On Jan. 8, 2024, the Georgia General Assembly commenced a new legislative session. A year ago, when the General Assembly met, it welcomed a new House speaker, a new lieutenant governor, and over 50 new legislators. With all that turnover, the 2023 session proved to be a time for folks to get their sea legs, become acquainted with their new roles, pass a balanced budget, and perhaps kick the can on larger initiatives down the road. That mission, for the most part, was accomplished. This year, there are greater expectations, including Medicaid expansion, tort reform, school choice, certificate of need (CON) reform, antisemitism, gambling, tax cuts, and crime bills.
With the state sitting on an estimated $16 billion in surplus, most eyes will be fixed on how the governor and the legislature decide to spend those dollars in the one bill they must pass, the budget. For his part, Gov. Brian Kemp announced this week his desire for some of the money to go toward investments in infrastructure and education. He has proposed $1.5 billion for transportation projects, including a new program for freight infrastructure. He has earmarked $250 million for the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority for local water and sewer projects and $65 million for workforce housing. In education, he is proposing a new dental school at Georgia Southern University and a new medical school in Athens at the University of Georgia. In addition, he has also expressed his desire for the General Assembly to further reduce the state income tax.
As in other parts of the country, Georgia politics continue to resemble those of Washington D.C., a little more with each passing year. This increasingly manifests itself in the ever shortening of the campaign season. While Kemp was soundly re-elected to a second term only 14 months ago, the race to succeed him has already begun and will certainly cast a shadow over proceedings at the State Capitol for the next three months. Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, a leading contender to be the next governor, has expressed his desire to pass legislation to tackle crime and school safety as well as CON reform. The House has let it be known that it could be persuaded to look at modernizing regulations governing the state’s medical facilities if an expansion of its Medicaid program is included in the package. House leaders have also made it clear they want to try again to pass a school choice bill. This would require a considerable number of Republicans, not to mention Democrats, to switch their votes to support.
While the first few days may be slow, the 2024 session will heat up quickly. The days are limited, and the agenda is long. McGuireWoods Consulting’s Georgia government relations team is tracking all the issues carefully and stands ready to represent clients before legislators and regulators to ensure their business goals are met.