Both chambers are under new leadership this year. In the Senate, Senator John Kennedy (R-Macon) was elected by his peers to serve as President Pro Tempore for the next two years. Senator Kennedy presided over the Senate for the majority of the week since the newly elected Lieutenant Governor, Burt Jones, was not sworn into office until Thursday. After the untimely death of beloved House Speaker David Ralston late last year, this week the House elected former Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-Newington) to serve as the 75th Speaker of the Georgia State House. In stark contrast to the U.S. House of Representatives’ election of the Speaker last week, Speaker Burns was elected by acclamation without opposition. Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones (R-Milton) succeeded Ralston as Speaker immediately following his death, making her the first female Speaker of the House in the State of Georgia. This week, Jones was reelected as Speaker Pro Tempore.
On Wednesday of this week, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce held its annual Eggs and Issues breakfast, which provides some insight into the legislative priorities of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker for the upcoming session. Governor Kemp emphasized ‘kitchen table issues,’ announcing his intention to focus on workforce development and workforce housing, return $1 billion of Georgia’s surplus back to taxpayers, as well as his plan to address concerns about rising property taxes through a one-time property tax relief grant. Lieutenant Governor Jones announced the creation of the Senate Children and Families Committee, as well as several of his legislative priorities for the upcoming session including an expansion of Georgia’s College and Career Academies and tackling the crime issue many areas of the state are currently facing. Speaker Burns announced a new healthcare oversight committee, which will be chaired by Representative Butch Parrish (R-Swainsboro), and a continued commitment to focus on improving the quality of and access to mental healthcare in Georgia, which is a legacy of the late Speaker David Ralston.
On Thursday morning, Governor Brian Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Attorney General Chris Carr, Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper, Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, and Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson were all officially sworn into office. Insurance Commissioner John King, who was appointed by Governor Kemp in 2019, made history on Thursday when he was sworn in to officially become the first elected Hispanic statewide official in Georgia.
Lieutenant Governor Jones released his selections for Senate committee assignments and committee chairmen. Speaker Burns is expected to announce committee assignments and chairmanships next week for the House, though former House Majority Whip Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) has already been named to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee following the retirement of longtime Chairman Terry England last year. Senate committee chairmanships for 2023-2024 are as follows:
Legislators from all corners of the state descended upon Atlanta this week for the beginning of the 2023-2024 Legislative Session. Both the House and Senate gaveled in for a relatively brief session on Monday to swear in members of the General Assembly, and then a number of legislators hopped on a plane to watch the Georgia Bulldogs become back-to-back national champions that evening. After being in recess on Tuesday, the legislature met again on Wednesday through Friday, convening for Legislative Days One through Four this week. The General Assembly will not be in session next week so that the House and Senate can hold their AFY23 and FY24 budget hearings.
Governor Kemp released his budget proposals this week, though he will not be giving his annual State of the State Address until the week after next. Highlights from the governor’s budget proposals include the use of $1 billion of undesignated revenues for refunds to taxpayers ($250 for single filers and $500 for joint filers), the creation of one-time Homeowner Tax Relief Grants (HTRG), and a $2,000 pay increase for all state employees in FY 2024.