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Sen. Burt Jones

The General Assembly is steadily reaching the busiest period of the legislative session with the completion of four more days under the Gold Dome. During this time, regularly scheduled legislative days have been filled with extensive and laborious work in committees to ensure that each bill is given its due diligence.

Our duty as public servants is to guarantee that the work we undertake has a profound effect on our state, and the way in which Georgians are able to run businesses and raise a family. My fellow senators and I have been working hard to accomplish that, assessing crucial legislation before Crossover Day that we believe will have large implications on solving some of our state’s challenges.

As with the general routine of each legislative day, members of the Senate allocated time to honor some of Georgia’s hardest and most valiant workers. This week, we recognized the Atlanta Braves for their title win last year and I am honored to say the team’s president, Derek Schiller, along with Rich McKay, President of the Atlanta Falcons and Steve Koonin, President of the Atlanta Hawks, were present to offer their support on my bill, Senate Bill 403. SB 403, in its totality, would legalize sports betting in Georgia, so as to open up a new economic venture for the state, and outline the terms of its operation.

In regards to standards of regulation, SB 403 would create the Georgia Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Commission, which will include numerous appointees who have jurisdiction and supervision of sports betting and will ensure that the utmost level of integrity is upheld. Similarly, the definition of an eligible bettor is defined to prohibit minors below the age of 21 from participating in these acts.

Conclusively, sports wagering already occurs illegally in the state and this piece of legislation will certify that when it does occur, it is happening in a just manner.

As for SB 403’s fiscal benefits to the state, this bill will also aid the development of various economic programs and infrastructure systems.

Primarily, oversight of sports betting would be given to the Georgia Lottery Corporation, as a means of directing net proceeds to educational programs, school technology grants and lower grade funding.

Additionally, as addressed by the liaisons of Georgia’s professional sports’ teams, this form of a lottery game would expand the entertainment aspect of sports by increasing interest, attention and overall fan levels of engagement.

I believe SB 403 will allow Georgia to capitalize on an industry that is already there, but is not being utilized in the proper way, allowing us to be a stronger fiscal state in the years to come.

This week, the Senate also took up Senate Bill 313, a bill related to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) which was given extensive review in the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee. This bill would revise the regulatory framework for PBMs and expand the authority of the Insurance Commissioner to enforce regulations, as an attempt to decrease prescription drug prices.

As we have found throughout numerous Insurance and Labor Committees, listening to the public testimony of stakeholders and constituents, the transaction chain involved with PBMs is an extensive and complicated process. However, prescription drug prices are ultimately on the rise and in many instances, some managers are steering patients away from local pharmacies and towards larger name corporations that offer these PBMs a greater benefit.

With additional reporting on national average drug acquisition costs and requirements on reimbursements, SB 313 will help local pharmaceutical businesses achieve greater profits and provide Georgians with the opportunity to receive the affordable healthcare services they deserve.

In closing, the Senate also passed the budget for the Amended 2020 Fiscal Year. My colleagues and I have been anticipating quite an abundant amount of reduction modifications and this was reflected in the legislation that was passed on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, while state revenue streams have experienced some significant stagnation, I am confident the funding that has been proposed and approved will allow Georgia to continue its leadership as the number one state in which to do business and raise a family. With the passage of the amended budget, it is now the responsibility of the General Assembly to consider and pass a Fiscal Year 2021 budget that intends to accomplish the same level of economic success.

Next week, the Senate will approach Crossover Day on Thursday, Mar. 12. While this particular day will be filled with an immense amount of bills to be considered on the floor, I anticipate the entire week will be occupied with busy discussion and vetting on each and every bill. The General Assembly has been extremely fruitful up to this point and I look forward to the continued success to come. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve you.

Sen. Burt Jones is the Chairman of the Insurance and Labor Committee. He represents the 25th Senate District which includes Baldwin, Butts, Greene, Jasper, Morgan and Putnam counties and portions of Bibb, Jones and Walton counties. He may be reached at 404.656.0082 or via email at burt.jones@senate.ga.gov.

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