Budget to be main issue of expected short session of Legislature – Times-Georgian: News


Budget to be main issue of expected short session of Legislature – Times-Georgian: News

The 2014 Georgia General Assembly is likely to be one of the shortest sessions in recent history and the budget is the issue on the front burner, according to local legislators.

“Since the only constitutionally mandated requirement is that we pass a balanced budget, I expect the budget to be front and center,” said Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, who represents a portion of Carroll County.

State revenues are expected to be up this year, said Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, but population has also increased, meaning that the budget situation is “revenue neutral.”

“New growth in business across the state, as we were selected as the best state in which to do business, will help, but we still have some areas of the budget where we won’t be able to allocate what we’d like,” Dugan said. “There’s some uncertainties from Obamacare that we’ll have to consider this year as well.”

Dugan said there’s been numerous individual projections on how much will be spent on medical cost, but until the system is up and running, nobody knows what the increases will total.

Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan, who represents a portion of Carroll County, also feels the budget will be at the top of the priorities.

“I haven’t seen the final numbers, but it’s going to be a pretty tight budget,” Crane said. “The cost increases have outpaced the revenue growth again, which will make for some challenging decisions.”

“Other significant topics I expect are education, health care and continued work on gun legislation that stalled on the last day of the 2013 session,” Nix said.

Nix said that while he hasn’t pre-filed any legislation, he has been engaged in listening sessions on education.

“I anticipate co-sponsoring legislation to address some of the issues we’ve heard around the state,” he said, “primarily to allow local school systems greater flexibility and more options as to how their systems can operate.”

Since 2014 is the second year of a two-year session, bills that were introduced last year and not voted on will be automatically carried over to this year. That means that 400 bills are already in the pipeline.

Crane said he wants to revive the professional licensing legislation that failed to make it through last year.

“There’s 50-plus licensed occupations in Georgia and they’re having to fight bureaucratic red tape,” he said. “I’m for legislation so they don’t have to renew their licenses so often. I don’t think they need to prove themselves every two years to the state. Let’s give credit where credit’s due with professionally licensed individuals.”

Speaking on education, Crane said he feels the answer is not more money, but “more choices for parents and opportunities to give their children the best education available.”

However, the length of the session will likely be the most significant factor this year.

Once the General Assembly is convened on Jan. 13, it can only remain in session a maximum of 40 “legislative days.” Those are not calendar days, but the actual days the Legislature is in working session. Ordinarily, there are recess days and off days, so that the session ends sometime in April or even into May.

But this year’s session is likely to be shortened considerably, ending in March, due to a federal judge’s ruling that will move the primary election from July to May 20. Georgia law prohibits legislators from raising campaign funds while the General Assembly is in session, but their opponents have no such restrictions. So a long session would seriously cut the length of time that incumbent lawmakers could campaign and raise money, putting them at a disadvantage in the primary.

via Budget to be main issue of expected short session of Legislature – Times-Georgian: News.

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