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. 

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. 
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.  

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:
  • Sen. Russ Goodman (R – 8) will serve as chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.
  • Sen. Blake Tillery (R – 19) will serve as chair of the Appropriations Committee.
  • Sen. Carden Summers (R – 13) will serve as chair of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.
  • Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R – 32) will serve as chair of the Children and Families Committee.
  • Sen. Brandon Beach (R – 21) will serve as chair of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
  • Sen. Clint Dixon (R – 45) will serve as chair of the Education and Youth Committee.
  • Sen. Max Burns (R – 23) will serve as chair of the Ethics Committee.
  • Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R – 52) will serve as chair of the Finance Committee.
  • Sen. Marty Harbin (R – 16) will serve as chair of the Government Oversight Committee.
  • Sen. Ben Watson (R – 1) will serve as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.
  • Sen. Billy Hickman (R – 4) will serve as chair of the Higher Education Committee.
  • Sen. Larry Walker (R – 20) will serve as chair of the Insurance and Labor Committee.
  • Sen. Colton Moore (R – 53) will serve as chair of the Interstate Cooperation Committee.
  • Sen. Brian Strickland (R - 17) will serve as chair of the Judiciary Committee.
  • Sen. Lee Anderson (R – 24) will serve as chair of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.
  • Sen. John Albers (R – 56) will serve as chair of the Public Safety Committee.
  • Sen. Shelly Echols (R - 49) will serve as chair of the Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee.
  • Sen. Bill Cowsert (R – 46) will serve as chair of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.
  • Sen. Rick Williams (R – 25) will serve as chair of the Retirement Committee.
  • Sen. Matt Brass (R – 28) will serve as chair of the Rules Committee.
  • Sen. Chuck Payne (R – 54) will serve as chair of the Science and Technology Committee.
  • Sen. Ed Harbison (D - 15) will serve as chair of the State Institutions and Property Committee.
  • Sen. Frank Ginn (R – 47) will serve as chair of the State and Local Governmental Operations Committee.
  • Sen. Greg Dolezal (R - 27) will serve as chair of the Transportation Committee.
  • Sen. Donzella James (D – 35) will serve as chair of the Urban Affairs Committee.
  • Sen. Mike Dugan (R – 30) will serve as chair of the Veterans, Military, and Homeland Security Committee.
This weekly Legislative Update report is courtesy of the Regional Business Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta (RBC), an organization of over a dozen of the largest and most active Chambers of Commerce throughout the metro Atlanta region. RBC member chambers represent over 15,000 member companies who employ millions of metro Atlanta residents. The RBC’s primary goal is to represent the interests of RBC Chamber members on regional public policy issues impacting our transportation, water and air quality and to advocate for solutions that improve metro Atlanta’s quality of life and economic vitality.