Long serving State Rep. Al Williams (D- Midway) offered his take on what did, and didn’t, happen during the Georgia General Assembly’s 2019 legislative session, during last week’s Eggs and Issues Breakfast. The event is organized by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce. The recent legislative session adjourned in April.
In addition to speaking on various bills passed by state lawmakers, Williams recounted how the Census Bureau plans to change one of its measures for the 2020 Census: that deployed military service members will be counted as residents of the stateside military installations– such as Fort Stewart – to which they are currently assigned. In 2010, city and county elected officials, including Williams, voiced their displeasure when active duty service members at Fort Stewart were counted as residents of their home state, not as residents of Liberty County. This resulted in an inaccurate population count for the county, according to Williams.
Williams said he believes that Liberty County is closer to 70,000-75,000 residents, than the approximate 61,000 population figure put out by the latest census. Population figures, if inaccurate, can translate into a loss in revenue, he said.
“That makes a lot of difference,” Williams said. “We just want to be counted fairly.”
Williams also spoke about a “compromise” bill state legislators passed regarding the Certificate of Need (CON) law that affects Georgia hospitals. The version that was passed will permit Cancer Treatment Centers of America to expand, and will require freestanding emergency departments to procure a CON.
Williams said rural hospitals are struggling in Georgia, and that a person’s access to healthcare should not be determined by the size of their bank account.
“Rural Georgia, like most of rural America, has a serious healthcare problem,” he said. Closing rural hospitals can “rip out the heart,” of a community, Williams said.
The state representative also touched on lawmakers’ support of the Georgia Heart Rural Hospital Tax Credit program. According to a news release issued by Liberty Regional Medical Center, the program encourages “Georgia taxpayers and C-Corporations to redirect their Georgia income tax liability as a 100 percent tax credit to help improve the financial condition of qualified rural hospitals….These redirected state taxes will serve as contributions to the local hospital at no cost to the taxpayer.”
The program allows for a total of $60 million of income tax credits to be donated to qualified rural hospitals, said Tammy Mims, Liberty Regional’s new CEO, who attended the breakfast.
Williams also mentioned the passing of a controversial “Heartbeat Bill,” which bans most abortions as soon as a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which is generally found once a fetus reaches six weeks of development.
“The animosity on that bill was palpable,” he said.
Williams said he “likes life,” but supports a woman’s right to choose. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the controversial bill into law May 7. It will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Williams also spoke about what directly affects the people of Liberty County, such as enforcing abandonment laws to help clean up the county’s abandoned buildings thus improving its appearance.
He encourages voters to speak with him about issues they are concerned about, and urges them to contact him prior to the next legislative session. Williams can be reached at 912-977-5600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.