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Wednesday, November 5, 2014 - 4:16pm

Election Over, What Issues Await Georgia's Elected Candidates?

Republican candidates snapped up offices across the state of Georgia. The election over and victory celebrations finished, they will need to settle into the business of governing.

What are the issues the newly elected officials will need to face once they begin their jobs?

The answer depends on the region. The needs of urban Atlantans are different from residents of coastal Georgia.

I asked GPB Macon Bureau Chief Michael Caputo, GPB Savanah Bureau Chief Sarah McCammon and Political Rewind’s Bill Nigut, for their insights.

Here is what they had to say.

Middle Georgia’s Biggest Issues

GPB Macon Bureau Chief Michael Caputo: Health care access - Georgia has some 600,000 people without health insurance, largely because the state has not opted into the Medicaid expansion available under the Affordable Care Act. This has a big impact in Middle Georgia. The large hospitals here then have to take in those uninsured, such as the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon. That Macon hospital is one of the largest publicly-owned hospitals in the country. If the hospital has to cover the cost of care, then it's the taxpayers who are on the hook.

Education for lower-income students – While improving educational attainment is a statewide issue, the problem is more acute in middle Georgia because of the high rate of poverty. Places like Macon crave good education to lift young people and the arguments about graduation rates and educational improvement have more impact here.

Coastal Georgia’s Biggest Concerns

GPB Savannah Bureau Chief Sarah McCammon: A major issue for the Georgia coast continues to be the deepening of the Port of Savannah. While the project is moving forward with federal authorization and state funding, a major priority for Georgia's delegation - particularly those from Savannah and surrounding areas - will be to secure federal funding to finish the project. The federal government is expected to pay for 60 percent of the more than $700 million project. But Congress has yet to appropriate those funds. That will no doubt be near the top of the agenda for Georgia's members of Congress in the next budget cycle.

Many coastal Georgia residents are also concerned about climate change and its implications for sea-level rise and local flooding. A recent analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that accelerating sea-level rise will threaten many communities along the coast in the coming decades. This continues to be a contentious and often partisan issue, however, so any federal legislation aimed at curbing global warming is likely to face significant hurdles.

Across The State: Appealing Obamacare?

Bill Nigut of Political Rewind: If Republicans take control of the senate, I would expect that there would be some effort, fairly quickly to resume the attempt to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. There are a lot of senate candidates on the Republican side out there who campaigned on this issue.

And for a long time the house has tried to do something about overturning Obamacare. It is conceivable now that (the) senate is majority Republican, they’ll pick up that charge. We’ll have to wait and see.

If David Perdue is elected to the Senate, he’s already said in many places along the campaign trail that he thinks that Obamacare should be overturned.

Would David Perdue Lead The Charge From Georgia To Appeal Obamacare?

Bill Nigut of Political Rewind: I would expect that he would be on the side of those who want to nullify it. Now that said, don’t take that as a sure predication. There are a number of people who now believe that the Affordable Care Act is a fait accompli. And there are republicans who say just leave it alone. But to your question, David Perdue has campaigned against the Affordable Care Act. He would certainly vote against Obamacare if given the chance.

Governor Deal’s Second Term

Bill Nigut of Political Rewind: If the Governor is re-elected - it’s going to be really interesting to see what he decides his political agenda will be for the next four years. His last budget before running for re-election, he was able to increase funding for education and his budget did do that. But the state is still dramatically behind in fully funding education. What is Nathan Deal going to be able to do to continue supplementing the budget and giving more and more money to the schools?

And in a very important area, one of the things that Gov. Deal is going to want to address is we have a very inequitable system by which we fund public schools across the state. And that goes back many, many years to the old segregated schools days. It’s never been entirely remedied. And there are people who believe we will never fix education in Georgia, unless we find a fair formula that gives smaller schools in smaller school districts in smaller counties in the state, the resources they need to improve the quality of education and Nathan Deal seems on the verge of looking at ways to address that. We’ll see.