The Georgia General Assembly kicked off a new legislative session last week. As the first year of the ’23-’24 legislature, Senators and Representatives were sworn in and elected new leadership in both chambers. Governor Kemp and the other constitutional officers were sworn in on Thursday during a large joint session in Georgia State University’s new Convocation Center. With all parties ready for business, the Gold Dome began working in earnest this week focused on the state budget.
Jon Burns Elected Speaker
The Georgia House of Representative unanimously elected Jon Burns, longtime legislator from Effingham, to be the chamber’s next Speaker. Burns replaces Jan Jones who was elevated to the position temporarily after the resignation and ultimate passing of the late David Ralston. For years, Speaker Ralston was one of the state’s most powerful figures often keeping state Republicans aligned with the business community and brokering important bipartisan legislative accomplishments. Ralston was well respected and Burns has said he hopes to follow in his footsteps and govern with a similar philosophy.
Speaker Burns is a conservative legislator, but won the Republican Caucus’s nomination for Speaker over Rep. Barry Fleming of Harlem, Georgia, a much more controversial and insurgent figure in the party. Burns will likely lead the chamber with more of an emphasis on consensus than other segments of the party would prefer.
Burns is a part of a totally new slate of leadership in Georgia’s legislative chambers including Lt. Governor Burt Jones and Senate Pro-Tempore John Kennedy. With new leadership in both chambers and a commanding mandate from voters in November, Governor Kemp will likely have more influence than any legislative session under his governorship so far.
Governor Kemp’s Inauguration
Governor Kemp was inaugurated on Thursday to his second term in office alongside the state’s other constitutional officers including newly-elected Lt. Governor Burt Jones, Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson, Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper, and Insurance Commissioner John King. King received a standing ovation when Governor Kemp pointed out that he became the first Hispanic official to be elected to a statewide office in Georgia.
In his inaugural address, Jones spoke about “small town values” helping motivate the next chapter in the “Georgia success story.”
Governor Kemp said he would spend the next four years focused on making life better for everyday Georgians instead of “pie in the sky” ideas. Instead of introducing a major policy proposal, Kemp spoke about safe streets, good jobs, and good schools. The governor talked about his work to support the electric mobility industry in Georgia and previewed his future work to build on the major announcements from Hyundai, Rivian, QCells, and others.
Governor Kemp also debuted a more national tone deriding leadership in Washington and what he called “the pundit class.” After two emphatic victories in close elections, many have wondered if Governor Kemp might harbor national aspirations.
Senate Committee Chairs
Lt. Governor Burt Jones announced the Senate’s committee chairs for the upcoming session. Senator Matt Brass of Newnan received a coveted position as Chair of the Rules Committee, the committee responsible for deciding which bills will be debated on the Senate Floor. Brass takes over the chairmanship following longtime Rules Chair Jeff Mullis’s departure. Senator Brandon Beach of Alpharetta received a prominent chairmanship as well and will preside over the Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
Below are the Senate Committee Chairs for this session:
Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee
Sen. Russ Goodman, R-Homerville
Banking and Financial Institutions Committee
Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele
Children and Families Committee
Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta*
Economic Development and Tourism Committee
Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta
Education and Youth Committee
Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford
Higher Education Committee
Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro
Insurance and Labor
Sen. Larry Walker, R-Perry
Interstate Cooperation Committee
Sen. Colton Moore, R-Trenton
Natural Resources and the Environment Committee
Sen. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown
Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee
Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Alto
Sen. Rick Williams, R-Milledgeville
Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan
Science and Technology Committee
Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton
State and Local Governmental Operations Committee
Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville
Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming
Urban Affairs Committee
Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta
Veterans, Military, and Homeland Security Committee
Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton
Legislative Priorities for 2023 Session
Governor Kemp has indicated that his agenda for this session will be focused on “kitchen table issues” like tax rebates and a large one-time property tax relief payment for Georgians. Additionally, the governor will push for increased pay for public service professionals to make their jobs more competitive in the post-Covid labor market.
There have been discussions about changing the rates for Intellectual and Developmental Disability Services in Georgia to address the massive worker shortage in that industry. These discussions will likely follow up on the proposals crafted during a study committee on the issue that has been hard at work over the last year.
Lastly, there will be some conversation about legalizing sports betting in Georgia after Governor Kemp announced tepid support for the idea during his last campaign.
The Governor’s agenda will be more thoroughly laid out in his State of the State Speech before the General Assembly next Wednesday, January 25th. Stay tuned.