Sen. Bill Cowsert: Republican Priorities on Fast Track

29
Jan

Sen. Bill Cowsert: Republican Priorities on Fast Track

Your Georgia Desk

From Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert 

Sen Bill Cowsert

 

Republican Priorities on Fast Track

On Monday, Georgia Senate Republicans released our legislative agenda for this year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly. When Republicans gathered to discuss the most pressing issues facing our state, we determined quickly that our legislative priorities should focus squarely on the education, health, and protection of Georgia’s children. Likewise, to better ensure these children will have a prosperous future, we are resolved to continue our efforts toward economic development and job creation – this year that includes working to bolster our transportation infrastructure.

The Republican Caucus has developed a five-point plan for the 2015 session:

  1. Helping young children with autism
  2. Providing college/technical school opportunities for high school students
  3. Continuing and expanding the protection of our children
  4. Promoting economic development and job creation
  5. Teaching the founding principles of our constitutional republic to our students

Our first priority this session was to assist children in receiving the diagnosis and therapy they need to treat autism. Today, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with some form of autism—a true epidemic. This bill will require insurance companies to cover analysis, treatment, and counseling for autistic children under six years old; joining 38 other states with similar laws.

Early treatment has shown remarkable improvement rates for these children and can help put them in regular classrooms, steering them away from much more costly special education programs. This is especially important for children on the lower end of the autistic spectrum.  A report from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that 47 percent of autistic children who receive early treatment can achieve “typical function.” The increased insurance cost to cover early autism treatment is only $0.31 per health insurance member, per month. This small investment will easily be recovered through reductions in educational and medical expenditures for each child who benefits from early treatment. To ensure that no undue burden is imposed on businesses, the insurance requirement will not apply to companies with 10 or fewer employees and will be waived if it results in more than a 1 percent increase in premiums. We simply cannot afford to deny these children early treatment coverage.

Senate Bill 1 passed the Senate on Thursday with bipartisan support in a unanimous 54-0 vote. It is now headed to the House for consideration.

Our second priority is an initiative proposed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle that will enable high school students to enroll in a college or university upon completion of the 10th grade if they can pass the college entrance exam. When they complete a degree or technical school certificate program, they will have satisfied their high school graduation requirements. Not only will this help students, it will help close the gap we currently face with companies trying to fill skilled-labor jobs. Senate Bill 2 has already passed out of the Education committee and is headed to the Senate floor this week.

To further protect Georgia’s children, the Republican Caucus will support legislation and budgetary initiatives that will increase the number of caseworkers at the Division of Family and Children Services, reduce red tape for potential foster families, and facilitate the adoption process. The Republican caucus will explore options for private-sector participation or expansion of the private-sector’s involvement in each of these areas. Several bills to achieve this end are under consideration at this time.

The Republican Caucus also will use this session of the General Assembly to attract new businesses and promote job creation. Along with the proven tactics that have helped Georgia become the best place in the U.S. to do business, the Senate will work to improve the state’s infrastructure. This will ensure transportation issues do not interfere with businesses’ ability to transport goods and services and people have an easy ability to get to work, home, school, and church.

Although this list of priorities represents the issues most important to the Senate Republicans, it is by no means exhaustive. We will continue to file only those bills that conform to the conservative principles of reduced government interference where possible, strict fiscal prudence, and efficient services for our constituents.

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