By State Rep. Jay Shaw



The 2005 session of the Georgia General Assembly has now passed the halfway point, and legislation is being approved at an accelerated pace. These are among the most significant bills adopted by the House of Representatives this week:

House Bill 166 would establish a new program providing free health care to those who can't afford it.

The medical professionals providing these services would be protected from being sued by patients receiving the free care.

Patients could, however, bring legal action against the state for any medical liability incurred in the program.

This initiative is modeled after a similar program in Florida, where several thousand health care professionals are donating at least a portion of their time to providing free services to the poor.

The legislation would limit the free health care services to lower-income Georgians who are at 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

A family of four with a maximum annual income of $37,704, for example, would qualify.

Medical professionals who want to participate in the program would be required to undergo a certification process. They would not receive any pay, and a contract would have to be signed with each patient stating he or she could file suit against the state but not the provider.

The state Department of Community Health would be responsible for administering the program.

The legislation passed 145-19 and goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Senate Bill 33 would allow Georgia students who do not have certain college preparatory courses available in their high schools to take the advanced courses over the Internet.

The online courses would be available to public, private and home-schooled students. An amendment supported by Senate Democrats ensures that public school students would get the first crack at the 2,000 open slots that will be available for the online classes.

Gov. Sonny Perdue proposed $500,000 for the remainder of this fiscal year and $1.4 million in the fiscal year 2006 budget for start-up costs.

In the House debate, an amendment was offered that would have helped rural school systems with the indirect costs of the virtual classes by requiring the state Department of Education to reimburse them for their losses.

Local school systems, already strapped for cash, are required in the legislation to make up for any shortfalls in QBE funding for the virtual schools.

Although the amendment failed, the bill was approved 166-1 and goes to the governor for his signature.

House Bill 20 would require motorists to remove very dark tint from their automobile's windows and windshields or run the risk of being ticketed for a misdemeanor.

The legislation restores the 32 percent visibility standard that had been required under a 1990 state law.

That law was declared unconstitutional because it applied only to Georgia vehicles and not all autos traveling through the state.

The new bill would apply to cars and trucks from any state. The measure passed 125-33 and goes to the Senate for its consideration.

House Bill 188 would increase public awareness of the presence of convicted sexual offenders in our communities. The legislation provides that newspapers serving as their counties' legal organs publish the this information.

Under the bill, the names of people who have to register as sex offenders would be published, at the time of their release from incarceration, in the county in which they were convicted.

The bill was approved unanimously and goes to the Senate for its consideration.

House Bill 180, which also passed the House by a unanimous vote, would allow the state Department of Human Resources (DHR) to obtain criminal history information on adults living in a home where a child is in the custody of the state and is the subject of a child protective services referral, complaint or investigation.

Rep. Jay Shaw represents the 176th District (Berrien, Clinch, Lanier and Lowndes Counties) in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact him at the Capitol at 404-656-7859 or by e-mail at jshaw@legis.state.ga.us.

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