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GA – Reps study healthcare, gang laws

February 2, 2010

Reps study healthcare, gang laws

This week the Georgia General Assembly convened for days 5-8 of the
40-day session. The majority of the work this week was done in committee
rooms around the Capitol as bills begin moving through the committee
process so that they may be considered by the full House and Senate
later in the session.

This week several district attorneys from around Georgia and various
other law enforcement officials made a presentation to the House
Judiciary Non-Civil Committee on the challenges that gangs continue to
pose to the safety of Georgia’s citizens. The influence of gangs is
prevalent in virtually every county in the state.

The presentation was done in support of legislation (HB 1015) that I and
several of my colleagues on that committee have co-authored to provide a
number of updates and revisions to our state’s anti-gang statute.

The law was last revised in 2006 and continues to be an excellent tool
used by law enforcement and prosecutors in the effort to keep our
communities safe. In fact, the DeKalb County district attorney testified
that there has been a significant decrease in violent crime and
significant increase in successful gang member prosecutions since the
law was enacted.

The law was challenged on constitutional grounds by several criminal
defense attorneys in the case Rodriguez v. State, 284 Ga. 803 (2009).
The attorneys in that case argued that the statute infringed on their
gang member client’s constitutional rights by being overly broad and by
limiting their right to freely associate with whomever they choose.

Thankfully the Supreme Court rejected these arguments and upheld this
critical public safety measure. It is vitally important that our
anti-gang law keep up with the ever changing modes and methods employed
by gangs to ensure prosecutors and law enforcement have every tool
possible to employ in the fight to keep Georgia safe from the scourge of
gang activity.

In that regard, I look forward to working with my colleagues to move HB
1015 through the House and Senate and to the governor’s desk for
signature this session.

Next week I will be introducing legislation on behalf of Gov. Sonny
Perdue aimed at drastically expanding the range of available individual
health insurance plan options available to Georgia citizens and
families. The measure proposes to allow health insurance plans sold in
other states to be sold in Georgia. The bill also retains important
consumer protection measures required of plans currently sold in
Georgia.

This is an important step toward providing consumers with more choice
and options in the health insurance market. This will become extremely
important if the Obama Administration and the Democratic leaders of the
U.S. House and Senate are successful in passing a major healthcare
overhaul which includes a mandate that every U.S. citizen buy health
insurance.

This legislation, if enacted, would dramatically expand the range of
available options to individuals and families and get the forces of the
free market working in favor of Georgia’s consumers. This stands in
stark contrast to the healthcare solutions being offered in D.C. which
will ultimately reduce or even eliminate the private health insurance
market if they achieve their ultimate goal of imposing a single-payer,
government-run insurance system.

I will also be introducing another component of Gov. Perdue’s
legislative agenda next week which proposes measures to ensure the
integrity of Georgia’s testing system. Last year several news stories
brought to light multiple instances where teachers and other school
officials in DeKalb and other counties engaged in and subsequently
covered up efforts to help students cheat on standardized tests.

It is critical that Georgia be able to trust student achievement data as
we seek to continue to improve our state’s educational system. The few
bad apples that would willfully tamper with or facilitate cheating on
standardized tests undermine that effort and damage the reputation of
all the good and hard working individuals we have in our state’s
schools.

The legislation will make it a misdemeanor infraction to tamper with
tests required by the state Department of Education and subject
violators to a potential loss of their state certification and fines.

I will continue to provide updates as the session moves forward. As
always, please do not hesitate to call or write with any questions or
concerns related to matters pending before the General Assembly.

[Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) was first elected to the District
72 post in December 2007. He is a law partner with Warner, Hooper, and
Ramsey, P.C., in Peachtree City.]

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