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T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor


NextImg:Certificate of need, school choice among the issues facing Georgia lawmakers

(The Center Square) — School choice, a possible Medicaid expansion, certificate of need repeal and tort reform will be among the issues Georgia lawmakers are likely to debate when the General Assembly reconvenes on Monday.

"An overriding theme for this year is going to be that — the state more politically competitive than it's been, including at the legislative level — each party is going to be eyeing the other one in a different way than it has in some time," Kyle Wingfield, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation's president and CEO, told The Center Square. In addition, Wingfield identified how the state might use its undesignated surplus as among the top issues facing lawmakers.

"If you're the Republicans, does this help us stick around, or does it undermine us? If you're the Democrats, you're thinking, does this give us a boost, or does it maybe put another obstacle in our way?" Wingfield added. "Of course, that's nothing new. But the stakes are going to seem larger now because they're closer in strength to one another."

The National Federation of Independent Business has identified stopping lawsuit abuse and easing the tax burden on Georgia's small businesses as its top priorities for lawmakers to ponder. Kemp has reportedly indicated stopping lawsuit abuse would be a legislative priority.

"Our members are encouraged that [Republican Gov. Brian Kemp] has made this [a] priority," State Director Hunter Loggins said in an announcement. "The cost of defending itself against one bogus lawsuit could be enough to put a small business out of business."

Meanwhile, Georgia Republicans have vowed a "Red Tape Rollback" to lessen regulations on businesses, potentially including those local jurisdictions place on home-based businesses. They pointed to Senate Bill 157 as a part of the initiative, which creates a uniform process for how criminal records are considered by licensing boards, ensuring that only those past offenses directly related to the field of employment and public safety are used against an applicant.

Several groups, including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Justice Project and the Faith & Freedom Coalition, have voiced their support for SB 157.

"With one in four high-demand jobs in Georgia requiring an occupational license, transparency and fairness in the occupational licensing process are critical to ensuring the robust talent pipeline our state needs to keep thriving," Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said in an announcement.

On the certificate of need front, a Georgia Senate study committee recommended lawmakers repeal the mandate, while a House version offered more measured recommendations.

In a pre-session media briefing, the Association of County Commissioners Georgia said the General Assembly should increase the EMS Medicaid reimbursement rate. Additionally, state Democrats said they would push for a full expansion of Medicaid, which could be a dark horse contender for the surprise of the session.

In a pre-session op-ed, state Reps. Viola Davis, D-Stone Mountain, Sandra Scott, D-Rex, and Kim Schofield, D-Atlanta, said they want the state to "update the Quality Basic Education formula and ensure that education is fully funded – a long-overdue necessity."