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State lawmakers expecting contentious 2016 session
Cannabis oil manufacture, Confederate flag likely issues
Carl Rogers
Carl Rogers

It’s still the dog days of summer, but state lawmakers are already anticipating a heated session of the Georgia General Assembly beginning in January 2016. 

A few national debates have stirred the pot of controversy in recent weeks — for example, the Confederate battle flag’s place in the public arena — and representatives from Hall County said they expect these issues to flare up next year.

With major transportation funding in the bag, and medical cannabis now legal for eligible patients, it’s time to start thinking about what comes next.

Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said he has been keeping busy speaking to professional dental, psychologist and medical groups lately.

Health care has long been a passion for Hawkins.

And it’s an issue Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, is taking up as a current member of a House study committee on life insurance consumer disclosures.

Rogers said the committee will push for public disclosure of certain life insurance policies, such as the option for those who are diagnosed with a terminal illness to sell off life insurance to another party, in certain instances, and use the cash in hand to pay down medical expenses. 

“We’re just going to look at it and see what needs to be tweaked,” Rogers added.

But this is something that most life insurers oppose.

Meanwhile, Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, is part of a group of lawmakers reviewing how cannabis oil might be manufactured, sold and purchased in the state.

While it is legal to possess the oil to treat eight medical conditions, including seizure disorders and cancer, access to medical cannabis remains an obstacle for most patients.

Made up of physicians, attorneys, state legislators and law enforcement representatives, the Commission on Medical Cannabis will help set Georgia’s policies on medical marijuana and will make recommendations regarding access and availability to cannabis oil to the governor and General Assembly later this year.

Previous commission meetings have addressed how Georgia’s policies and enforcement measures regarding cannabis oil compare with other states that have legalized some form of medical marijuana.

The commission will meet next in late August or early September, according to Miller.

Meanwhile, Hawkins has been named to a House study committee on school counseling, which is tasked with determining how best to design and implement comprehensive school counseling programs.

Hawkins said this will include reviewing success rates among school counseling programs, examining various methodologies and finding an approach that caters to individual student needs.

The Republican majority recently concluded a retreat to hash out priorities and goals for the 2016 legislative session.

Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gainesville, said he will personally gear up in earnest this fall in preparation for another 40-day legislative session.

But Dunahoo already has a few priorities of his own lined up thanks to national events that took place this summer.

For example, he said he expects to see bills calling for the removal of Confederate lore from Stone Mountain Park next year, something he opposes.

“I’ve received so many emails from a certain group of people,” he said.

Miller has also said he expects to see legislation addressing the flag, one way or another.

Dunahoo also said he also hopes the state will address the Supreme Court’s decision in June to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, ending a ban here in Georgia approved by voters in 2004.

State Republicans have proposed legislation that would allow clergy members to refuse to perform marriages for gay and lesbian couples, though the Supreme Court decision places no demand on church pastors or temple rabbis.

It only requires probate judges to approve marriage licenses for all eligible couples.

“I still have a problem when the Supreme Court, who does not write law, states that by law we have to have gay marriage,” Dunahoo said. “It’ll be interesting to see where we go with that.”

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