Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Business Upbeat about Session; GOP Control Can Help Their Agenda

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Business Upbeat about Session; GOP Control Can Help Their Agenda

Article excerpt

Byline: VICKY ECKENRODE, The Times-Union

ATLANTA -- In one week, state lawmakers will get down to business.

And as the legislative session starts up again, industry lobbyists and economic development groups also will reappear at the Capitol, pushing for bills on behalf of Georgia companies.

Many of the state's largest business groups are still finalizing their legislative agendas before the session's start on Monday, Jan. 10, but most are placing tort reform at the top of their list of issues to watch.

Measures to reform the state's civil justice system, designed to address rising malpractice insurance rates and healthcare costs, stalled during previous sessions under a politically divided legislature. But with both houses now controlled by Republicans, the reform bills are expected to have a better chance.

But opposing groups arguing that the changes will benefit businesses and hospitals at the expense of patients will be sending in their own lobbyists to counter the appeals of the corporate sector.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce plans to support the reforms and call for provisions such as mandatory, non-binding arbitration in medical cases and restricting what cases qualify for class action status, according to the group's draft legislative agenda.

State chamber officials will meet to approve the slate of issues as soon as the session starts.

The business group also is pushing for a guarantee that fees collected from tire sales and hazardous waste violations be used for the clean-up of waste sites because the state has been dipping into the fund for other purposes, according to the draft.

In the area of workers compensation insurance, the chamber is supporting the continuance of a 7.5 percent premium discount for workplaces that are certified as drug-free. The initial legislation allowing the discount is set to expire soon.

State economic development officials say they are working closely with Gov. …

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