Legislators talk about CON, shoreline, veterans

April 25, 2019

As reported in the Newnan Times-Herald

Coweta County’s legislators talked about the change in the Certificate of Need law, and about issues related to land near the ocean and programs that impact veterans at the annual Pancakes and Politics breakfast.

The breakfast was held Wednesday morning at Newnan Country Club. Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, moderated the event, which was sponsored by the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce.

State Sen. Matt Brass talked about the complicated process that led to changes in the Certificate of Need law, a change which allows more Georgia patients to get care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

“When you get under the Gold Dome, it’s one of the most divisive issues we have,” Brass said of the CON.  “We ended up sitting down and working on something both sides could agree on. That bill did not come out of Senate.”
Facets of that bill are included in a bill the governor is expected to sign today.

“It removes the 65 percent restriction on CTCA, meaning that 65 percent of their patients have to come from outside the state,”Brass said. “For me personally, this senate district leads the state in the number of patients who are denied care at CTCA simply because they are residents of Georgia.”

Brass noted Senate Bill 186 had support both from CTCA and Piedmont, which owns Coweta’s local hospital and had opposed some earlier proposed changes to the CON law.

“The problem with CON in general is health care changes every single day. The rules in Georgia hadn’t changed in 12 years,” Brass said. 

There is a need to be able to respond quickly.

Another change in the law will move the maximum a hospital can spend on equipment – without state approval – from $3 million to $10 million.

State Rep. Lynn Smith, the longest-serving member of the delegation and chair of the natural resources committee, talked about HB 145, which relates to protection of the state’s shoreline. 

“It’s been ongoing for several years,” she said of the issue.

Private property rights and issues raised by conservation groups play into the process.

She talked about getting a group of legislators to the coast to see the impacted area.

“Most of our legislators are not from the coastal area,” Smith said, noting the majority are from the northern half of the state.

“We actually just slogged around the Georgia coast looking at the issues there,” Smith said.

She also talked about sharing office space with the chairs of the agriculture and game/fish/parks committee. The three have been able to work together to create new rules aimed at revving up the hemp industry and a branch of mericulture that will grow standard-sized oysters that can be sold to restaurants.

Josh Bonner, who represents District 72, is vice chair of the defense and veterans affairs committee.

“This past session we actually passed 11 bills related to veterans or the military,” he said.

Some of the efforts are aimed at making Georgia attractive to military retirees. One bill made it possible for people with professional licenses in certain areas to automatically transfer those licenses to Georgia.

This would enable a veteran or veteran’s spouse who had such a license – a physical therapist or a psychologist, for example – to set up shop immediately instead of having to go through licensure again.

Another bill allowed a Georgia resident who is deployed for more than 90 days to cancel some contracts, such as cable or a health club membership. Yet another would allow military families moving into the state to pre-register their children for some often hard-to-get classes.

Military families often move during the summer.

“This would allow them a little leeway getting their kids registered,” Bonner said.

Bonner said Georgia has 750,000 veterans and 100,000 active-duty military. The two groups have an economic benefit of $28 million. Georgia is the fifth-highest state for military retirees.

House Minority Leader Bob Trammell represents district 132. He talked about the increasing bipartisan nature of the House’s work, noting the growing numbers of Democrats in that chamber.

“Most business bills do not have a partisan bend,” Trammell said. “The policy we make is vital to businesses all over the state.”

He said the CON law passed with bipartisan support, and he said the bill seeking a Medicaid waiver followed “a robust conversation about the best way to cover Georgians and address the unique needs of Georgians who do not have coverage.”

The only Democrat in the local delegation said having both parties is a good thing.

“That’s the way good policy is made in Georgia,” he said.

“The key to capitalism is competition. If you do not have competition, the product that comes out on the other side is not as good,” Trammell added. “We have the competition in the legislative process, and the result is a better legislative product.” 

Candace Boothby, president of the chamber, noted the leadership roles held by the members of the Coweta delegation.

“They’re doing what we expect them to do when they go up there,” she said. “Don’t go up there and be a silent voice. Be a leader.”