Georgia 2022 Legislative Session Preview

January 21, 2022

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On Jan. 10, the Georgia General Assembly convened for the 2022 legislative session. As this is the second year in the legislative biennium, all legislation that did not pass in 2021 carried over to this year, with many bills still awaiting action.

Over the past few years, Georgia has emerged as a battleground state, which puts it in a unique position going into the 2022 legislative session; as a competitive election year looms over the Gold Dome, expect politics to seep into most of the issues discussed. With Stacey Abrams formally announcing her intention to run as the Democratic nominee for governor, expect a significant amount of money and attention in the state this year. If that wasn’t enough, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue is mounting an intraparty primary challenge against incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

Perdue is one of four statewide candidates already endorsed by former President Donald Trump; other endorsed candidates include: former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker, candidate for U.S. Senate; current state Sen. Burt Jones, who is seeking the lieutenant governor’s chair; and U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who is vying to replace Brad Raffensperger as secretary of state.

Election-year politics can be tough to predict, with all of the candidates trying to solidify their presence with voters and their own political party base. With those challenges in mind, here are some issues at the forefront of Georgia’s 2022 legislative session.


As the only constitutionally mandated duty of the Georgia General Assembly, the budget is always the top issue. Unlike many states, Georgia finds itself in the fortunate position of having a substantial surplus of approximately $2.2 billion.

Last week in his annual State of the State address, Gov. Kemp announced several budget incentives, including giving teachers a $2,000 raise and state employees a $5,000 pay increase, as well as fully funding Georgia’s Quality Basic Education formula (QBE). As part of his proposal, the governor also announced a $1.6 billion tax rebate plan to return some of the surplus money to Georgia taxpayers. Under the proposal, taxpayers would receive a one-time rebate of $250 for single filers and $500 for joint filers.

Gov. Kemp explained, “I believe that when government takes in more money than it needs, surplus funds should be sent back to the hardworking men and women who keep our state moving forward … because that’s your money, not the government’s.”

Before employees and taxpayers can begin to count their cash, these proposals must receive the stamp of approval from the General Assembly. That work begins in earnest this week, during what is commonly referred to as “budget week,” when legislators begin work making midyear adjustments to the 2022 budget as well as appropriating funds for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1.

Tax Policy

Another proposal with budget implications expected to be a topic of discussion this year would eliminate the state income tax. Supporters argue that it is important to compete with neighboring states that do not tax personal income. Despite the proposals, few have offered revenue alternatives to fill the budget holes eliminating the tax would create.

In recent years, Georgia has earned a reputation as one of the most business-friendly states, with a number of robust incentives on the books to help attract businesses. For evidence, look no further than the recent announcement of electric vehicle company Rivian moving its headquarters to the state with a $5 billion dollar investment — the single largest economic development project in state history. During this election year, expect legislators to take a detailed look at incentives currently on the books and try to determine the state’s return on investment for each.


Along with Gov. Kemp’s proposal to fully fund QBE and give teachers a raise, hot-button issues expected this year in the education space include Critical Race Theory (CRT), transgender students’ participation in sports and the presence of “obscene” materials in schools.

Since the end of last year’s legislative session, the national media have talked at length about CRT. With legislative proposals already introduced during the first week of the 2022 session, banning CRT is sure to be considered this year.

Additionally, Gov. Kemp in his State of the State address referenced the need for “fairness in school sports,” signaling that there might be some interest in legislation to ban transgender girls from participating on girls’ sports teams. Bills were introduced in the House and Senate last year but failed to gain significant traction.

Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones also signaled that she will support a proposal to ban “obscene” books from libraries. According to Jones, the proposal will try to “create a fair and consequential process to address educators who use poor judgement or intentionally expose students to inappropriate materials.”


The topic of gaming has been a conversation under the Gold Dome among legislators for years. This year is expected to be no different, with Speaker of the House David Ralston signaling that he is open to allowing voters the opportunity to decide on gaming in Georgia.

During the interim, gaming proponents have worked in concert through the Coalition for Casino Gaming to advocate strongly regarding the economic benefits that destination resorts will bring to Georgia. The tax revenue from the destination resorts could be used to fund the HOPE Scholarship, a needs-based scholarship program, as well as rural healthcare, broadband deployment and more.

Last year, the Georgia General Assembly almost passed a sports betting proposal. While the issue is still alive, a proposal to eliminate the state’s prohibition on all forms of gaming is also being discussed. This proposal would require a constitutional amendment on the November 2022 ballot, so voters could decide whether gaming should be allowed in the state.


Healthcare will be a major focus of the Georgia General Assembly this year. Before the legislative session began, a bipartisan group of lawmakers hosted a press conference declaring 2022 as “the year of mental health.” The lawmakers are expected to focus on parity related to mental health copays. Speaker Ralston pledged support for additional funding and bed space to be allocated to the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Additionally, Democrats filed legislation to address mental health challenges facing inmates.

Along with mental health, Gov. Kemp must determine how to move forward on his healthcare plan “The Patients First Act.” The legislation passed in 2019, but the Biden administration has since blocked a work requirement provision, claiming the COVID-19 pandemic will “significantly compromise” program effectiveness. The remainder of the waiver proposal was allowed to move forward. Democrats have spent years pushing the state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, claiming it will cost the state less to cover more people. However, Republicans have resisted calls to expand Medicaid, claiming it is too costly for the state to sustain in the long run.

Buckhead City

One rather unique issue expected to gain a lot of attention this legislative session and among candidates for statewide office: the proposal to create Buckhead City. First introduced at the end of the 2021 session, the proposal, which was requested by some residents in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, would create a new city within Fulton County.

Proponents of the proposal claim Atlanta’s City Hall is not providing the appropriate response to rising crime rates. While the issue is expected to gain some traction this session, it also presents concerns for Republican leaders and faces a number of possible legal challenges, such as the constitutionality of de-annexing from the city of Atlanta to become a new city (a first in Georgia history). Additionally, the proposal comes from a group of legislators that do not live in nor represent the Buckhead area and, if placed on the ballot, the proposal would only be voted on by residents of the new city. In response, Buckhead representatives have filed legislation that would allow creation of the new city if all Atlanta voters approve the measure by at least 57.5 percent.

Republicans seem to be split on the issue of Buckhead. Last week, Lt. Gov. Duncan assigned a pro-Buckhead proposal to a majority-Democrat committee in hopes that the bill does not gain additional traction.

During this election year, any number of other attention-grabbing topics could find their way into discussions under the Gold Dome, including constitutional carry, which received the governor’s support, and more election reforms from legislators who do not believe last year’s changes went far enough.

While the topics of discussion may be difficult to predict with certainty, a few things are certain to weigh on the legislative session. The qualifying week to register to run for office in the 2022 general election will take place the second week in March. Additionally, elected state officials and members of the Georgia General Assembly are barred from raising any funds while the legislature is still convened. With these facts in mind, expect the General Assembly to adjourn the end of March or early April so members can resume fundraising and prepare themselves for the May 24 primaries.