ATLANTA - State lawmakers return to the Gold Dome for what could be one of the quickest sessions in more than a decade. Republican leaders expect it to be over in March, possibly as soon as St. Patrick’s Day.
Among the first measures expected to be passed this year is one to move up Georgia’s primary from June to May 20. Because legislators have less time to raise money for their campaigns, they will be in a hurry to end the session as soon as possible.
Lawmakers are also expected to pick up where they left off last year in the fight over guns on college campuses. The issue died in the final hour on Day 40.
The final version of the bill supported by House Republicans would have allowed carry permit holders to bring their guns on campuses except in dormitories or athletic facilities. Students between 21 and 25 years old who wanted to carry would be required to undergo an eight hour gun safety course.
“It’s really kind of a simple thing at the end of the day… this is about making sure that we do everything possible to protect and expand the rights of Georgians under the Second Amendment,” says House Speaker David Ralston
But Senate members sided with college presidents who are opposed to allowing guns on campus.
A recent poll commissioned by the AJC shows the majority of those surveyed agree. Nearly 80 percent do not believe gun carry laws should be extended to college campuses.
Gov. Nathan Deal, who is staying out of the gun debate for now, says education will be among his top priorities this session.
“There will be a significant increase in funding for K-12 education and we would hope that that would solve some of the problems that teachers and educators in general have alluded to that need to be addressed,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
Deal plans to ask for $45 million in next year’s budget to drastically expand internet services for all schools in Georgia which would improve access to online courses, digital libraries and remotely taught courses.
“I believe this is an important new step in the right direction to bring our education and delivery system into the modern era,” he says.
While Deal says he is not ready to talk about all his budget priorities until Wednesday’s State of the State address, there is talk of pay raises this year for teachers and other state employees who have endured furlough days for several years.
Other issues expected to make news this session include efforts to create three new cities in DeKalb County, tort reform for medical malpractice lawsuits, and privatizing some aspects of the state’s foster care system.