by Sen. Mike Dugan (R–Carrollton) is the Senate omnibus bill. This bill also includes a laundry list of election changes including eliminating no-excuse absentee ballots but includes a list of allowed exceptions for absentee by mail. The list is not limited to people 65 and older, people with a disability and their caregivers, and people who will be away from their precinct on Election Day. After vigorous floor debate, this measure passed the Senate 29-20.

Share Your Story: AARP Georgia encourages and promotes maximum participation in the electoral process. We would like to see voter registration and voting systems and procedures that allow for a range of voting choices, such as voting from home or early. For the last 16 years, Georgians 50+ have enjoyed the ability to vote from home. The new photo ID requirements may make voting by mail more difficult. To help legislators better understand how cumbersome this might be to the 50+, please take a few minutes and share your voting story. We believe your input will help guide our discussions with legislators on these measures. Please click here to Share Your Story

 AARP Priorities that did not crossover:

Age Discrimination:
HB 356 sponsored by Rep. Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta) seeks to eliminate age discrimination in the employment section of the Georgia code, which currently caps at 70 years. This code change would align Georgia law with the federal law on age discrimination and be a great first step towards recognizing the benefit of older adults in the workforce. The bill is in House Industry & Labor.

Broadband Expansion:
Rural broadband expansion is also a priority. AARP Georgia supports SB 65 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R–Dahlonega) that seeks to incentivize broadband providers to service underserved areas through creating awards from the high-speed broadband deployment portion of the Universal Access Fund by the Public Service Commission (PSC). The bill is in Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

###

Georgia's 2021 Legislative Priorities

Weekending Friday, March 5 , 2021

House passes the FY22 budget proposal:
The House approved a $27.2 billion FY22 spending package that included funding a 10% rate increase for home and community-based service providers. The House FY22 budget also included the addition of $168,000 in funding for the Behavioral Health and Housing CO-AGE budget priority. For more details on this budget request, please click  Behavioral Health & Housing Co-Age Fact Sheet. The budget proposal goes to the Senate for their consideration. To view the full details of the House spending plan for FY22 see HB 81.

APRN Bill passes the House before crossover day:

One of AARP’s legislative priorities for the 2021 session passed the House on Friday. HB 369 sponsored by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) allows advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and physicians assistants (PAs) to prescribe Schedule II drugs in emergency situations. These prescriptions are limited to a five-day supply initial-dose only order. The bill also makes a simple change that can reduce physician paperwork providing more time for patients. The bill authorizes APRNs and PAs to sign basic health care forms for disability parking placards, reducing cost, and promoting efficiency. This change also reduces stress on family caregivers. AARP Georgia will continue to support this measure in the Senate. The other APRN scope of practice measure HB 430 is still in House Regulated Industries committee and may need to wait until next session for legislative action.

Electronic Monitoring in Long-term Care passes with debate:

Last week, HB 605 sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) passed out of committee with a substitute. The committee substitute allows for the installation of a visible camera in a resident’s room and a consent form to prohibit when the resident does not want to be monitored. Elder abuse advocates have concerns with certain provisions in the bill.

The bill allows the facility to turn the camera off and does not include any consequences if the camera does not get turned back on.

  • The bill does not include any consequences for someone intentionally tampering with the camera.
  • It allows the facility to remove the camera without notice to the resident and without a right to cure or correct the installation issue.
  • The bill also includes language that prevents a resident from installing a hidden camera when the resident feels there is a security risk. (As AARP Georgia has reported, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in December 2020 that a resident has a right to install a hidden camera for security purposes.)

Recommendations for changes to the bill went unanswered, so AARP Georgia encouraged House members to oppose HB 605 on the floor. Rep. Josh McLaurin (D- Sandy Springs) and Rep. Mary Frances Williams (D-Marietta) spoke on behalf of advocates in opposition to the bill. After much debate, HB 605 passed the House with a vote of 95-69. The bill moves to the Senate and AARP Georgia will continue to reach out to advocate for necessary changes to the measure.

Elder Abuse Legislation Passes House unanimously:

HB 363 sponsored by Rep. John LaHood (R- Valdosta) is an elder abuse clean-up bill to clarify the language of abuse of access to a someone who is incapacitated and remove the possibility of a lesser sentence for such crimes. In the Georgia code there are enhancements in other code sections that would require a felony elder abuse case to be sentenced as a misdemeanor. Provisions in this bill would clean up these discrepancies. The bill passed the House unanimously and AARP Georgia will continue to monitor and support the progress of this bill in the Senate. 

Rural Broadband Expansion Gets Another Boost:

Friday March 5, 2021 Gov. Kemp and the PSC Commissioner Tim Echols announced the formation of a new broadband provider in Middle Georgia, Tri-CoGo, to provide high-speed internet service to 22,000 homes and businesses in eight Counties: Jones, Baldwin, Putnam, Jasper, Twiggs, Wilkinson, Morgan and Bibb. Click here to read the full press release.

AARP Georgia continues to advocate for broadband expansion legislation. Nancy Pitra, ASD Advocacy provided testimony in favor of HB 608 sponsored by Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) in the House Government Affairs committee last week. The bill provides responsibilities of the OneGeorgia Authority and the Department of Community Affairs in relation to funding and contractual awards for broadband services to unserved areas and unserved locations within such areas. This bill did not get a vote in committee and may need to wait till next year.

AARP Georgia will be monitoring all the action for Crossover Day – Monday, March 8. Check back later this week for a special crossover report.

This story is provided by AARP Georgia. Visit the AARP Georgia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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