Kemp signs major reforms to CON law

Gov. Brian Kemp

ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp signed a package of health-care bills Friday, including the most significant reforms in decades to Georgia’s law governing hospital construction and new medical services.

Most of the measures include provisions aimed at increasing access to quality medical care in rural Georgia, an issue gaining urgency as economic developments efforts continue to pay off in job creation in rural communities.

“The need for health care is all parts of our state is only going to increase,” Kemp said during a bill signing ceremony on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens. “We’re creating problems because we’re growing so much.

Since the General Assembly enacted Georgia’s Certificate of Need (CON) law in 1979, applicants wishing to build a new health-care facility or provide a new medical service have been required to demonstrate the facility or service is needed in that community.

The law’s opponents have long argued the CON process is so time-consuming, cumbersome, and expensive that it delays and sometimes blocks efforts to bring more health-care services to rural counties where they have been in short supply.

“It was prohibiting small communities from improving access to health care,” said Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who has made CON reform a major priority.

House Bill 1339 exempts proposals to build hospitals in rural counties from having to obtain a CON if they plan to have a full-time emergency room, accept psychiatric and substance-abuse patients, participate in Medicaid, provide indigent care, and offer a training program.

“[It] … will streamline Certificate of Need processes for hospitals, especially in the areas of new equipment, infrastructure improvements, and behavioral health,” said Monty Veazey, president and CEO of the Tifton-based Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.

“We hope this bill will be allowed to take effect for several years before being revisited, to see how it affects health care and patient outcomes.”

The legislation also will raise the annual cap on the state’s rural hospital tax credit from $75 million to $100 million and create a state commission to look for additional ways Georgia could improve health-care access.

Other bills in the health-care package Kemp signed Friday will:

  • create a new state income tax credit to physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants committed to practicing in rural communities.
  • expand Georgia’s service-cancelable loan program to include dental students committed to practicing in rural communities.
  • provide student-loan repayments to mental-health and substance-abuse professionals.
  • allow non-physicians to serve as heads of local public health boards.
  • expand the availability of residential mental-health treatment programs for children.

 

Marjorie Taylor Greene Georgia’s top congressional fundraiser

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

ATLANTA – U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s 14th Congressional District doesn’t look to be competitive as she seeks reelection to a third term representing Northwest Georgia.

But the Rome Republican’s national profile is making her by far the most prolific fundraiser in this year’s Georgia congressional races.

The Greene campaign had raised nearly $5 million through the end of the first quarter, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission this week. Of that amount, about $4.8 million came from individual contributors, including $3.4 million in small-dollar donations of $200 or less.

The closest to Greene in fundraising among Georgia congressional candidates is Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, who had raised just more than $1.5 million through March 31.

Since winning election to Congress in 2020, Greene has built a reputation as an outspoken conservative not afraid to rock the boat in the House Republican Caucus. Currently, she is behind a motion to vacate the speakership of Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., over his support for additional U.S. aide to Ukraine.

“She’s become a national name, for better or worse,” said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University. “That brings certain benefits, and that includes fundraising.”

While Green’s profile has drawn financial support from Republicans across the country, it also has attracted significant donations to Democrats willing to challenge her for the 14th District seat. In fact, Democrat Marcus Flowers outraised Greene during the 2022 campaign – $16.6 million to $12.5 million – according to the campaign finance website OpenSecrets.

However, Flowers only received 34.1% of the vote in losing to Greene two years ago. Now, he has moved over to challenge longtime Democratic Rep. David Scott of Atlanta in Georgia’s 13th Congressional District.

Flowers and a political action campaign linked to his campaign had raised more than $615,000 through the first quarter, compared to more than $865,000 raised by Scott.

This year, Democratic donors appeared to have settled on Afghanistan combat veteran Shawn Harris, a retired Army brigadier general from Rockmart, among the four Democrats challenging Greene. Harris had raised $302,212 through January, February, and March, all but $5,000 from individual contributors.

Joseph Leigh of Rossville had raised only a little more than $17,000, including $7,000 in the form of a loan he made to his campaign. Clarence Blalock of Paulding County was next among the Democratic hopefuls with $11,378, followed by Deric Houston of Dallas with $5,810.

McBath, McCormick dominating race for campaign bucks

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath

ATLANTA – Incumbent U.S. Reps. Lucy McBath and Rich McCormick are blowing away their opponents in campaign fundraising in their “crisscross” reelection bids heading into the May 21 primaries.

McBath, a Democrat from Marietta, has raised more than $1.5 million during the current election cycle, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

McCormick, a Republican from Suwanee, has raised more than $1.4 million since the beginning of last year, according to his FEC report.

Both incumbents face the challenge of seeking votes from a lot of new potential constituents. The new congressional map the Republican-controlled General Assembly drew last fall ran what had been a Democrat-friendly 7th Congressional District represented by McBath north into heavily Republican Forsyth, Dawson, and Lumpkin counties.

The 6th District, represented by McCormick, was extended into south Cobb, eastern Douglas, and northern Fayette counties, areas favorable to Democrats.

As a result, McBath and McCormick essentially swapped the districts they chose to run in this year. Congressional candidates are not required by law to live in the districts they seek to represent.

The 6th District Democratic race has drawn two well-known challengers to McBath’s bid for a fourth two-year term, but neither have been competitive when it comes to fundraising.

Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson had raised $111,512 through the first quarter, according to her FEC report. State Rep. Mandisha Thomas of South Fulton raised $14,825 in January, February, and March, $12,000 of which came in the form of a loan she made to her campaign.

The lone Republican candidate in the 6th District, Jeff Criswell of Smyrna, raised $12,817 during the first quarter.

Over In the 7th District, Democrat Bob Christian of Dawsonville raised just less than $11,000 during the first quarter in his uphill challenge of McCormick. The incumbent, who is seeking a second term, is unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Ex-Trump aide top campaign fundraiser in 3rd Congressional District

Brian Jack

ATLANTA – A former political aide to Donald Trump carrying the former president’s endorsement is the leading fundraiser in the campaign for the only open seat in Georgia’s congressional delegation.

But a former state senator from Newnan is touting his lead in donations from “grassroots” contributors.

Brian Jack of Fayette County, who served the Trump administration as political director, raised $623,134 during the first quarter of this year, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Jack and five others will vie for the Republican nomination in Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District in the May 21 GOP primary. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point, announced in December he wouldn’t seek a fifth term.

Trump encouraged Jack to run for the vacant seat in the heavily Republican district in a posting on Trump’s social media site in March.

“Brian Jack is a great conservative America First candidate,” David Bossie, who served as deputy campaign manager for Trump in 2016, told NBC News. “Brian will fight the failed status quo in D.C. and be a leader for Georgia and America when President Trump is back in the White House.”

But the 3rd District contest, as is typical for any race for an open congressional seat, has drawn a lot of interest. Republican Mike Crane, who served in the Georgia Senate from 2011 through 2016, raised $504,650 in January, February, and March.

Of that amount, $458,650 came from individual donors, topping the $311,096 Jack’s campaign brought in from individual contributors.

“I’m honored to have earned the trust and financial backing of so many Georgians,” Crane said. “One dollar from Georgia speaks louder to me than $100 from DC insiders.”

Another former state senator, Republican Mike Dugan of Carrollton, raised $267,573 during the first quarter, all but about $10,000 from individual donors. Dugan, a former Senate majority leader, left the General Assembly earlier this year to launch his campaign for Congress.

“Just as he did in the legislature, Mike will deliver conservative victories, safeguard West Georgia values and be a leader of whom we are proud,” said Ben Jarrard, Dugan’s campaign manager. “Our fundraising numbers demonstrate the confidence in and local community support of Mike Dugan for Congress.”

Of the other three Republican candidates in the 3rd District, only former state Rep. Phillip Singleton of Fayetteville raised six-digit contribution numbers. His campaign brought in $143,362 in January, February and March.

Jim Bennett of Carroll County raised $35,373, and Ray Blair of Columbus brought in $32,501, according to their FEC reports.

Two heavily underdog Democratic candidates raised less than any of the Republican hopefuls. Maura Keller of Fayetteville brought in $25,520 during the first quarter, while Val Almonord of Columbus raised $19,926.

Georgia adds jobs in March while jobless rate stays flat

Health-services jobs hit an all-time high in Georgia last month.

ATLANTA – Georgia’s unemployment rate held steady at 3.1% last month even as the state added 16,200 jobs, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The number of jobs reached more than 4.9 million in March, an all-time high.

Job sectors hitting record highs included private education and health services, with 674,900 jobs; leisure and hospitality, with 527,000 jobs; and financial activities, with 283,600 jobs. Construction employment reached 225,200 jobs, the highest in 17 years.

Jobs were down in the film industry, which lost 16,800 jobs between March of last year and last month. Other job sectors suffering losses included administrative and support services, down 12,100 jobs during the past year; and transportation and warehousing, which lost 8,700 jobs during the same period.

Georgia’s labor force hit an all-time high in March at more than 5.3 million, as did the number of employed Georgians, which reached nearly 5.2 million.

The number of unemployed declined slightly to 163,483 Georgians, the lowest since July 2022.

Initial unemployment claims also fell by 22% last month compared to March of last year, to 17,847.