Legislative Notebook: Loan pool gets green light

March 3, 2014 

Georgia Crossover Day Abortion

Georgia Sen. David Lucas Sr., D-Macon, speaks out against a bill restricting abortion coverage in plans available through the state health insurance exchange on the Senate floor, Monday, March 3, 2014, in Atlanta. State senators voted 35-18 to advance the bill, which now heads to the House for consideration. The federal health care law allows states to draft legislation prohibiting abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered through an exchange. Supporters of the Georgia effort say 24 states have done so. Democrats opposed the bill, calling it a continuation of a "war on women" and saying it infringes on a woman's right to choose. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

DAVID GOLDMAN — AP

The House approved a proposal Monday by state Rep. Allen Peake that would provide a revolving, low-interest loan pool for redeveloping intown neighborhoods statewide.

The state could put up to a total of $20 million in the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fund over four years, under House Bill 128. Loans would be available to downtown development authorities, nonprofit groups and city governments.

It “incentivizes people to do some developments downtown,” said Peake, ahead of the 160-15 vote.

The bill is a step back from Peake’s original version, which would have created up to $25 million in tax credits for four years for downtown development projects.

Pollution appeals

The Senate approved a right of appeal for any property owners whose land the state considers contaminated enough to put on the Hazardous Site Inventory. Senate Bill 333 by state Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, was approved 44-9.

“If you have a piece of land that’s put in the HSI, you have no right of appeal and that’s not fair,” he said.

There were about 550 sites on the HSI as of July 2013, including the old Atlantic Cotton Mills in Bibb County.

But the bill only applies to listings starting July 1 this year, if it gets House passage and the governor’s signature.

Lost: Rural ERs

An effort make it easier to set up tiny ERs in underserved rural communities expired, despite efforts by state Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon.

Right now, any such independent stabilization center would have to go through a similar process as a whole hospital to get state permission to set up, including proving community need and financial viability.

Lucas drafted a Senate Bill 338 to waive the permission requirement, but he did not get a committee hearing for necessary last-minute edits.

Another tack, to allow the state Department of Community Health to give ad hoc approval to such centers, got thrown out when Lucas tried to amend it onto an unrelated hospital bill on the Senate floor on Monday.

“We had the opportunity to do something about it, and we didn’t do anything,” Lucas said afterward.

Some senators have expressed support for a rural health care access study committee over the summer, but Lucas has no interest.

“I don’t want to hear nothing about a study committee. ... People are dying.”

-- Maggie Lee

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