Burt Jones hasn’t given up on hospital overhaul

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones is making what could be a final attempt to pass a hospital deregulation bill this year that has bitterly divided state powerbrokers.

The Republican over the weekend retreated from a bitter feud over stalled legislation that would make it easier to build hospitals in rural communities.

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

But several senior Republicans say he’s pressed the issue again with House Speaker Jon Burns and other legislative leaders. Gov. Brian Kemp has made clear to Jones and other Republicans that he opposes the measure, officials say.

Jones’ aides have downplayed the conversations and said that he’s not aggressively advocating for the proposal.

“Today is going to be a long day with a lot of rumor, innuendo and cowardly unnamed sources,” said Loree Anne Paradise, Jones’ top aide. “We are focused on the bills on the Senate calendar for Day 40.”

The measure, Senate Bill 99, would allow counties with fewer than 50,000 people to build hospitals without first obtaining a costly “certificate of need” from state regulators.

That would pave the way for a proposed 100-bed private hospital that could be built on his father’s land near his hometown in Jackson.

Wellstar Health System opposes the measure because the Butts County development could compete with two nearby hospitals it operates. And state officials warn it could threaten negotiations with Wellstar to potentially take over a struggling state-run hospital system.

- LIVE: Watch streams of the Georgia House and Senate