Sunday Solutions — March 26, 2023
It’s the last week of the legislature, so that’s a hot topic. But there’s more going on out there, including companies that bank on us to trade our personal info for a free doughnut. Are we all that easy? Yep.
Flying into sine die
The Georgia General Assembly has two more days left in its 2023 gathering: Monday and Wednesday. Still on the table: Priorities and political footballs. However, some of the more political issues have passed both chambers, and some are gumming up the works. And then, there are the substitute bills, including one where the Lyons soapbox derby found new life at the expense of disaster resilience. Here’s the status of a few pieces heading into Monday’s votes.
- HB 231 creates a Prosecuting Attorney’s Oversight Commission. It passed the House and sits in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill, bound in concerns for public safety and politics, remains controversial for several reasons, not the least of which it could oust an official elected by the voters. Here’s a look at what it would and wouldn’t do.
- HB 237 creates the Georgia Lottery Game of Sports Betting Act, which would allow sports betting under the auspices of the state lottery. It’s nothing like the same bill passed in the House, which would have designated an official soapbox derby. This bill sits in the Senate awaiting a full vote of the chamber. So what happened to the simple soapbox derby designation? It was restored this week, and the House passed it unanimously – again. It became the substitute language for Senate Bill 158, which would have provided for insurance discounts for properties upgraded for disaster resilience. (HB 279 has already passed the House with similar language.) Either way, both substitute measures appear to be in dire need of a conference bill.
- School vouchers hit quicksand: SB 233 could still surface before the session ends, but the bill debate ended Thursday without a vote in the House. It passed the Senate after changes, and the clock is running out. The bill would allow parents to take students out of low-performing public schools after one year and place them in home or private school with a $6,500 stipend. Here’s a wrap from Georgia Recorder.
- Heavy trucks vs. rural roads: The House gets another look this week at the bill that allows timber and other agricultural haulers to increase weights for trucks, thus decreasing the loads. required and saving money. Pitched as a lifeline for farmers, the Senate version would limit the trips to 75 miles not on federal roads. It would sunset in one year. However, opponents say even one more year of heavier loads will decimate rural roads and bridges in places where infrastructure money wells are already dry and create dangerous conditions for the average driver. This one has at least one more bridge to cross, according to Capitol Beat’s Dave Williams.
- And then there’s the budget: The state spending plan for next year (HB 19) is mired in a standoff between the Senate and House over another bill (SB 99) that would relax certificate of need regulations to enable quicker builds for new rural health facilities. That bill is a personal test for Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who is in his first session as Senate leader, because it would personally benefit his family, according to reports that say his father owns land slated for a new hospital development in Butts County. But the conundrum is much more than that: It pits Wellstar Health System and other larger healthcare providers’ expansion interests against other private groups who want to develop in rural areas. This story by Jill Nolin at Georgia Recorder frames the situation well.
Budget fight takes hostages
Another hostage in the General Assembly’s budget fight over health care facilities is the sequel to last year’s far-reaching mental health legislation. House Bill 520 been passed in the House, but the Senate amendment threatens it. The bipartisan bill creates pathways to more treatment staffing and capacity as well as ways to share information about patients across care and justice systems. 1 in 9 adults with mental illness and substance use disorders is arrested every year, according to a study by the Pew Trusts. This bill is directly targeted to build collaboration between systems to attack the roots of the problem, help people and keep them out of the justice system. The Pew research supports the premise of the bill: “In fact, this analysis found that adults with co-occurring disorders were more likely to be involved with the justice system than those with mental illness alone, and few received treatment for both substance use and mental illness. Implementing evidence-based solutions that increase and improve treatment for co-occurring disorders could reduce justice system contact and produce better public health outcomes for those with co-occurring disorders.”
A better-news mental health update for Georgia regards the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline that opened nationwide last July. Since then, 81% of Georgia calls to the suicide hot line have been answered from within the state, a much higher rate than those of our neighbors Florida, Alabama and South Carolina, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
- Land use and racial discrimination: A new lawsuit brings up economic justice questions common in Coastal Georgia, home of four Superfund cleanup sites. A group of Black citizens in the Louisiana’s “cancer alley” are suing St. James Parish over land use practices they say illegally zoned Black communities over the years to site more than a dozen polluting industrial plants. Inside Climate News looks at the suit that’s been called “strong and innovative.”
- Rejected insurance claims? If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on when a fairly obvious health insurance filing is denied, you are not alone. ProPublica does a masterful job of investigating what happened when one patient questioned the process. His insurer was saving millions while doctors paid to review the claims were just checking boxes on forms without ever reading the cases.
- What next for downtowns across the nation? A story from Governing gives a quick history lesson on downtown development in cities and a look at the evolutions happening since the Covid pandemic forced everyone to look at shopping, eating, and work patterns.
Your second cup: Trading your data
Every day we trade our personal information for something: You give your email or phone number for a free beverage or fill out a form online for a coupon or, maybe, type in your phone number for a 30% discount on your next clothing purchase. It’s a business transaction: You’re trading a granular look at your buying habits for a lower price on something you want. For many businesses, that’s gold. They’ll make much more than the value of that deal they cut you by selling or using your data. Here’s a great look at how that works from The Markup, a nonprofit journalism site dedicated to technology and how it works — or doesn’t — for you. See what Kroger does with that loyalty card that magically discounts your groceries and gas. As they say, “you’re worth it.” You bet you are.
Reasons, perspectives are more complex than one incident or person. Here’s a look at similarities and differences in the bills and explanations of what a commission would and would not look like.
The bill is set to go into effect July 1, and transgender minors prescribed hormones before that date will be able to continue treatment. The bill will not limit puberty blocking medications, a provision sponsors say is intended to offer a cooling down period before young people make a decision they may later regret.
Proposed law would dedicate $6,500 to the family of any Georgia public school family that decided to withdraw their child from a low-performing school and educate them at home or a private school.
Increased weights for heavier loads, would end in one year. Bill restricts mileage trucks can travel and types of industries that get to haul higher weights.
Spending plan that would cut some funding for higher ed and statewide information service reflects fight that would relax requirements for new health facilities in rural areas.
When you use supermarket discount cards, you are sharing much more than what is in your cart—and grocery chains like Kroger are reaping huge profits selling this data to brands and advertisers
Sponsor says goal is to protect public employees in the digital age by blacking out their personal data in government databases, such as the qPublic site many counties use to post property ownership information.
Letter cites recent reporting by The Current and ProPublica. Senator says TitleMax, the nation’s largest title lender, continues to use “dubious sales techniques” to lure consumers into costly loan renewals by presenting them with misleading information about the deals’ terms and costs.
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