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Yesterday was the most drama-filled day at the Capitol that I have experienced in my nearly 4 sessions of lobbying in Georgia.

The focus of the day was the Senate’s scheduled vote on HB 307 which will temporarily raise needed revenues for Medicaid.  HB 307 implements a three-year, 1.45 percent provider fee on hospitals to generate $169 million in net new revenue. These revenues fund Medicaid services and provider reimbursements, helping to fill a gap in Medicaid funding due to the recession.

HB 307 has been the subject of controversy for most of the session since it was proposed by Governor Perdue.  Originally, hospitals, with the support of key leaders in the House, strenuously opposed the measure.  Yet, when the governor stated that if HB 307 does not pass, the Medicaid program will face severe cuts to provider reimbursements and the Senate refused to consider a tobacco tax increase, the hospital association changed its position and agreed to support the bill.

Yesterday, the Senate recessed twice so that leadership could work to convince members to vote for HB 307.  The Democratic Caucus, in the meantime, resolved to vote against the measure. In the end, the measure passed with an amendment that would eliminate health insurance premium taxes sometime in the future.

 The AJC’s account of the vote gives an accurate picture of what happened yesterday and today’s aftermath in which House Speaker Ralston has said that he will reject the Senate’s amendments and send the bill back to the Senate.

From the beginning of the 2010 session, Voices has spoken out for the need to fill the Medicaid hole and avoid reimbursement rate cuts that would have a devastating impact on the health care infrastructure of Georgia.  We have urged that all options, including the hospital fee and the tobacco tax be considered.

The political drama continues, yet, what remains clear is that the legislature must work together to resolve the looming Medicaid crisis by approving new revenue sources.

Mindy Binderman, Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

Voices for Georgia’s Children

www.georgiavoices.org

Newly elected Speaker David Ralston has set a collaborative and optimistic new tone in assuming leadership of the Georgia House of Representatives. We look forward to working with the Speaker on many issues. He, like us, is focused first and foremost, on the State’s budget situation. At the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs and Issues breakfast today, Speaker Ralston stated that the dire budget situation presents legislators with an opportunity to restructure government and reexamine what the core functions of state government should be.

Focusing on the big picture and not just the crisis at hand is the right idea. But, I hope this doesn’t become only an exercise about shrinking government. Let’s focus on both the business capital and the vital human capital that will be necessary to position Georgia for a prosperous future. Of course, we should evaluate efficiencies and determine where there are too many entities with tiny pieces of programs that would be better managed by consolidation.  We should also continue funding and perhaps even bolster programs that work. By investing programs that have been proven to provide better outcomes for our children, we will create the potential for the renewed prosperity of our state.

As they look towards the future, legislators should ensure that government works better and more transparently for the citizens it serves.  Let’s ensure that all agencies- both in government and the private sector- that serve children, for example, actually have a place to discuss sharing agendas, programs, and resources.  

Who knows? This may even be the time to study the successes that other states have had with  Children’s Cabinets and institute something similar here in Georgia.

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