The 2023 Georgia legislative session wrapped up earlier this month, beginning a 40-day period known as bill review, where Gov. Brian Kemp and his staff review the passed legislation and then sign it into law.
This year’s session featured 53 new legislators, a new lieutenant governor and Speaker of the House, as well as new legislative leadership in both chambers.
The state legislature reviewed a total of 2,371 bills, with 1,026 making it across both chambers. Of those, approximately 121 impacted Augusta University, including 96 that were assigned to the five health committees and 25 that were assigned to both the House and Senate higher education committees.
The Augusta University Government Relations team worked on a large project in the Amended FY23 budget to successfully attain $105 million to update the electronic health record system at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, as well as having fellowship dollars put in for child and adolescent psychiatric care ($432,338) and maternal fetal medicine ($150,000). The health care workforce commission recommendations and the continuation of mental health funding were also big-ticket items this session.
“Margie Miller and her Government Relations team do incredible work for Augusta University and our health system during the legislative session and throughout the year,” said Russell Keen, EdD, executive vice president for administration and chief of staff. “They are among the very best at the state capitol and represent us with utmost professionalism and integrity as they work with the general assembly to ensure Augusta University is positioned as a vital investment and resource for the entire state of Georgia and beyond.”
One of the biggest “wins” in higher education during the session was the HOPE Scholarship being 100% funded.
The AU Government Relations team also worked to support several bills that made it across both chambers. SB 246 is a bill that will allow the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce to make repayments on student loans for nurses that have been faculty members of a postsecondary institution’s nursing program for a year. HB 383 is the Safer Hospital Act, which increases penalties for violence against health care workers. SB 56 added language late in the session that would extend the Physician Tax Incentive Program to 2026.
Near the end of March, the traditional Augusta University Capitol Day returned to almost full force. AU Foundation trustees, Children’s Hospital of Georgia philanthropy board members and AU Undergraduate Student Government Association President Dee Mallory took part in the day’s festivities, which included meeting legislators, staff and the governor and first lady.
“This was a busy session that saw our Government Relations staff actively engaged in working with our legislators to help support Augusta University, AU Health and all of our interests,” said Miller, associate vice president for Government Relations. “I am very proud of our staff for the work they did, not just during the session, but in the months leading up to the session. One of my favorite parts of this year’s session was Augusta University Capitol Day returning to its former format. It was really exciting to see so many AU people around the Capitol that day. We look forward to growing this day because it’s a longstanding opportunity to engage with legislators and stakeholders and share the excellent work being done throughout the state.”
Government Relations is tasked with ensuring the priorities of Augusta University, Augusta University Health System and MCG are well represented at all levels of local, state and federal government. Headed up by Miller, the Government Relations team includes Director of Federal Government Relations Monty Philpot Brock, Director of State Government Relations Ashton Blackwood, Assistant Director of State Government Relations Luke Ray and Meghana Raj, a student legislative intern.
Kemp has started the bill review process, which is the 40 days after session where he can sign or veto bills passed by the General Assembly. Those not signed or vetoed go into effect automatically. He has already signed the important Amended FY23 budget and vetoed HB 319, which had an amendment added to it that would cap USG tuition being raised more than 3% without the approval of the legislature.