The men who want to be Georgia’s next governor clashed Saturday over tort reform, embryonic stem cell research and Medicaid funding in their first formal debate since the November ballot was set earlier this month.
Democrat Roy Barnes, Republican Nathan Deal and Libertarian John Monds appeared together for the first time in a debate sponsored by the Medical Association of Georgia at the Cobb Energy Center.
Given the sponsor’s focus, the questions were dominated by health care matters. Barnes and Deal agreed on much, including the need to create incentives to attract primary care physicians to rural parts of the state. But they differed on many other topics.
On tort reform, Deal decried a state Supreme Court ruling in March that struck down limits on jury awards in medical malpractice cases created by a landmark 2005 state law. The former congressman said the state should amend its constitution to re-create the limits.
Voters, he said, “would overwhelmingly say yes because they understand the practical consequences of it.”
But Barnes said he was firmly against amending the constitution and said juries and judges should be trusted.
“Generally, the jury does the right thing,” Barnes said. “Occasionally, they get cranked up and don’t. And in those cases we give judges the right to correct that.”
Barnes said he also favors “cracking down on frivolous cases” through fines and awarding of attorneys fees to parties who are subject to such suits.
Monds’ view came closest to that of Barnes, although he said he wasn’t familiar with the Supreme Court ruling.
“In any instance that you can, the people should be trusted and given the ability to allow their judgment to prevail,” he said, “whether it’s in the voting process or in cases with these damages.”