March 7, 2023 | News

State Rep. Jason Ridley: Highlights from the House for March 8

Writer: State Rep. Jason Ridley

Published March 7, 2023
The Daily Citizen

Last week was productive as we completed week eight under the Gold Dome. The days have grown significantly longer as we work to meet upcoming deadlines. Our House chamber successfully passed a number of measures, now under consideration in the Senate.


Did you know that 1 in 3 Georgians suffer from a mental health issue? In recent years we have been working to ensure that every citizen has access to quality mental health care. Last session, we championed the Mental Health Parity Act to reform our delivery system and improve client outcomes. Having a solid foundation through this act allows us to expand our efforts and such is the case through the passage of House Bill 520. Details of the bill are as follows:

Develops a definition of "severe mental illness" so that data is consistent and accurate across law enforcement agencies.

Requests a "bed study" to determine the amount of mental health beds available as well as how many are needed to meet the needs of a growing population.

Requests a study to determine mental health workforce and identify recruitment and retainment challenges.

Requests for a study to be conducted to examine licensing requirements of behavioral health experts in Georgia compared to surrounding states to identify any roadblocks to certifying metal health professionals.

Expands student loan cancelation program for mental health professionals to address workforce shortage.

Our heroic veterans, suffering mental health issues, will find relief through House Bill 414, which significantly expands veteran mental healthcare options. If passed into law, this bill would create the Veterans Mental Health Services Program.

The program would serve as a competitive grant program to improve access to mental health services for service members, veterans and their family members. Administered by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities these grants are eligible to nonprofit community behavioral health programs that demonstrate their ability to provide high-quality services to veterans and their families. The grant program would also prioritize healthcare applicants located within 50 miles of a military base and have already made capital investments into veteran services.

Public and private schools will be allowed to keep lifesaving medications on hand for students who have diabetes through House Bill 440. As severe hypoglycemia can be life-threatening and requires immediate treatment, this bill significantly lessens the chance of incident by allowing schools to stock and administer glucagon for students who have a diabetic emergency at school. Glucagon is a medication used to treat diabetics suffering severe hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Further details of the bill are as follows:

Allows prescribers, such as physicians and nurse practitioners, to provide standing orders or prescriptions for ready-to-use glucagon to schools so that this medication can be rapidly administered to students in an emergency.

Allows a school to work directly with glucagon manufacturers or third-party suppliers to obtain the products for free or at fair market or reduced prices.

Public safety

Last week brought the historic passage of bipartisan legislation which aims to protect Georgia's renters and landlords. This bill works to ensure that rental properties are kept in a safe and healthy condition. Stipulations of the bill are as follows:

Requires landlords to provide rental homes that are "fit for human habitation."

Forbids turning off air conditioning during eviction process.

Increases protections for tenants facing eviction due to late rent payments by allowing a three-business day period for tenants to pay rent before eviction process begins.

Caps security deposits on rentals.

In hopes justice is served for Georgia families, we passed House Bill 88 to allow for reinvestigations of cold case murders. House Bill 88, or the Coleman-Baker Act, would require law enforcement agencies to conduct a thorough review of cold case murder investigations upon written request. This review would examine the procedural methods used in the initial investigation. If warranted, agencies could open a new investigation and develop their own written application process for reinvestigation.

Additionally, the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government would create a case tracking system and public website with information about these applications and investigations. We sincerely believe this action could solve murders that date back to 1970 and ultimately bring justice to families and victims of cold case murders in Georgia.

Last week saw the successful passage of House Bill 147, the Safe Schools Act, to address how Georgia schools prepare for acts of violence. This bill requires multiple agencies to create an endorsement for eligible certificated school professionals who complete a voluntary training program on school safety and anti-gang identification. Details of this bill are as follows:

Establishes a voluntary school safety and anti-gang endorsement.

Requires intruder alert drills for students and staff.

Ensures school safety plans are submitted to Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Currently, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation only has nine full time medical examiners on staff to handle all forensic testing in our state. To remedy this shortage, we passed House Bill 163, which would provide financial support to those in this field with student loan debt.

The legislation creates a student loan repayment program for full-time medical examiners who work for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's (GBI) Division of Forensic Sciences. The program will allow up to $120,000 to repay student loans if they work for GBI for five years. Nationwide, examiner shortages are common and this program will help incentivize prospective and current medical examiners in Georgia to join or remain in this crucial field.

Regulatory reform

In watching Georgia driving trends, our House chamber took a proactive approach in the establishment of a regulatory framework for Georgia's electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. House Bill 406 encourages more businesses, such as convenience stores, to offer EV charging stations across Georgia. Under this bill, the sale of electricity at EV charging stations would act similarly to the sale of gasoline. Like gasoline, the Georgia Department of Agriculture would retain regulatory authority and inspection over EV charging stations. Details of the bill are as follows:

Requires all EV charging stations to provide accurate readings of electricity charged to each vehicle on a per kilowatt-hour basis as a retail sale and include meters to record the total kilowatt-hours.

Establishes an excise tax set by the Georgia Department of Revenue to ensure Georgia collects revenue similar to that produced from gasoline sales.

Ensures that EV charging stations operate efficiently and fairly to support the growth and development of EVs in Georgia.

This week we reconvene for our very important "Crossover Day." This is the last day legislation can pass its respective chamber in time to make it through the committee process prior to our last day of session, scheduled for March 29.

As we work towards our final days, please be on the lookout for updates covering your government at work. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out any time. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve as your voice under the Gold Dome. May God bless you and may he continue to bless the great state of Georgia.