The 2018 Georgia General Assembly was gaveled in by Lt. Governor Cagle and Speaker Ralston on Monday morning, January 8. As usual, most of the activities of this first week were procedural and ceremonial.
New members were introduced in the House (seven) and Senate (three). In addition to the new House and Senate members that won elections in Nov. and run-offs in Dec., special elections were held on January 9 for one House and one Senate district. Former House member Brian Strickland defeated two Republicans and a Democrat to win in Senate District 17 and Geoffrey Cauble defeated two Democrats and a Republican to win in House District 111. The House still has one vacancy in House District 175 where Rep. Amy Carter resigned her seat to work for the state’s technical college system. The special election for this seat is scheduled for February 13.
New leaders were recognized in both houses. The Senate formally elected Senator Butch Miller as the new President Pro Tempore. Senator Miller replaces Senator David Shafer who remains in the Senate but resigned his leadership position so he could focus on his run for Lt. Governor. The House recognized Rep. James Beverly as the new Minority Caucus Chair and Rep. Bob Trammell as the new Minority Leader. Rep. Beverly is replacing former Rep. Stacey Evans who resigned her seat to run for governor, and Rep. Trammell is replacing former Rep. Stacey Abrams who also resigned her seat to run for governor.
There are several new Senate Committee Chairs: Sen. John Albers, Public Safety; Sen. Tyler Harper, Natural Resources & Environment; Sen. Frank Ginn, Regulated Industries & Utilities; Sen. Matt Brass, Reapportionment; Sen. Greg Kirk, State & Local Government Operations; and Sen. Ben Watson, Veterans, Military & Homeland Security.
Two current House members have already announced they will not seek reelection next fall: Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) and Rep. Howard Maxwell (R-Dallas).
Governor Deal gave an emotional State of the State address this morning, noting this was his final State of the State. He highlighted achievements from the past seven years, like decreasing unemployment from 10.4% to 4.3%, increasing spending on education by $3.6 billion, improving the state’s Technical College System, and creating the HOPE Career Grant to cover 100% tuition for technical school students in high-demand fields. His them was “Orchards of Opportunity” and he stressed the need to “sow seeds now” for future generations. Several of the “seeds” he touted were the film industry and the economic impact it is making in the state, his criminal justice reform initiatives, and the Transportation Funding Act.
The House and Senate passed an adjournment resolution (HR 870) to set the schedule for the first 11 days of the session. They adjourned today, January 11, and will reconvene on Thursday, January 18. They will be off Monday for MLK Day. The Appropriations Committee will meet Tuesday and Wednesday then they will be back in session on Thursday and Friday of next week.