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Trying to cut down on false alarms

POSTED: February 21, 2013 6:26 p.m.

The General Assembly saw the completion of the 18th day of the 2013 legislative session last week. We took up several important issues during the week and welcomed friends to Atlanta.


On Thursday we welcomed my pastor, Jose Velasquez, from Mizpah United Methodist Church, as pastor of the day in the House of Representatives. Jose was joined by his wife, Lori, and daughter, Rebecca, who also served as a page. Jose’s devotion was greatly appreciated by members of the House.


In the business for the week, we passed House Bill 59, which would help increase public safety by reducing the number of false alarms reported to law enforcement. This legislation requires an alarm monitoring company to use a second contact for alarm verification if its first attempt is unsuccessful. If the second contact is reached and the alarm went off in error, then any dispatched law enforcement can disregard the report and continue with their regular duty. No second verification call would be required, however, if the alarm monitoring company has video or audio verification of a fire alarm, panic, robbery in progress, or crime in progress.


It is important that we utilize law enforcement wisely. Reducing the number of responses to false alarms will help communities throughout the state do just that.


House Bill 198 helps ensure that Georgians receive accurate information about their health insurance options. Under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” health insurance exchanges will be required to award grants to “navigators.” These navigators will then help people enroll in qualified health plans — a service currently provided by insurance brokers.


Despite the fact that navigators will perform services similar to those provided by insurance brokers, the ACA explicitly prevents states from requiring navigators to hold an insurance producers license.


This in effect would allow people who have not undergone the same level of training as an insurance broker to essentially carry out a similar role. This could cause consumers to receive inconsistent or inaccurate advice about their health care coverage options.


Therefore, HB 198 would allow the state insurance commissioner to license navigators and ensure that they have the necessary qualifications to provide proper health insurance guidance.


House Bill 198 does not encourage the acceptance of Obamacare, but does help protect citizens if the bill is fully implemented.


House Bill 101 is the last piece of legislation I want to bring to your attention this week. This bill would make it easier for our state’s non-profit organizations to raise money by selling food at local events. Georgia law requires food service establishments to obtain a food service permit from the state before selling food to the public.


While Georgia already exempts food sold at a fairs or festivals from this permit requirement, it does not exempt food sold by nonprofit organizations at other short-term events. HB 101 would change this so that nonprofit organizations could sell food at events lasting five days or less, like a weekend bake sale or Relay for Life event, without having to get a food service permit from the state. Nonprofit organizations would, however, still have to comply with all local government permitting requirements.


Please feel free to call me if you have any questions or comments about legislation being considered in the General Assembly. You can reach me at my Capitol office at (404) 656-5099 or by email at jon.burns@house.ga.gov.


Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

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