by Sen. Ben Watson
April 3, 2017 - The 2017 legislative session was officially complete in the early morning hour of March 31st and the final two days of the legislative calendar were very productive. Our primary focus was passing legislation that would lower taxes, improve safety, address healthcare needs, and create jobs.
I was very pleased that Senate Bill 16 passed which will regulate the use of low THC oil and establish the patient registry that will now include people with autism. The bill is headed to the Governor's desk for his signature. Representative Allen Peake, Senator Matt Brass, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Mr. Dale Jackson were all instrumental in getting this bill across the finish line. This is an example of the House and Senate working together to get legislation passed. Dale Jackson's son is a good example of what THC oil can do for autism patients. At eight years old he said his first word - "Mamma" - last week after treatment.
As a father it was a wonderful experience to be joined by my son, Walker, just in time to see the passage of The Maritime Jobs Bill, HB 125. I carried this bill on the Senate and there were several delicate parliamentary hurdles to navigate before it was passed. HB 125 will create a tax exemption from state sales and use tax for the repair and maintenance of boats, with the sales tax capped at $35,000 for each repair or maintenance performed. In addition, the commissioner of the Department of Revenue will be required to submit an annual report outlining the number of jobs created and the total revenue generated and sales tax collected from each boat repair. I believe that this bill will have a positive effect on our economy and I was glad that it passed.
The “Physicians for Rural Areas Assistance Act,” also known as House Bill 427, is also headed to the governor’s desk for signature. The legislation adds dentists, physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to the service cancelable loan program which is currently reserved for physicians in underserved areas. I carried this bill in the Senate and I believe that it will help with recruitment and retention for these professions in underserved areas of our state.
Another bill regarding the practice of medicine, House Bill 165, passed which will eliminate the maintenance of certification for those who wish to practice medicine in Georgia. This will eliminate an undue burden on physicians as this was a redundant requirement when physicians already must meet specified licensing requirements.
After the House passed House Bill 405, I carried the bill in the Senate. The bill, which unanimously passed and now awaits the governor’s signature, authorizes the creation of a statewide system for transporting essential goods to affected areas under an emergency situation, such as a severe weather event. I was pleased that this bill passed unanimously and I believe that it will allow for a coordinated emergency effort should the need arise.
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