Georgia lawmakers go “under the gold dome” as the 155th session of the Georgia General Assembly opens at the Capitol in downtown Atlanta.
Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston will welcome the 236 legislators as they begin approximately three months of work. Duncan will preside over the Senate, the first time in 12 years someone other than Casey Cagle had that role. Ralston, meanwhile, enters his ninth year leading the House.
Legislators, including our eight-member local delegation, will address a range of issues facing the state, with bills and resolutions that pass both chambers moving on to new Gov. Brian Kemp to be signed into law. Kemp is expected to present his agenda, including his first budget, during the session’s opening week.
Pressing matters for the legislature include school safety, the state’s voting system, healthcare coverage for the uninsured and support for rural hospitals, education funding and spending, gaming and gambling, gun rights, immigration reform and rural development initiatives.
Our local delegation will be among the leaders at the Capitol. Chairmanships won’t officially be awarded until the session begins, but both our local senators, Lester Jackson and Ben Watson, are expected to lead committees, and Jackson is the head of the Democratic Black Caucus.
On the House side, Reps. Ron Stephens and Bill Hitchens expected to head committees while Reps. Carl Gilliard and Jesse Petrea are considered strong candidates.
The local legislative priorities include continued support for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, funding for a Savannah Convention Center expansion, extension of a historic preservation tax incentive, dollars for funding for facilities and programs at our area public colleges and universities, and pushing for a study on replacing or elevating the Talmadge Bridge.
“All I’ve ever seen in my time in the Georgia General Assembly is a delegation that works together and for the most part a legislature working together,” Rep. Jesse Petrea said. “I’m sure that will continue.”