Lt. Gov. Lists Priorities – Gambling a Question Mark

Cindy Morley

Friday, January 17th, 2020

To read all of InsiderAdvantge Georgia’s daily news, SUBSCRIBE HERE. *Subscription includes a complimentary subscription to JAMES Magazine.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and some members of the Senate Majority Caucus kicked off the 2020 Georgia General Assembly on Monday by outlining priorities for the session. Duncan met with media in his office Monday and announced plans to focus on three main issues – healthcare, foster care and technology innovation.

Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton), President Pro Tempore Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) and Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) announced their plans to introduce legislation that includes fixes for collection of tax revenue, limits for pharmacy benefit managers and measures to curb surprise billing, as well as additional funding to improve infant and maternal mortality rates.

What wasn’t among their priorities so far? Gambling in Georgia (a constitutional amendment which would let people vote on a constitutional amendment allowing local option destination resort casinos, local option pari-mutuel horse wagering and mobile sports betting).

Dugan said that “gambling is not one of our priorities.” However, a few days earlier, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) strongly declared that he felt voters should decide whether to expand gambling in Georgia.

“Do we trust Georgians enough to let them make the decision?” asked Ralston. “We’ve talked about this issue here for years. One of these days, we’re either going to have to say we’re going to quit talking, or we’re going to vote it. Whichever way it comes out, it comes out.”

Ralston did say that sports betting is happening in the state now, “but we just don’t get any money off of it.”

Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) believes that more senators— Republican and Democrat– will come around to letting the people vote on the issue. And Rep. Ron Stephens ( R-Savannah), who is sponsoring the gambling amendment in the House, is confident of ultimate passage.

Duncan said he’ll focus efforts in the healthcare arena on price transparency and the right to shop. “We’re going to continue to work in ways that allow us to really build a system in this state that allows patients to know how much their healthcare costs will be well before they ever get home from the hospital.”

Duncan said he also wants to focus on foster care, “calling it a big issue” for him personally. We can do a better job here in Georgia than we are doing,” he said, adding that much of the focus needs to be on those who age out of the system after turning 18 years old.

Dugan underscored that the GOP caucus will be focused on solutions “that will bring the greatest relief to the most Georgians as quickly as possible.” “These priorities work together to accomplish that goal and are greatly needed to keep Georgia a competitive state to do business and a great place to raise a family. I look forward to working with all members of the General Assembly on these and other initiatives important to all Georgians,” Dugan said.

“These priorities are essential because they represent issues important to all parts of our state,” said Miller. “We all need access to quality healthcare, we all want increased transparency in health care costs, and we all want improvements to our tax infrastructure to maximize the revenues available for our state. I look forward to working with my fellow senators to perfect these proposals and bring improvements to lives of all Georgians.”