You Can’t Have a Hospital Because We Don’t Get to Build It

In the continuing saga that is the building of a hospital in Columbia County, The Augusta Chronicle reports today that the Georgia Court of Appeals has voted to send the case Doctors Hospital filed against the Georgia Department of Community Health back to Fulton County Superior Court. Doctors Hospital had asked for a judicial review of the GDCH’s decision to award Augusta University Medical Center a Certificate of Need (CON) through an exemption in 2014, and somehow, all the documentation for the review did not make its way to the Appeals Court. Specifically, Doctors Hospital had asked that some documents be added to the file, and they weren’t for whatever reason. Fulton County was supposed to send those documents within 10 days of the request back on November 8, 2016.

They missed the deadline by 154 days as of this morning.

Now, they have been ordered via ruling to submit the complete review to the Appeals Court, where it will be re-docketed for the next term. Yes, it’s a paperwork error, probably just an oversight from someone who earnestly made a mistake and had no ulterior motives, but Columbia County residents have been held hostage by this drama for almost four years already. Continue reading “You Can’t Have a Hospital Because We Don’t Get to Build It”

That Tuition Increase and Other Riveting University System of Georgia News

In case you were working on an end-of-semester project, sleeping off a hangover, or just disconnected from all things public college in this state, tuition is going to go up 2 percent for the 2017-2018 academic year. That should work out to between $27 and $98 per semester for full-time, in-state undergraduates, depending on the college or university.

Don’t worry, exactly zero dollars and zero cents will be added to my salary (or almost any other professor’s salary) from this increase!

The Chancellor and the Board of Regents have to say things like “we thank the General Assembly that we were graciously allowed to raise costs,” and probably it’s not smart for an untenured, assistant professor (who is a librarian, nonetheless) to point out reality, but as costs to educate increase, our funding has to come from somewhere, and it’s almost assuredly not going to come from state appropriations. Continue reading “That Tuition Increase and Other Riveting University System of Georgia News”

Georgia’s Tax Incentives for Film and Television Add $7.2 Billion to State’s Economy

In 2016, television and film added $7.2 billion to the Georgia economy during FY 2016, according to an article in AdWeek. The 245 in-state productions had a direct impact of $2.02 billion, largely around the Atlanta area. Explore Georgia has the full list of films and television filmed in state for those curious.

This is up almost 50 percent from FY 2013, when 142 productions filmed in state contributed $3.3 million to the economy.

In case you were wondering how the breakdown on a single movie might look, the Atlanta Business Chronicle has you covered with a breakdown from The Fast & Furious 8: The Fate of the Furious. ($3.29 million on hotel rooms alone!) Continue reading “Georgia’s Tax Incentives for Film and Television Add $7.2 Billion to State’s Economy”

The Georgia Ports Authority Positions Itself as “the East Coast’s Leading Gateway”

The Georgia Ports Authority is taking over the world, Pinky expanding its influence and setting itself up to be “the East Coast leading gateway for containerized cargo.” It’s a title the GPA will share with the Virginia Port Authority, but who’s counting?

On Friday, the Federal Maritime Commission approved the two entitites’ joint application to develop the East Coast Gateway Terminal Agreement, which will allow GPA and VPA to share information regarding cargo handling, staffing, performance, infrastructure, and operational procedures. It also allows GPA and VPA to market their ports together. This agreement does not allow the two to jointly negotiate, set, or approve terminal rates or changes. This is the first agreement of this kind the FMC has approved. Charlie wrote about it back in February, when the deal was submitted for review.

Together, the ports in Savannah and Hampton Roads accounted for 32 percent of East Coast market share in 2016, and they are the second and third largest ports by volume behind the Port of New York and New Jersey. The creation of the East Coast Gateway Terminal Agreement will allow the Georgia and Virginia ports to become more streamlined and therefore capable of taking on a bigger share of cargo coming to the East Coast.

This announcement comes as the Port of Savannah has reached 60 percent completion on the deepening of its Savannah River entrance, which will deepen the inner harbor to 47 feet at low tide and 54 feet at high tide. The Army Corps of Engineers updated its cost estimate for the project in March to $938 million, an increase of 38 percent.

A UGA economic study found that the ports in Georgia are responsible for 1 in 12 jobs in the state.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Considers Pulling Out of Health Insurance Exchanges; Would Leave Rural Georgians with No Providers in Markeplace

On April 4th, Andy Miller of Georgia Health News alerted readers that Anthem, the parent of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBS), is considering pulling out of the health care exchange market. This will affect the Atlanta marketplace, but there are other insurers these consumers can select. The real trouble is for the 96 Georgia counties that have no other providers participating in the exchange in their area. What do these people do if there isn’t a provider to choose?

Back in 2o09 and 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — better known as Obamacare — took over my life. I was a health and education legislative assistant on the Hill, so of course it did. I’ve always felt that there was an especially heavy hand from the health insurance agencies when it came to drafting the legislation — and I was not alone in that belief — and that “Insurancecare” might have been a better nickname for it than “Obamacare.” (Side note: The quickest way to ruin my day back then was to tell me an insurance lobbyist had dropped by and wanted to know if I could take a “quick meeting.”) I do commend Democrats (and the one Republican, who everyone forgets) who supported PPACA for tackling a very large problem in American health care. I think they tried to fix the wrong problem, however, and now Republicans are in danger of making the same mistake.

Americans want affordable, accessible health care. They think they want insurance, because with the health care system the way it is in this country (and was prior to 2009), that’s what seems to make health care accessible and affordable, but it’s not. However, now we have a problem because we went with an insurance-for-all plan that requires that there is actually insurance-for-all. I’ll explain, but it’s a dense topic, so buckle up! Continue reading “Blue Cross Blue Shield Considers Pulling Out of Health Insurance Exchanges; Would Leave Rural Georgians with No Providers in Markeplace”

Isakson, Perdue Comment on Democrats’ Filibuster of Gorsuch Supreme Court Nomination

A few minutes ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell deployed “the nuclear option,” which will allow the Senate to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on a simple majority vote. This is in response to the Democratic filibuster on Gorsuch’s nomination that began three days ago.

Both of Georgia’s Senators have released statements regarding the filibuster.

Senator Johnny Isakson:

“Judge Gorsuch is an exceptional nominee with the right judicial temperament and a strong reliance on the text of our Constitution and laws. I am extremely disappointed by the blind obstruction carried out by Senate Democrats today. The Senate and our country are headed in a dangerous direction if this type of partisan behavior continues. Though I had hoped that my Democrat colleagues might be willing to put country over party and do the right thing here today, there is no reason for further delay of the Senate’s consideration of Judge Gorsuch. I urge the Senate to move quickly toward a final vote on his nomination to fill this critical vacancy.”

Senator David Perdue:

“Judge Gorsuch is a principled jurist who is steadfast in his commitment to defending the Constitution. Democrats have agreed, and they confirmed Judge Gorsuch without objection in 2006. That’s why it is ridiculous Democrats today put self-interest and party-interest ahead of the nation’s interest. Republicans this year have said all along we’ll do what it takes to get Judge Gorsuch the up-or-down vote he deserves, and next week he will be an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court.”

Emory Still Fighting Trump Administration on Travel Bans

Unsurprisingly, Emory University is opposed to the new Trump travel ban, just as they were opposed to the first one and further considered – but ultimately decided against – becoming a sanctuary campus. That consideration led the Georgia General Assembly to pass a law last month preventing sanctuary campuses from receiving state funding, even though there are no sanctuary campuses in the state, and Emory had announced their decision not to become one two months prior.

Thirty universities have joined Emory in this new amicus brief, filed last Friday, arguing that the immigration order will hinder efforts to attract the best global students:

Because amici seek to educate future world leaders, attract the world’s best scholars, faculty, and students, and work across international borders, they rely on their ability to welcome international students, faculty, and scholars into their communities.

And further:

The Executive Order at issue here, like its predecessor, threatens amici’s ability to continue to attract these individuals and thus to meet their goals of educating tomorrow’s leaders… Although the Order excludes certain visa-holders, it would bar entry of individuals from the six affected countries who seek the categories of visas most commonly relied upon by amici’s international students, faculty, staff, and scholars.

Continue reading “Emory Still Fighting Trump Administration on Travel Bans”

You’re Breathing Better Air

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Georgia’s air quality has improved significantly over the past decade, largely due to shuttered coal-fired plants and lower emissions in newer automobiles and construction equipment.

Emissions of ozone-forming sulfur dioxide (SO2) declined from more than 700,000 tons a year in 2005 to less than 100,000 tons in 2015, according to EPD records.

In the same 10 years, emissions of nitrous oxide and nitrous dioxide (NOX) have also come down sharply, though not as steeply as SO2.

NOX emissions rose to around 650,000 tons per year in 2007, but by 2014 and 2015 had dipped below 400,000, according to EPD’s monitoring data.

It’s good enough that the state Environmental Protection Division sent a request to the Environmental Protection Agency last September that seven counties (Paulding, Douglas, Coweta, Fayette, Cherokee, Forsyth, and Newton) be dropped from the Atlanta non-attainment zone — a change that could take place as soon as this fall. That would leave eight metro counties within the non-attainment zone, which means these areas still do not meet the National Ambiant Air Quality Standards set by federal law. The ozone standard is currently .70 ppm.

Breathe easy, Doughnut-area friends: It could always be worse.

Snark aside, it isn’t that bad in Atlanta, though it could be better — and is predicted to become so. One slightly frustrating point for the metro area is that the eight counties that will continue to exist in a non-attainment area are either meeting or close to meeting the standard that existed prior to 2015. Georgia’s Air Protection Branch of the EPD has a fact sheet about what the current lower standard means for us Average Joes available on their website.

Even with only eight counties failing to meet the current standards, this is a far cry from the 28 that were failing to meet a much looser standard 20 years ago.