2013 Capitol Update - Week 3 - Wiretapping, Marijuana, and Medicaid

Representative Brett Harrell reports on the third week of the legislative session. This week the House voted on measures related to wiretapping, marijuana, and Medicaid.



Archbishop Wilton Gregory and Representative Brett Harrell 

It was my great pleasure this past Tuesday to introduce Archbishop Wilton Gregory as our Chaplain of the Day in the House on Catholic Day at the Capitol. 

This week at the Cap

The House reconvened this week and considered a number of major issues affecting Georgia in committee hearings including ethics reform, auto title fees, and others. Legislation reaching the House floor this week addressed wiretapping, synthetic marijuana, and funding for our state's Medicaid program. Each received favorable passage by the House and move on during this legislative session.

Representative Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) presented House Bill 55, to allow superior court judges to issue a warrant with statewide application. This legislation is particularly compelling because modern technology makes it easier than ever for criminal enterprises to extend beyond one community or jurisdiction. Judges, therefore, need the ability to grant statewide wiretaps, so that law enforcement can launch effective investigations against large scale organized crime.  The House approved this legislation with near unanimous support, so it will now go to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 57, introduced by Representative Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) protects Georgians from synthetic marijuana and narcotic "bath salts." These designer drugs can cause extreme paranoia, suicidal tendencies, hallucinations, or death. HB 57 helps remove these dangerous substances from store shelves by expanding the list of substances that are considered illegal by the state of Georgia.  The House also approved HB 57 with near unanimous support, so it too will now go to the Senate for consideration.

On Friday, the House passed Senate Bill 24, providing much needed funding for Georgia's Medicaid program, which provides healthcare for indigent women and children, as well as elderly patients. This legislation essentially continues a funding mechanism first created in 2010 to cover a Medicaid shortfall that was in the hundreds of millions. I voted in favor of SB 24, the most difficult vote I have cast as your Representative. Our Medicaid system is broken and on an unsustainable path. While SB 24 props up the program a while longer, it does not solve the long-term deficiencies. Recognizing these problems, HR 107 creates a Joint Study Committee on Medicaid Reform to determine future actions to address Georgia's growing need and declining revenues. SB 24 has now passed both the Senate and House and awaits the Governor's signature.

HB 159 Private Property Protection Bill

I have again introduced legislation that upon becoming law will remove non-tax fees from your property tax bills. I believe taxes and only taxes should appear on property tax bills. Originally introduced in 2011 with nearly 60 co-signers, the proposal has additional support from Realtors, Mortgage Bankers, and Americans for Prosperity among others. Please click the link to learn more about HB 159 and its' benefits to you.

HB 159 link to legislation

HB 159 was previously HB 291 link to summary


As always, I remain appreciative that you allow me to serve as your state Representative. I encourage you to contact me with any comments or questions you have about the legislation being considered at the state Capitol.  You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-0254 or on my cell at 404-966-5804 or via email at brett.harrell@house.ga.gov

 Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your representative,

 Brett Harrell  

Twitter: brettharrell
Facebook: voteharrell 

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George Wilson February 05, 2013 at 06:16 PM
The right-wing ideologues who have captured the Republican Party have managed to make "union" a dirty word and politicians are afraid to show overt support for unions either in rhetoric or in policy initiatives. According to 2010 census data, 48% of individual wage earners make less than $25K. This is the infamous 47% that Romney disparaged. Those that make less than $40K include fully 2/3 of the work force. In other words, over half the country doesn't make enough money to last past one paycheck. But yet, corporate profits are at all time highs. The DOW is bouncing off of 14,000 in the middle of a terrible economy. There are several trillion dollars of corporate profits sitting in bank accounts (some of it offshore), and there are more millionaires and billionaires than ever. We need to change the minimum wage in Georgia. We need to change the so called right- to work -laws in Georgia that would minimize the elements that people don't like about unions. Some examples would be; protecting incompetent workers stop forcing employers to pay people to do nothing, and stop out-of-control benefits regardless of changing circumstances in the world marketplace. But would encourage and make it easy for labor to organize to obtain other things like better working conditions and higher wages. This compromise could give labor a fair shot at organizing labor in the south and Georgia. Why aren't the Georgia legislature addressing issues like this to increase jobs and the economy?
George Wilson February 07, 2013 at 05:52 PM
We need cannabis law reform and we probably want get it from this legislature. Georgia needs to become more lenient with its cannabis laws by adopting an approach seen in many other states. Some people have proposed two resolutions for both medical marijuana and law reform, and we are looking for legislative sponsors to get on board. Public polls from coast to coast show public support for some form of decriminalization and medicalization of marijuana. Believe it or not, Georgia was among the first states to have medical marijuana legislation, which passed in 1980. The law, known as the Therapeutic Research Act, has lain dormant for decades after the federal government halted the supply of medical cannabis. Our two main priorities should be: 1) Reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule V substance. 2) Establishing two "Special Study" committees: One to study expanding Georgia's medical marijuana laws and the other to study the impact of Georgia's current marijuana laws on the criminal justice system. Police officers in Georgia made "approximately 40,000" marijuana arrests in 2012, and this is a waste of resources. Especially at a time when some law enforcement agencies struggle with curbing violent crime and our prisons are over populated At the moment, Colorado and Washington are the only states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, while 25 other states have some form of decriminalized or medical marijuana laws.


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