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GA Legislative Watch 2024 | Week Seven


GA Legislative Watch

By Molly Mcloughlin & Rebecca Wallace ● Feb 17, 2024
Smart Brevity™ count: 4.5 mins…1,196 words

Legislative days 26 – 28 are next week with a committee work day on Wednesday. See the full schedule here.

😴 Situational Awareness: ‘Twas a late night for the Senate Judiciary Committee, who heard testimony until 10pm Thursday night.

  • More late nights and long days are ahead of us with Crossover Day next Thursday.

1. One big thing: Access to care

❌ Medicaid expansion is a no this year, but easing regulations on building new rural hospitals is a yes – at least according to the House.

Under current CON (certificate of need) laws, hospitals must show a significant need for care in a proposed area in an effort to curb reimbursement costs and some say, limit competition between regional hospital systems.

Under a proposal introduced by new House Rules Chairman Butch Parrish (R-Swainsboro):

  • Needs requirements are eliminated in counties with less than 55K residents as long as the hospitals meet other criteria involving residency programs and psychiatric care.
  • 💲Also, the fund that enables state income tax filers to receive a 100% credit in the amount they donate to rural hospitals will increase from $75M to $100M.

Though no deal was struck to accept nearly $3B in Affordable Care Act money to expand Medicaid for almost a half million low-income and uninsured Georgians,

  • HB 1339 would create a nine-member Comprehensive Health Coverage Commission to provide recommendations to the General Assembly for how to address access and quality of healthcare for those populations.
  • The Commission will study how R’s in AR and NC are doing it, provide its first report by Dec. 2024 and sunset by the end of 2026.

The other side is two fold:

  • Senate leaders want to repeal the CON system entirely and tie its rollback to expanding Medicaid coverage.
  • Hospitals see any plan to rollback CON requirements as a threat to profits and attracting talent.

🚑 Why it matters: GA has the 5th highest uninsured rate at 12.9% and in rural communities, possibly 25% by 2026 which makes it harder for hospitals to get reimbursed and leads to poor health outcomes.

  • After federal pandemic rules ended last spring that ensured current Medicaid recipients would remain covered without checking eligibility, almost 550K Georgians were kicked off their plans.

2. Notable legislation

💰 Let’s negotiate. The Senate sent their version of the midyear budget to the House, and are now moving into a joint conference committee to work out the differences. It included:

  • an additional $5B on roads, local water and sewer projects, rural airports and economic development, and the new UGA medical school.
  • What’s next: Appropriation leaders will work on the FY25 budget.

🏠 A market-based solution to lowering housing costs and increasing supply is what Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) and Rep. Dale Washburn (R-Macon) call their CHOICE Act, which passed out of committee.

  • Localities that opt-in to the incentive program choose from a tier-based system of housing options and receive higher priority for grant and loan funding based on density levels.
  • The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Home Builders and Realtors Associations, and municipal advocacy groups support the plan.

Deepfakes elicit deep feelings. House Technology Chairman Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) expressed his grave concerns about the influence of deceptive AI in elections before the House passed HB 986 by a 148-22 vote.

  • The first stab at regulating AI, the bill makes it a felony to publish a deceptive video or image about a candidate running for office within 90 days of an election.
  • Opposition came from D’s who thought the bill should have greater enforcement and a longer timeframe and from a small faction of R’s citing it as a threat to liberty and freedom.

Accessing more tax cut money. HB 464 passed out of committee eliminating the 15% cap on the amount of the previous year’s revenue that can be set aside for a rainy day.

  • Anything over 25% that’s left in surplus funds could go to tax cuts.

Rehabbing historic property. Sen. Max Burns’ (R-Sylvania) SB 496 passed out of committee, making it easier for developers to rehabilitate income-producing historic properties, especially in downtowns.

  • It allows counties the option to extend the sunset on the historic property tax rate by 12 years.

🎲 Another path to legalizing sports betting passed out of committee, this time requiring a constitutional amendment and adding 5 casinos to the mix.

  • SR 538 suggests revenue be split 50% for infrastructure capital projects, 20% for pre-k and childcare, 20% for mental and rural health care, and 10% for HBCUs.

Citing concerns over voter rolls, the Senate Ethics committee approved a bill to eliminate automatic voter registration.

  • The widely popular and effective program was implemented by then Sec. of State Brian Kemp and is the most reliable tool to verify voters’ information.
  • Our thought bubble: The Gov. likely wouldn’t sign the bill even if it beat the slim odds of getting there.

3. Leadership changes

👋 Several retirements in the Legislature were announced and we’re expecting more. Among them:

  • Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville) after 26 years. She vacates the prominent seat as chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on economic development.
  • Rep. J. Collins (R-Villa Rica), Public Safety Committee Chairman, after 7 years.

Sen. Tim Bearden (R- Carrol/ton), formerly a state rep, was sworn in and assigned to the Banking, Education, Science and Technology, and Veterans Committees.

  • He replaces Mike Dugan who stepped down to run for Congress.

Kwanza Hall was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to the Board of Community Affairs.

4. Other political news

Gov. Kemp continues to champion EVs and challenges campaign opposition rhetoric in an interview during Politico’s Governors Summit:

“There’s a lot of Republicans that play golf every weekend and drive around in electric golf carts…,” said the governor.

He also backs IVF, along with other top Republican Govs., in comments responding to the Alabama Supreme Court ruling frozen embryos are children under state law. Go deeper.

Marcus Flowers launched his primary campaign against 11 term incumbent and fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. David Scott.

  • 🤔 After launching an unsuccessful bid to unseat Marjorie Taylor Greene, he may be feeling more hopeful this time due to the redistricted 13th Congressional District potentially chipping away at the incumbency advantage.
  • What once was a southwest metro area now covers all of Rockdale County and parts of Clayton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Henry, and Newton Counties.

From healthcare to shelter care. In its continued effort to battle the city’s homelessness, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ administration is turning a part of the former Atlanta Medical Center campus into a homeless shelter.

5. What’s next

1,800 bills drafted up in the first days of the 2023 legislative session

🤝 Red rover, red rover send your bill right over.

  • Although this was the last week to introduce new legislation and next week bills must pass out of their chamber of origin, there’s still ways to circumvent these rules depending on the circumstances.

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