Zell Miller Legacy Continues with Policy Institute

  The Miller Institute for Public Policy held its first event in honor of its namesake as a kickoff coinciding with the former governor’s 85th birthday and the 25th anniversary of the Georgia Lottery and its central role in funding Georgia education programs. Due to some health issues, although he is doing okay, Miller was not able to attend. The evening was host to a plethora of dignitaries and speakers of note who sent along birthday greetings and praised Miller’s legacy of bipartisanship and, particularly, the HOPE Scholarship. Georgia Lottery President and CEO Debbie Alford noted the lottery has transferred more than $18 billion to Georgia students since its inception and Hope Scholar Jennifer Abrams was thankful for the path to education for so many students that otherwise might not have the opportunity. Miller’s grandson, Bryan Miller, is the executive director of the Institute and welcomed attendees to the dinner. “I went to Zell and Shirley last August with the idea to create a bipartisan institute that would bring Republicans and Democrats together to tackle the critical issues facing Georgians today. I told them I wanted to promote public service and build on the work they spent their entire adult lives fighting for.” Miller recognized the challenges of seeking bipartisan solutions in today’s political environment. “We live in a dark and bitter political climate. People, I am sure many in this room, are genuinely worried about their future, their children’s future, and what type of world they will grow up in. There is no easy solution to solving this problem. And I do not stand before you today pretending to...

As Session Winds Down (or Up), Ralston Speaks at Press Club

    Earlier today, House Speaker David Ralston (R- 7 Blue Ridge) spoke at the Atlanta Press Club on a number of issues as the legislative session heads into its home stretch. After a busy Crossover Day in which the House passed a whopping 70 bills, Ralston appeared at the APC’s Newsmaker Luncheon series and touched on some of those bills, as well as ongoing issues and priorities and some of what he is watching in Washington D.C. Ralston began his talk by going over some of the state’s (and its leadership’s) accomplishments over the past few years. Georgia has been named the top state in which to do business for four straight years thanks to, in Ralston’s view, a business friendly tax and regulation environment. One of Ralston’s focuses going forward is making sure that rural Georgia begins to reap some of the growth that metro Atlanta and some of the other areas around the state has seen. He said his core principle, and what everyone’s core principle should be, is “every place in Georgia in order to succeed needs every other place in Georgia to succeed.” Ralston says we are way past the time of two Georgia’s. Ralston is concerned though about rural Georgia. “The bright light of economic growth is not shining on every part of the state,” said Ralston. Rural areas need a focus on economic development, healthcare and education. It cannot be overlooked that one of Georgia’s most important businesses is still Agribusiness. To these ends, Ralston will be forming a House Rural Development Council (via House Resolution 389), headed by Representative Sam Watson...

Georgia Passes Nurse Licensure Compact

As the country debates its next steps for healthcare, the Georgia senate took a step that could help address the state and country’s nursing shortage. Senate Bill 166 would allow registered nurses (RN) and licensed practical nurses (LPN) to have one multistate license as part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). The NLC would allow nurses to practice in Georgia as well as the other 25 states that are members of the agreement. This will allow nurses to practice in person but also to provide the increasingly common telemedicine services. On the surface, besides the telemedicine, the bill would seem to significantly benefit patients in the Chattanooga or Augusta areas, where crossing state lines is part of a daily routine but the bill also would have significant impact in the event of a disaster. Republicans have long been critical of the state line barrier when it comes to healthcare and this bill may be another piece of the solution. Senator Renee Unterman (R- 45 Buford) and Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee led the passage of the bill on a 52-0 vote. “We have over 120,000 RN’s and LPN’s in the state of Georgia who are committed to taking care of our citizens,” said Sen. Unterman. “This bill simply allows these medical professionals to use their knowledge and expertise in a number of situations to provide care for our citizens as well as those who reside in states already included in the compact.” The bill received support from the Georgia Nurses Association and the Chief Executive Officer there, Marcus Downs was thankful for Unterman’s efforts. “The NLC...

Casino Comeback on Crossover Day

Three days after the Senate sponsor of the casino gambling bill, Brandon Beach (R- 21 Alpharetta), declared his bill dead, Rep. Ron Stephens (R- 164 Savannah) has a casino bill that will make an appearance in front of the House Regulated Industries Committee today. Today also happens to be Crossover Day, meaning that in order for the bill to pass this session, it must make it out of committee and then head to the floor of the house for a vote before the end of the day. After last year’s push past midnight on the last day of the session, “end of the day” may be open to interpretation.   HB 158 is similar to the senate bill. It would authorize the licensing of up to two destination resorts and create a Georgia Gaming Commission. The Gaming Commission would consist of five members, three of whom would be appointed by the governor, one by the Lieutenant Governor and one by the Speaker of the House.   The bill has some bipartisanship to it – Reps. Calvin Smyre (D- 135 Columbus), Stacey Evans (D- 42 Smyrna) and Michele Henson (D- 86 Stone Mountain) are all co-sponsors – something rather rare in Georgia these days.   Among the groups opposing the current legislation is the Georgia Arts and Culture Venues Coalition. This group announced its formation just last week as the senate measure seemed to be picking up speed. According to their website, the group “is not taking a stand in support or opposition to casinos. Our members oppose the legislation’s criteria for casino gaming resorts to construct entertainment venues.” Their...

Governor Deal Lauds Passage of Education Legislation

Following last year’s failure of the Opportunity School District (OSD) vote at the ballot box – Speaker Ralston called it a “resounding defeat” – eyes turned to Governor Nathan Deal and other Republicans at the Capitol who had declared education solutions a priority. The OSD failed for a variety of reasons, Ralston has also called a lot of the information about the bill not accurate, but a common complaint was a fear of losing local control. So, when Republicans returned to the state house in January, a priority was finding a path for both local control and a state-based impetus for improving chronically failing local schools. On Wednesday, the house passed their answer, HB 338, by a vote of 138-37. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D- 89 Atlanta) urged her part members to support the bill and nearly half of the chamber’s Democrats ultimately voted for the Republican sponsored bill. The bill would create a turnaround plan for Georgia’s lowest performing schools. It would “provide for system of supports and assistance for the lowest-performing schools identified 3 as in the greatest need of assistance” and create the position of Chief Turnaround Officer and provide for turnaround coaches. The State School Superintendent would provide consultation and on-site evaluations and recommendations would be developed. A two-year period would be given to implement the “intensive school improvement plan” and further intervention would be possible if improvements were not made in that window. Additionally, an Education Turnaround Advisory Council would be created, as well Joint Study Committees on the Establishment of a State Accreditation Process and the Establishment of a Leadership Academy. Local...

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