Revisions coming to the mental health bill

ATLANTA – A key Georgia lawmaker says he anticipates major revisions soon to a sweeping bill to address the state’s dismal mental health care system.

Bill sponsor Rep. Todd Jones said Wednesday that work on the legislation was continuing.

The Republican Jones and a Democratic sponsor of the legislation, State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, spoke in front of the state House’s Health and Human Services Committee at the state Capitol.

The hearing included emotional testimony from people who suffered from mental health problems or had family members who did.

A key provision of the bill aims to pressure private insurers to provide the same level of benefits for depression, anxiety and other mental disorders as they do for medical conditions.

Utility commission map would bar Democrat’s challenge

ATLANTA – Republicans are advancing a redistricting plan for the Georgia Public Service Commission that would prevent a Democratic challenger from running against Republican Commissioner Tim Echols in this year’s election.

The Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee voted 8-3 on Wednesday for Senate Bill 472, which would redraw the utility regulatory body’s five districts.

Public Service Commissioners are elected statewide, but must live in a particular district. District 2 Commissioner Echols is up for reelection to a six-year term in November.

Democrat Patty Durand of Gwinnett County won’t be able to run against Echols if lawmakers approve the new map. That’s because the new map will draw her county out of Echols’ district.

Lawmakers seek wider apprenticeship program for Georgia students

ATLANTA – Georgia would create a new state apprenticeship program with $1.2 million in state funding under a plan being considered in the state Senate.

The Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Wednesday debated Senate Bill 379.

It would create the new program under the Technical College System of Georgia.

The new plan would build off existing efforts, including a federal apprenticeship program and a German-certified apprenticeship program that trains manufacturing technicians in Coweta County.

Employers could apply to host up to five apprentices at a time, collecting up to $10,000 each when students complete the program.

Senate panel advances ban on social media censorship

ATLANTA – A Georgia state Senate committee has advanced a proposal for the state to prohibit social media platforms from removing or censoring content.

Tuesday’s vote moves the measure to the full Senate for more debate. It comes amid an outcry from conservatives that their political views are being discriminated against.

Republican state Sen. Greg Dolezal says the measure is needed to ensure that everyone can participate in a crucial means of free expression.

The technology industry says the measure would unconstitutionally infringe on private companies’ rights.

A similar Texas law has been put on hold by a federal court and researchers haven’t found widespread evidence that social media companies are biased against conservatives.

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