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National Govt & Politics
Lame duck Congress looks for swift approval of massive medical innovation bill
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Lame duck Congress looks for swift approval of massive medical innovation bill

Lame duck Congress looks for swift approval of massive medical innovation bill
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Lame duck Congress looks for swift approval of massive medical innovation bill

While most Americans were more focused on family gatherings, turkey dinners, football and Black Friday shopping trips, Republicans in the Congress quietly unveiled a massive health policy initiative over the Thanksgiving break - what seems to be a legislative Christmas tree on health policy - that lawmakers hope to speed through the House and Senate before wrapping up work for the year.

Known as the "21st Century Cures Act," the $6.3 billion plan is designed to spur new medical innovation and research by the federal government - but at almost 1,000 pages of legislative text - it's also rapidly become a magnet for action on other varied health-related issues in the Congress.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

While Republicans have been promising action on this plan for the last few weeks, the details of the 996 page measure were not made public until after 5 pm on Thanksgiving Friday - a vote has been set for the plan on Wednesday in the House.

One legislative note - the provisions of this measure will be attached to a separate bill that deals with tsunami warnings.

Among the many highlights in this new medical plan:

+ The main goal of the bill is fostering new health innovation and research at the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

+ NIH would get $4.8 billion extra over 10 years new efforts at cancer research, brain research, precision medicine and more.

+ The FDA would get $500 million over 10 years to expedite approval of new drugs and medical devices, while not sacrificing safety.

+ The bill also includes $1 billion in new grants over two years to help states deal with opioid abuse.

+ Also added to the plan were new legislative reforms for the nation's health care system, including $14 million in grants to help change how services are provided by states

+ $12.5 million in grants would be made available to help states better maintain a database of available treatment facilities for those facing mental health issues

+ Another $10 million would be used to help attract medical residents and others to practice psychiatry and follow career paths in other mental health professions

That's just a small view into this almost one thousand page measure , which has a summary that runs 44 pages , while the table of contents for the legislation consumes almost 10 pages, which I have listed below.

Just reading through all of the programs, the grants, and the sheer volume of different issues, it's obvious that this plan has been the subject of very heavy lobbying - and has all sorts of different provisions dealing with health and more.

Take a read:

TITLE I—INNOVATION PROJECTS AND STATE RESPONSES TO OPIOID ABUSE

Sec. 1001. NIH innovation projects.

Sec. 1002. FDA innovation projects.

Sec. 1003. Account for the state response to the opioid abuse crisis.

Sec. 1004. Budgetary treatment.

TITLE II—DISCOVERY

Subtitle A—National Institutes Of Health Reauthorization

Sec. 2001. National Institutes of Health Reauthorization.

Sec. 2002. EUREKA prize competitions.

Subtitle B—Advancing Precision Medicine

Sec. 2011. Precision Medicine Initiative.

Sec. 2012. Privacy protection for human research subjects.

Sec. 2013. Protection of identifiable and sensitive information.

Sec. 2014. Data sharing.

Subtitle C—Supporting Young Emerging Scientists

Sec. 2021. Investing in the next generation of researchers.

Sec. 2022. Improvement of loan repayment program.

Subtitle D—National Institutes Of Health Planning And Administration

Sec. 2031. National Institutes of Health strategic plan.

Sec. 2032. Triennial reports.

Sec. 2033. Increasing accountability at the National Institutes of Health.

Sec. 2034. Reducing administrative burden for researchers.

Sec. 2035. Exemption for the National Institutes of Health from the Paperwork Reduction Act requirements.

Sec. 2036. High-risk, high-reward research.

Sec. 2037. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Sec. 2038. Collaboration and coordination to enhance research.

Sec. 2039. Enhancing the rigor and reproducibility of scientific research.

Sec. 2040. Improving medical rehabilitation research at the National Institutes of Health.

Sec. 2041. Task force on research specific to pregnant women and lactating women.

Sec. 2042. Streamlining National Institutes of Health reporting requirements.

Sec. 2043. Reimbursement for research substances and living organisms.

Sec. 2044. Sense of Congress on increased inclusion of underrepresented populations in clinical trials.

Subtitle E—Advancement Of The National Institutes Of Health Research And Data Access

Sec. 2051. Technical updates to clinical trials database.

Sec. 2052. Compliance activities reports.

Sec. 2053. Updates to policies to improve data.

Sec. 2054. Consultation.

Subtitle F—Facilitating Collaborative Research

Sec. 2061. National neurological conditions surveillance system.

Sec. 2062. Tick-borne diseases.

Sec. 2063. Accessing, sharing, and using health data for research purposes.

Subtitle G—Promoting Pediatric Research

Sec. 2071. National pediatric research network.

Sec. 2072. Global pediatric clinical study network.

TITLE III—DEVELOPMENT

Subtitle A—Patient-Focused Drug Development

Sec. 3001. Patient experience data.

Sec. 3002. Patient-focused drug development guidance.

Sec. 3003. Streamlining patient input.

Sec. 3004. Report on patient experience drug development.

Subtitle B—Advancing New Drug Therapies

Sec. 3011. Qualification of drug development tools.

Sec. 3012. Targeted drugs for rare diseases.

Sec. 3013. Reauthorization of program to encourage treatments for rare pediatric diseases.

Sec. 3014. GAO study of priority review voucher programs.

Sec. 3015. Amendments to the Orphan Drug grants.

Sec. 3016. Grants for studying continuous drug manufacturing.

Subtitle C—Modern Trial Design And Evidence Development

Sec. 3021. Novel clinical trial designs.

Sec. 3022. Real world evidence.

Sec. 3023. Protection of human research subjects.

Sec. 3024. Informed consent waiver or alteration for clinical investigations.

Subtitle D—Patient Access To Therapies And Information

Sec. 3031. Summary level review.

Sec. 3032. Expanded access policy.

Sec. 3033. Accelerated approval for regenerative advanced therapies.

Sec. 3034. Guidance regarding devices used in the recovery, isolation, or delivery of regenerative advanced therapies.

Sec. 3035. Report on regenerative advanced therapies.

Sec. 3036. Standards for regenerative medicine and regenerative advanced therapies.

Sec. 3037. Health care economic information.

Sec. 3038. Combination product innovation.

Subtitle E—Antimicrobial Innovation And Stewardship

Sec. 3041. Antimicrobial resistance monitoring.

Sec. 3042. Limited population pathway.

Sec. 3043. Prescribing authority.

Sec. 3044. Susceptibility test interpretive criteria for microorganisms; antimicrobial susceptibility testing devices.

Subtitle F—Medical Device Innovations

Sec. 3051. Breakthrough devices.

Sec. 3052. Humanitarian device exemption.

Sec. 3053. Recognition of standards.

Sec. 3054. Certain class I and class II devices.

Sec. 3055. Classification panels.

Sec. 3056. Institutional review board flexibility.

Sec. 3057. CLIA waiver improvements.

Sec. 3058. Least burdensome device review.

Sec. 3059. Cleaning instructions and validation data requirement.

Sec. 3060. Clarifying medical software regulation.

Subtitle G—Improving Scientific Expertise And Outreach At FDA

Sec. 3071. Silvio O. Conte Senior Biomedical Research and Biomedical Product Assessment Service.

Sec. 3072. Hiring authority for scientific, technical, and professional personnel.

Sec. 3073. Establishment of Food and Drug Administration Intercenter Institutes.

Sec. 3074. Scientific engagement.

Sec. 3075. Drug surveillance.

Sec. 3076. Reagan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration.

Subtitle H—Medical Countermeasures Innovation

Sec. 3081. Medical countermeasure guidelines.

Sec. 3082. Clarifying BARDA contracting authority.

Sec. 3083. Countermeasure budget plan.

Sec. 3084. Medical countermeasures innovation.

Sec. 3085. Streamlining Project BioShield procurement.

Sec. 3086. Encouraging treatments for agents that present a national security threat.

Sec. 3087. Paperwork Reduction Act waiver during a public health emergency.

Sec. 3088. Clarifying Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization.

Subtitle I—Vaccine Access, Certainty, And Innovation

Sec. 3091. Predictable review timelines of vaccines by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Sec. 3092. Review of processes and consistency of Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations.

Sec. 3093. Encouraging vaccine innovation.

Subtitle J—Technical Corrections

Sec. 3101. Technical corrections.

Sec. 3102. Completed studies.

TITLE IV—DELIVERY

Sec. 4001. Assisting doctors and hospitals in improving quality of care for patients.

Sec. 4002. Transparent reporting on usability, security, and functionality.

Sec. 4003. Interoperability.

Sec. 4004. Information blocking.

Sec. 4005. Leveraging electronic health records to improve patient care.

Sec. 4006. Empowering patients and improving patient access to their electronic health information.

Sec. 4007. GAO study on patient matching.

Sec. 4008. GAO study on patient access to health information.

Sec. 4009. Streamlining transfers used for educational purposes.

Sec. 4010. Improving Medicare local coverage determinations.

Sec. 4011. Medicare pharmaceutical and technology ombudsman.

Sec. 4012. Medicare site-of-service price transparency.

Sec. 4013. Telehealth services in Medicare.

TITLE V—SAVINGS

Sec. 5001. Savings in the Medicare Improvement Fund.

Sec. 5002. Medicaid reimbursement to States for durable medical equipment.

Sec. 5003. Penalties for violations of grants, contracts, and other agreements.

Sec. 5004. Reducing overpayments of infusion drugs.

Sec. 5005. Increasing oversight of termination of Medicaid providers.

Sec. 5006. Requiring publication of fee-for-service provider directory.

Sec. 5007. Fairness in Medicaid supplemental needs trusts.

Sec. 5008. Eliminating Federal financial participation with respect to expenditures under Medicaid for agents used for cosmetic purposes or hair growth.

Sec. 5009. Amendment to the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

Sec. 5010. Strategic Petroleum Reserve drawdown.

Sec. 5011. Rescission of portion of ACA territory funding.

Sec. 5012. Medicare coverage of home infusion therapy.

DIVISION B—HELPING FAMILIES IN MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS

Sec. 6000. Short title.

TITLE VI—STRENGTHENING LEADERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Subtitle A—Leadership

Sec. 6001. Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use.

Sec. 6002. Strengthening the leadership of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Sec. 6003. Chief Medical Officer.

Sec. 6004. Improving the quality of behavioral health programs.

Sec. 6005. Strategic plan.

Sec. 6006. Biennial report concerning activities and progress.

Sec. 6007. Authorities of centers for mental health services, substance abuse prevention, and substance abuse treatment.

Sec. 6008. Advisory councils.

Sec. 6009. Peer review.

Subtitle B—Oversight And Accountability

Sec. 6021. Improving oversight of mental and substance use disorders programs through the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

Sec. 6022. Reporting for protection and advocacy organizations.

Sec. 6023. GAO study.

Subtitle C—Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee

Sec. 6031. Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee.

TITLE VII—ENSURING MENTAL AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS PREVENTION, TREATMENT, AND RECOVERY PROGRAMS KEEP PACE WITH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Sec. 7001. Encouraging innovation and evidence-based programs.

Sec. 7002. Promoting access to information on evidence-based programs and practices.

Sec. 7003. Priority mental health needs of regional and national significance.

Sec. 7004. Priority substance use disorder treatment needs of regional and national significance.

Sec. 7005. Priority substance use disorder prevention needs of regional and national significance.

TITLE VIII—SUPPORTING STATE PREVENTION ACTIVITIES AND RESPONSES TO MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER NEEDS

Sec. 8001. Community mental health services block grant.

Sec. 8002. Substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant.

Sec. 8003. Additional provisions related to the block grants.

Sec. 8004. Study of distribution of funds under the substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant and the community mental health services block grant.

TITLE IX—PROMOTING ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER CARE

Subtitle A—Helping Individuals And Families

Sec. 9001. Grants for treatment and recovery for homeless individuals.

Sec. 9002. Grants for jail diversion programs.

Sec. 9003. Promoting integration of primary and behavioral health care.

Sec. 9004. Projects for assistance in transition from homelessness.

Sec. 9005. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Program.

Sec. 9006. Connecting individuals and families with care.

Sec. 9007. Strengthening community crisis response systems.

Sec. 9008. Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act reauthorization.

Sec. 9009. Adult suicide prevention.

Sec. 9010. Mental health awareness training grants.

Sec. 9011. Sense of Congress on prioritizing American Indians and Alaska Native youth within suicide prevention programs.

Sec. 9012. Evidence-based practices for older adults.

Sec. 9013. National violent death reporting system.

Sec. 9014. Assisted outpatient treatment.

Sec. 9015. Assertive community treatment grant program.

Sec. 9016. Sober truth on preventing underage drinking reauthorization.

Sec. 9017. Center and program repeals.

Subtitle B—Strengthening The Health Care Workforce

Sec. 9021. Mental and behavioral health education and training grants.

Sec. 9022. Strengthening the mental and substance use disorders workforce.

Sec. 9023. Clarification on current eligibility for loan repayment programs.

Sec. 9024. Minority fellowship program.

Sec. 9025. Liability protections for health professional volunteers at community health centers.

Sec. 9026. Reports.

Subtitle C—Mental Health On Campus Improvement

Sec. 9031. Mental health and substance use disorder services on campus.

Sec. 9032. Interagency Working Group on College Mental Health.

Sec. 9033. Improving mental health on college campuses.

TITLE X—STRENGTHENING MENTAL AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER CARE FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Sec. 10001. Programs for children with a serious emotional disturbance.

Sec. 10002. Increasing access to pediatric mental health care.

Sec. 10003. Substance use disorder treatment and early intervention services for children and adolescents.

Sec. 10004. Children’s recovery from trauma.

Sec. 10005. Screening and treatment for maternal depression.

Sec. 10006. Infant and early childhood mental health promotion, intervention, and treatment.

TITLE XI—COMPASSIONATE COMMUNICATION ON HIPAA

Sec. 11001. Sense of Congress.

Sec. 11002. Confidentiality of records.

Sec. 11003. Clarification on permitted uses and disclosures of protected health information.

Sec. 11004. Development and dissemination of model training programs.

TITLE XII—MEDICAID MENTAL HEALTH COVERAGE

Sec. 12001. Rule of construction related to Medicaid coverage of mental health services and primary care services furnished on the same day.

Sec. 12002. Study and report related to Medicaid managed care regulation.

Sec. 12003. Guidance on opportunities for innovation.

Sec. 12004. Study and report on Medicaid emergency psychiatric demonstration project.

Sec. 12005. Providing EPSDT services to children in IMDs.

Sec. 12006. Electronic visit verification system required for personal care services and home health care services under Medicaid.

TITLE XIII—MENTAL HEALTH PARITY

Sec. 13001. Enhanced compliance with mental health and substance use disorder coverage requirements.

Sec. 13002. Action plan for enhanced enforcement of mental health and substance use disorder coverage.

Sec. 13003. Report on investigations regarding parity in mental health and substance use disorder benefits.

Sec. 13004. GAO study on parity in mental health and substance use disorder benefits.

Sec. 13005. Information and awareness on eating disorders.

Sec. 13006. Education and training on eating disorders.

Sec. 13007. Clarification of existing parity rules.

TITLE XIV—MENTAL HEALTH AND SAFE COMMUNITIES

Subtitle A—Mental Health And Safe Communities

Sec. 14001. Law enforcement grants for crisis intervention teams, mental health purposes.

Sec. 14002. Assisted outpatient treatment programs.

Sec. 14003. Federal drug and mental health courts.

Sec. 14004. Mental health in the judicial system.

Sec. 14005. Forensic assertive community treatment initiatives.

Sec. 14006. Assistance for individuals transitioning out of systems.

Sec. 14007. Co-occurring substance abuse and mental health challenges in drug courts.

Sec. 14008. Mental health training for Federal uniformed services.

Sec. 14009. Advancing mental health as part of offender reentry.

Sec. 14010. School mental health crisis intervention teams.

Sec. 14011. Active-shooter training for law enforcement.

Sec. 14012. Co-occurring substance abuse and mental health challenges in residential substance abuse treatment programs.

Sec. 14013. Mental health and drug treatment alternatives to incarceration programs.

Sec. 14014. National criminal justice and mental health training and technical assistance.

Sec. 14015. Improving Department of Justice data collection on mental illness involved in crime.

Sec. 14016. Reports on the number of mentally ill offenders in prison.

Sec. 14017. Department of Veterans Affairs patients’ rights.

Sec. 14018. Reauthorization of appropriations.

Subtitle B—Comprehensive Justice And Mental Health

Sec. 14021. Sequential intercept model.

Sec. 14022. Prison and jails.

Sec. 14023. Allowable uses.

Sec. 14024. Law enforcement training.

Sec. 14025. Federal law enforcement training.

Sec. 14026. GAO report.

Sec. 14027. Evidence based practices.

Sec. 14028. Transparency, program accountability, and enhancement of local authority.

Sec. 14029. Grant accountability.

DIVISION C—INCREASING CHOICE, ACCESS, AND QUALITY IN HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICANS

Sec. 15000. Short title.

TITLE XV—PROVISIONS RELATING TO MEDICARE PART A

Sec. 15001. Development of Medicare HCPCS version of MS–DRG codes for similar hospital services.

Sec. 15002. Establishing beneficiary equity in the Medicare hospital readmission program.

Sec. 15003. Five-year extension of the rural community hospital demonstration program.

Sec. 15004. Regulatory relief for LTCHs.

Sec. 15005. Savings from IPPS MACRA pay-for through not applying documentation and coding adjustments.

Sec. 15006. Extension of certain LTCH Medicare payment rules.

Sec. 15007. Application of rules on the calculation of hospital length of stay to all LTCHs.

Sec. 15008. Change in Medicare classification for certain hospitals.

Sec. 15009. Temporary exception to the application of the Medicare LTCH site neutral provisions for certain spinal cord specialty hospitals.

Sec. 15010. Temporary extension to the application of the Medicare LTCH site neutral provisions for certain discharges with severe wounds.

TITLE XVI—PROVISIONS RELATING TO MEDICARE PART B

Sec. 16001. Continuing Medicare payment under HOPD prospective payment system for services furnished by mid-build off-campus outpatient departments of providers.

Sec. 16002. Treatment of cancer hospitals in off-campus outpatient department of a provider policy.

Sec. 16003. Treatment of eligible professionals in ambulatory surgical centers for meaningful use and MIPS.

Sec. 16004. Continuing Access to Hospitals Act of 2016.

Sec. 16005. Delay of implementation of Medicare fee schedule adjustments for wheelchair accessories and seating systems when used in conjunction with complex rehabilitation technology (CRT) wheelchairs.

Sec. 16006. Allowing physical therapists to utilize locum tenens arrangements under Medicare.

Sec. 16007. Extension of the transition to new payment rates for durable medical equipment under the Medicare program.

Sec. 16008. Requirements in determining adjustments using information from competitive bidding programs.

TITLE XVII—OTHER MEDICARE PROVISIONS

Sec. 17001. Delay in authority to terminate contracts for Medicare Advantage plans failing to achieve minimum quality ratings.

Sec. 17002. Requirement for enrollment data reporting for Medicare.

Sec. 17003. Updating the Welcome to Medicare package.

Sec. 17004. No payment for items and services furnished by newly enrolled providers or suppliers within a temporary moratorium area.

Sec. 17005. Preservation of Medicare beneficiary choice under Medicare Advantage.

Sec. 17006. Allowing end-stage renal disease beneficiaries to choose a Medicare Advantage plan.

Sec. 17007. Improvements to the assignment of beneficiaries under the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

TITLE XVIII—OTHER PROVISIONS

Sec. 18001. Exception from group health plan requirements for qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements.

DIVISION D—CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES AND SUPPORT

Sec. 19000. Short title.

TITLE XIX—INVESTING IN PREVENTION AND FAMILY SERVICES

Sec. 19001. Purpose.

Subtitle A—Prevention Activities Under Title IV–E

Sec. 19011. Foster care prevention services and programs.

Sec. 19012. Foster care maintenance payments for children with parents in a licensed residential family-based treatment facility for substance abuse.

Sec. 19013. Title IV–E payments for evidence-based kinship navigator programs.

Subtitle B—Enhanced Support Under Title IV–B

Sec. 19021. Elimination of time limit for family reunification services while in foster care and permitting time-limited family reunification services when a child returns home from foster care.

Sec. 19022. Reducing bureaucracy and unnecessary delays when placing children in homes across State lines.

Sec. 19023. Enhancements to grants to improve well-being of families affected by substance abuse.

Subtitle C—Miscellaneous

Sec. 19031. Reviewing and improving licensing standards for placement in a relative foster family home.

Sec. 19032. Development of a statewide plan to prevent child abuse and neglect fatalities.

Sec. 19033. Modernizing the title and purpose of title IV–E.

Sec. 19034. Effective dates.

TITLE XX—ENSURING THE NECESSITY OF A PLACEMENT THAT IS NOT IN A FOSTER FAMILY HOME

Sec. 20001. Limitation on Federal financial participation for placements that are not in foster family homes.

Sec. 20002. Assessment and documentation of the need for placement in a qualified residential treatment program.

Sec. 20003. Protocols to prevent inappropriate diagnoses.

Sec. 20004. Additional data and reports regarding children placed in a setting that is not a foster family home.

Sec. 20005. Effective dates; application to waivers.

TITLE XXI—CONTINUING SUPPORT FOR CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES

Sec. 21001. Supporting and retaining foster families for children.

Sec. 21002. Extension of child and family services programs.

Sec. 21003. Improvements to the John H. Chafee foster care independence program and related provisions.

TITLE XXII—CONTINUING INCENTIVES TO STATES TO PROMOTE ADOPTION AND LEGAL GUARDIANSHIP

Sec. 22001. Reauthorizing adoption and legal guardianship incentive programs.

TITLE XXIII—TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS

Sec. 23001. Technical corrections to data exchange standards to improve program coordination.

Sec. 23002. Technical corrections to State requirement to address the developmental needs of young children.

TITLE XXIV—ENSURING STATES REINVEST SAVINGS RESULTING FROM INCREASE IN ADOPTION ASSISTANCE

Sec. 24001. Delay of adoption assistance phase-in.

Sec. 24002. GAO study and report on State reinvestment of savings resulting from increase in adoption assistance.

TITLE XXV—SOCIAL IMPACT PARTNERSHIPS TO PAY FOR RESULTS

Sec. 25001. Short title.

Sec. 25002. Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results.

Sec. 25003. Extension of TANF program.

Sec. 25004. Strengthening welfare research and evaluation and development of a What Works Clearinghouse.

Sec. 25005. Technical corrections to data exchange standards to improve program coordination.

What's obvious from all of that? This plan has clearly been the subject of a lobbying blitz.

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Local News

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  • The Jefferson-based Jackson EMC sent upwards of three dozen workers to northwest Georgia Wednesday, helping with electrical restoration in the wake of Tuesday thunderstorms that caused more than 4,100 power outages. From Jackson EMC…   Jackson EMC sent 10 linemen and released 24 contractors to assist with power restoration efforts at Amicalola EMC in northwest Georgia. Tuesday brought heavy rain, strong wind gusts and severe thunderstorms to the region, resulting in widespread power outages for several north Georgia counties — including members of Amicalola EMC.    As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, Amicalola EMC reported 122 outages in Bartow, Cherokee, Gilmer, Gordon and Pickens counties, affecting 4,140 members — roughly 8.5 percent of the co-op’s membership.   A principle of co-ops is cooperation among cooperatives. Keeping with that principle, when asked, Jackson EMC provides fellow co-ops assistance with power restoration efforts following major outages. Jackson EMC linemen will work alongside Amicalola EMC line crews to safely restore power to the co-op’s members. 
  • Proposed revisions to the Athens-Clarke County Stormwater Management Plan are up for discussion in an open house forum that takes place this evening in Winterville: it gets underway at 6:30 at the Winterville Depot. The Northeast Georgia Regional Commission meets this afternoon in Athens: it is a 12 o’clock session at the Downtown Holiday Inn.  There is an evening meeting of the Athens-Clarke County Historic Preservation Commission: it’s a 6:30 session at the Government Building on Dougherty Street. The Board of the University of Georgia Foundation holds its winter meeting today.  The talk in Elberton is said to be still in the preliminary stages, but there are ongoing School Board discussions about building a new central office for the Elbert County School District.  Gainesville City Councilwoman Ruth Bruner says she will not be a candidate for reelection in November. Bruner was first elected to the Gainesville Council in 2003.
  • Residents of a Statham home awoke this morning to the smell of smoke, and were forced to quickly evacuate themselves and their pets.   Barrow County Emergency Services communications officers were alerted to the report of a residential structure fire in the 2400 block of Peace Circle around 2:00am this morning. The first arriving fire units reported that the attic of the home was heavily involved in fire and that the roof was starting to collapse. The residents on scene immediately met fire crews and notified them that everyone was out of the home. No injuries were reported, but the home’s occupants were placed inside of an ambulance to protect them from the cold and rainy weather.    Smoke detectors were reportedly not operating at the time of the fire. “We’d like to remind everyone of the importance of working smoke detectors. Today’s modern homes and furnishings burn much quicker than in the past, and produce toxic smoke that can quickly incapacitate sleeping occupants. Fortunately the occupants this morning were able to get out in time,” said Public Information Officer Steve Rose.    Crews from Stations 1, 6, and 7 responded. Truck 7 was on scene and the aerial ladder was extended to aid in fighting the fire. Once the bulk of the fire was controlled, crews made entry to fully extinguish the remaining fire with an interior attack.    Barrow County Fire Investigations were requested and determined that the fire originated in the area of the fireplace and chimney, and spread up thru the wall into the attic. Barrow County Fire Marshal Capt. Glen Cain said, “The National Fire Protection Association recommends annual fireplace and chimney inspections by a certified chimney professional.”    The home and its contents were heavily damaged, but firefighters were able to salvage some important personal items from inside the home and return them to the owners. Two adult residents were displaced and the American Red Cross was notified to assist them.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia football has scheduling twists that seem to have some fans twisting in the wind. Here’s the thing: Coach Kirby Smart is on board with the changes, and they would’t be happening if he wasn’t. “I’d just make the statement that if there are any issues that our staff has, we’d voice that,” UGA athletic director Greg McGarity told DawgNation. “But I think Kirby will be very comfortable with the schedule that you’ll see in 2020.” So Georgia is switching the order of games with rivals Auburn and Tennessee, the matchup with the Tigers moving to October, and the Vols’ series moving to November. It would certainly be easier if Smart were to speak for himself on the issue. But Smart has chosen to strategically stay silent since the 28-21 Sugar Bowl loss to Texas on Jan. 1. Smart did, however, choose to issue a statement making it clear he’s very supportive of McGarity — a narrative that somehow some have gotten confused in the past: “Greg’s been a great resource for me since coming to Georgia and has always been supportive and energetic about all the things that are necessary to develop and maintain a successful football program,’’ Smart said in a UGA release. “I’m especially appreciative of his commitment to facilities. Greg is loyal to the University and has what is best for Georgia as his top priority.’’ It’s hard to imagine how the Bulldogs head coach could be any clearer. Smart also made his feelings known on the Auburn scheduling at the SEC Spring Meetings last May in Destin, Fla. Smart said he would be all for it if Auburn were to play two consecutive games in Athens. “Absolutely, if we can get a chance to fix it, and (they) return the favor that we paid to them,” Smart said, asked if he would be on board with the Tigers playing consecutive years in Athens. “I hear about that a lot, obviously I wasn’t there, but if you can make it more consistent and balance it out, it would help in the long run.” UGA played two straight   games in Auburn, in 2012-2013, as the SEC adjusted its schedule to include Missouri and Texas A&M. The unintended consequence of Georgia changing up its odd/even years and home/away with Auburn is that the Bulldogs fell into playing both Georgia Tech and the Tigers on the road in November every other year. Smart didn’t like that, either, and he said so. “I feel like if we could fix it, it would help to not have two road games back to back for us, like the situation we had last year (2017) with Auburn and Georgia Tech back to back,” Smart said. “I understand there are problems and difficulties trying to appease everyone.” So while the opportunity for Auburn to play at Georgia two years in a row wasn’t on the table, the chance to move up the Auburn game to October was, and Smart and UGA took advantage of that. Some have pointed out that Tennessee is also a rivalry game. Now, it’s a matter of having to travel to Knoxville and Atlanta (to play Tech) in the same month. But what won’t happen is the possibility of facing Auburn in a rematch just a few short weeks after facing that program in the regular season — something Smart alluded to in Destin last May. Smart had many other things to say that offered a great deal of insight into his feelings of what was to come with transfers and quarterback situations that are worth looking back on: Kirby Smart, SEC Spring Meetings The post WATCH: What Kirby Smart said about Auburn scheduling twist, Greg McGarity appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia is moving quickly to make improvements in every phase of its football program, and apparently that extends to the Bulldogs’ relatively new “Light Up Sanford” tradition. While the plans to transition from the old metal halide lighting system to a modern LED “Lumadapt” system installed by Ephesus Lighting. In addition to being more energy efficient and brighter, the lights also can be digitally adjusted, synchronized to music and produce special effects. Which is where Georgia’s Light Up Sanford tradition comes in. “Think about the creativity to we can bring to the games,” deputy athletic director Josh Brook said during his presentation to the board. “We can celebrate a touchdown, there are all kinds of things we can do. We’re planning on a few things. There’s a certain fourth-quarter tradition we have that might come into play. We’re working on some things I don’t want to reveal right now. But this should add to the game-day experience and the things we can do for fans.” Back in 2015, members of Georgia’s Redcoat Marching Band started a fourth-quarter tradition that has gained considerable momentum the last two seasons. After the third quarter ends, the band plays a song called Krypton. That’s alerts Georgia fans to pull out their cell phones and activate their flashlight apps and wave them up and down to the music toward the team on the field. The Bulldogs respond as well, holding up four fingers and acknowledging the crowd’s belief that the fourth quarter belongs to them. The synchronicity creates quite the scene and even has inspired video documentaries. The tradition has really taken off the last two seasons as the Bulldogs made runs to the SEC Championship and National Championship game. With the capability of the new LED lights, Sanford Stadium might be able to play along as well. Brooks said Georgia is one of the first NCAA stadiums to utilize the systems installed by Ephesus. The arena lighting specialists have done installations for the last three Super Bowl venues and will for next year’s game in Miami as well. “We can take lighting effects to the next level,” Brooks said. UGA DEPUTY AD JOSH BROOKS The post WATCH: Georgia aims to take its 4th-quarter, ‘Light Up Sanford’ tradition to a new level appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — It was just a statement buried within a UGA press release on Wednesday’s athletic board meeting, but it happened to be Kirby Smart, from whom we’ve heard very little over the last 51 days and nothing directly. Georgia’s football coach was commenting on Wednesday’s news that Greg McGarity had received a contract extension to continue as the Bulldogs’ athletic director. “Greg’s been a great resource for me since coming to Georgia and has always been supportive and energetic about all the things that are necessary to develop and maintain a successful football program,’’ Smart said in the release prepared by UGA sports communications staff. “I’m especially appreciative of his commitment to facilities. Greg is loyal to the University and has what is best for Georgia as his top priority.’’ McGarity certainly has been a strong supporter of Smart and the football program. Since taking over as the Bulldogs’ head coach, McGarity has seen that Smart’s requests for facility improvements got approved and completed fast. Upon Smart’s appointment in December of 2015, the Bulldogs were in the process of breaking ground on a $31 million indoor practice facility. That building was dedicated as the William & Porter Payne Indoor Athletic Center in January of 2017. After that, McGarity filled Smart’s request for a new locker room and recruiting lounge to be constructed in the West End of Sanford Stadium. That $63 million dollar project was completed and dedicated before the 2018 season. Meanwhile, Smart’s latest request seems to be coming on line quickly. UGA already is raising funds and drawing up plans for a new football-dedicated building to be added to the Butts-Mehre Complex on South Campus. Architectural design concepts are due to be submitted to the athletic board by the time it meets again in May. At that time, the size, layout and cost of the new addition will be revealed. The multi-million dollar project could commence as early as 2020. Georgia teams have won eight national championships since McGarity’s arrival in August of 2010. The latest came last week when the women’s team won the NCAA Indoor Championship. “Greg’s leadership and continued support instill confidence in our coaches, student-athletes, and sports programs in general,’’ said Lu Harris-Champer who just began her 19th season as head coach of the UGA softball team.  ‘’He is totally committed to providing the best opportunities for our student-athletes to be successful in competition and in the classroom.  Greg is a great facilitator of success.’’ McGarity’s extension was the only personnel news to come out of the board’s winter meeting. The group also voted unanimously to allocate $8.5 million toward the new grandstand at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The post Georgia coach Kirby Smart thanks Greg McGarity for unwavering support of football appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — A   stuffed miniature bulldog made for a controversial ending at Georgia on Wednesday night in Mississippi State’s 68-67 victory. UGA rallied from 17 points down to tie the game at 67-67 before State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon was fouled with 0.5 seconds remaining and went to the free-throw line for two shots. As Weatherspoon’s first free-throw attempt rattled out, a small stuffed bulldog landed on the court behind him inside the 3-point arc. WATCH: Stuffed bulldog tossed on Georgia court, officials call technical UGA coach Tom Crean went to the scorer’s table and got on the microphone, urging fans not to throw anything else on the court. But seconds later, without any more fan interaction, official Steven Anderson assessed Georgia a technical. Weatherspoon, knowing he had an extra shot coming, sank the technical free-throw attempt for the game-winning margin. “I’ve never seen that, not without a warning, and certainly not without an explanation,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said, clearly baffled by the technical foul. “The rule says you’ve got to be able to know who did it.” There were some Mississippi State fans in attendance, but the referees did not identify the fan who threw the stuffed bulldog at the time of the infraction. UGA athletic director Greg McGarity conceded it’s a judgement call, but not one he had seen applied in that situation. There hadn’t been any prior fan issues out of the crowd of 7,153, some of whom had left after UGA appeared hopelessly behind. Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said he was just happy to get out of Athens with a win and protect his Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament resume. “Well I feel very fortunate to sneak out of here with a win tonight,” said Howland, whose team has won three straight to improve to 19-7 and 7-6 in the SEC. “That’s a huge play, someone throwing a little bulldog. “I don’t know who did that, but man I would be so frustrated if I were his team, the University of Georgia, to have that happen. That was crazy.” The timing of the technical foul seemed all the more odd, as the officials did not call a technical immediately after the object was thrown. It wasn’t until after Crean grabbed the microphone and asked the crowd not to throw any more items on the court that the technical foul was called, and the extra free-throw awarded. Did the stuffed baby bulldog decide the game? “It’s the whole woulda coulda shoulda, but you miss the first, maybe you miss the second and go into overtime, but we’re never going to know,” said Crean, whose team dropped its seventh straight game to fall to 10-16 and 1-12 in SEC play. “I’m just perplexed that no one out there would tell me what’s going on. It makes zero sense to me. “We’ll deal with it behind the scenes.” Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean Mississippi State coach Ben Howland   The post WATCH: Stuffed baby bulldog triggers decisive technical in Georgia’s 68-67 loss appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS —Mississippi State scratched out a win over Georgia on Wednesday night, winning the battle of Bulldogs by a 68-67 count at Stegeman Coliseum. Mississippi State won the game at the free-throw line in the final second. Quinndary Weatherspoon hit one of three free-throw attempts with 0.5 seconds left after being fouled by Jordan Harris on a shot attempt. Weatherspoon was granted an extra free-throw attempt via a technical called on UGA because a fan threw an item on the court. State had used a 19-0 run to pull away in the final stages of the first half and opening minutes of the second half before the crowd of 7,153. Coach Ben Howland’s team came from 25-23 down to take a commanding 42-25 lead on Weatherspoon’s drive at the 18:31 mark. Georgia (10-16, 1-12) roared back, tying the game 67-67 on Tyree Crump’s 3-pointer with 9.3 seconds left. UGA, however, couldn’t finish the job, dropping its seventh straight dating back to the 98-88 win over Texas on Jan. 26. Weatherspoon(10-16, 1-12) scored a career-high 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting for Mississippi State (19-7, 7-6 SEC), including a pair of free throws with 15.6 seconds left to give his team a 67-64 cushion. UGA star Nicolas Claxton, who entered the night one of five Division I players leading his team in all five major statistical categories, finished with 9 points and 9 rebounds. Claxton didn’t score his first points until the 3:54 mark, giving Georgia a 24-20 lead. Moments later, Claxton committed his second foul, and Coach Tom Crean made what proved to be a critical decision to take him out of the game, likely contributing to the key MSU run. Mississippi State held a 36-25 lead at halftime, breaking away with the   16-1 (and 13-0) run the final 3:16. Weatherspoon led the charge, scoring 12 of those 16 points as State hit on its final seven shots of the first half. Georgia, meanwhile, committed four of its seven opening half turnovers in the final 3 1/2   minutes. Mississippi State firmed up its NCAA Tournament resume with the victory, its third in a row. Georgia returns to action at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Ole Miss (TV: SEC Network). The Rebels beat the Bulldogs by an 80-64 count in Athens earlier this month, on Feb. 9. It’s the first of five regular season games remaining for Georgia, which returns to the Classic City for a home game against Auburn at 9 p.m. next Wednesday. UGA finishes with games at Florida (March 2), at home against Missouri (March 6) and at South Carolina (March 9) before traveling to Nashville for the SEC Tournament (March 13-17). The post Mississippi State claws out 68-67, last-second win over Georgia appeared first on DawgNation.