Local state lawmakers are predicting that the 2014 legislative session, which begins Monday, Jan. 13, likely will be the quickest one on record.
Elected officials say the Georgia General Assembly will maintain a brisk pace through the required 40 legislative-day cycle with few breaks, so that members running for re-election can meet qualifying deadlines and raise campaign funds. 2014 is an election year, and according to state law, Georgia politicians cannot raise campaign funds for state-level elections while the legislature is in session, confirmed District 1 Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler.
“There’s going to be a lot of politics up there this year,” he said. “There will be a lot of positioning, a lot of posturing by both parties.”
Carter explained the Department of Justice “stepped in” and directed Georgia to move its primary election from July 15 to June 3. Then, the schedule for state primary elections was changed again to coincide with May 20 federal elections, he said.
Carter said this is the earliest primaries have been held in Georgia. He added that since the primaries have been moved up several months, qualifying has been scheduled for March 3-7.
Carter, who is campaigning for the 1st District U.S. House seat Jack Kingston holds but is vacating for a U.S. Senate run, said he is not prohibited from raising campaign funds because he is seeking a national office.
The state senator said in the past 10 years, he’s not seen the legislature finish a session earlier than the end of March; this year, the session may end closer to March 10 or 15. While the General Assembly typically takes the week off after Martin Luther King Day, which is observed Jan. 20, Carter said that this year, appropriation meetings will be held Tuesday through Friday that week.
“Because of the fast track, I don’t expect any substance,” District 168 Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, said.
Williams said he did not have any specific legislation in mind for the upcoming session, adding he might bring some local legislation, but was not yet ready to discuss the possibility.
“Education is going to come up, as always,” Williams said. “There are some tweaks we are going to discuss making to the charter-school amendment. And transportation is a major issue. We’re short on funding.”
“I think this session, we’ll be totally concentrating on the budget and getting out of there,” Carter said. He added that some state lawmakers expressed desires to discuss tax reform, adding that the governor had sent a message saying debate on tax reform would have to wait.
Carter mentioned Senate Bill 141 — the patient-injury act —received a lot of attention between sessions. The senator said he doesn’t think SB 141, which was introduced last year, “will get much traction.” The bill would create an alternative to medical-malpractice litigation similar to workman’s compensation.
A number of pre-filed bills the legislature could consider deal with expanding gun owners’ Second Amendment rights, such as the safe carry protection act. This would allow licensed individuals to carry weapons into houses of worship or permit school administrators with training to carry guns in school. Inactive until 2014, HB 512 passed the state House’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, passed the House as amended and currently is in the state Senate’s Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, according to georgiapacking.org. Carter maintains he is a proponent of the Second Amendment.
He also predicted that Obamacare — the federal Affordable Care Act — will be discussed in the upcoming session. He said Democrats want to expand Medicaid, but added Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal would continue to reject those efforts.