Sen. Bill Heath: Week Five Legislative Update

By: Sen. Bill Heath (R – Bremen)

We are getting closer to the halfway point as we completed our 18th legislative day on Thursday. Our legislative calendars are growing longer as committees start passing bills at a higher rate, but so far we have remained steady and focused on key issues affecting our state.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the most consequential piece of legislation so far this session, House Bill 159. Otherwise known as the adoption bill, this bill has been sent back and forth between the House and Senate Chambers several times between last year and now and has finally received passage. Often, good legislation requires compromise and HB 159 was no different. The Senate and House came to agreements on specific items including the age at which you can adopt, the time period where a birth mother can revoke her parental rights and when and how it is appropriate to pay for a birth mothers living expenses. After deliberation, it was determined that a study committee would be necessary to fully examine that final point and recommend changes on how we can improve this provision in the future. Regardless, I am glad that the legislature has finally taken action to help our children in need and while this legislation is far from perfect, in many ways it is an improvement over current law.

House Bill 38 would allow anyone who served in the National Guard, the Reserve Forces or in any branch of our military the dignity of displaying their service on their driver’s license, as well as the right to obtain a license free of charge. Currently, our military veterans do have the ability to receive this designation, however these veterans had to meet strict criteria that often complicated the process. The bill will make it easier for our service members to show proof of their service while reducing the amount of bureaucracy involved.

On Wednesday, the Senate had what we referred to as “Health Care Day” and heard several bills proposing improvements to our healthcare system, especially relating to substance abuse. SB 352 seeks to fight substance abuse through the creation of a Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery, as well as an Executive Director of Substance Abuse, Addiction and Related Disorders. SB 357, known as the HEALTH Act, creates a Health Coordination and Innovation Council and a Health System Innovation Center. Substance abuse, particularly opioid abuse, is a growing problem across the country and demands immediate attention. These bills will grant our state more resources to eradicating opioid abuse and provide those who are suffering with the care they need.

We still have many pieces of legislation pending before the Senate that will require our diligent attention over the coming weeks. Most notably, the upcoming vote on the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget and meetings on the General Fiscal Year 2019 budget. The budget sets forth how your taxpayer dollars will be spent and will undergo a thorough vetting process before any votes are held.

Your continued input and feedback is both necessary and appreciated. Although legislation has passed the Senate, it is not final, with the exception of HB 159. Please keep in touch as changes are made to legislation once it leaves the Senate and goes to the House for approval. Rarely does a piece of legislation get final passage as the exact version that was introduced. I will do my best to keep you updated as we move through session but if something catches your attention that you have questions about, please reach out to me.