Time running out, but many issues remain - Glenn Baker

Thursday, March 31, marked legislative day 37, leaving only three legislative days in the current 40-day session. There is still much work to be done before the session ends on April 14.

Much of the legislation this week involved bills that create a safer and more prosperous Georgia.

Senate Bill 36, for example, strives to improve public health and safety by helping doctors and pharmacists identify prescription drug abusers. Currently, Georgia physicians do not have the ability to know if their patients are obtaining similar prescriptions from other doctors. This lack of information enables patients to pursue multiple prescriptions for similar medications from different doctors.This problem not only results in abuse of these medications, but it also results in some patients abusing the system so that they can illegally sell the addictive medications on the street.

SB 36 ends this by giving doctors and pharmacists the tools they need to stop the abuse. Specifically, it creates an electronic database of the prescribing and dispensing of Schedule II, III, IV, and V controlled substances in Georgia. This information is already recorded by the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, which receives all prescriptions, once they are filled by pharmacists.

SB 36 simply allows that information to be put into a database that will only be accessible to doctors and pharmacists who would have to use a secure password. As a result, doctors and pharmacists will be better able to identify prescription drug abusers. In turn, abusers will be able to get the help they need, and prescription drugs will have less of a chance to end up in the wrong hands.

Senate Bill 94 is another piece of legislation aimed at increasing the safety of Georgians. This bill creates a limited exception to criminal liability for service providers who knowingly harbor runaway youths. The exception allows the service provider to offer a runaway child necessary care and protection without the risk of criminal liability.

To fall under this exception, the provider must have reasonable cause to believe the minor has been abused or neglected and must report the child abuse. Additionally, the service provider must, either attempt to inform a guardian of the child, or contact the Division of Family services within 72 hours after assisting the child. Further, these service-provider organizations must register with the Department of Human Services or a child welfare agency.

Ultimately, this measure will allow young victims of abuse to receive the help they need without fear of being turned away by organizations limited by legal liability.

This week, we also passed Senate Resolution 312, that will help promote greater economic growth in our state. This measure enacts the General Assembly's support for the harbor deepening efforts in Savannah. With the expansion of the Panama Canal expected in 2014, this joint resolution is necessary because ports in the Southeast must be deepened so that they can accommodate larger container ships that require deepwater ports. These large ships have already begun looking for accessible ports along the U.S. East Coast, and will bring jobs and economic development in their wake.

Georgia is working to secure its place in this growing global market through harbor-deepening efforts in Savannah. To assist in securing out-of-state funding for the project, the General Assembly passed SR 312 to let the world know that we fully support the continued growth and economic well-being of our ports.

Lastly, I would like to update you on the new schedule for the remaining three days of the session. Under House Resolution 791, the House and Senate revised the schedule for the last days. As a result, we will still break during the first full week in April, which will allow us time to hear your questions and concerns about pending legislation before the final three days.

After the break, the House will resume session on Monday, April 11, at 1 p.m. The last two days will then fall on Tuesday, April 12, and Thursday, April 14.

Please use this last remaining time to let me know of any concerns that you might have regarding our state.

Glenn Baker is the state representative for House District 78, which serves portions of Clayton and Henry counties. He can be reached at (404) 656-0202, or at: glenn.baker@house.ga.gov.