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House Rules Chairman Blocked Ava's Law
Monday, 24 March 2014

March 24--  Two bills which proponents said would have helped kids with medical problems were killed in the Georgia House of Representatives on the last day of the session.

One bill would have allowed the use of a marijuana derivative to treat kids plagued by seizures.  The other would have mandated that insurance companies provide coverage for Georgia children with autism.

State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons has been working to get the autism bill passed for five years.

"We passed it unanimously out of the Senate as well as the bill for kids who suffer from seizures.  We put the two together but the House wouldn't pass it.  It really came down to the rules chairman, who's in the insurance business, who opposed it and wouldn't budge.  The Speaker backed him up and unfortunately a lot of kids won't get treatment because of that," Williams said.

Representative John Meadows of Calhoun chairs the House Rules Committee.

"The insurance companies just did not want the autism bill.  I can only describe it as they bought off the Rules Chairman.  He's in the insurance business and unfortunately it's a conflict of interest.  A lot of folks got hurt but it's just the nastiness of politics sometimes.  That's the truth about it," the Senator said.

Senator Williams' niece, Anna Bullard of Toombs County, has a daughter diagnosed with autism at age three.  She was able to get early treatment and is now thriving in school.  

Senator Williams says other children deserve to be insured so they can afford the same treatment given to Ava Bullard which can cost as much as $35,000 a year.

"I introduced this bill five years ago and I'm not quitting.  Autism is unexpected.  When you have a child, you don't expect them not to speak.  One out of 88 kids now have autism, it's epidemic.  If a young couple buys insurance, they should expect rightfully to be covered.

"I just don't give up.  You can do things for kids and you just have to be tenacious.  I've fought bills before that I didn't win the first time or the second time.  These people that buy insurance ought to be covered for things you don't expect to happen," he said.

Senator Williams argues it's not only unfair to parents, but it's unfair to taxpayers who end up paying higher costs to school autistic kids in special ed classes.  He says Ava is living proof that early treatment can save children and help them grow into productive citizens who will help, not burden, society.

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