James.qxp May June 2019 web - Page 36



Worst of all, they failed to take real action on the issue
most pressing to many of their constituents: healthcare.
Medicaid expansion, which would help over 400,000
uninsured Georgians and reduce healthcare costs
everywhere, was the central issue of the 2018 election
and continues to be the most pressing need for people in
every corner of our state. Instead of addressing this need,
Republicans allowed the governor to steamroll yet
another lackluster waiver proposal that would delay and
deny healthcare for Georgians.
After hearing loud and clear from constituents who
called for Medicaid expansion— and seeing their
colleagues lose their seats for failing to stand up for
healthcare— lawmakers hoped that the voters who
turned up in 2018 would forget.
But after this past election, Georgians are paying
attention like never before, because they know what they
lost. As our state becomes more and more diverse, as
businesses take heed of these extreme policies and
consider leaving Georgia, the consequences are all too
clear— and a newly awakened populace will not hesitate
to exercise their right to vote.
Democrats have been speaking to these voters since
well before November 2018, and we’re not waiting until
November 2020 to remind our citizens that they can have
a government that actually represents their hopes, their
dreams, and their needs.
Republicans showed voters this General Assembly
session that they’re not listening to their voices— and
Democrats are ready to come for their seats.
Nikema Williams is Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia and State
Senator for Georgia’s 39th Senate District.
he 2019 session of the Georgia
General Assembly was the first
under Gov. Brian Kemp. While some
key bills were left on the table for
next year, Georgia’s 83rd governor
walked away with a lot of victories.
For example, he saw passage of his Patients First
healthcare bill, the highly controversial “heartbeat”
abortion bill and his school safety legislation. Some of his
priority bills passed the House and Senate prior to Sine
Die— the final day of the session.
By the time the gavel slammed at midnight on April
2, the governor had already signed HB 316, authorizing
the state purchase of new touchscreen voting machines
that print a paper ballot for audit purposes.
This legislation requires that electronic machines that
print paper ballots be used across Georgia for in-person
voting by 2020. Local election officials have said they favor
touch screen voting machines that print paper ballots,
because they say they are similar to what Georgians use
currently and eliminate questions about voter intent.
Bond funding totaling $150 million was included in the
FY 2020 budget. That funding is expected to cover the
initial purchase of machines as well as rollout and training.
(The state’s current voting machines are 17 years old.)
Consider some specifics of other major legislation:
deliver a Georgia-centric healthcare system that puts
patients— not the status quo— first.”
THE ABORTION HEARTBEAT BILL
This is a bill that drew major attention since it creates
one of the strictest abortion laws in the country. House
Bill 481 would outlaw abortions once a doctor detects a
“heartbeat” in the womb. Current Georgia law allows
abortions to be performed until 20 weeks; six weeks
would be the new standard.
Kemp is certain to sign the legislation, even though a
court challenge is just as certain. Yet neither the threat of
continued on page 38
THE PATIENTS FIRST ACT
36
JAMES
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 9
The Patients First Act will give the governor wide
latitude to approve a range of options in pursuit of federal
“waivers” with the aim of improving government-funded
health care access for the poor and middle class.
However, Kemp has vowed that process won’t lead to
outright expansion of the Medicaid program, which he
has long opposed as too costly.
“With the passage of the Patients First Act, we are
one step closer to lowering costs, increasing access, and
improving the quality of healthcare for Georgia families,”
said Kemp, after the passage of the bill. “I thank Speaker
Ralston, Lt. Governor Duncan, and members of the
General Assembly for their bipartisan support of this
landmark legislation. I look forward to working together to
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 9
37

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