Keeping Current @ the Capitol – Week of February 8, 2021


Georgia Receives “F” Rating for Tobacco Policies

The American Lung Association gave Georgia “F” ratings for tobacco taxes, prevention funding, access to cessation services, and flavored tobacco products in its “State of Tobacco Control 2021″ report. Georgia has one of the lowest tobacco tax rates in the nation, ranking 49th of 50 states. Currently, the Georgia tobacco tax is only 37 cents per pack, whereas the national average is $1.81 per pack. Raising the tobacco tax to the national average is estimated to generate $400-$500 million in additional revenue, which is needed given the strain COVID-19 has put on Georgia’s healthcare system and rural communities.

HMHBGA supports the American Lung Association’s call to action to increase the state’s tobacco tax and equalize taxes on all related products. Smoking during pregnancy puts moms and babies at higher risk for medical complications including placental hemorrhage, fetal growth restriction, and preterm birth. Maternal smoking during pregnancy and second hand smoke exposure after birth are also significant risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which accounts for 11% of infant deaths in Georgia. Raising the cost of tobacco can lower tobacco usage and improve health.

Read the full report here

Advocacy in a Virtual World & Beyond

Join us on February 18 from 11AM-12:30PM. HMHBGA, ​in partnership with the March of Dimes, will hold a​n educational session (via Zoom) on how to advocate for maternal and infant health policies in a virtual age. Things may look different this year and we want to make sure advocates’ voices are being heard! Attendees will be equipped with the tools to uplift policy priorities that are important to them throughout the session.

You will also hear from legislators (pre-recorded) describing how they ​plan to address maternal and infant healthcare issues in 2021 and how these issues may impact Georgia’s families. Winners of the Charlotte Wilen Advocates of the Year Award will also be honored. This award is presented to legislators who made a tremendous difference in the lives of Georgia’s mothers and infants through their efforts during the 2020 legislative session. 


Charlotte Wilen Advocates of the Year


Legislation to Watch

The items below are bills we are monitoring throughout the session related to maternal, infant, child, and general health. Legislation on this list is not necessarily endorsed by HMHBGA. 

House Legislation
HB 9 – Telehealth Services in Schools
(Sandra Scott, D – Rex) Would require the Department of Education to develop guidelines for the use of telehealth services in public schools for mental health and behavioral health services. [House Education Committee] No update

HB 11 – Safe Patient Limits Act
(Sandra Scott, D – Rex) Would limit the number of patients that may be assigned to a registered professional nurse in specified situations in hospitals. Assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee

HB 38 – Repeal Sterilization Procedures 
(Kim Schofield, D – Atlanta) Would repeal certain provisions related to the performance of reproductive sterilization procedures. No update

HB 41 – Health Benefit Plan Network Access and Adequacy Act
(Kim Schofield, D – Atlanta) Would increase consumer access to health care by improving network adequacy and under certain circumstances charge out-of-network services at in-network rates. No update

HB 49 – Mental Health Parity Act 
(Shelly Hutchinson, D – Snellville) Would require mental health substance use services to be treated in line with other health insurance claims. [House Insurance Committee] No update

HB 54 – Menstrual Hygiene Education
(Debra Bazemore, D – South Fulton) Would provide instruction on best practices and risks associated with tampons during sex education and AIDS prevention instruction in core curriculum. [House Education Committee] No update

HB 57 – Breastfeeding in Penal Institutions 
(Sandra Scott, D – Rex) Would provide policies for breast milk storage and the breastfeeding of a newborn, require prenatal and postpartum care, and require the provision of breast pumps in penal institutions. [House Health & Human Services Committee] No update

HB 58 – Georgia Women’s Care Act
(Kim Schofield, D – Atlanta) Would revise provisions related to the arrests of pregnant women, require pregnancy testing upon detention, and enact delayed sentencing for postpartum female inmates. No update

HB 72 – New Mothers Medicaid Expansion Act
(Carolyn Hugley, D – Columbus) Would extend Pregnancy Medicaid to 12 months after delivery. [House Health & Human Services Committee] No update

HB 96 – Presumption in Child Custody Cases
(Jasmine Clark, D – Lilburn) Would revise presumption in cases in which the custody of any child is at issue. [House Juvenile Justice Committee] No update

HB 146 – Paid Parental Leave for State Employees 
(Houston Gaines, R – Athens) Would provide for three weeks of paid parental leave for eligible state employees and eligible local board of education employees following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. Assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee

HB 154 – Protection of Children 
(Bert Reeves, R – Marietta) Would strengthen, clarify, and update provisions relating to the protection of children, including foster children and adopted children. Assigned to House Juvenile Justice Committee

HB 163 – Medicaid Express Lane Eligibility 
(Sharon Cooper, R – Marietta) Would implement express lane enrollment, which would automatically enroll and renew eligible children in Medicaid based on SNAP data. Introduced and assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee 

HB 197 – Family Care Act Extension 
(Regina Lewis-Ward, D – McDonough) Would extend the Family Care Act, which allows employees to use sick time to care for immediate family members, to 2025. Introduced and assigned to House Industry & Labor

HB 209 – Medicaid Expansion Program
(Donna McLeod, D – Lawrenceville) Would expand Medicaid coverage to eligible people up to 150% of the federal poverty line. Introduced and assigned to House Health & Human Services

HB 215 – Telehealth Options Under Medicaid
(Mary Robichaux, D – Roswell) Would extend the use of temporary Medicaid telehealth options during the pandemic emergency to a permanent status. Would also provide certification and training to providers through telehealth options. Introduced and assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee

HB 257 – Maternity Supportive Housing Act 
(Ed Setzler, R – Acworth) Would provide registration of maternity supportive housing for pregnant women. Introduced and assigned to Health & Human Services Committee

HB 287 – Tobacco and Vaping Education
(Bonnie Rich, R – Suwanee) Would include tobacco and vapor products in the course of instruction regarding alcohol and drugs required each year for all students in grades kindergarten through 12. Introduced and assigned to House Education Committee

HR 52 – Joint Study Committee on Lead Exposure
(Katie Dempsey, R – Rome) Would create a Joint Study Committee to study prevention of childhood lead exposure. Introduced and assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee

HR 78 – Racism Public Health Crisis
(Sandra Scott, D – Rex) Would declare racism a public health crisis in Georgia. Introduced and assigned to House Human Relations & Aging Committee

Senate Legislation
SB 20 – Child Advocate Advisory Committee
(Chuck Payne, R – Dalton) Would revise the composition of the Child Advocate Advisory Committee to include a foster parent, a former foster child, and a court appointment special advocate (CASA). [Senate Education & Youth Committee] Favorably passed committee

SB 55 – Georgia Family Medical Leave Act 
(Gloria Butler, D – Stone Mountain) Would create a program to compensate wage loss sustained by any individual who is unable to work due to such individual’s own sickness or injury, the sickness or injury of a family member, or the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a new child. Assigned to Senate Insurance & Labor Committee

SB 83 – Medicaid Public Option
(Sally Harrell, D – Atlanta) Would provide for a Medicaid public option program to provide healthcare coverage to individuals not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or the PeachCare for Kids Program. Introduced

SR 42 – Family Medical Leave Fund
(Gloria Butler, D – Stone Mountain) Would create a Family Medical Leave Fund as a trust fund from which funds can be used to provide a program for individuals who need to take leave from work due to their own sickness or nonwork related injury, the sickness or injury of a family member, or the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. Introduced and assigned to Senate Insurance & Labor Committee

Helpful Reminder
Red text notes any updates that have occurred since the last newsletter.
‘No Action’ means there has been no update since the last newsletter.
‘SB’ or ‘HB’ refer to Senate and House BILLS. ‘SR’ or ‘HR’ refer to Senate
Bills are used to propose changes or additions to existing statutory
law, while resolutions usually express legislative opinion or recognition
on some matter and do not have the effect of law.

Project 236

Project 236 is an advocacy tool that can be used to understand the state of maternal and infant health in your legislative district! Outcomes include rates of preterm birth, low birthweight, infant mortality, and prenatal care inadequacy. In this age of virtual advocacy, we hope that this can be used as a way to advocate for improved maternal and infant health in your own backyard.

We encourage you to engage with your legislators on why investment in maternal and infant health is necessary for the health of Georgia’s families. You can access the fact sheet for your district below.

Project 236 Sheets