• Update from the Capitol: Big Issues at a Glance

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    February 04, 2019



    COLUMN

    Contact: Ines Owens, Director
                   

    Update from the Capitol: Big Issues at a Glance
     

    By: Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry)

    There are many issues in the state of Georgia that garner a lot of media attention, questions and comments from our constituents, but probably the most talked about this year surround access and affordability of health care. With the two “hot” topics related to this being, Medicaid waivers and our Certificate of Need requirements.
     
    In regards to Medicaid changes, there have already been talks about modeling Georgia legislation on Indiana’s waiver model, which includes provisions such as a health savings accounts, coverage flexibility for   “essential health benefits” and work requirements.  Governor Kemp included $1,000,000 in his budget to develop a waiver program, and though no bills have been dropped yet regarding Medicaid, some will most likely be announced within the next few weeks.
     
    Additionally, relaxing of our Certificate of Need (CON) requirements is something I expect will get a lot of discussion and debate. There are pros and cons to Certificate of Need reform. Some say that if the addition of Medicaid waivers is approved by our chambers and signed by the governor, CON reform would be needed to allow for the creation of care centers to see the subsequent increase in Medicaid patients, as many rural Georgia areas don’t have enough doctors and providers.  Advocates for the reform say that reforms to the certification process are needed to make it easier to establish medical centers in underserved areas at a low cost, while opponents say that allowing this certification program to open up could result in lessened safety standards in hospitals and allow unfair competition to drive rural hospitals out of business.  I expect in the coming weeks to hear from various viewpoints on these topics, but I encourage you to reach out to my office to tell me what you think.
     
    Additionally, here are a few other budget allocations that might be of interest to you:
    •          $2.3 billion to be used over the next five years to improve non-interstate corridors. The vast majority of these are in rural areas like ours.
    •          $8.4 million for additional mental health counselors in high schools
    •          $500,000 to create a Gang Task Force to combat the over 1,500 gangs in Georgia
    •          $150 million for new voting machines
    •          $505.1 million to increase teacher pay by $3,000 dollars.
    •          $35.7 million to repay local systems through the Forestland Protection Act Grant
     
    All of the proposed budget allocations can be found online if you would like to see how your taxpayer dollars are being allocated.
     
    We’ve had a wide variety of groups visit the Capitol this past week. It’s great to have visitors from home come and visit, and I encourage you to reach out to my office if you would like to see what happens under the Gold Dome. Additionally, if you know of a child at least 12 years old that is interested in state government, please encourage them to apply to be a Senate Page. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to see our government at work first-hand and to learn about the legislative process and state history.  As an added plus, it counts as day “present” in school and they get to interact with legislators from around our state! It’s a wonderful educational experience, and I welcome children from District 20 to participate.  Please contact Ali Farmer in my office at (404) 656-0095, if you have a child or grandchild that is interested.              
     

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    Sen. Larry Walker serves as Caucus Vice Chairman for the Majority Party.  He represents the 20th Senate District, which includes Bleckley, Houston, Laurens and Pulaski counties.  He may be reached by phone at (404) 656-0095 or by email at larry.walker@senate.ga.gov
     
     

    Contact:
    Elisabeth Fletcher, Communications Specialist
    404-656-0028