Political RoundUp: December 2008
Executive appointments: Gov. Sonny Perdue named Cumming developer Mike Evans, a former House member from Forsyth County who once chaired the State Transportation Board, to the Board of Community Affairs. Evans stepped down from his seat on the Transportation Board last April to avoid conflicts over a personal relationship with DOT Commissioner Gena Abraham, whom he subsequently married.
Perdue also named Tom Lewis, vice president for external affairs at Georgia State University, to a temporary spot on the Jekyll Island State Park Authority. Lewis will serve on the authority until January, when state Rep. Richard Royal (R-Camilla) retires from the Legislature. Royal will then begin his tenure on the Jekyll Island board.
Anti-piracy: Attorney General Thurbert Baker has created a statewide task force of law enforcement specialists to crack down on counterfeiting and digital piracy associated with the sale of unauthorized DVDs, computer software, clothing, watches and prescriptions. “Atlanta has become a major distribution hub for piracy and counterfeit goods; we’ve got to find a way to stop the bleeding of jobs here,” said Baker, who has been joined in his effort by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Hospital honorees: The Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals named Rep. Mark Burkhalter (R-Alpharetta), House speaker pro tem, legislator of the year. Burkhalter was honored for being “a major influence in negotiations on a Certificate of Need bill” during the 2008 General Assembly session. The Alliance also named Kurt Stuenkel of Floyd Medical Center in Rome as its CEO of the Year. Hospital of the year awards went to Memorial Hospital and Manor in Bainbridge (small hospital category) and Floyd Medical Center (large hospital category).
Water planner: Katie Kirkpatrick, vice president of environmental affairs for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, has been appointed to the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District by House Speaker Glenn Richardson. Before joining the chamber last year, Kirkpatrick was director of environmental engineering for Gold Kist, where her duties included designing wastewater treatment and air quality control systems.
Traumatic decisions: One of the more important issues facing lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session is upgrading the state’s network of trauma care hospitals. The 2008 session saw the failure of legislative leaders to reach agreement on a method of providing a permanent revenue source for trauma care facilities that provide life-or-death treatment to patients injured in serious traffic accidents. An easy solution to the problem doesn’t seem to be in sight. “Please think of this not as a cost but an investment,” said Dr. Patrick O’Neal, the state’s medical director of emergency services, at a healthcare forum attended by state legislators.
More charters: The State Board of Education has OK’d a new regulation that removes any limits on the number of local school systems that can be granted charter system status each year. A 2007 law initially set the number to five. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle urged removal of the cap.