BY MIKE PRIETO
As I reflect on my year leading this extraordinary organization, I am humbled and grateful for the opportunities I have had to serve you and our clients in their pursuit of justice.
Despite being an active member of GTLA and even serving on both the PAC Board and the Executive Committee for many years, the unique experience of leading such a renowned organization is one that you can never fully appreciate until you experience it for yourself.
I spent my year traveling the state as part of the second round of the GTLA Justice Tour, giving members in every corner of Georgia the chance to personally speak with our staff, leadership, and their local elected officials. Providing our membership with legislative updates and introductions to the decision-makers in their region assists them in establishing meaningful relationships with their legislators, which, in turn, helps further the GTLA legislative agenda.
This year was also an extremely successful year for our legislative efforts, both in Georgia and nation-wide. You may recall from my Fall President’s Message that our Executive Committee traveled to Washington D.C. in September for our annual Lobby Day with the American Association for Justice. This year, we were tasked with lobbying Congress to reinstate the Ahlborn decision, preventing Medicaid from taking personal injury settlements as compensation. Congress later voted to reinstate the decision, proving a significant victory for our friends at AAJ who had worked so diligently, as well as our clients and the clients of our colleagues across the nation.
At the state level, GTLA seized the rare opportunity to push multiple proactive measures during the 2018 Legislative Session. While they were not all successful, we did see the passage of legislation sponsored by GTLA members Rep. Meagan Hanson in the House and Sen. Blake Tillery in the Senate to codify immunity provisions in the Recreational Properties Act following the Supreme Court of Georgia’s February decision. I was also able to witness firsthand the effectiveness of our lobbying team on Day 40, the last day of the Legislative Session, as the nursing home lobby attempted to add binding arbitration language to a healthcare conference committee report. At 10:37 p.m. on Day 40 (the Legislative Session ended at midnight), word spread to our team that this language had been included. By 11:15 p.m., the legislation was essentially defeated and would not even be called for a vote that evening. As a plaintiff’s attorney who specializes in nursing home abuse, I was thankful for preservation of my clients’ rights; but, as a GTLA member, I was amazed at the quick mobilization and effective work of our team and our membership to quash such a harmful proposal so promptly.
It has been a landmark year for our organization, and I cannot stress enough how proud I am to have served with such an esteemed group of individuals. As I transition into my role as Immediate Past President and pass the gavel to my friend, Laurie Speed, I know that she will lead GTLA down a path of continued growth and success. GTLA has an exceptional future ahead with upcoming leadership in Laurie, Dan Snipes, Lyle Warshauer, Jon Pope, Adam Malone and Madeleine Simmons, and I look forward to continued work with them and each of you as we persist in our preservation of justice. ●
Providing our membership with legislative updates and introductions to the decision-makers in their region assists them in establishing meaningful relationships with their legislators, which, in turn, helps further the GTLA legislative agenda.