Legislative Week 4: Internet predator legislation advances

Week 4 report: The General Assembly gaveled in last week on Feb. 10 for the 16th legislative day of the 2009 session. The legislature was in session Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; however, numerous committee hearings were held Monday and Friday.

The pace of legislation reaching the floor of the House is certainly quickening as committees report more and more legislation out of committee.

Last week, legislation that I sponsored to tighten up a loophole in the child molestation statute created by the Georgia Supreme Court was heard by the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee’s Crimes Against Children and Illegal Substances Subcommittee, which I chair. I am happy to report the measure was unanimously voted out of subcommittee with strong bipartisan support.

I am hopeful we can get the legislation voted out of full committee this upcoming week and to the floor of the House for a vote in short order.

As I have said before, I strongly believe this legislation will provide prosecutors the ability to prosecute offenders for child molesters that use the Internet and technologies such as webcams to prey on our children, which as been precluded by the Supreme Court’s previous ruling.

The most significant issue debated on the floor last week was H.B. 233, which passed 110 to 63. The legislation would create a two-year moratorium on property tax reassessment increases.

The only exceptions to the moratorium would be situations where substantial improvements were constructed on the property or a re-zoning requested by the property owner is approved.

The author’s goal in promulgating the legislation is to give property owners relief from property tax increases resulting from rising assessments which fly in the face of economic realities. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.

This past week my colleague, Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) introduced House Bill 426, legislation proposing to update the insurance industry’s treatment of autism. I was proud to join approximately 20 House members as original sponsors of this important legislation.

Through my observations of friends with autistic children and my service on the Joseph Sams School Board of Directors, I have come to truly marvel at the challenges faced by the parents of these children.

One of the greatest of these challenges is the financial burden of the treatments and therapies associated with treating autism, particularly at an early age.

The insurance industry has often not covered these treatments, as they do not classify them as a “medical” treatment, leaving an incredible financial burden on these families.

This legislation seeks to address the issue by providing greater clarity and definition to the treatments to be covered by insurance plans in Georgia.

Proper early intervention and treatment for children with autism is absolutely critical in the child’s ultimate development. I look forward to working with my colleagues to push this important measure forward.

The legislature was to reconvene on Tuesday, Feb. 17 for day 19 of the legislative session. As always, I look forward to your questions and feedback.

[Matt Ramsey, an attorney in Peachtree City, represents District 72 in the Georgia House of Representatives.]

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