Gov. Nathan Deal has a string of high-stakes meetings this week that starts Monday with a sit-down between deadlocked healthcare officials and continues in New York on Tuesday in meetings with analysts over Georgia’s AAA bond rating.
The governor will meet early Monday with leaders from Piedmont Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia to try to break an impasse after a contract between the two ended on Easter Sunday, leaving droves of Piedmont patients to pay out-of-network costs for their current doctors.
The deadlock affects about 600,000 people – including state employees, retirees and their families – and the state has said it would pick up the out-of-network costs for their employees for up to 30 days.
State officials are bewildered and frustrated with the contract fight and hope the meeting will speed a resolution and there have been recent signs of progress: Both sides were deep in negotiations last week.
Shortly after that meeting ends, Deal will jet to New York to prepare for a series of meetings with the nation’s three major credit rating agencies. The governor has jealously guarded the state’s AAA rating, and the annual trip gives him a chance to make his case one last time.
But this year’s discussions with analysts from the Big Three - Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch Group – comes with a twist.
Legislation that would create a new city of Eagle’s Landing by carving out land taken from the existing city of Stockbridge seems certain to come up.
The governor has not yet signaled whether he will sign the measure, which was approved on a party-line vote over the fierce objection of Democrats who said the move was racially motivated could risk Georgia’s AAA standing.
“This would set a dangerous precedent. No city would be safer from other cities’ incursions,” state Sen. Emmanuel Jones, a Democrat who represents most of Stockbridge, earlier told the AJC. He added: “It would undermine the existence of cities. I can’t tell you how dangerous this is.”
Industry publications have also struck a similar alarming note. One of them, The Bond Buyer, writes that it’s unclear how Stockbridge would pay $14.5 million in unrated bombs if a chunk of its tax base is de-annexed.
If the legislation is enacted, it would establish a new, negative legal precedent for the state that could adversely affect the entire population and potentially credit ratings of the triple A-rated state, according to municipal advisor Larry Kidwell, president of Brentwood, Tenn.-based Kidwell & Co., a firm that is registered with the state to work in Georgia.
“If Stockbridge can be broken up by the Georgia Legislature, what would prohibit the Legislature from doing the same thing to other cities of the state?” Kidwell said in a November letter to (Stockbridge city attorney Michael) Williams. “The passage of the proposed legislation would set the precedent for further destabilization to occur within the state.”