By Benita M. Dodd
Four issues; four times as many experts. In a nutshell, that’s the 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum on September 7 in Atlanta.
Hosted since 2010 by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, the daylong Forum is described as the “opening act” to Georgia’s legislative session and is modeled after the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s (bigger) Policy Orientation for the Texas Legislature. This year’s theme is “Wisdom, Justice, Responsibility,” a play on the state motto: “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.”
Criminal justice reform was an integral part of the inaugural Forum in 2010, and it became the prelude to Georgia’s landmark reforms. The Foundation brought in the Texas experts who were the trailblazers; today, Georgia is a national leader among states for its criminal justice reforms. The Foundation is credited by Gov. Nathan Deal with creating the bipartisan support he needed when he took leadership and ownership of the reforms.
Small wonder, then, that the Foundation will launch the 2018 event with a morning keynote by Judge Steven C. Teske, a member of the Georgia Criminal Justice Reform Commission and a national leader in juvenile justice reforms, renowned for his work in thwarting the school-to-prison pipeline. Teske will highlight the Commission’s successes and his vision for the future.
Three pressing challenges for Georgia, and the state’s opportunities to act, are the focus of the three main sessions and luncheon keynote speaker: health care reform, teacher pension reform and ensuring graduation through business-led innovations in public education.
Amid a federal impasse on health care reforms, clamor continues at the state level for an expansion of Medicaid to cover more low-income individuals and families. It’s an answer but not a solution. Fortunately, Georgia can take steps to facilitate affordable, quality care without bankrupting taxpayers or low-income individuals – and without waiting for Congress.
One opportunity, especially in rural areas, is reform of the Certificate of Need requirement for medical facilities and services. CON will be dissected in a discussion led by Naomi Lopez Bauman of the Goldwater Institute, which unsuccessfully sued the state on behalf of two Cartersville, Ga., physicians whose application to expand their practice was denied.
She will be joined on the panel by Georgia Rep. Terry England, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and co-chairman of the House Rural Development Council, and Jimmy Lewis, a member of the Governor’s Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee and CEO of HomeTown Health, which serves more than 70 hospitals across the Southeast.
Another opportunity lies in Georgia innovating through the federal Medicaid waiver process. Kelly McCutchen, executive director of HINRI and a Senior Fellow with the Foundation, will lead a discussion on Georgia’s options with former Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Tom Price and John Haupert, CEO of Grady Health System – Georgia’s largest safety-net hospital.
The soaring cost of shoring up the Teachers Retirement System by taxpayers (the de facto “employer” of public school teachers) is a growing concern at the Legislature. The Forum will focus on how Georgia can keep its promise to current teachers while ensuring an attractive and portable retirement option for new and incoming teachers.
In a discussion facilitated by pension expert Leonard Gilroy of the Reason Foundation, Chuck Martin, chairman of the Georgia House Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee, will outline the challenge facing the state Legislature while Thomas Albert, chairman of Michigan’s House Financial Liability Reform Committee, will share how he spearheaded the 2017 reforms for teachers in his state.
The lunch keynote speaker is Chuck Reed, a founding member of the Retirement Security Initiative. The Wall Street Journal called Reed “A Liberal Mugged by Pension Reality.” A two-term mayor of San Jose, Calif., Reed’s comprehensive reforms of the public employee pensions in the nation’s 10th-largest city paved the way for similar reforms across the country.
For more information and to register, click here.
(Next week, Part II: Education Innovation at the 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum)
Benita M. Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, an independent, nonprofit think tank that proposes market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.
© Georgia Public Policy Foundation (August 17, 2018). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and her affiliations are cited.