February 4-- State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia provides an update on the Georgia General Assembly session.
The work in Atlanta continues as we push closer to the mid-way point of this year’s session. This week, six matters came before the full Senate. My colleagues jokingly called Tuesday, legislative day 12, “Blake Tillery Day” as all the bills that made it to the Senate floor that day belonged to me (however, there were only 2!). I am thankful these bills, dealing with Medicaid fraud and the effects of certain juvenile court proceedings on adoption matters, were heard and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, a big feat for any legislative body.
In Georgia, Medicaid is funded roughly 65% by the federal government and 35% by the state. Fraudulent recoveries are split between the state and feds by the same ratio. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr pointed out by tweaking certain statutes, Georgia could enhance its split of civil fines and recoveries with the feds to 45%. My Medicaid fraud bill, SB 321, made those tweaks, which I am hopeful increases the pool of healthcare dollars for rural healthcare.
We tackled several other issues in committee this week. Of particular note was SB 338. Executive agencies have rule making and regulatory authority that many times exceeds anything ever intended by the legislature. SB 338 strengthened safeguards to keep bureaucrats from creating rules the legislature never would have agreed to. In committee, it became clear to me this proposal, while better than current law, did not go far enough. I’ll be working next week with colleagues in the Senate and House to draw a committee substitute that goes even further to protect citizens from bureaucratic rule making and overreach. We already have enough laws. We don’t need to triple that amount and confuse things more with bureaucratic rules and regulations.
One highlight this week was a visit from 55 students and chaperones from Montgomery County Middle School. We toured the House Chamber with Representative Greg Morris and each student stood behind a desk in the 56-member Senate Chamber for a hands-on lesson on how the Senate voting system works. The comic relief moment of the week followed soon after. Students began staring at the name placards on the Senators’ desks. One student seemed deep in thought. When question time arrived, he had one: “are all the people [serving in] here alive?” Somewhat perplexed, I assured him they were. He then turned to the desk of my Senate colleague, John F. Kennedy from Macon, with on simple question, “then where is he?”
If you or a group you belong to would like to join us for a day at the Capitol, I’d be honored to help you arrange it. I’m more than happy to show you around! Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the Georgia Senate, and let me know if you have any comments, questions and concerns over legislation.