Any hope of reforming the state’s regulatory system for approving new healthcare facilities in 2023 appears to be effectively dead with only two legislative days remaining in the session.
Three bills that would have reduced certificate of need (CON) regulations by varying degrees were introduced this year.
- Senate Bill 162, sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, would have initially replaced the state’s CON system with a licensing process for all healthcare facilities and services with the exception of long-term care. Despite a committee substitute that scaled back repeal and received the support of some of the state’s largest health systems, the bill was never brought up for a vote in the Senate after passing out of committee.
- House Bill 606, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, would have exempted ambulatory surgery centers with two different surgical specialties from the CON process. It was never even brought up for a hearing, much less a vote, in the House.
- Senate Bill 99, sponsored by Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, would allow new hospitals in rural counties from the CON process. It advanced out of the Senate but has not moved in the House.
However, media coverage of this arcane health policy has only increased in recent days. So what gives? Or for those paying attention at home, how did an attempt to build a new hospital in a Middle Georgia county of 25,000 people end up with far reaching implications for the state?
Senate Bill 233 would establish Promise Scholarship Accounts, bringing Georgia in line with a growing number of states that help parents exercise options for their children. It’s an idea that has percolated here since 2015.
The Georgia Lemonade Stand Act removes regulations on businesses run by minors, such as lemonade stands. By doing so, the act encourages children to become entrepreneurs and learn how to develop, market and sell a product.
House Bill 514 would limit local governments’ abilities to enact moratoriums on building new housing to no more than 180 days. The current bill represents compromise in many ways and is a modest measure to increase housing to keep up with demand.
There has been much talk about getting to a zero income tax to match neighboring Florida and Tennessee or lowering the rate to remain competitive with the more than a dozen states that have lowered their income tax rates in the past two years.
Many of Georgia’s 159 counties are governed by boards of commissioners, but in seven of those counties you’ll find something rare – and unique to Georgia. Those seven counties — Bartow, Bleckley, Chattooga, Murray, Pulaski, Towns and Union — have only one commissioner each.
At the Capitol
It’s hard to believe, but we have only two days left in the 2023 legislative session. Sine Die is scheduled for March 29. Here is your recap of the 11th week of the session and where key bills stand at this point.
- Senate Bill 233, sponsored by Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, would create education scholarship accounts that families could use to pay for tuition, tutoring, curriculum and other approved educational expenses. Legislators modified the original bill to now only apply to students who attend schools in the bottom 25% of state assessments. Most recently, the scholarship amount increased from $6,000 to $6,500. After passing the Senate before Crossover Day it moved in the House this week, but was temporarily tabled at the end of the day on Thursday. Gov. Brian Kemp has thrown his support behind the bill and a vote in the House is expected when lawmakers return next week. You can read more about the national momentum for school choice and why parents deserve these options, here.
- House Bill 557, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, would expand prescription authority for physician assistants (PAs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) while also expediting the process to enter into an agreement with a supervising physician. After passing the House earlier, it awaits action on the Senate floor after clearing the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.
- Senate Bill 157, sponsored by Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, would clarify the standards for licensure eligibility for a person with a criminal record. Specifically, it removes vague “moral turpitude” licensing criteria, while allowing licensure denial only if there is a direct relationship between a criminal record and the licensed occupation. After passing the Senate, the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee also added language from House Bill 334 to increase access to expungement. It now awaits action on the House floor.
- House Bill 155, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, would recognize occupational licenses obtained in other states when an individual moves to Georgia. Both chambers have adopted the measure without a dissenting vote.
- House Bill 203, sponsored by Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta, would amend telemedicine laws to include eye examinations. This has cleared both the House and Senate.
- Senate Bill 55, sponsored by Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, is known as the “Lemonade Stand Act.” It would prohibit local governments from regulating youth businesses, such as lemonade stands. This has also been approved by both chambers.
Georgia Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson announced that Georgia’s February unemployment rate was 3.1%, unchanged from a revised 3.1% in January.
Georgia’s banks are in a strong position in the wake of the failure of two large American banks this month. That is according to Bo Fears of the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance, who recently spoke with the state Senate’s banking committee.
There is a policy trend emerging that, like income tax relief and greater educational choice, is making states more attractive to workers and employers. That trend is the push by policymakers to remove or mitigate the barriers to employment that state occupational licensing requirements have become.
A bill that has now passed both houses of the Georgia General Assembly is designed to keep Georgia auto insurance rates under control. The bill ends the practice known as “file and use.”
For the first time in a long time, it’s cheaper to buy a house right now than at the same time last year. Buyers are taking advantage, as home sales increased across the country last month.
The issue of whether a real estate company has the right to build dozens of smaller houses for the purpose of renting in South Fulton is headed back to trial court. The Foundation had previously written how “build-to-rent” homes offer a new option to increase housing supply in Georgia.
MARTA is advancing bus rapid transit for the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative Project. In 2022, the Foundation wrotewhy MARTA’s bus transit provides the best options to serve the most people at the lowest cost.
Data shows Georgia is among the worst states for grade crossing crashes. According to Operation Lifesaver, citing preliminary 2021 Federal Railroad Administration statistics, Georgia had 132 grade crossing collisions with eight deaths and 37 injuries.
Quotes of the Week
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway
“Don’t get too comfortable with who you are at any given time… you may miss the opportunity to become who you want to be.” – Jon Bon Jovi
“No one plays this or any game perfectly. It’s the guy who recovers from his mistakes who wins.” – Phil Jackson