During his first year as chairman of the state Senate’s Insurance and Labor Committee, Charlie
Bethel helped pass a bill requiring insurance companies to provide autism coverage for children under age 6 who have been diagnosed with the disorder.
“This is going to help provide a better quality of life for those on the autism spectrum. It’s going to reduce the burden on their families. It’s going to help many of those with autism become productive, successful citizens, and because of that it is going to save taxpayer dollars in the long run,” said the Dalton Republican.
Bethel spoke Tuesday at the Western Sizzlin to the League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area, providing a roundup of the past session of the Legislature and a look at the next session in January.
Bethel said lawmakers are looking at increasing funding for the HOPE grant. Funded by the Georgia lottery, the HOPE grant provides funds for Georgia students studying at the state’s technical colleges. Bethel said he will be working to set a floor for the HOPE Scholarship, which funds Georgia students studying in the state’s colleges.
“If you look at some of the recent debates about the HOPE Scholarship, you have some people saying it was set up to help Georgia retain its best and brightest to keep them at college at home so we don’t lose them to other states,” he said. “Others said it was set up to help students, especially low-income students, afford the costs of college. I recall it being set up to do both.”
Bethel said the idea is to set the HOPE Scholarship at a level high enough that it would provide a free education at some of the University System of Georgia institutions, such as Dalton State College. He said that would not only help low-income students but give colleges an incentive to hold down costs in order to attract more students.
Bethel said he will be working to change state law dealing with those who commit family violence battery.
In Georgia, on the first offense, family violence battery is a misdemeanor, just like non-family violence battery. But on a second offense, family violence battery, unlike non-family violence battery, is automatically charged as a felony, which brings the possibility of stiffer punishments, if the prior conviction happened in Georgia.
“That means you can commit a felony in another state and then commit battery here in Georgia and it’s just a misdemeanor. But you can commit a misdemeanor here in Georgia, then commit battery here and it’s a felony,” he said. “That’s a flaw in the law, and it’s something I will be working to change in the next session.”