As Georgia lawmakers prepare for their annual 40-day session in Atlanta, they may aim to finish quickly, keep the to-do list modest and return to work on their election campaigns.
Or they may seek to do deeds worthy of stump speeches -- on teacher pay, gun laws, the power structure in Macon-Bibb County and even the U.S. Constitution.
And the state Legislature faces a situation that some of its newer members have never seen: state coffers filling up as the economy improves.
Now, “there are some challenges of prioritization,” said House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire.
Georgia has some infrastructure challenges with its roads, bridges and airports, O’Neal said, and it takes investment to lure companies.
“We’ve got very active economic development areas in both Bibb and Houston counties. They’re working with a lot of potential projects,” mostly in the aerospace industry, O’Neal said. “But it takes closing money, it takes an investment in Georgia, and that’s in infrastructure a lot of times.”
Expect some fine-tuning on the way the new Macon-Bibb government is run, and there could be a move to reduce the size of the Bibb County school board.
Some teacher pay recovery is likely to be a priority, either as a pay raise or as restoration of state furlough days. The starting point for negotiations for the fiscal year beginning in July will be Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget proposal, due out soon after the session begins Monday.
Macon Republican state Sen. Cecil Staton said he thinks a state employee pay rise is a good idea, and that includes educators and staffers from kindergartens through postsecondary schools.
“We have some state employees who, in some cases, haven’t had raises for five years,” said Staton -- and a workforce that has shrunk during the same time frame.
“I fully expect some sweeping education legislation,” said senior Bibb House Democrat Nikki Randall...
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