James.qxp May June 2019 web - Page 38



lawsuits or threats by some Hollywood pro-choice
advocates seem to bother the governor.
“I can’t govern because I’m worried about what
someone in Hollywood thinks about me,” Kemp said.
“Georgia values life. We stand up for the innocent and
speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. The
legislature’s bold action reaffirms our priorities and
who we are as a state. I thank these lawmakers
for their leadership and applaud their
undeniable courage,” said Kemp.
“Our efforts to protect life do not end
here. We must work to ease the adoption
process, find loving homes for those in our
foster care system, and protect the aging
and vulnerable. Together, we will ensure
that all Georgians are safe and have the
opportunity to live, grow, learn, and prosper.”
MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Georgia lawmakers compromised on House Bill 324 on
the final day of the session. This bill will allow medical
marijuana patients to buy the cannabis oil they’re already
legally allowed to use. It would for the first time legalize the
cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. Georgia
legalized medical marijuana consumption in 2015 for
patients suffering from severe seizures, deadly cancers and
other illnesses, but the government didn’t provide any way
for them to buy it. The compromise provides several ways
for the 8,400 Georgians on the registration list to buy
medical marijuana oil, including through six private
growing companies, state universities and pharmacies.
House Bill 186 limits CON application objections to those
facilities that are within a 35-mile radius of a proposed
project and increases the financial threshold for expansions . . .
THE 2020 BUDGET
State lawmakers approved a record
$27.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year,
giving approval to the proposal that came
out of conference committee. The budget
includes a $3,000 pay raise for public
school teachers and two percent hikes for
tens of thousands of state workers.
“This balanced, conservative budget
reflects our values, funds our priorities, puts
the safety of our families first, and delivers a welldeserved $3,000 pay raise for Georgia educators,” said
Kemp. “I applaud State House and Senate leadership for
their hard work and focus. With this bipartisan budget, we
have shown that Democrats and Republicans can set
politics aside and put hardworking Georgians first. By
working together, Georgia will remain the best place to
live, work, build a business, and raise a family.”
KEEPING GEORGIA SCHOOLS SAFE ACT
Lawmakers also passed SB 15, a school safety bill.
The “Keeping Georgia Schools Safe Act” includes
recommendations made by the Senate Study
Committee on School Safety and will require site threat
assessment to be conducted every five years on school
campuses across the state. SB 15 requires schools to
develop safety plan drills and calls on each school to
identify a school safety coordinator “to connect the
dots” and create a school safety coach program.
Schools will also be required to provide reports on
safety initiatives and other information to the Georgia
Department of Education.
The bill also requires the establishment of a school
safety threat task force by the Georgia Information
Sharing and Analysis Center.
ATLANTA AIRPORT
AUTHORITY/OVERSIGHT
The battle over control of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport
stalled at the end of the session. Senate Bill 131 passed
out of the Senate and would have transferred Atlanta
mayoral control over Hartsfield-Jackson International
Airport to a state authority. It slowed down in the
House because of hesitation by Speaker David Ralston;
he and some other House leaders had it amended to
create a state airport oversight committee instead of
changing ownership. And they added a jet fuel tax
exemption for Delta and other airlines. To the surprise
of some, it also added some language from House Bill
511, addressing rural transit. That bill passed the House
104-70 but stalled in the Senate.
Cindy Morley is a staff writer for James and InsiderAdvantage Georgia.
CERTIFICATE OF NEED REFORM
38
JAMES
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 9
This session finally brought changes to the certificate
of need (CON)— an issue that was very controversial and,
at times, very confusing.
Two bills— House Bill 198 and Senate Bill 74— were
introduced in the opening weeks of the session and
followed reports from the Senate Study Committee on
Certificate of Need Reform and the House Rural
Development Council. As written, both would have
replaced the current CON system
An amended HB 198 failed to make it out of the
House prior to Crossover Day. Neither Senate Bill 114
nor Senate Bill 74 made it out of Senate. However,
House Bill 186, which dealt with hospital authority
transactions, did make Crossover, and was soon
amended to address some issues in the previous CON
bills. It was supported by the Georgia Hospital
Association and the Georgia Alliance of Community
Hospitals as a “compromise” bill.
House Bill 186 limits CON application objections to
those facilities that are within a 35-mile radius of a
proposed project and increases the financial threshold
for expansions that are not subject to CON
requirements. It also provides a way for Cancer
Treatment Centers of America to expand its operation. It
passed both chambers. Yet at the same time, an
amendment was added to House Bill 321 to require
extensive financial disclosures from nonprofit hospitals.
It passed both the House and Senate and had strong
support from Republican leadership, including Lt.
Governor Geoff Duncan.
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 9
39

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