Here's what's been happening on our policy priorities so far:
Protect ratepayers from bearing the burden of cost overruns on Plant Vogtle: House Bill 267 State Representative Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick) introduced legislation that would make Georgia Power Company share some of the risk with ratepayers in any cost overruns incurred related to the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. Georgia Watch worked closely with Rep. Chapman on drafting the bill that would prevent Georgia Power from collecting an 11.15 percent profit on construction capital costs that exceed the originally certified cost to complete the project. HB 267 would amend the law adopted by the General Assembly in 2009, Senate Bill 31, which allowed Georgia Power to collect financing costs to build the two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro. If Georgia Power goes over its state-approved budget of roughly $6 billion while building the two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, the Company would earn a reduced profit on any investments that exceeded the state-approved amount.
Filing of the bill was covered by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and AP. Elena Parent and Liz Coyle magnify cost overrun concerns at Plant Vogtle on GPB's Prime Time Lawmakers, beginning 15 minutes into the February 11 program. The Vogtle cost overrun hot topic discussion continued on GPB.org.
Hold nonprofit hospitals accountable for their tax-exempt status
The bill requiring renewal of the provider Medicaid assessment fee paid by nonprofit hospitals in Georgia moved quickly through the House and Senate and awaits the Governor's signature. This fee is critically important to ensuring the most basic access to care for low income, under- and uninsured Georgians, especially in rural counties. While passsage of this bill is a very positive development, we also believe nonprofit hospitals that do not pay any taxes should be held accountable for providing financial assistance and other community benefits in the communities where they operate. We support further legislation that would quantify the value of the tax exemption they receive and require a commensurate benefit in the form of charity care and other services to the community.
Protect patients' rights to a trial by jury: SB 141 Legislation introduced in the Senate on February 8 would significantly harm Georgia consumers by limiting access to the courts in cases of medical negligence. If enacted, the bill would virtually eliminate the right of a Georgia resident to bring a cause of action in court against any provider for medical malpractice. Instead of a constitutionally guaranteed trial by jury, the case would go before a three person panel whose decision as to whether "medical error" was committed could not be appealed! Georgia Watch will work strongly to oppose this bill and continue to fight for the patient who has been injured or killed through no fault of their own.
Expand Medicaid to increase access to healthcare and mitigate the economic toll of high healthcare costs, including bankruptcies and foreclosures A new economic impact study shows Medicaid expansion could bring 70,000 new jobs to Georgia, $8 billion a year. No word yet on whether this new study will change Governor Deal's position opposing expansion.
We also continue to monitor for legislation related to our policy agenda priorities in these areas:
Defend against predatory lending products and practices
Promote expanded renewable energy options, including solar