My colleagues and I returned to the Gold Dome on Feb. 16 for the sixth week of the 2021 legislative session. We spent three productive days in session during the week and passed more legislation on the House floor and in committees. By the end of the week, we finished Legislative Day 19, with the halfway point of the session and the important “Crossover Day” deadline both right around the corner.

The House unanimously passed legislation that seeks to automatically enroll thousands of Georgia’s most vulnerable children in health insurance. House Bill 163 would require the Georgia Department of Community Health to submit an amendment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement “express lane” eligibility in Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids program. Upon federal approval of this plan, the Georgia Department of Human Services would automatically enroll and renew eligible children who have already qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids.

To enhance the quality of life of our Georgia families, my colleagues and I overwhelmingly passed House Bill 146 this week to extend paid parental leave to many of our valuable state employees. This legislation would provide up to 120 hours, or three weeks, of paid parental leave annually to eligible state employees and local board of education employees for qualifying life events, such as after the birth of their child and after an adoptive or foster child is first placed in their home. Under this bill, state workers who have been employed for at least six months would be able to use this parental leave regardless of whether they have paid leave benefits.

We also unanimously passed House Bill 128, which was inspired by Gracie Joy Nobles, a Georgia child with Down syndrome, to help safeguard against organ transplant discrimination for children and adults living with disabilities. If Gracie’s Law is enacted, individuals who are candidates for an anatomical gift or organ transplant would not be deemed ineligible or denied insurance coverage or a medical referral solely based on the individual’s physical or mental disability. Additionally, if an individual cannot independently meet medical requirements after a transplant operation but has an adequate support system to assist with these recovery needs, the individual would not be deemed ineligible for the transplant.

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The House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 154, which lowers the age at which a person is allowed to petition for adoption from 25 to 21 years old. This change in HB 154 would allow an older sibling or close relative to petition for adoption as an avenue for the child to remain with these family members if it is deemed as the best option. Finally among other measures, HB 154 would permit the state to begin the search of the putative father after an adoption petition has been filed, require the petitioner to request for an investigator to verify the adoption petition if the court fails to appoint one and confirm that juvenile courts would keep children’s names confidential during proceedings.

We reached the halfway point of the session when we returned for Legislative Day 20 on Monday, and we will continue to work diligently. Community input is extremely important to the legislative process, so I hope to hear from you. You are welcome to call my Capitol office at (404) 656-9210, or you can email reach me directly at Gerald.Greene@house.ga.gov.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative for House District 151.

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