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Session was 'bittersweet' for area lawmaker
by Tom Spigolon
March 25, 2014 01:53 PM | 2326 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An area lawmaker saw a “bittersweet” 2014 session in his freshman year in the Georgia General Assembly, he said last week.

District 67 State Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, saw passage of legislation he sponsored to halt media usage of audiotapes of some 911 calls; and to lower the pay of members of the Douglas County School Board.

However, he also was a co-sponsor of House Bill 885 which allowed the use of cannabis oil to treat some seizure disorders. It died in the final hours of the General Assembly session last week.

Gravley was among the first public supporters of the bill, sponsored by District 141 State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.

“I thought, ‘These kids are still going to have seizures,’” Gravley said, recalling when he knew the bill would not pass in the waning minutes before the session ended.

“These are kids in my counties who are in the same schools, who play in the same parks as my children,” he said.

Gravley noted an overwhelming majority of House members approved the bill twice in the 2014 session. It would grant immunity from prosecution for parents who bring the oil, a marijuana derivative that does not produce psychoactive effects, to Georgia from a state where it is legal.

However, Senate leaders refused to allow movement on the bill without it being linked to a separate bill requiring private insurers to cover therapies for young children with autism.

The Douglasville lawmaker said he was disappointed for the Wages family of Dallas whose daughter, Sydney, has seen her seizures drop dramatically after her parents began importing the oil from Colorado, where it is legally distributed, and the Clark family of south Paulding whose mother, Kim, moved to Colorado with son Caden, also a seizure sufferer.

Gravley said one House member asked Speaker David Ralston in the session’s waning minutes if the Senate still had a chance to approve a medical marijuana bill without the autism provision. Ralston said it was not likely, Gravley said.

“He said the Senate would rather make speeches than to do something for Georgia’s children,” Gravley said.

The bill died after House members opposed the autism amendment by District 45 State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. She added the provision to the medical marijuana bill after a similar autism bill stalled in the House because of concerns about it being an insurance mandate.

However, Gravley said he understood Unterman was passionate about her bill and was trying to get it passed.

The 911 bill originated on a request from Douglas County 911 Director Greg Whitaker. It prohibits the public release of a 911 audiotape on which a person dies.

Seven people died in 2009 flooding in Douglas County, including a woman who called 911 operators minutes before floodwaters swept her vehicle into Sweetwater Creek. Atlanta media later broadcast the call, Gravley said.

He said a number of people are exempted from the law, ranging from attorneys to other representatives of the deceased.

The Douglas County School Board bill removes the direct link between the percentage of pay increases given to Superior Court judges and board members.

The bill, requested by the school board, would lower members’ pay by 10 percent and tie future pay increases to increases for teachers.

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