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2015 Legislative Session: Hot Topics

January 15, 2015
Member of the House standing at the well

It’s that time of the year again. 236 state legislators donned their suits and flocked to the gold dome in downtown Atlanta on Monday. The whole week has been filled with events and activities one after another, such as the inauguration of our elected officials and Governor Deal’s State of the State Address.

Our Georgia Legislative sessions run in two-year cycles. This year the cycle starts again with a whole new round of House bills (HB), House resolutions (HR), Senate bills (SB) and Senate resolutions (SR). Through it all, our elected officials will be working hard on Georgia’s budgets.

Looking at current data, the major topics for this session revolve around transportation, education and criminal justice.

Transportation

Each year, bills written to ensure safer driving float through the marble halls of the Capitol. This year there are expected to be bills about reprioritizing our transportation funding. We predict that our elected officials will submit legislation about fixing roads and possibly building more express lanes.

As for drivers, Rep. Rahn Mayo has prefiled HB 10 stating that only hands-free calls can be made while driving.

Education

As a top priority in this year’s budget, this session is expected to put much emphasis on education in Georgia.

“Over the next few years we intend to take a comprehensive look at how we can make K-12 education more accessible and more effective,” Governor Deal said in his State of the State Address.

By helping our kids during school, we prepare them for college (whether that’s a state university or technical college), which in turn prepares them for the workforce. Even though Governor Deal has said that significant education funding reform will be tackled with legislation next year (and has created a task force to address the issue), we wouldn’t be surprised if many bills pop up aimed solely at education. In fact, several bills regarding the HOPE scholarship and Zell Miller Grant were prefiled or have already been introduced in the first few days.

Criminal Justice

Governor Deal’s last 4 years hold the legacy of criminal justice reform. Starting in 2011, our legislators and elected officials started the strenuous process of reforming our justice system. With the start of his second term, Governor Deal has no intention of slowing down. In his State of the State Address, he outlined a new state agency, the Department of Community Supervision, to oversee probation and parole to help ease the move from prison to public life.

In addition to Governor Deal’s plans, state legislators also have some criminal justice ideas:

  • Rep. Billy Mitchell prefiled HB 32 proposing that all police officers wear a body camera.
  • Sen. Renee Unterman from Buford is sponsoring SB 8 to protect children from further victimization after they’ve been sexually exploited and to ensure that Georgia has a child protective response in place.

Lastly, one of the biggest hot topics of this session: marijuana/cannabis oil. Each chamber has a bill prefiled for this topic, one from Rep. Allen Peake (Haleigh’s Hope Act) and one from Sen. Curt Thompson (Controlled Substances Therapeutic Relief Act).

As the past has shown us, topics of each legislative session are malleable and subject to change quite often. So be sure to check back to GeorgiaGov for complete updates. Or like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

About the Author

Bethany McDaniel is the Interactive Web Content Manager for GeorgiaGov. She graduated from Berry College in Rome, GA with degrees in Visual Communication and History.

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