In between sessions, the Georgia news cycle was dominated by the state's new voting machines, the Secretary of State's voter purges, Gov.
But state lawmakers are poised to tackle Georgia issues -- the state budget, health care and women's issues are among the top legislative topics of interest.
Funding for all aspects of government remains in the air. Kemp ordered state agencies to cut 4% from their budgets this fiscal year, followed by 6% next year -- his economists warn it is a wise while the state's economy leans closer to a recession.
Lawmakers raised concerns that layoffs, job freezes and furloughs will have negative impacts on state government but they are necessary to comply with the governor's cost-cutting mandate.
Lawmakers worry the state's budget cuts will prevent legislation from moving forward that requires funding.
"We've been working on that over the summer with the chairman of the judiciary committee,
"The budget is one of the most important pieces of legislation," she said. "The governor has indicated that revenues are down, which means there is going to be less money in the state coffers to spend. Most agencies and departments have made or are making adjustments to their budget requests."
"As vice chair of appropriations, the budget is my main concentration now and in a fairly flat Georgia revenue stream we're looking at our state budget," he said, "making sure that we'll continue to look after the citizens of this great state in a particularly trying revenue environment."
"We're being told by the economists that there's a 50/50 chance that we may go into a mild recession in late 2020 or early 2021," Watson said. "Our state budget grows no matter what we do as a state from a budget standpoint."
The Medicaid waiver addresses residents living under the federal poverty line while the state waiver provides increased private insurance options for people over the poverty line.
House Minority Leader
"(Medicaid expansion) has been a top priority for us for several sessions," Trammell told CNHI, "and the fundamental question is why we should leave 600,000 Georgians uncovered who could be covered under the Affordable Health Care Act while we continue to send our federal tax dollars from Georgia to support Medicaid expansion and 36 other states."
Kemp argued that the Medicaid waiver will help Georgians move out of poverty and the reinsurance program will stabilize volatile costs in the private insurance market and lower premiums
"We really need to still figure out a way to help the uninsured in the whole entire state of Georgia," Sharper said. "In the meantime, we're waiting to see what's going to happen with the waivers that the governor is putting together to try and help some of the uninsured, but that's really going to be just a bandaid on a situation because you're still going to have stubborn people that are uninsured."
"I think there'll be an effort to try to do something with the high cost of prescription drugs," Burke said. "Some of those issues are federal and we can't do a lot about them, but there are some things the state can do and so we'll be trying to evaluate those ideas and see if there's any legislation that needs to be passed to help with prescription drug pricing."
Trammell told CNHI that
In an interview with CNHI in October, Ralston -- while pleased the heartbeat bill passed -- told CNHI it is one of the partisan issues that causes the legislature to part dramatically.
"I believe reasonable people can come together and find reasonable solutions if they try hard enough," Ralston said, "and that's not asking anybody to put aside their principles or their values. But there are going be those issues that we just disagree on, (abortion) is one of those issues. I hope those are the rare exceptions rather than the rule."
Pre-filed House legislation already puts focus on abortion services as well as, what some are calling, Georgia's maternal mortality crisis.
In one of the most followed and criticized study committees, a House panel chaired by Rep.
Taylor served on the committee and said she is proposing key legislation that would include public service announcements to encourage women to seek perinatal care and a provision extending Medicaid coverage for new mothers from 60 days to 90 days. The legislation also will have a mandate that all hospitals have "crash carts" to treat hemorrhaging and other delivery emergencies available at every hospital.
Trammell said that aside from Medicaid expansion and reproductive rights, other main legislative priorities for
Legislative leaders on working across the aisle
Ralston said he hopes tensions from last legislative session won't roll into this year.
"We work pretty well in a bipartisan way, but there are issues time to time where we respectfully part company. People have different issues on subjects like human life," Ralston told CNHI. "I told members of the House, I know it was a very intense debate we had, a very passionate debate, but it was still entitled to be conducted in a civil, respectful way. I think for the most part we succeeded, we had a few bumps in the road on that."
He said in the end, it's up to Georgia lawmakers to work together.
Trammell said with it being an election year, he expects some party tension.
"I think that anytime you're in an election year especially in a presidential election year, there are obviously going to be some pressures from time to time that will surface in the legislative session," Trammell said. "But that said, we remain committed to do the work that Georgians sent us to do, which is to make policy in the best interest of all Georgians."
When asked if tensions from last session will make an appearance this session, lawmakers ultimately hoped that partisan divides will only come from isolated bills such as abortion or gun control legislation.
But state Sen.
Some committees have wrapped up their studies and have issued reports making legislative recommendations.
Lawmakers have recommended multiple changes to Georgia laws, here are just a few:
* A study committee recommended updating seatbelt laws to require rear passengers in passenger vehicles to wear restraints and allowing whether or not a person was wearing a seatbelt as evidence in court cases.
* A study committee looking at agriculture, forestry and landscape workforce availability recommended the
* A study committee looking at disparities between white and black K-12 student success recommended updating Georgia's longtime funding formula to add an "opportunity weight" for schools who serve low-income students.
* A study committee looking at e-scooter use recommended adopting laws for e-scooters -- like bicycles -- including a three-foot passing law and defining "e-scooters" in statute for future regulation.
* A study committee considering revising felon disenfranchisement laws to allow nonviolent felony offenders to vote directly out of incarceration stunned advocates and decided to recommend the laws remain the same.
Meetings for the many remaining committees have yet to wrap up and final reports have yet to be issued.
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