Political Notes – Committee snub won’t stop another ‘religious freedom’ bill, lawmaker says

[private]It wasn’t the greatest of holiday seasons for state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), legislatively speaking.

His Republican Senate colleagues caucused last week and reportedly decided to re-combine the two judiciary committees back into one committee.

McKoon is the odd man out here, as he stands to lose his chairmanship as a result of the committee consolidation.

The move was widely interpreted as an indicator that the Republican leadership doesn’t want to mess with a “religious liberty” bill this session after Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the measure that was adopted last year. McKoon has long been an outspoken proponent of the issue.

McKoon said in a statement that he’s still game, however:  “My public service has always been about ideas, not titles. My work will continue regardless of the committee assignments I receive.”

Linde Group relocates

The Linde Group, a German manufacturer of industrial gases such as argon, liquid nitrogen, and liquid oxygen, will spend $40 million to build an air separation plant in Cook County.

“We have been expanding the market in the southeast for several years and chose the location of the plant based on its proximity to customers and the strong, pro-business environment in Cook County and the City of Adel,” said Pat Murphy, president of Linde Americas.

The new facility will supplement plants already operating in Cartersville and Aiken, S.C. The plant is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2019 and could employ up to 35 people.

CON: Game on

In the continuing battle over Georgia’s certificate of need (CON) law that regulates hospital construction, both sides are gearing up for the new legislative session.

In Newnan, Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) Southeastern is going up with a radio and TV campaign urging public support of a repeal of the CON law.

As reported in the Newnan Times-Herald:

“The campaign, known as SpeakNowGeorgia, is ongoing,” explained spokesperson Roland Alonzi. “The coalition is dedicated to continuing in 2017 in an effort to educate and raise awareness of the certificate-of-need laws that we are looking to revise.”

According to SpeakNow representatives, the campaign is being led by volunteers who are mostly patients and former patients. Company officials say it involves “low overhead and minimal operating costs.”

CTCA is known, however, for big-budget advertisements, according to BenefitsPro, a website and magazine geared toward benefits and retirement professionals. A recent article indicated that the chain of health care facilities, which includes a network of five hospitals in the U.S., budgets more than $100 million annually for advertising.

The CON advertising campaign features restaurant guests being turned away by the proprietor. It’s meant to illustrate the limit legislators imposed on CTCA when it was seeking to built the Newnan facility in 2012.

Hospitals that support the current CON law are keeping the pressure on as well.  From the LaGrange Daily News comes this op-ed by Jerry Fulks, president of WellStar West Georgia Medical Center:

Georgia’s certificate of need law was put into place nearly 40 years ago to ensure that all citizens would have access to care – no matter where they live, what their income level or how serious their condition. These laws require that any new medical facility or hospital expansion meet a true unfilled need.

Why is this important? Because hospitals, especially not-for-profit facilities, rely upon a delicate balance of services, patient mix and reimbursement levels to maintain their financial viability. Requiring proposed expansions or new facilities to go through the certificate of need process helps to safeguard that critical balance while expanding medical care where it is needed the most.

Proposed changes to the certificate of need law will be among many health care issues our legislators debate this coming year, but few will be more important given the potential impact on local communities throughout our state.

In some cases, those decisions could mean the difference between a hospital staying open or closing; in others, difficult choices about what services to provide or eliminate. No one should ever lose a loved one or suffer more than necessary because they did not have timely access to quality care.

Tam appointed to JQC

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has appointed Forsyth County Commissioner Brian Tam to the newly re-created Judicial Qualifications Commission for a six-month term that ends June 30.

“Brian has distinguished himself as not only one of Forsyth County’s most successful small business owners, but also as a dedicated public servant committed to advancing the interests of his state,” Cagle said.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Casey Cagle , certificate of need , CTCA , Josh McKoon , JQC , Linde Group , religious freedom , WellStar