The House Rural Development Council on Thursday dropped its wish-list for the 2019 session of the Legislature, calling for lawmakers to "revolutionize" the current state system that regulates hospitals, and a lower but expanded sales tax that would cover satellite TV and digital purchases.
Given that we just finished a gubernatorial campaign in which rural portions of the state accounted for Gov.-elect Brian Kemp's slim margin of victory, the list isn't anything to gloss over. The entire report can be found here, but among its key recommendations:
-- A communications tax that would broaden – and thus lower – the levy on services covered. Franchise fees would be eliminated, and a 4 percent sales tax would cover all telephone and cable TV services. A 4 percent tax would be placed on direct broadcast satellite services, as well as on digital sales. One purpose: “To level the playing field between bricks and mortar retailers and those who sell digital products.” The council also recommended legislation to encourage EMCs and rural telephone cooperatives to invest in rural broadband services.
-- A complete revamping of the way hospitals and their services are regulated throughout the state. Specifically: “The state should revolutionize the industry by shifting from the current restrictive, regulatory Certificate of Need model to an accreditation and licensing process for hospitals that recognizes and encourages care outcomes.”
The House Rural Development Council is a GOP-driven vehicle, and so there is no mention of Medicaid expansion in the report.
-- The expansion of a job-creation tax credit that currently rewards employers who add 50 workers and more to their payrolls. In some counties, the council said, the credit should apply to companies that add five or 10 jobs.
-- Legislation to allow farm wineries to sell up to 24,000 gallons of their own wine without having to jump through hoops posed by the state’s arcane system of alcohol regulation.
You can stroll through the entire document here:
The course of true love never did run smooth. In politics, residency fights often come down to whether a sitting lawmaker lives in this neighborhood or that one. In the case of state Rep. David Stover, R-Newnan, it's become a matter of countries.
11Alive News has reported on a complaint filed with the House Ethics Committee, charging that the state lawmaker, who married a woman from Britain in August, is now living in that country -- despite his re-election in November. From the report:
His official district address listed on his House of Representatives biography is a UPS store. The clerk there said he hadn't seen Stover in months – and he doesn't know how to contact him.
Stover's voting record also shows he hasn't shown up for work. Official records from the 2017-2018 legislative session show he was absent for 39 votes – and missed 15 days of a 40-day session. He also did not show up to the general assembly's Special Session for Hurricane Michael relief, where the legislature voted to give millions of dollars to Georgians affected by the devastating storm.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Stover denounced the report as a "hit piece," and said he was never directly approached for comment. He noted that his mobile number is listed on his social media page. Insider's note: We tried calling Stover on Thursday at that number, and heard back from him within an hour.
11 Alive reports that, last spring, Stover was proposing to adopt his new wife's children. Stover wrote to a judge, on his official legislative stationery, promising support. In an interview with the Newnan Times-Herald, the GOP lawmaker acknowledged that may have been a mistake:
In hindsight, Stover said he should have written a short letter on his official letterhead, and then written the other details without letterhead.
If he had the opportunity to do it again, Stover said that's what he would have done.
"The letter wasn't meant to say 'you should listen to me because I'm a state rep,'" Stover said. "It was simply 'if this happens, then this, if that happens then that.' Nothing more."
The head of the Republican Governors Association on Thursday published a burst of Tweets about the clash between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp.
The posts from Paul Bennecke, a Georgia native with deep ties to the Perdue clan, offer a mix of insights about GOP data (the RGA polls had Kemp winning 13% of black men) and attacks on Abrams (he posits that she was "over-confident").
But what caught our eye was Bennecke's assessment of what he termed the Abram campaign's costliest mistake:
Biggest strategic error of entire race was having all that money @ not taking advantage of the 9 week GOP runoff. Didn't define Abrams when they could have. They shortened the playing field & we obliged. How they justify that move is beyond comprehension.
Gov. -elect Brian Kemp this morning tapped a slate of legislative leaders on Friday to help marshal his agenda come January.
The Republican announced that state Reps. Jodi Lott, R-Evans; Terry Rogers, R-Clarkesville; Bert Reeves, R-Marietta; and Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas; will serve as new governor's House floor leaders. In the Senate, his go-tos will be Sens. Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, and Brian Strickland, R-McDonough.
Former House member Mark Hamilton will serve as Kemp's director of external affairs. And Stuart Wilkinson, a former Kemp campaign aide and son of retired House member Joe Wilkinson of Sandy Springs, will serve as deputy director.
Former gubernatorial contender Hunter Hill has a new gig. The Buckhead Republican was appointed as the director of advisor development with SignatureFD, a financial firm. Read the story here.
The Zell Miller Foundation, created to honor the late former governor's legacy, announced a class of 54 participants for its leadership program for 2019.
"Zell always believed that the future depended upon investing in the next generation," said former First Lady Shirley Miller. "Now in its second year, this program has proven itself to be a central pillar in the legacy he wished to leave behind."
The year-long program consists of five weekend summits held in Athens, Macon, Augusta, Columbus, and Savannah.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution