Political notebook: Shafer introduces Grady bills

While two local hospitals begin their lobbying for state approval for an open heart surgery program, one Gwinnett legislator is getting involved in the fight for an Atlanta hospital.

Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, introduced legislation last week to create a Grady Oversight Committee and to impose conflict-of-interest requirements on directors of public hospitals.

"The goal of these first two bills is to implement basic governance reforms and create a system of regular legislative oversight," Shafer said. "Other bills are being drafted now to address funding, staffing and competitiveness issues."

The bills have 30 bipartisan cosponsors.

Senate Bill 353, the Public Hospital Integrity Act, prohibits individuals from serving in a governing capacity of a public hospital like Grady if they have financial ties to the hospital or any major vendor of the hospital. The other proposal, Senate Resolution 722, creates the Grady Oversight Committee, which is similar to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Overview Committee, which oversees Atlanta's rail and bus system. A similar resolution passed the Senate in 1999 when Grady was last bailed out by the state, but failed in the House.

"Those who run Grady have fought legislative oversight whenever it has been proposed," Shafer said. "But when they inevitably get into financial trouble, they sing the same old lament of legislative neglect."

The Republican from Duluth said he plans on creating a more comprehensive proposal to address potential funding sources for the ailing hospital as well as to outline strategies for making Grady as competitive and self-sustaining as possible.

Linder on campaign trail

Gwinnett's senior congressman took to the presidential campaign trail last, stumping for Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee and talking up his FairTax plan in South Carolina and Michigan.

U.S. Rep. John Linder said he was impressed by the Arkansas governor, whom Linder endorsed because of his own support for the FairTax.

Linder said he traveled with Ronald Reagan during his 1976 campaign and saw the same reaction to Huckabee that he saw to Reagan, who was once scorned by GOP insiders only to bring the people to his side and become president.

"It was a remarkable turnaround," Linder said of the way Huckabee found support from a group of Mitt Romney-enthusiasts at a Detroit speech. "He reaches a whole new crowd of people.

Linder said he plans on spending some time with Huckabee while he is in Atlanta Monday and Tuesday, and he hopes to join him again for events before Georgia's Feb. 5 presidential preference primary.

"He believes in big ideas and the FairTax is one of them," Linder said of his proposal to do away with the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax. "Keep an eye on Huckabee."

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.