Political Notes – Deal’s planning for two more Supreme Court justices

[private]No bills have been introduced yet to expand the Georgia Supreme Court, but Gov. Nathan Deal is already assuming that the membership of the high court will increase by at least two justices.

In a briefing with reporters Thursday, Chief of Staff Chris Riley and budget Director Teresa MacCartney confirmed that the governor has put money in the judicial branch budget to pay the costs of adding two new justices to the current lineup of seven.

They said there is also money in the budget to continue with the demolition of the old state archives building south of the capitol complex and begin design work on a new judicial building that would replace it.

As Deal demonstrated last year, Georgia’s court systems can be restructured and expanded without the nuisance of actually having to introduce or debate legislation.

Deal wanted to add three more judges to the Court of Appeals during last year’s session and accomplished that feat by having lawmakers add authorization language to an unrelated salary bill. Just that quickly, the Court of Appeals was expanded from 12 to 15 judges – and those new judges have already been sworn into office.

Medicaid expansion? In a word, No.

Democratic lawmakers will continue to press their case that Georgia should accept federal funding available through the Affordable Care Act to pay for Medicaid expansion – but it appears that Gov. Nathan Deal will continue saying no.

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) noted Thursday that Georgia officials gave Kia Motors a financial package worth more than $400 million to locate an auto assembly plant in the state, but they balk at spending $209 million on Medicaid expansion that could bring health coverage to 500,000 uninsured residents.

“Georgia was built on federal dollars — we ought to start bringing back those federal dollars,” Abrams said. “If we can invest $400 million for one company (Kia), we ought to invest $209 million a year to help 500,000 people.”

Georgia rejected an estimated $3.4 billion in federal funds in 2014 and another $3 billion in 2015 by declining to participate in Medicaid expansion. The ACA provided that the federal government would pay 100 percent of the expansion costs in 2014, 2015, and 2016, and 90 percent of the costs thereafter.

Deal has been criticized for not expanding Medicaid coverage and it’s obviously an issue that annoys him. In his State of the State address this week, Deal sounded testy as he lashed out at his critics:

Medicaid and PeachCare spending per Georgia family amounts to $1,258 per annum. And when federal and other costs are added to this number, it amounts to at least $4,365 each year. And that’s without expansion. Had we elected to expand Medicaid, it would have required us to include approximately $209 million in this upcoming year’s budget alone to cover the added cost. That number would only continue to grow exponentially.

Those numbers don’t even account for the reporting requirements levied by the Affordable Care Act on the state. To demonstrate our compliance with the mandates of the law, we must devote $2.1 million in the FY2017 budget just to turn in the paper work. When you combine the cost of federal dollars to that total, it is $4.4 million. In other words, this is just what it costs to tell the IRS that everyone in our State Health Benefit Plan and Medicaid program is covered. I can assure you that those funds could have been put to better use than on bureaucratic paperwork.

If we want to talk about something we could throw overboard, there’s a good place to start.

Brown may run for Third District seat

Former legislator Jeff Brown of LaGrange may come out of political retirement by running to replace Lynn Westmoreland as Georgia’s Third District congressman.

Brown, who stepped down from General Assembly in 2006, said he’s formed an exploratory committee to look at a possible campaign for Westmoreland’s soon-to-be-vacated seat.

There could be quite a crowd interested in the Third District race, including Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), Sen. Mike Crane (R-Newnan) and Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone).

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Medicaid expansion , Nathan Deal , Stacey Abrams , Supreme Court expansion , Third Congressional District race