Georgia Governor Nathan Deal visited Fire House 1 in Gilmer County Thursday to officially sign House Bill 146 known as the “Firefigher’s Cancer Insurance Bill.”
Joined by several officials including Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, author of the bill Micah Gravley, District 67 Representative, opened the ceremony by speaking about the two year effort to bring the bill to this point. Gravley related his interactions with two firefighters, Frank Martinez and Brian Scutter, who he said were the honor of the Bill as they fought for and spoke with legislators to get the bill passed, as well as the appropriateness to have the signing in Scutter’s home station in Gilmer County. Scutter was also mentioned by Speaker Ralston who said he had made a promise to Brian that he would give all that was in him to bring this day about. Turning to face Scutter, Ralston said, “I kept my promise.”
Governor Nathan Deal, who originally vetoed last year’s Bill 216 called the new House Bill 146 an “innovative and great solution to the situation.” Deal said the Bill provides relief for firefighters by providing a different method for compensation and money for treatment and care for firefighters who contract cancers during their work. Gravley thanked the Governor for his support of, as he called it, a “better bill.”
The sentiment was echoed by Speaker Ralston who said, “We have arrived at a better solution. By requiring a local government to provide insurance to our firefighters for certain types of cancer, the firefighter can skip the process of litigating a worker’s comp claim. This will allow the firefighter to focus on getting better and recovery rather than having to worry about legal bills and depositions and hearings.”
FYN caught up with Speaker Ralston and Governor Deal to ask them to elaborate on why the bill is better, comparative to last years Bill 216. The Speaker replied saying, “This uses a Health Insurance Model as opposed to a Workman’s Comp model which means instead of having to make a claim and perhaps go through a court type process to get benefits and income, Firefighters in this case will file a claim just like health insurance.”
Governor Deal also spoke on the insurance versus workman’s comp comparison saying it was an awkward and “adversarial way of deciding whether or not compensation is owed.” Deal went on to say the newer Bill is a much better solution “to provide insurance coverage that will define benefits and give some flexibility as to deciding the compensation that will be given to firefighters.”
More than Senators and Congressman came to see Deal sign the Bill, though. Several representatives from neighboring and local emergency services attended the event including Gilmer’s own Director of Public Safety Tony Pritchett who said the Bill “gives you a sense of protection… You can lay your head down and sleep better at night knowing that if you contract cancer because of the job, there’s some protection that will take care of you and your family.”
For more on the Signing of House Bill 146 watch the full ceremony below or find more Photos in our Album:
Our interview Friday with Speaker of The House David Ralston focused on rural Georgia. Ralston went into detail about the new Rural Georgia Economic Council. This council will be co-chaired by (R) Terry England from Auburn, (R) Jay Powell from Camilla and Vice Chair (R) Sam Watson from Moultry. The council will be holding meetings across Georgia to hear from elected officials, local businesses and citizens about how they feel rural Georgia economy can best be improved. Ralston said jokingly that he better not find out that one meeting took place in Atlanta.
Health care is a major concern in rural Georgia. Several hospitals have closed in rural Georgia areas including one in Ralston’s district in North Georgia. We spoke to Ralston abut one possible solution to meet rural Georgia health care needs. Ralston used the example of the first stand alone emergency room, opened by Piedmont Mountainside Hospital in Gilmer county. In this interview we asked Ralston if Gilmer county still had the possibility of having a full hospital.
Ralston told us that sometime within the next month Governor Nathan Deal would be visiting Gilmer county’s Fire Station 1 to sign the fire fighter’s workmen’s compensation bill. We asked Ralston the difference in this years campus carry bill opposed to last year’s bill which Governor Deal vetoed. Not being able to speak for the Governor, Ralston said he felt they made the changes necessary to get Deal to sign the bill. We also discussed the pay raises agreed upon in the 2017 legislative session for teachers, state law enforcement, and D.F.C.S workers.
Our final question in our interview friday: Speaker Ralston do you see the governor’s mansion in your future?
IAG CEO Phil Kent and Speaker of the House David Ralston present the ‘Top Legislators’ award to Rep. Barry Fleming, Rep. Stacey Evans, & Sen. Steve Gooch
Atlanta’s Commerce Club was the venue yesterday evening for the Insider Advantage/James Magazine “2016 Influential Georgians” reception sponsored by the Atlanta law firm Hall Booth and Smith. Approximately 70 attendees– ranging from various state and local elected officials to prominent business, judicial and political leaders– were welcomed by Insider Advantage/James CEO and Publisher Phil Kent and Hall Booth Smith Managing Partner John Hall.
Phil Kent presents the ‘2016 Influential Georgians Award’ to Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers
Kent presented the “2016 Influential Georgians Award” to Georgia Power Company CEO Paul Bowers.
Bowers became chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power in 2010, having previously served as chief financial officer of the Southern Company. His business, civic and charitable service is wide-ranging an impressive— which is why James chose him for the award. His board memberships include serving on the University System Board of Regents, the Georgia Research Alliance, the Georgia Historical Society, the Atlanta Committee for Progress and the policy advisory board for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. He was also the 2015 chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
A special guest was Georgia House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston, who presented three InsiderAdvantage/James “2016 Lawmakers of the Year” awards. The recipients were state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, who was elected majority whip of the Senate GOP Caucus in 2014 and has been a key policy-maker in the critical area of transportation; state Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna, a lawyer known as a voice for, among other issues, restoring and preserving the HOPE Scholarship; and state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, an attorney who has sponsored numerous criminal justice bills.
Ralston commended Kent along with InsiderAdvantage/James Magazine “for presenting fair and balanced information necessary to all Georgians— and I don’t usually praise the media.”
Attendees included prominent business people, members of the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, various judges and lawyers, the state’s attorney general, Republican and Democrat activists, high-powered lobbyists of government affairs firms, a bipartisan group of state legislators and former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell.
Stan Helton will be sworn in Friday at 2 P.M. He will then be officially the Chairman Commissioner of Fannin County. On Wednesday Helton and Post Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee requested Rita Davis Kirby resignation. Kirby holds two county positions, CFO and Clerk. Kirby was told that if she did not resign that they would terminate her in January. Fannin County is required to vote to dismiss department heads so Helton and Sosebee where showing Kirby they have the votes.
I spoke with Helton concerning his request for Kirby’s resignation. Helton did not give me any specific reason just that he was putting his administration’s team together and Kirby would not be a part of the team. I then asked about the County Attorney Lynn Doss. Would he address the conflict with her representing different offices in the county along with her itemizing her monthly bill. Doss receives $5,700 a month for her services as county attorney no questions asked. No one can even tell me who set the amount. Helton told me “We have a good county attorney and I am satisfied with her.”
Kirby’s husband is the newly re-elected Sheriff Dane Kirby. Just say’in! Listen to my full report for more details. #BKP
The image of David Ralston his political detractors are trying to paint is absurd and far from reality. It is a desperate attempt to smear the character of a fine public servant in the hopes of gaining a few votes for a losing campaign. David Ralston was the outsider elected Speaker whose leadership repaired the image of a legislative chamber badly tarnished by scandal into a functioning house committed to responsible legislation in service to Georgians.
David Ralston is truly a life-long Republican who spent most of his early political career in the minority. He was first elected to the state Senate in 1992 defeating an incumbent Republican who had switched parties. That was the same year, Sonny Perdue (D) was re-elected to the state Senate and Nathan Deal (D) was exiting that same chamber to win a seat in the U.S. Congress. David was a pioneer for conservative principles and building the Republican Party in Georgia before our last two Governors had even joined the GOP.
When he was first elected to the state House, David was not a member of the “in crowd.” His predecessor stripped his political opponents of preferred committee assignments and challenged leaders of his own party to public fights. As a result, issues that needed immediate attention fell to the wayside as political theatrics took center stage.
David challenged the status quo and the Speaker at that time and lost. He paid a political price for his courage in challenging the powers that be. After all, that’s the way things had been done in Georgia for years. Political retribution had long been a common practice.
In 2010, David Ralston was nominated and elected Speaker by his colleagues on a promise to change the attitude of leadership and build a cooperative culture that would focus on respectful debate and putting the needs of Georgians over special interests. It was a promise he kept.
David Ralston could have chosen to follow the path of his predecessors. He could have sought retribution against those who had previously punished him. But, he didn’t. Instead he brought his fellow house members together and built upon a Republican majority. Within months of David taking the helm of leadership several house members switched parties building the largest GOP majority in state history. Many credited the improved climate implemented by Speaker Ralston as an impetus for the switch.
No individual has made a more positive impact on the political discourse in Georgia than David Ralston. His detractors would have us believe it is a result of his lack of commitment to conservative principles. They are wrong. It’s a result of his commitment to those very conservative principles.
For three decades, the people of the 7th District have trusted the leadership of David Ralston. That sphere of trust in his leadership has expanded throughout all of Georgia. David Ralston has led numerous legislative achievements. But no achievement has been more significant than the culture of cooperation now found in the House of Representatives. For that, we are a better and stronger Georgia.
At the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce’s Fannin County Political Forum last night, 18 candidates for six different contested local elections including the District 7 House of Representatives’ race.
Out of all the races, the starkest contrast between between defining the function of the office was in the District 7 House of Representatives’ race between Sam Snider from Gilmer county and incumbent House Speaker David Ralston. Mr. Snider’s platform was more about personal beliefs and the political philosophy he would use to shape his decisions. Speaker Ralston’s answers mainly focused on economic drivers and infrastructure development that he has been able to arrange for District 7.
Speaker Ralston said that he was running to be a representative for District 7 and did not emphasize that being Speaker brought greater access to political perks for the District. From his examples, though, it was clear that if District 7 was no longer the home district of the Speaker of the House, projects and funds would slow to a trickle. Some examples of home district projects Speaker Ralston cited was ending 30 years of state inaction on improving Hwy. 5 and bringing a top-tier public university education option to a central location in District 7 with University of North Georgia’s new campus in Blue Ridge.
Mr. Snider, on the other hand, made it clear that if elected, his focus would be lower taxes, reducing government size, less top-down regulations, and use of sales taxes rather than income tax to fund the state. Mr. Snider did not comment on how he would bring Georgia tax dollars to work in District 7.
Speaker Ralston picked up on Mr. Snider’s brushstroke comments about how he, Mr. Snider, would vote in office. Speaker Ralston said that it is easy to use bumper sticker slogans, but a representative needs to look at innovative ways to solve problems.
Mr. Snider’s statements caused Speaker Ralston to justify his statewide actions on supporting a gas tax to increase Georgia Department of Transportation budget. The tax is based on the volume of gas that a person buys, not the end total cost of the gas. Speaker Ralston said, “People know that we don’t have a transportation fairy up there dropping money out of the sky.” He continued that GDOT’s revenue streams had not been recalculated in 40 years and the lack of adequate funds were showing in poor road conditions all over the state. Also, Speaker Ralston saw increasing GDOT’s budget as a way to move the state out of federal control over Georgia’s roads and bridges.
Speaker Ralston continued on this theme to show the weakness of Mr. Sniders’ fair tax platform. Speaker Ralston stated that taxing gas on volume, not total cost, was the fairest tax possible. He also brought up that funding government solely through sales tax revenue would cause segments of Georgia’s population greater financial stress because they would feel the tax in the everyday items that they must buy, like food. His example was that a lower sales tax on groceries means that seniors on fixed incomes don’t have to pay an extra 4% tax on food, which is the state’s portion of sales tax on goods.
Mr. Snider questioned Speaker Ralston’s power of influence over the religious liberties’ bills. Mr. Snider wanted to know why Speaker Ralston couldn’t find the two-thirds majority needed to overturn Gov. Deal’s veto when 86% of the House is Republican. Mr. Snider insinuated that Speaker Ralston voted in support of the religious liberties bill while knowing all along that Governor Deal would veto it. Speaker Ralston’s answer was that he will continue to work on a solution for the religious liberties bill so that the issue won’t continue floating around and try to reach a consensus that is acceptable to many parties.
In perhaps a nod to the recovering some of the political capital Speaker Ralston had to spend with the veto of the religious liberties bill, Speaker Ralston said that he will strengthen the campus carry gun bill which at this point Gov. Deal is lukewarm about signing into law. Mr. Snider did not speak about gun legislation.
Their closing remarks again highlighted the political ideology platform which Snider is running on and district improvement projects that Speaker Ralston is running on. Mr. Snider talked about reducing government size by diminishing the top layer of state government but keeping those on the lower layers that are putting in full days’ work. Mr. Snider reminded everyone that he is not a career, establishment politician like Speaker Ralston. If elected, Mr. Snider promised to bring teamwork to leadership like he had done in his career as a successful wrestling coach for Gilmer County Schools and the founding leadership for two Gilmer churches. Speaker Ralston asked the audience to consider who will bring the most effective representation for District 7 and to choose a Representative dedicated to a positive vision rather than nay-saying.
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