Georgia editorial roundup

September 25, 2019 GMT

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Sept. 24

Savannah Morning News on how posting candidates’ applications for an open senate seat online could lead to greater transparency:

Soliciting résumés online for a U.S. Senate seat may seem a farce.

If Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s unorthodox approach to identifying potential successors to retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson is all for show, it’s a pageant you can’t pull your eyes away from.

The Governor’s Office website’s Appointments page is among the most refreshed on the web these days. The portal is where wannabe senators can apply for the job, and it’s also where the public can view the résumés of all interested parties.

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Therein lies the genius.

Given today’s political climate, every Georgian who pays attention to Capitol Hill has reservations about the appointment process. Gov. Kemp has the authority to pick anyone he chooses to represent us for a year, and he can consider and vet candidates outside of public view.

All he owes us is the appointee’s identity in the end.

Historically, the process’s lack of transparency is troubling. Anyone can express interest or attempt to exert influence, and can do so privately, the public none the wiser. With the governor’s application process, it’s a bit more open.

As one of the governor’s top lieutenants acknowledged on a statewide radio program in the days following Isakson’s retirement announcement, Kemp’s telephone began ringing as soon as the news broke and hasn’t stopped since.

The online portal shifts the onus to the would-be senators. That’s not to say some serious contenders won’t work the back channels to gauge the governor’s interest in them first, but they’ll eventually need to apply via the website and face the resulting public scrutiny.

Hopefully, Kemp’s office won’t withhold the posting of the ultimate appointee’s résumé until minutes before the announcement. That would violate the spirit of the move.

CASTING A BIG NET

The job posting attracted more than 200 responses in the first nine days.

The language is broad: Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements as set out in the U.S. Constitution only. Senators must be 30 years of age as of Jan. 1 of the year they would take office, must have held U.S. citizenship for at least nine years and must be a resident of the state they are to represent.

The requisition does not call for references or policy positions.

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Many filers, including several serial jokesters, are unlikely to receive consideration. The pool does include many worthy of review, such as Congressman Doug Collins, former U.S. Rep Paul Broun, former Congressional candidate and conservative radio talk show host Martha Zoller, former Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate Allen Buckley, 2018 Secretary of State candidate David Belle Isle and Georgia Public Service Commission member Tim Echols.

Also among the group are several professionals long on expertise but short on political experience. This speaks to Kemp’s eagerness to identify those “willing to serve who we haven’t thought of or who bring something different to the table.

“I’d just be interested in seeing if there are any of those folks out there and potentially considering them as we go through this process,” Kemp said.

Of note, Georgia’s other senator, David Perdue, had never run for office prior to winning a Senate seat in 2014.

KINGSTON IN THE MIX?

Savannahians will watch the appointment portal closely for names of local interest.

Foremost among them is Jack Kingston, the longtime First District congressman who left the House to challenge Perdue in the 2014 Republican primary. Perdue edged Kingston for the nomination by 8,500 votes.

Kingston has remained active in politics since he left Capitol Hill. He’s worked as a public policy advisor and lobbyist for international law firm Squire Patton Boggs, campaigned for President Donald Trump in 2016 and served as a conservative commentator and Trump surrogate on CNN.

Asked earlier this month of his interest in the appointment, Kingston said, “I guess you would say I’m always interested in helping the state of Georgia.”

Kingston hasn’t applied yet and didn’t respond to an interview request.

Yet five Savannah-area residents have submitted their résumés: Savannah State University student Jaimee Bonin, Gulfstream engineer Wayne Iwanka, Savannah Riverboat’s Group Sales and Events Manager Tara Reese, self-employed digital media content creator Teresa Jean Richardson, and attorney and Georgia Southern University lecturer Darby Williams.

The Senate bench is sure to grow more crowded in the days to come. We’ll keep watching.

Online: https://www.savannahnow.com

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Sept. 22

The Valdosta Daily Times on making time for routine cancer checks:

Many folks spend part of the weekend taking in a movie either at the cinema or at home.

Some viewers watch cinematic tales of heroism, or perhaps some people seek a little inspiration and rejuvenation after a long week.

If you’re looking for faces of heroic perseverance, forget the Hollywood faces on the big screen for one weekend.

Instead, take a look at the front-page story in the Sept. 22 edition of The Valdosta Daily Times.

The article details the struggles, challenges, losses and victories of the tenacious spirits who have faced this deadly disease, which strikes in so many forms and knows no boundaries of race, age, economic background or gender.

There is no taking away from the survivors’ indomitable will in overcoming cancer but stories such as “Surviving Cancer” can lead to early checkups leading to a life-saving early diagnosis for others. It can lead to more research funding. Such stories can give hope and solace to cancer patients facing their own struggles.

Almost every life has been touched by cancer.

Either directly in the case of patients and survivors or indirectly as our parents, spouses, children, siblings, friends and neighbors have battled cancer.

We all likely know someone who has faced cancer and survived and many of us all know someone who has faced cancer and is gone.

Early detection and proper treatment are key to surviving cancer. We urge readers to get regular checkups. If finding a lump or feeling symptoms associated with various forms of cancer, visit your doctor.

It may be the first step in saving a life. Your life.

Online: https://www.valdostadailytimes.com

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Sept. 18

The Augusta Chronicle on expanding autonomy for mid-level health professionals:

Dr. Mark Newton compared the work of his committee to threading a needle — difficult but doable.

Here’s hoping he and his colleagues have sharp eyes and steady hands.

Dr. Newton also is State Rep. Newton, R-Augusta, and he’s chairman of a House study committee examining physicians’ oversight over mid-level health professionals, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants. That committee and its Senate counterpart convened in Augusta on Sept. 17.

The “oversight” is because NPs and PAs, while exhaustively qualified to deliver premier health care, can’t perform some duties that doctors can.

One of those duties is writing prescriptions for Schedule II drugs, such as codeine and morphine. Two more Schedule II drugs you’ve likely heard about in the news lately are opioids — oxycodone and fentanyl. All these types of drugs carry a high risk of abuse, leading to addiction.

Largely because of that, NPs and PAs in Georgia can’t prescribe Schedule IIs. They can’t prescribe them in Arkansas, Maine, Oklahoma or West Virginia, either. But it’s allowed everywhere else in the United States.

Georgia also is the only state that doesn’t allow NPs to order advanced imaging for patients, such as CT scans and MRIs.

And that, some advocates say, is a problem. Dr. Lucy Marion, dean of Augusta University’s College of Nursing, called Georgia “the most restricted state in the United States” when it comes to the autonomy of mid-level health professionals.

Because of those limitations, she told the committees Sept. 17, NPs don’t want to move to Georgia because they know their hands would be tied. Dr. Marion also asserted that there’s no proof that physicians’ oversight over mid-level professionals improves the quality of care.

But physicians and other critics maintain that the prescribing power is a grave responsibility.

Dr. Newton pointed out that, amid America’s opioid crisis, Georgia’s rate of prescription opioid deaths is starting to drop, and “we’re proud of that.” If they want to see the death rate drop further, officials are loath to grant powers that might increase a drug supply with such lethal potential.

Thread, meet needle.

Maybe a solution could involve allowing prescriptive abilities with only certain Schedule II drugs, or in restricted doses, or within restricted time periods.

That’s similar to how it works in South Carolina, which expanded NPs’ prescribing power last year — with restrictions. They can prescribe the higher-level Schedule II drugs, but they “will generally be able to prescribe five days’ worth of opioids, for example, and 30 days’ worth of Ritalin or Adderall,” The Charleston Post and Courier reported a year ago.

Or perhaps Georgia could just stop being an outlier and join nearly every other state in the nation in granting these important prescriptive powers. But would that create problems that outweigh the decision’s benefits?

Those are the answers this committee is trying to root out. That’s why Dr. Newton is convening these meetings throughout the state - to listen and to learn, and to help decide what’s right for Georgia’s patients and the professionals who heal them.

An answer is out there. But it has to be the right answer for everyone.

Online: https://www.augustachronicle.com