Mon, May 20, 2024

New laws boost good-paying jobs and healthcare

Gov. Brian Kemp (R), pen in hand, is working his way through the hundreds of bills passed in the Georgia General Assembly’s 2024 legislative session. On Friday, April 19, Kemp signed half a dozen pieces of legislation focused on healthcare in Georgia.

“When I first ran for Governor, I made a promise that my administration would work to develop the entirety of our state, and that includes ensuring that Georgians in rural parts not only have access to good paying jobs, but also quality and affordable health care,” said Kemp during the ceremony in Athens.

The bills included HB 82, created to address critical healthcare needs in the state’s rural and underserved communities.

“This is another important measure in strengthening the health care system in rural areas by providing for expanded rural physician tax credit, including physicians and now also dentists,” Kemp said. “We’re encouraging more students from our greatest institutions of higher learning to practice in communities in desperate need of their services and expertise.”

Other bills establish a loan repayment program for eligible mental health and substance use professionals and reorganizing the county boards of public health.

One bill Kemp signed was passed with help from state legislators from East Central Georgia, including Rep. Butch Parrish (R-158).

HB 1339 revised the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) process, the requirements that must be met before new hospitals can be built, along with other restrictions on expanding healthcare services.

“With the Governor’s signature of House Bill 1339, we are taking a huge step forward to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare in our state—particularly in our rural communities. We know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to healthcare, but I firmly believe this legislation is a bold step in the right direction,” said Parrish, currently Chairman of the Special Committee on Healthcare.

According to the news release announcing the signing, “HB 1339 will shorten the length of time for review of hospital applications and will expand the rural hospital tax credit program. Other provisions of the bill include expanding hospital bed capacities, extending the maximum distance for certain healthcare facilities to relocate without a CON, expanding rural hospital perinatal services, as well as exempting psychiatric or substance abuse inpatient programs for Medicaid and uninsured patients from CON requirements when an agreement is reached with a nearby hospital.”

Among the bills awaiting the Governor’s signature is HB 880. It revises the way military spouses with careers that require a professional license can receive an expedited Georgia license. Currently, it can take nearly a year to receive a Georgia license.

The bill says a spouse holding a current and valid professional license in another state can apply for an expedited license by endorsement allowing them to work in Georgia. They do not have to wait until they relocate to Georgia. Once the spouse’s family member receives military orders, the application for expedited review can be filed.

The ceremony to sign HB 880 is scheduled for Wednesday morning, April 24.

Prior to signing the package of bills dealing with healthcare in the Peach State, Kemp took part in a groundbreaking ceremony for the new medical school on the University of Georgia (UGA) campus in Athens. This will be Georgia’s second public medical school, joining the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) in Augusta.

A news release posted on the UGA website explained the new school will be located on the Health Sciences campus.

“Preliminary plans for the building include medical simulation suites, standardized patient rooms, clinical skills labs, a gross anatomy lab, and a medical library. The building will also feature student support spaces like conference rooms, study spaces, lounges, and faculty and staff offices dedicated to student support.”

“In total, the proposed building will measure approximately 92,000 square feet. Roughly 67,000 square feet of the building will be dedicated to medical education while the remaining 25,000 square feet will house biomedical research laboratories.”

Currently, UGA and MCG have a partnership teaching up to 60 medical students a year in Athens. The new medical school will expand that to 120 students per year in the future.

During an April 18 stop in Augusta, Kemp signed four pieces of legislation that will cut taxes for Georgia residents. They include HB 1015 lowering the individual income tax rate from 5.49 percent to 5.39 percent and HB 1021 increasing the personal exemption for each dependent to $4,000. It is currently $3,000.

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