South Georgia lawmakers on a mission - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia lawmakers on a mission

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December 28, 2005

Albany -- Some south Georgia lawmakers say it's time to clean up the mess made of the state employee's health care plan. Typically, the health care plan is handled by the Department of Education. But with major problems with the number of doctors in the plan, lawmakers say it will be on of their top priorities in the upcoming 2006 Legislative Session.

In the eleventh hour, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and a group of Albany physicians agreed to be part of United Healthcare's state employee health plan. Until then, state employees had a health care plan with no doctors. And there's still concerns about how good the plan will be.

So lawmakers plan to step in when the legislative session brings January 9th. Sen. Michael Meyer von Bremen said, "I've got in mind drafting some legislation that would state basically if within 30 days after winning a contract, a successful bidder does not have an adequate supply of doctors in place then they can lose that contract."

On top of health care worries, state employees and teacherS haven't gotten anything but cost of living raises lately. Something Senator Michael Meyer Von Bremen, of Albany, hopes will change. Meyer von Bremen said, "The extra duties imposed on teachers - it has not keep pace with what they are having to pay out of pocket and what they are incurring in terms of expenses."

But no proposed raise plan has been announced. Representative Bob Hanner of Parrott, said lawmakers will also once again discuss whether Georgians will be required to show a photo ID to vote. Lawmakers will talk about implementing a statewide sales tax for education instead of continuously raising property taxes - an issues both Hanner and Meyer von Bremen have a lot of concerns about. Hanner said, "The problem with it is the distribution of that money. Will we in rural Georgia be getting the same amount of up in Metro Atlanta? Sales tax in Parrot Georgia isn't going to raise much money."

Meyer von Bremen said, "We've seen what a recession will do to sales tax collection. And if you are dependent on your budget for something that can dip down like that, where as property is a steady tax, it can be devastating for the schools."

Lawmakers plan to tackle the issue of public entities using imminent domain to condemn land to sell it to private businesses for a profit.  Hanner says, "You want local government to be able to clean up an abandoned sites, but not take someone's property for a Wal-Mart to come in."

So lawmakers will start off another legislative session in less than two weeks with a long list of issues and needs but a tight budget to get the job done.

Representative Hanner hopes to create a rural lawmakers caucus. It would give lawmakers in rural parts of the state, like ours, a stronger, unified voice when fighting Metro Atlanta for money and services.

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