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Social media is lit up over reports that Georgia lawmakers plan to duck out early on Monday — the first day of the 2023 legislative session — to follow the University of Georgia (UGA) Bulldogs to Los Angeles for the 2022 College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship game.
State Affairs went straight to the source, asking Georgians how they feel about state legislators flying the Capitol coop to see their defending CFP champs take on Texas Christian University’s (TCU) Horned Frogs in the title football game.
Go Dawgs! And, go lawmakers!
Just over half — 56% — of those who responded to our very informal and unscientific poll said it didn’t bother them that legislators planned to skip town soon after the gavel drops opening the new legislative session. The House convenes at 9:30 am and the Senate at 10 a.m. on Monday.
Legislators are slated to be formally sworn in that day. They also will elect leaders in both chambers. The session is expected to adjourn around noon.
Grant Park law professor and football enthusiast Eric Teusink tweeted for calm and understanding
“Georgia Democratic friends, I am begging, do not start whining on this app about the legislative session being delayed or mildly truncated because of the National Championship,” Teusink wrote. “Our New Year’s Resolution should be to stop acting like we’re too good for the things Georgians love.”
Rev. James “Major” Woodall gave his blessing to the lawmakers leaving town, tweeting: “One less day that they’ll have to legislate. I’ll take it.”
Georgia Tech freshman Yana Batra says she doesn't want to kill the enthusiasm for Monday's game but she wonders about the potential disruption such events can have on the General Assembly’s 40-day schedule. “It's an incredibly short legislative session compared to others around the country. That makes it really hard to enact and discuss actual policy,” Batra said. Case in point: Georgia’s efforts to revamp its election runoff system, she said.
“Forty days of session is a really limited time to reflect and hear new proposals and new ideas.”
Weighing in, Sock Puppet Pundit tweeted: “Take a unpaid day off like actual ‘Georgians.’ Many of us don’t give a damn about sportsball and we don’t get the day off to fly across the country. And we certainly can’t afford it. Suck it up and go to work like the rest of us.”
The love of football isn’t cheap
Airfare and hotel for the game is reportedly running about $2,700. And that doesn’t include the cost of a ticket. If you don’t already have a ticket or you’re not a UGA season ticket holder, nosebleed-section seats on ticket resale websites are about $800 while lower level seats start at $2,200 a ticket, news reports note.
But state legislators have made arrangements in their opening week schedule to make room for football — as they have in previous years.
Gov. Brian Kemp, a UGA grad and avid Dawg fan, created a three-day cushion into the schedule by having his inauguration on Thursday, Jan. 12. The annual Eggs & Issues breakfast where legislators talk about economic policy is set for the day before.
UGA’s Fight Song “Glory, Glory” has been played in the House chamber over the years.
Incoming Lt. Gov. Burt Jones played football for UGA as did UGA Hall of Famer Rep. Demetrius Douglas, District 78, who wore his helmet to the Capitol last January after the Dawgs clinched the CFP title.
“Football is as much a part of living in Georgia as sweet tea, warm summers, and strong families,” Kemp, who usually attends most UGA games, told State Affairs. “It’s in the very makeup of our communities, and that’s why even in the other major contact sport of politics, we can put aside our differences to root for a great Georgia team like the Bulldogs. That’s what we’ll be doing Monday night when they defend their National Championship, and we couldn’t be more excited. Go Dawgs!”
And in Georgia, you don’t mess with any part of that tradition.
On Thursday, Kemp criticized Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium for banning tailgating prior to the Dawgs & Frogs game at the Inglewood arena. SoFi, home of the L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers, normally allows tailgating.
“While California may not know this, in the South a tailgate with friends & family is the only way to prepare for a big game. When Georgia hosts the 2025 #NationalChampionship, we’ll make sure fans are able to tailgate! Even if it’s at the state Capitol!” Kemp tweeted.
But according to media reports, it’s not California’s or the stadium’s decision to forbid traditional tailgating at the game. (In fact, SoFi Stadium normally allows tailgating in its parking lots). The Texas-based College Football Playoff made the call to ban tailgating.
Senior Investigative Reporter Jill Jordan Sieder contributed to this article.
Header image: Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the House Spiro Amburn (left) and Rep. Demetrius Douglas celebrating in the House Chamber on Jan. 12, 2022. (Credit: Georgia House of Representatives)
A study committee of Georgia senators took a decisive step Tuesday toward ending a longstanding and contentious law that regulates how and where new medical facilities are located in the state.
The committee’s decision centers on the 44-year-old Certificate of Need law. It was created to control health care costs and cut down on duplication of services and unnecessary expansions. It determines when, where and if hospitals need to be built. Opponents have said the law prevents competition and enables big hospitals to have a monopoly, often shutting out small and private medical outlets.
On Tuesday, the Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform effectively said the law needs to be repealed. The committee approved, in a 6-2 vote, nine recommendations.
“Based upon the testimony, research presented, and information received, the Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform has found that the problem Georgia’s CON law was intended to combat no longer exists,” the report said.
However, the head of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals said Tuesday that repealing the law would be a bad idea.
“It would have a devastating financial impact on hospitals and the quality and access to health care,” Monty Veazey, the alliance’s chief executive, told State Affairs.
Veazey said he has not seen the recommendations yet but his organization has sent its own set of recommendations to the senate and house study committees.
“We believe that the certificate of need really does need some modernization and we look forward to working with the committee to work through those recommendations and see if we can reach a compromise position during the upcoming legislative session,” Veazey said. “We still want to see what the House committee recommends before moving forward.”
Here’s what the senate study committee recommends, according to a draft:
- Repeal CON requirements for obstetrics services, neonatal intensive care, birth centers and all services related to maternal and neonatal care across Georgia.
- End requirements for hospital-based CON on Jan. 1, 2025.
- Reform CON laws to eliminate CON review for new and expanded inpatient psychiatric services and beds that serve Medicaid patients and the uninsured.
- Repeal all cost expenditure triggers for CON.
- All medical and surgery specialties should be considered a single specialty, including cardiology and general surgery.
- Multi-specialty centers should be allowed, particularly in rural areas.
- Remove CON for hospital bed expansion.
- Revise freestanding emergency department requirements such that they must be within 35 miles of an affiliated hospital.
- Remove CON for research centers.
The committee will present its recommendations to the Georgia General Assembly when it reconvenes in January.
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ATLANTA — The first step in the 2023 electoral redistricting process occurred Monday when Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Gainesville, chair of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, released a draft proposal of new Senate district maps.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered Georgia to redraw its state House, Senate and congressional district maps, adopted in 2021 by a majority-Republican-led Legislature, after finding they violated the Votings Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters. The Georgia General Assembly is charged with submitting new maps to comply with Jones’ order by Dec. 8, and will be meeting in an eight-day special legislative session to do so, starting on Wednesday.
The proposed Senate maps would create two Black-majority voting districts while eliminating two white majority districts in metro Atlanta now represented by Democrats. The districts of state Sen. Elena Parent, chair of the Senate Democratic caucus, and Democratic Sen. Jason Esteves, a freshman, would become majority-Black if the redrawn maps make it through the redistricting process, a change that could invite considerably more primary challenges.
The proposed maps do not significantly alter the district lines for Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, and Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, whose districts Jones ruled did not comply with the Voting Rights Act. It will be up to Jones to decide if the new maps pass muster.
As it stands, the proposed Senate map will leave Republicans with a 33-23 advantage in the Senate.
On Wednesday legislators will plunge into their redistricting work during a special session at the Capitol. In addition to the state Senate maps, lawmakers must also redraw electoral maps to create Black majorities in one additional congressional district in west-metro Atlanta, and in five additional state House districts in Atlanta and the Macon-Bibb County area.
The proposed Senate maps (and all proposed maps to be submitted by legislators) are available on the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office’s website. Written comments can be submitted (and viewed) by the public through the portal available on the Georgia General Assembly website. Most of the reapportionment and redistricting committee’s hearings are open to the public; the daily legislative schedule is available here.
“The committee encourages public participation and values the input of the community in this vital democratic process,” Echols said in a statement released on Monday.
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