Tuesday’s passage of HB 426 was understandably an emotional day at the State Capitol. The once-balking Senate approved the measure 47-6, followed by a House vote of 127-38. Co-sponsor Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, said, “I’ve had a lot of moments in my career, but today is the finest.” House Speaker David Ralston, who had rightly championed the bill, said that, “This is a defining moment for Georgia.”
Many people and entities worked to make that so. In a joint statement, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce said that, “Today marks a truly unprecedented moment in Georgia history. Our state and local leaders, business community, civic organizations, and our neighbors chose unity and helped to pass a comprehensive hate crimes bill in a historic and overwhelming bipartisan vote.” Indeed we did.
Lawmakers are also due profound thanks for seeing through to final passage HB 987, which will significantly strengthen care provided in Georgia’s senior living facilities. The bill was introduced after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s investigative reporting series, “Unprotected,” brought to light serious incidents of neglect and abuse that seemingly contributed to resident injuries and even deaths.
State Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, was the bill’s lead sponsor and tirelessly advocated for it. After final passage , she said, “I am so proud of Georgia’s House and Senate for making the necessary changes to ensure the safety of our seniors who choose to live in assisted living facilities.”
The bill will bring substantial changes to the state’s assisted living communities and large personal care homes. Memory care units will now have to be certified and have more staff, directors will have to be licensed and homes that break rules will face larger fines. Assisted living homes will be required to have nurse staffing. And the Senate’s version adds requirements for handling pandemic outbreaks.
Approving these two bills reflects quite well on Georgia’s citizen-lawmakers who met a high bar of service to this state in seeing them through. That’s especially notable in a time of partisan discord that can easily derail needed legislation. We join all of Georgia in thanking them for their hard work.
The Editorial Board.