What to watch for under Georgia's Gold Dome ...

Posted on January 15, 2014

What to watch for under Georgia's Gold Dome ...

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On Monday, the 236 members of the Georgia General Assembly gathered at the “Gold Dome” for their annual 40 days of debate. But this year, they may have to walk fewer steps than in years past.

With 2014 being the second of the two year biennium, Republicans controlling both legislative bodies and the Governor’s Office – and, most importantly, an election year, watch for this year's session to be quick. 

While aggressive agendas are rare during any election year, 2014 will be exceptionally low-key since Georgia’s election schedule was found in violation of federal law. Meaning Georgia was required to move up this year’s primary elections two months earlier than usual. Senate and House leadership most likely will avoid addressing divisive issues that could drive a wedge between incumbent legislators and voters.

The General Assembly is required by the constitution, however, to develop and pass a balanced budget each year. For the first time in recent memory, revenue projections – the information used to craft the state budget – show positive growth. Even the state’s “rainy day” fund has increased to more than $378 million, according to Governor Deal’s Office of Planning and Budget – meaning the usually contentious budget debate doesn’t look nearly as bleak as it has previously.

On the other hand, don’t be surprised to see a few hot topics spark some political fireworks – including the debate over guns on college campuses.

On the education front, Governor Deal has proposed significant increases in K-12 funding, which he presented to the General Assembly today in the annual State of the State Address.  If the Governor gets his wish, his proposal will total a $547 million increase in education spending, the largest single year increase in k-12 funding in seven years.   According to the Governor, this funding will help restore instructional days, eliminate teacher furloughs and increase teacher salaries.

As always, the session will present some surprises and contentious debate.  But look for these issues to be decided – or put aside – in order for legislators to be home by St. Patrick’s Day.

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