Update from the Gold Dome: Week 7

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Sen. Steeve Gooch

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R — Dahlonega)

This week, the Senate completed Legislative Days 17 through 21, meaning we are now officially past the halfway point of the 2020 session.

In these 21 days, the Senate has addressed issues across the spectrum of policy areas including healthcare, public safety and foster care reform.

Our state has a lot to be proud of, especially our designation as the number one state in which to do business. However, a large part of fostering a positive business climate is having a strong legal system that promotes fairness and is efficient enough to handle some of the complex litigation that arises from business liability disputes. Currently, Georgia is severely lacking in several aspects of our legal environment that need to be addressed quickly in order to improve our civil justice environment.

Last summer, a Senate Study Committee traveled across the state to hear from stakeholders in the business and legal communities on some of the major areas of litigation that need to be improved in Georgia. This committee ultimately supplied a list of recommendations, which were taken into account in Senate Bill 415, which I sponsored. SB 415 received an extensive hearing in an Insurance and Labor subcommittee and addresses a variety of issues that would allow our judicial process to operate more efficiently and even the playing field for both mom and pop shops on main street, as well as larger corporations.

I am hopeful that this bill will move quickly through the legislative process so we can begin to make the incremental changes necessary to improve Georgia’s civil justice climate. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the senate to perfect this bill and get Georgia back on the right track.

In keeping with the theme of making Georgia’s business climate as strong as it can be, the Senate passed a bill that would allow the legislature to determine the economic viability of certain tax credit programs. While tax credits are undoubtedly an asset in attracting businesses to locate to or expand in Georgia, we also need to ensure that we are receiving a beneficial return on investment.

Senate Bill 302 would allow the Chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee to each request five economic analyses of tax credits each year. These analyses must include, among other things, the net change in state revenue associated with the credit. Having this data available will not only allow us to determine which current tax credits are more beneficial than others, but will also inform how tax credits are implemented in the future.

Healthcare was another issue that was addressed this week and the Senate made meaningful process in addressing an issue that has affected many patients across the state. “Surprise billing” has been an area the legislature has been trying to fight for years and this week we passed a bill that attempts to resolve many of the issues faced by consumers.

Senate Bill 359 would take the patient out of the middle of a price dispute when they unexpectedly receive out-of-network care and outlines an arbitration and negotiation process to allow insurance companies and healthcare providers to work these discrepancies out themselves. This will allow the consumer to focus on getting better and grant them more peace of mind when undergoing a medical procedure.

Since we are now past the official halfway point of the session, our next important deadline will be Crossover Day, which will fall on March 12. While that may sound far off, at the pace the Senate has been moving it will be here before we know it. There is still a lot of work to accomplish in the time we have remaining, such as the budget, but I am never too busy to hear from you. If you ever have any questions or concerns, I encourage you to reach out to my office.

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Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties, and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov

Update from the Gold Dome: Week 5

News

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R — Dahlonega)

Sen. Steve Gooch

Our fifth week of business under the Gold Dome came to an end on Friday and represented a week where we were squarely focused on the budget. This week, the Senate did not convene for any legislative days and, instead, held a series of Appropriations subcommittee meetings in order to get a clearer picture of what Georgia’s Amended 2020 Fiscal Year and General 2021 Fiscal Year budgets will need to include.

Tuesday, I had the opportunity to serve as the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation. In this hearing, we heard from representatives from each state agency that has a hand in Georgia’s transportation infrastructure including the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the Georgia Department of Driver Services, and others. Specifically, these hearings highlighted the important role our roads, bridges and highways play in attracting economic development opportunities to our state. Total travel on Georgia’s roads increased by 1.9% during 2019 and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. As a growing state, we need to plan out our infrastructure to meet the needs of our increasing population and increased volume of traffic on our roads. These hearings gave me confidence that our state is in good hands and is well prepared to deal with these, and any other future transportation challenges our state will face in the future.

One of our priorities each year is to bring enhanced broadband internet coverage to every corner of our state. In particular, we have been looking at ways our localities can partner with the federal government to apply for grant funding to build rural broadband infrastructure. This week, many of these efforts paid of and it was announced that Gilmer County would receive $4.4 million from the United States Department of Agriculture for rural broadband initiatives. This announcement, part of USDA’s ReConnect Program, will help thousands of households in North Georgia access quality, high speed broadband internet. I look forward to working with our partners at the federal level and my colleagues in the General Assembly to continue to find new and innovative ways we can bring internet access to Georgians, particularly those in rural parts of the state.

The Senate will be back in session on Tuesday, February 18, where we will resume our normal routine of honoring special guests and passing legislation. In the meantime, we will continue to serve and represent your interests here at the state Capitol. If I can ever do anything to assist you, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or my office. I look forward to continuing to serve District 51 and the great state of Georgia.

 

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties, and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov

 

 

Senate unveils priorities for 155th General Assembly

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ATLANTA, Ga. –As our state’s constitution demands, my Senate colleagues and I convened the second Monday in January – for the latter half of the 155th Georgia General Assembly.

Of course, with a new session always comes new challenges, and the most daunting challenge for this year’s forty-day sprint will be adjusting to the absence of a dear friend, Senator Greg Kirk, who left this world far too soon. His friendship will be sorely missed and the hard working men and women he represented are now without the best and most fearless champion they will ever have. My prayers remain with Greg’s wife, Rosalyn, and the entire Kirk family.

I also had the privilege of being invited to the White House to attend a signing ceremony for the new Phase One Trade Agreement between the United States and China. This agreement will drastically lower many of the barriers our farmers face when attempting to export their goods internationally and will spur economic development opportunities across Georgia’s agriculture industry. I look forward to witnessing firsthand how this trade deal benefits Georgia’s farmers in the coming months.

Also last week, the majority caucus unveiled our Senate priorities for the upcoming session. Among them: my continued pursuit of broadband access for all Georgians – just as we made a commitment to the telephone over a century ago, it is imperative that we continue to invest the time, the manpower and the required funding to connect every corner of Georgia to the twenty-first century. I am happy to continue to lead on this issue, just as I am happy, and honored, to lead on our other priorities: creating greater transparency in healthcare, curbing infant and maternal mortality rates and empowering our law enforcement community.

On Thursday, Governor Brian Kemp outlined his legislative priorities for the session in his annual State of the State address. In this speech, Gov. Kemp emphasized the progress our state has made since last year and reinforced his commitment to combating gangs and human trafficking. He also reiterated the commitment he made last year for our educators by following through with an additional $2,000 pay raise Georgia’s teachers. I look forward to working with the Governor’s Office on these proposals and others to continue to make Georgia as great as it can be.

This week, the Senate will not be in session. But we will still be busy at work as budget hearings will monopolize the majority of our week. As anyone who listened to the Governor’s State of the State Address this week knows, the budget process this year will be a challenging one, but my colleagues and I were elected to serve as good stewards of your taxpayer dollars and we are ready for the challenge.

Thirty-six legislative days remain. And, in that time, a lot can happen. But the one thing I can guarantee: Georgia’s best days are ahead of us, and I am eager to help get us there.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as the Senate Majority Whip. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

Health insurance, broadband key areas of concern as Georgia General Assembly reconvenes Monday

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WHITE COUNTY, Ga. – With the next session of the General Assembly starting Monday, State Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) spoke about some of his priorities during an Eggs and Issues Breakfast at The Bridge Church in Cleveland Friday.

“Insurance seems to be one of the biggest concerns in my area right now,” Gooch said. “The health insurance issue that recently impacted Northeast Georgia Medical Center with Anthem has been a near crisis situation. First of all, I believe the private sector should be left alone as much as possible.”

NOTE: When Northeast Georgia Health System announced it would no longer consider patients insured by Anthem in-network, thousands of patients faced out-of-network prices if they accessed care at NGHS’ hospitals, urgent care facilities and physician group centers. Fortunately, the two parties reached an agreement this month that will keep the health system in network with Anthem commercial health plan members.

“I don’t think the government should interfere with those kinds of things until they become ineffective and basically dysfunctional and I think it had gotten to that point,” Gooch told the audience. “The situation became critical for many of us here in north Georgia. When you get a letter in the mail that says you are no longer in network at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, it puts a little fear in your mind and panic across a lot of households, especially mothers with young children. If you have to drive to a doctor in Cumming or Alpharetta, that’s a problem. You should be able to go to a doctor in your hometown.”

While thousands of area residents have dodged a bullet for the time being, patients in other parts of the state may still be in jeopardy.

“We don’t know what the future is going to hold,” Gooch said. “We’re told this could happen again in other parts of the state. So, I’ve asked the chairmen of our Health Committee and Insurance Committee in the senate to look at what we can do legislatively to give all our citizens opportunities and options if this were to happen again. It happened two years ago at Piedmont so this is something at the top of a lot of people’s minds.”

Broadband access for rural communities is an issue Gooch has worked on for years.

“Rural broadband is a huge problem,” he said. “It’s not just in north Georgia. It’s all over the country and the world. It’s going to come down to billions of dollars to fix it. It’s going to require mostly private money, but also some state assistance to get some of the areas where it is really rural and there is no return on investment.”

The senator said he is working on legislation that would repurpose fees that are already being collected on everyone’s phone bill.

“I have a piece of legislation we’re looking at some funding – not to increase anybody’s fees or taxes – but to repurpose a universal access fund that is already being collected on your phone bill,” he said. “A lot of that money is being used for land line telephones. I don’t know many people that are installing land line phones any more but we all pay between $1.50 and $2 per month for that grant program that is administered by the Public Service Commission. So we’re looking at how we can repurpose that money for broadband grants that would allow Windstream and North Georgia Network and any others that want to get into the business to leverage that with some of their private funds and USDA grants.”

Gooch said transportation is another issue he is working on. White County and Lumpkin County officials have approved a resolution he introduced to hire a  consultant to study what it would take to connect their counties via a four-lane highway from Hwy. 115 to Ga. 400.

A project like that is going to take as long as the Appalachian Parkway did when we started planning it decades ago,” he said. “But if you don’t plant the seed, you’ll never grow the crop.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

Sen. Gooch’s bill condemns impeachment hearing

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Sen. Steve Gooch

ATLANTA — Wednesday (Dec. 18), Sen. Steve Gooch (R– Dahlonega) pre-filed Senate Resolution LC 112 0167 condemning the Congress of the United States for their impeachment proceedings against Donald J. Trump.

This resolution was pre-filed Wednesday (Dec. 18) by Gooch, John Wilkinson (R – Toccoa) and Brandon Beach (R – Alpharetta).

“Politics hit a new low in our Nation’s Capitol with the impeachment vote that is expected to be taken tonight,” said Gooch. “It is sad to see the partisan bickering in our U.S. House of Representatives. Congress should be working together to protect our families and fellow Americans across the United States.

“Cutting our national debt and deficit spending should be a priority at a time when we are experiencing historic low unemployment numbers and historic highs in the stock market. Protecting our borders and investing in much needed infrastructure should be the issues they are debating, not these baseless allegations against President Trump.”

Resolution LC 112 0167 will be introduced in the Georgia Senate when the General Assembly reconvenes on January 13th.

Gooch appointed to key senate study committee

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ATLANTA — Sen. Steve Gooch (R– Dahlonega) has been appointed by Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan to serve as Chair of the Senate Evaluating E-Scooters and Other Innovative Mobility Options for Georgians Study Committee.

“I want to thank Lt. Governor Duncan for appointing me as Chair of this very important study committee,” said Sen. Gooch. “Alternatives to vehicles are critical to improving mobility and decreasing traffic on our roads. These scooters and other forms of transportation are seen as the ‘last leg’ of the transportation puzzle and have encouraged commuters to use existing public transportation to get where they are going. While there are positives, we have to review current parameters and rules regarding these alternative commute methods to ensure riders, drivers and pedestrians are safe.”

Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega)

“Georgians expect their elected leaders to make deliberate, informed decisions to better our state,” said Lt. Governor Duncan. “The study committee process allows our Senators to dedicate extensive focus to a single issue and generate in-depth proposals for our next legislative session. I look forward to the hard work of Chairman Gooch and the appointed members of the Senate Evaluating E-Scooters and Other Innovative Mobility Options for Georgians Study Committee as they meet to study, discuss, and prepare legislative action items for the Senate to consider in 2020.”

The Senate Evaluating E-Scooters and Other Innovative Mobility Options for Georgians Study Committee was created by the passage of Senate Resolution 479 during the 2019 Legislative Session. Five members will serve on the study committee and will evaluate how local governments, state agencies and universities are utilizing E-scooters and other innovative mobility technology. The committee must report its findings on or before December 1, 2019.

 

 

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.

Sen. Steve Gooch Press Release

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By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

ATLANTA — On April 26, 2019, Governor Brian P. Kemp held a bill signing ceremony for several bills in Senate District 51. I was proud to join him and several members of our community as he signed bills that I sponsored or carried during the 2019 session into law – Senate Bills 2, 17, 66 and House Bill 454. Since I have been elected into office, one of my main priorities has been expanding broadband access to all Georgians, particularly parts of the state like our own district where citizens have limited or no access to reliable internet.

With Senate Bills 2, 17 and 66 becoming law, we are one step closer to bringing reliable broadband access to all parts of our state. Senate Bill 2 allows electric membership corporations (EMCs) to provide broadband services to their customers. The EMCs are permitted to use existing easements to provide or expand broadband access. Senate Bill 17, also known as the “Rural Telephone Cooperative Act,” allows telephone cooperatives in Metter, Newington, Rentz and Statesboro to provide internet services and broadband to their customers. These four co-ops provide either direct or indirect service to more than eight counties and 10 cities.  Senate Bill 66, or the “Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act,” allows 5G companies to collocate small wireless facilities (antennas) on existing or new poles through a standardized application process. Under SB 66, the use of public rights of way by wireless providers to deploy broadband is also addressed and clarified.

These three bills are all part of the broadband package I am proud to see become law and look forward to the positive impact it will have on all Georgians within workforce development, education and telemedicine. In addition to this legislation, I want to commend our Governor and colleagues in the Georgia General Assembly for appropriating $2 million to the Department of Community Affairs for the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative. While we made positive strides during this session with this legislation and funding, there is more work to be done not only on the state level, but also with our partners in Washington.

I want to commend the Federal Communications Commission on their announcement that $20.4 billion will be allocated through the rural broadband fund – “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund”– to ensure that four million homes and small businesses have connection to “up to gigabit-speed.” According to the FCC, “more than 24 million people lacked broadband access to their homes” in 2018. This is unacceptable and I will work with my friends on every level of government to ensure that we continue the fight to expand broadband access to all Georgians. In a day and age when we depend on access to the internet not only for entertainment but more importantly for education, economic development, working remotely and many other critical things, it is imperative more than ever that all our citizens have not only access but a reliable way to communicate and engage with their fellow citizens, employers and family around the world.

Lastly, House Bill 454, which I carried in the Senate, was signed on April 26, 2019, and will establish use and safety rules for three different classes of electric assisted bicycles. The classes are determined by the equipment used to provide assistance to the bike rider and the max speed the devices reach.

This issue is very important with the increase of our citizens utilizing new mobility equipment such as e-scooters to get around. While it is important to have options, we must ensure that everyone knows how to properly utilize these technologies while also being safe. Along with HB 454 becoming law, we will further study the issue of e-scooters and innovative mobility during the interim. I sponsored Senate Resolution 479 – Senate Study Committee on Evaluating E-scooters and Other Innovative Mobility Options for Georgians – so that we can thoroughly review and study what is needed to determine how local governments, state agencies and universities can work with companies providing innovative mobility technologies.

If you have any questions about anything related to broadband access or the other two bills signed on April 26th, please do not hesitate to reach out. I will continue to update you over the course of the next few weeks on the status of bills on the Governor’s desk. The deadline for signing, vetoing or laws becoming effective without a signature is this week on May 12, 2019. While session is over, please remember that I am always here to be of assistance and our office door is always open.

 

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as the Senate Majority Whip.  He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.

 

 

 

Sen. Gooch summarizes state budget for FY 2020

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By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

During the 2019 session, the Georgia General Assembly fulfilled our constitutional duty and passed a record $27.5 billion Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) Budget, House Bill 31, which is based on a state fund growth rate of 2.3% and 3.45% Department of Revenue growth over the Fiscal Year 2019 amended budget estimates.

Some highlights of the budget include:

Educators and Certified Employees:

  • $530.8 million to address a $3,000 pay raise, which will begin on July 1, 2019, for Georgia’s teachers and other certified school personnel including counselors, social workers, psychologists, special education specialists and technology specialist.
  • $15,003,985 in Lottery Funds to adjust state base salary schedule to increase salaries for certified Pre-K teachers and certified employees by $3,000 effective July 1, 2019.
  • $750,000 for professional development grants for teachers who wish to teach computer science courses. This session Senate Bill 108 received final passage which would require at least one high school in each school system and all middle schools in a school system offer a course in computer science starting during the 2022-2023 school year. SB 108 also lays out the requirements for charter and middle schools.
  • $250,000 for cyber security initiatives in high schools across the state.
  • $1 million for additional high school counselors and programs for Title I schools.
  • An increase of .25 cents to $15.50 per month for each year of service for the benefit utilized by non-certified school employees like school bus drivers and school through the Public School Employees Retirement System.

Heath Care:

  • $4.9 million for Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ residential treatment of addictive diseases.
  • $250,000 for the Department of Community Health so that grants can be matched for hospitals in rural counties so that necessary upgrades can be made in their emergency rooms for behavioral health patients.
  • $40,000 to enhance delivery and access to emergency trauma care in rural Georgia by adding five new Level IV trauma centers.

Broadband Expansion:

  • $2.0 million to the Department of Community Affairs for the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative.

District 51:

  • $2.3 million in bond package funding for the design of the construction of the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega.
  • $1.5 million to bring currently used state-owned rail lines up to Class II Standards to help reduce freight truck traffic on highways. This funding will go to Georgia Northeastern Rail Road to upgrade tracks and bridges in Fannin County.

These are just a few of the highlights of the FY20 budget. The entire document and supporting documentation can be found on the link below:

http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/en-US/AppropriationsDocuments.aspx

If you have any questions about any specific items in the FY20 budget, please do not hesitate to reach out. I will continue to update you over the course of the next few weeks on the status of bills on the Governor’s desk. The deadline for signing, vetoing or laws becoming effective without signature is May 12, 2019. While session is over, please remember that I am always here to be of assistance and our office door is always open.

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Sen. Steve Gooch serves as the Senate Majority Whip.  He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.

 

Tanner, Gooch discuss bills passed in 2019 General Assembly

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega and State Rep. Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville were the featured speakers at last night’s Dawson County Republican Party Meeting at the Bowen Arts Center.

Gooch represents 200,000 north Georgia residents, including those in Dawson, White, Lumpkin, Union and Forsyth counties. The district is made up of about 75 percent Trump voters.

“It’s the most conservative district in the state senate and the third most conservative in the country,” he said. “So, it’s pretty easy for us to go down there and vote a conservative agenda cause that’s who we are and who we try to represent back home.”

Sen. Steve Gooch

He said he had took some heat from liberals for his vote in favor of the fetal heartbeat bill – the bill that bans abortions as soon as a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat — but added, “I was proud of my vote on that heartbeat bill, saving hundreds of thousands of unborn children. It was probably the best vote I had taken in my nine years in the senate.”

Gooch also talked about passing enabling legislation to create business courts in the state. The legislation will allow businessmen and women to take a case directly to a business court rather than the Superior Court. “A lot of business issues are highly specialized and not many Superior Court judges have business experience,” he said. “In a business court, they would be able to bring in experts that know a lot about the subject matter.”

Another issue he has spearheaded for several years is the expansion of high-speed internet access to rural communities. He and other legislators who understand that high-speed broadband internet service is essential to schools, businesses and hospitals made it a priority this year. They passed legislation that allows power companies and phone companies to begin selling internet service in rural areas.

Rep. Kevin Tanner

Tanner also weighed in on the fetal heartbeat bill, saying, “I have several in Lumpkin County who are very much opposed to that legislation. There is no way I could ever change their mind and I’m very much pro-life and there is no way you could ever change my mind. It’s a moral fiber issue for me.”

Tanner worked hard on getting new voting machines for the state. The bill passed in the House along party lines with Democrats opposed. The new machines, which will cost between $150 million and $200 million, will allow voters to cast a ballot electronically, print out a copy for their approval then scan it to have it recorded.

“I have yet to be able to get my democrat colleagues to give me a reason they would be opposed to that particular machine,” Tanner said. “The reality is (opposition) is coming from the national party that they should oppose the legislation. I will say this, it is proven statistically that the best way to rig or cheat in an election is paper ballots. If you want to stuff ballot boxes and rig an election, paper ballots are the best way to do that. These machines make it very difficult if not impossible for that to happen because if there is an audit, there is a trail we can follow.”

Tanner has been a champion of mental health reform in Georgia which has led to the creation of a behavioral health reform and innovation commission made up of 23 members. Four will be legislators but the majority will be experts in the field of mental health.”

“The problem is once you graduate from a mental health court, there is no follow up,” he said. “If you have schizophrenia, or you have bipolar, or acute depression, you have to be followed your entire life to make sure medication is being taken and you’re not having an episode.”

Last night’s meeting was the first since the election of a new slate of officers at the County Convention. The new officers include Seanie Zappendorf (chairperson), Mike Berg (first vice chair) Pepper Pettit (second vice chair), Dale Smart (secretary) Katie Hulsebus (treasurer) and Norman Samples (committee member at-large).

Among the elected officials who attended the event were Mayor Mike Eason, Commissioners Julie Hughes-Nix, Sharon Fausett, City Councilman Stephen Tolson and former Commission Chairman Mike Berg.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

Sen. Steve Gooch update from the state capitol

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ATLANTA — We concluded week ten on Friday and now just have one full week before Sine Die on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. With four legislative days to go and one committee work day, we have a lot of work to do before our time under the Gold Dome comes to an end for the 2019 session.

I am proud that three of the bills I sponsored to address broadband expansion in Georgia – Senate Bills 2, 17 and 66 – have been making their way through the legislative process in the House. Senate Bill 2 would allow EMCs to provide internet services and broadband to their customers directly or indirectly through a broadband affiliate. This legislation received a “do pass” recommendation by the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee.

Another bill I sponsored that received a “do pass” recommendation from this committee is Senate Bill 66 which passed the senate unanimously. SB 66, the “Streamlining Wireless Facilities and Antennas Act,” would streamline wireless broadband deployment by allowing for a standardized application process for 5G companies to collocate small wireless facilities (antennas) on existing or new poles. This legislation also addresses the use of public rights of way by wireless providers to deploy broadband. I look forward to both of these bills moving to the House Floor for a vote before Sine Die.

The third bill addressing broadband expansion, Senate Bill 17, was adopted by the House on March 21. SB 17, the “Rural Telephone Cooperative Act,” unanimously passed through the Senate would allow telephone cooperatives in Metter, Newington, Rentz and Statesboro to provide internet services and broadband to their customers. Altogether, these four co-ops provide service to over eight counties and ten cities. This service could be provided directly or indirectly.

Along with these bills making their way through the legislative process in the House, our chamber addressed over 50 House Bills in committees and debated on 25 pieces of legislation in the Senate Chamber. Of the 25 bills, I would like to discuss a measure that I believe moves Georgia in the right direction to preserving life and ensuring that Georgia remains a pro-life state.

After over four hours of debate, the Senate adopted House Bill 481 along party lines. The debate was filled with passion on both sides on an issue that none of the 56 members took lightly. HB 481, the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act,” establishes that as soon as a heartbeat is detected during a pregnancy, the baby in the womb has protections under the law and the pregnancy cannot be terminated. There are four exceptions when a pregnancy can be terminated up to 20 weeks – current law – including medical emergencies putting the pregnant women’s life in danger, non-viability of the pregnancy, rape or incest. Additionally under HB 481, the unborn child would be counted in Georgia’s census and the expecting parents would be able to claim a state tax deduction as soon as a baby’s heartbeat is detected.

While this was a hard and emotional debate to have, I believe it was necessary to ensure that Georgia becomes one of the strongest pro-life states in the nation. Preserving the life of a baby that could one day change the world is very important to me along with giving those who cannot have children on their own a chance to adopt and have a family. Since the Senate made changes to the House version of HB 481, it will now go back to the House for final approval and then hopefully to Governor Brian P. Kemp for his signature. While states like New York took the position that a baby can be aborted up to birth, I am proud that Georgia is preserving life when it begins – the moment a heartbeat is detected.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

It’s official: NGHS to build hospital in Lumpkin Co.

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) announced plans to offer hospital services at the former home of Chestatee Regional Hospital later this year and begin developing a new replacement hospital along Georgia 400 in Lumpkin County.

“We’re thrilled to share this exciting news, which ensures people in and around Lumpkin County will have local access to the high-quality health care they need for generations to come,” says Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS.  “We appreciate the patience of the community as we’ve worked to create solutions that are high-quality, sustainable, and deliver on our mission to improve the health of the community in all we do.”

“This is an answered prayer for those of us who have lived and worked in Lumpkin County for decades,” says Donna Whitfield, MD, a fifth-generation Dahlonega native and internal medicine physician with Northeast Georgia Physicians Group who has practiced in Lumpkin County for 18 years.  “The roots of NGHS run deep in this area, which it’s helped care for since Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville opened in 1951, and we know there’s no other organization better suited to start a new era of healthcare in this community.”

The NGHS team has already started working to open an emergency department – along with some inpatient beds, imaging equipment and other services – in July 2019 at the existing building that was once home to Chestatee Regional Hospital.  The new hospital facility will be called Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin, or NGMC Lumpkin for short.  Complete emergency services will be provided 24/7/365 by the same group of physicians that care for emergency patients at all Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) hospitals.

“Our physicians and Lumpkin County EMS already work very closely together, as the majority of emergency trauma, cardiac and stroke patients from the area have been transported to NGMC Gainesville for years,” says Mohak Davé, MD, chief of Emergency Medicine for NGMC.  “Now, we look forward to providing excellent emergency care for people in Lumpkin County and surrounding communities – closer to their homes.”

While offering services at the existing hospital site will preserve the Certificate of Need authority to operate a hospital in Lumpkin County and meet the short-term needs of the community, planning has also begun for a new replacement hospital facility to sit on 57 acres NGHS already owns along Georgia 400, near the intersection with Highway 60.  The new facility is tentatively scheduled to open in 2022 and expected to provide emergency services, inpatient medical/surgical care, imaging services and a focus on outpatient surgery.

“When we recently interviewed and surveyed people in the Lumpkin County area, the overwhelming majority told us three things – they need an emergency room, they want a new hospital that meets the needs of the community, and they trust and prefer Northeast Georgia Health System to care for them,” says Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS.  “We heard them, and we intend to deliver on all three counts.”

The number of beds and operating rooms at the new replacement hospital facility will be determined during the planning process, which will also explore innovative ways to deliver care.

“As the population and needs of this area grow, creating a new healthcare destination presents an opportunity to explore new ideas and expand the way people think about hospitals,” says Dr. Whitfield.  “I’m extremely interested in understanding how we can use digital technology, for things like virtual visits, and involve aspects of integrative medicine which include holistic care for the mind and spirit – not just the body.”

As the transition from the existing hospital facility to the new hospital facility is on the horizon, planning for how the existing facility will be used long-term is also in the works. NGHS currently leases the former Chestatee Regional Hospital property from The University System of Georgia Board of Regents. At some point in the future, the University of North Georgia will likely relocate some of its health sciences programs and services to the property.

“These positive changes in our local healthcare landscape create exciting opportunities to enhance the way we teach and prepare our students,” says Dr. Bonita Jacobs, president of the University of North Georgia (UNG).  “We look forward to the potential to collaborate with NGHS and other local providers.”

Other local leaders are optimistic about other ways a new hospital could impact the community.

“I’ve driven and supported efforts to establish a new hospital in Lumpkin County and expand UNG’s healthcare programs on the Dahlonega campus, in large part because of the role healthcare plays in today’s economics,” says Senator Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega resident and former executive director of Lumpkin County’s Development Authority.  “We’ve all seen the growth and prosperity a new hospital and associated development can bring, and we look forward to working alongside NGHS to build a better future for our community.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

Sen. Gooch, Rep. Tanner will be waiting tables at Celebrity Waiter Breakfast fundraiser Friday

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Public service will take on a whole new meaning at the 10th annual Celebrity Waiter Breakfast Friday morning at Longhorn Steakhouse on Ga. 400.

State Senator Steve Gooch, State Rep Kevin Tanner, Sheriff Jeff Johnson and a host of county commissioners and school board members as well as members of the Dawson County High School Drama Department will serve breakfast with a smile starting at 7:30 a.m.

It’s all for a good cause. The event is a fundraiser to support Dawson County Family Connection in its work recruiting foster families, offering child sexual abuse prevention, training and bringing awareness to the community of the negative consequences of substance abuse and addiction has on families and children.

 

Tickets can be purchased at the event or in advance by calling 706-265-1981 or by email at rbliss@dawsonfamilyconnection.org.

Family Connection Coordinator Nancy Stites said, “We are a non-profit and this is our only fundraiser. The proceeds help to support the work that we do and to bring awareness to the organization.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update from the State Capital: Week 2

News

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

ATLANTA — This week began with a day off to reflect upon one of Georgia’s greatest, Martin Luther King Jr., whose ideals of peace and justice are woven into everything we do here at the Capitol. After our day of remembrance, we returned to the Gold Dome and hit the ground running with budget hearings.

Budget week started with Joint Senate and House Appropriations hearings, which included presentations from several state agencies as well as Governor Brian P. Kemp, on the Amended Fiscal Year 2019 and General Fiscal Year 2020 budgets. As Secretary of the Appropriations Committee, I am happy to say that the state’s budget continues to be in good shape, with the FY20 budget topping $27 billion for the first time. Below are some highlights for the two budgets.

Proposed Amended FY19 budget which totals around $26.9 billion:

  • $68.8 million for school security grants. This total amount will be appropriated at $30,000 per school statewide.
  • $491,300 in initial funding to support the Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority.
  • $69.3 million for transportation as a result of HB 170.
  • $35.7 million additional funding to the Forestland Protection Act grant for repayment to counties and local systems.

Proposed General FY20 budget which totals around $27.5 billion:

  • $34.8 million in total funds to the Department of Economic Development to increase economic development throughout the state and to bring additional businesses and jobs.
  • $33 million in additional lottery funds to provide a three percent increase in the award amount for HOPE scholarships.
  • $32.6 million appropriated to the Department of Transportation for additional resurfacing projects and capital projects.
  • $100 million in bond funds for the repair, replacement and renovation of bridges throughout the state.

The General FY20 budget addresses our state’s continuing commitment to economic growth. Governor Kemp has proposed $34.8 million in total funds to the Department of Economic Development to continue the economic expansion that Governor Deal so successfully cultivated.

The state’s growing need to address transportation infrastructure is accounted for in the Amended FY19 budget. An additional $69.3 million in projected revenues resulting from House Bill 170 – passed during the 2015 Legislation Session – will be added to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) budget.

I am very happy to see that a piece of legislation we passed a couple of years ago is still making positive impacts for GDOT. The General FY20 budget includes $100 million for roadway improvements, as well. I will utilize my role as Vice Chairman of the Transportation Committee to ensure that this investment in Georgia’s infrastructure does not go to waste.

Next week, standing committees will begin to hold meetings and legislation will continue to be introduced in the Senate. I will continue to work on legislation that addresses broadband expansion and will keep you updated as the pace picks up and this session gets busier. As we move forward over the next 36 legislative days, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns and feedback. It is always great to hear from my constituents, and our door is always open.

For a full breakdown of the Amended Fiscal Year 2019 budget – House Bill 30 – please follow this link: http://www.house.ga.gov/budget/Documents/2019_FiscalYear/AFY_2019_Govs_Rec_Bill.pdf

For a full breakdown of the General Fiscal Year 2020 budget – House Bill 31 – please follow this link:  http://www.house.ga.gov/budget/Documents/2020_FiscalYear/FY_2020_Govs_Rec_Bill.pdf

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov

 

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle Visits Dawsonville

News

From left Sen. Steve Gooch, Bill Elliott and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Former NASCAR great Bill Elliott — better known as Awesome Bill from Dawsonville —  and a large contingent of community leaders welcomed Lt. Governor Casey Cagle to Dawsonville Wednesday morning.  Cagle is in the midst of a 17-stop bus tour of north Georgia to promote his campaign for governor.

You have to wonder if Elliott gave the Hall County Republican some inside tips on how to make a quick pit stop because after spending a little quality time with Dawson County community leaders and a quick stump speech, Cagle sped off to Pickens, Gilmer, Gordon, and Whitfield counties.

Before getting back on the road, Cagle visited with Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond, Commissioners Jimmy Hamby and Chris Gaines, Mayor James Grogan, County Manager David Headley, Sherriff Jeff Johnson and Chamber President Christie Hayes.

Former Commission Chairman Mike Berg introduced the lieutenant governor who didn’t need much of an introduction since he once represented the county as State Senator and has been lieutenant governor for eight years.

Cagle’s said he would focus on transportation, jobs, education and providing broadband to rural areas of Georgia

Cagle said, Georgia needs a transportation plan to accommodate a population growth of about 4.5 million people in the next 15 years.

“We have to get busy with a two-year strategic plan built around transportation that is able to go under, go over, go around, whatever is required to prepared ourselves for the kind of growth that is coming.”

On jobs, Cagle said he wants to build a world-class workforce second to none. “As I woke up this morning there were 150,000 jobs available today and out of that 150,000, 25 percent need four-year degrees but 75 percent need industry certification or a two-year degree. So, I want to make sure we are aligning education with what industry needs.”

On education he said, “The college and career education network I created reshapes the way we deliver education, giving our kids more options.”

Cagle also repeated his pledge of 500,000 new jobs during his first term in office and $100 million in tax cuts in the first 100 days.

Cagle said he understands how important broadband access is to education and to attracting business to Georgia and he fired a salvo over the heads of broadband internet providers.

“We’re going to have best in class as it pertains to rural broadband,” he said. “I’m going to set a standard that I expect every single provider in this state to reach. I know we have a problem with last mile so we’ll be looking at technology that will allow us to provide that. But I’m not going to accept any excuses. The providers are going to get in gear to make this a reality or we’re going to find someone that can. It’s just that simple.

Asked if the state school board members should be elected or appointed, he said, “Many people believe that the superintendent should be appointed almost like a cabinet position. I don’t believe that having an elected state school board is going to fundamentally improve education.”

On what has been a highly controversial religious freedom bill, Cagle said, “I and the other candidates have signed a pledge that if there is a federal mirror Xerox copy of what is already federal law that comes to my desk, I will sign it. There are a lot of social issues out there that are very divisive. As a born-again Christian, with a strong belief in religious freedom, I don’t want anyone trampling on that. As governor, I am also not for discrimination. So we’re not using this in a way that will cloak ourselves in a way that allows us to discriminate. So, these are balancing acts. We’ll do it in a way that doesn’t cost us business.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

Broadband Access Moving Forward

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By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

The Senate reconvened for legislative day five on Monday. Standing committees started meeting to adopt their rules in preparation for bill hearings starting next week. Several pieces of legislation were introduced this week and many more will be dropped as we progress through the session. In the next couple of weeks, I will be proposing legislation addressing the findings of the Joint Senate and House Study Committee on High Speed Broadband Communications Access for All Georgians.

The study committee held regional meetings around the state during the interim to hear from rural Georgians about the challenges and opportunities that exist with broadband access. After hearing from citizens and stakeholders, it is clear that broadband access is an issue that must be addressed across the entire state. Greater access to this resource has proven to increase quality of life and serve as an economic development tool.

The legislation I plan to propose is based on the committee’s recommendations and findings. As the legislation moves through the legislative process, I plan to meet with stakeholders, constituents and people around the state to ensure that any proposed legislation will benefit all Georgians.

For the full overview of the final report, please follow this link: http://www.senate.ga.gov/sro/Documents/StudyCommRpts/2016FinalReportBroadbandAccess.pdf

My work at the Capitol relies on your feedback, so please continue reaching out to discuss legislation with me. I am proud to serve over 200,000 constituents who reach out via email, phone calls and visits to provide feedback. My staff and I appreciate these efforts and want to reassure each and every one of you that every phone call, email or office visit is taken into consideration when casting my vote in the Senate chamber. Although we may not be able to respond immediately, your voices are heard. Please do not hesitate to call or email me at any time. I am in office to serve you!

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.

 

Finalizing Georgia’s Budget

Featured, Politics

Georgia Senate

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Contact:          Ines Owens, Acting Director
Ines.Owens@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028

Finalizing Georgia’s Budget

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

As the General Assembly marches closer to Sine Die, our constitutional duty of passing a balanced budget for Georgia’s government has become our biggest priority for the last few legislative days. The Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) general budget, House Bill 44, is near completion. The Senate and House both have their own versions and each is standing steadfast, so the $25 billion budget will now head to a Conference Committee that will work to come up with a compromise on a budget that is fiscally responsible.

There are a few allocations in HB 44 that I would be glad to see make it out of the Conference Committee. Among them are appropriations for our education system. Under the Senate version of HB 44, teachers across Georgia would get a two percent increase in their base salary and the Teachers Retirement System would receive an additional $223.5 million so it can be fully funded. Additionally, the Senate’s version would provide nearly $17 million to buy new school buses.

Currently, Georgia Public Broadcasting provides video streams of both the House of Representative and Senate chambers. Since the Senate wants to be as transparent as possible to all of Georgia’s citizens, there’s a $485,000 appropriation for the Senate Transparency Project, which would include video streaming of Senate proceedings and committee meetings.

There are also some line items that will directly benefit Senate District 51. The proposed budget would allocate $150,000 to the Young Farmers programs in Fannin County. Also, $1.1 million would be allocated to purchase equipment for a new convocation center and the renovation of Memorial Hall for the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. The Senate FY18 budget recommendation also includes $100,000 in airport aid for the Blairsville Airport.

I’m proud that we are appropriating funds through conservative fiscal policies. If you have any questions about the budget or any legislation that is pending, please reach out to my office. As the pace picks up during our final two weeks, I will keep your input and interests in mind to ensure that legislation we pass will benefit you, your families and Georgia.

For the full version of HB 44 and details related to the Senate version, follow the link below:

http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/en-US/AppropriationsDocuments.aspx

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Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.

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