State Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) tells 11Alive News that he has agreed to attach the language of Ava's Law to another bill that has already passed the House. The compromise was announced Thursday at the Georgia Capitol.
Ava's Law, which is named after a 9-year-old Ava Bullard of Toombs County, would require insurance coverage for children with autism in Georgia. The bill has been bottled up in the House for seven years in part because of Smith's opposition.
"I'm excited we have a solution," said Smith, who expressed frustration on the House floor Wednesday over the "flack" he'd been getting for his position against Ava's Law.
Smith, chairman of the House insurance committee, had been the biggest obstacle to the passage of the autism bill. Ava's Law, named for 10 year old Ava Bullard, would require insurance companies to cover treatment for children with autism. Smith viewed it as a burden on small businesses. Ava's mother lobbied hard for the bill for seven years—and learned early Thursday afternoon that Smith had agreed to a compromise.
"I can't take it. It's unreal. It's unreal. It's been seven years," Bullard said grinning in a capitol hallway, shortly before hugging Smith.
"I'm not that ogre everybody thinks I am. I have compassion for these people," Smith said at the announcement.
Smith agreed the compromise after the state senate stopped considering bills backed by Smith and members of his insurance committee – a strongarm tactic that Smith acknowledges happens every year in the legislature. Ava Bullard, who spent the day at school in south Georgia, found out about the compromise in a Facetime phone call with her mother in an office in the capitol.