Bill would end decades of corruption, pay-to-play
ATLANTA, GEORGIA (February 13, 2019) Legislation (H.B. 264) to restore transparency and taxpayer accountability to Georgia’s broken emergency medical system was formally introduced Wednesday in the House of Representatives.
The proposal, which would correct an ethics loophole that allows representatives of private ambulance providers to direct taxpayer resources through unelected and unchecked positions on Department of Public Health taskforces, was introduced by Representative Bill Werkheiser, chairman of the House Industry and Labor Committee.
Cosponsors of the legislation include the chairs of the House Majority Caucus (Rep. Matt Hatchet) and the House Ethics (Rep. Randy Nix) and Appropriations (Rep. Terry England) Committees.
“We don’t need conflicts of interest and potential for corruption to be allowed in one of Georgia’s most critical public safety systems,” Chairman Werkheiser, the bill’s sponsor, said. “Even the hint of impropriety should be eliminated if we want to be good stewards of taxpayer resources, and this bill would do just that by ending statutory loopholes that have been abused for too long.”
Julianne Thompson, spokeswoman for the Georgia Ambulance Transparency Project, added: “This legislation is critical to correcting decades of corruption and the abuse of Georgia’s taxpayers and patients by a handful of well-connected bad actors seeking to use their relationships and resources to manipulate the free market. The GATP and its allies in good government will vigorously support this proposal.”
The Georgia Department of Public Health loosely regulates the delivery of emergency medical services across the state but pointedly does not provision it. Instead, this task is designated to 10 regional EMS councils. State law allows representatives of ambulance providers to serve on these councils and, once installed, to use their preferred status to protect incumbency and expel rival providers at great cost to taxpayers and good government.
As a remedy, Chairman Werkheiser’s proposal would:
- Ban ambulance vendors from serving on Department of Public Health Emergency Medical Service Advisory Councils and apply a one-year mandatory chair rotation and two-year term limit for councilors;
- Require vendors to register with the state ethics commission and ban pay-to-play;
- Require mandatory service provider reviews to ensure safety; and
- Require that all ambulance providers meet national safety standards.
The Georgia Ambulance Transparency Project applauds these reforms and calls on the General Assembly to adopt them. Full text of the legislation can be accessed on the General Assembly’s website here.