2014 to be a major election year in Georgia | savannahnow.com

6
Jan

2014 to be a major election year in Georgia | savannahnow.com

ATLANTA — Four years after Republicans claimed every statewide office in Georgia, voters will have the chance to weigh in on whether the state is on the right path or changes are needed at the top.

It will be a major election year with all statewide officials, including the governor, facing re-election. There also will be a hotly contested race for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat with Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss set to retire at year’s end. In addition, all 56 state senators and 180 state representatives will be on the ballot.

While the general election isn’t until November, key primaries worth watching will be held early this year after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit saying Georgia wasn’t allowing enough time for military members and others living overseas to return absentee ballots in federal runoff races.

As a result of that case, the U.S. Senate primary is scheduled for May 20. And state lawmakers gathering for the legislative session this month are expected to quickly change the date of the statewide primary so both can be held the same day, sparing the costs of separate elections.

The earlier primary dates will mean a compressed campaign season, putting pressure on state lawmakers to get in and out of Atlanta. During the session, set to start Jan. 13, elected officials are prohibited by state law from raising campaign money. So there will be an extra incentive to move swiftly on their legislative agendas.

Lawmakers have 40 calendars days to work with, but those are usually spread out over the course of roughly four months. Some observers predict the session could be over by late March, but that depends on how budget deliberations and other key issues progress.

A major question will be how the governor and state lawmakers handle growing state revenues after the lean years that followed the recession. Will state employees see a pay raise? Will education funding significantly increase?

Gov. Nathan Deal has indicated he wants to spend about $7.4 million in state funds to shore up the Department of Child and Family Services, after the deaths of two children with whom the agency had contact. The money would be used to hire more employees.

One of Deal’s Republican primary opponents is state schools Superintendent John Barge. He has been critical of the governor over budget cuts he says have resulted in two-thirds of school districts reducing classroom days below the 180-day limit set by law. Barge will likely cast any proposed education funding increases as election-year politics.

via 2014 to be a major election year in Georgia | savannahnow.com.

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