2017 Georgia Legislative Session

Katie Base RobertsLegislative Preview

By Katie Base Roberts
Director of Governmental Affairs
Fiveash Stanley, Inc.

Legislature Convened Monday
The 2017 Georgia General Assembly convened Monday, Jan. 9, and will last forty working days, typically stretching into early spring.  Although they do not face reelection this year, lawmakers have little interest in lingering in Atlanta longer than necessary.  Delays may be unavoidable, however, as the political overhaul in Washington, D.C., is certain to impact Georgia’s budget process.

During the first week, lawmakers will meet through Thursday, ticking off four largely ceremonial legislative days.  Although the House and Senate remain comfortably under Republican majority, each chamber will swear-in new members from both parties.  Since the beginning of the 2015 session, the legislature has experienced a turnover rate of nearly 30 percent.

Anticipated Issues
Lien Registry.  The Department of Revenue is expected to introduce legislation that would establish a statewide lien registry for personal property.

State Board of Workers’ Compensation.  The State Board of Workers’ Compensation is also expected to offer a housekeeping bill this year.

Occupational Diseases.  Last year, the legislature adopted legislation that expands the eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits to firefighters diagnosed with cancer.  The Governor subsequently vetoed the legislation over concerns about codifying an exception for a specific occupation and citing the potential for exhaustive litigation.  Lawmakers may attempt a veto override or pursue similar legislation this year.

Legislative Leadership
Each year following elections, member of the House and Senate Democrat and Republican caucuses meet to elect their internal leadership.  In the Senate, Republican John Kennedy will serve as Majority Caucus Chair.  Senate Democrats did not make changes to their leadership.

In the House, Republican Christian Coomer won the vacant post of Majority Whip.  House Democrats elected Stacey Evans as Caucus Chair and Robert Trammell as Caucus Vice-Chair.  Incumbents retained other leadership positions.

The Governor’s floor leaders will also remained largely unchanged from last session and include Robert Dickey, Chad Nimmer and Terry Rogers in the House and Mike Dugan and Butch Miller in the Senate.  Floor leaders carry the administration’s legislation in their respective chambers.

Given the high level of turnover, there will be a number of changes to committee membership in both chambers.  Committee assignments will be announced during the first weeks of session.

Special Elections in the Senate
Shortly after the November election, Governor Nathan Deal appointed state Senator Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) to the state’s court of appeals.  The non-partisan race to represent Senate District 54 attracted five candidates.  The Special Election was held December 13 and the top two finishers, Republican Chuck Payne and Independent Debby Peppers will face off in the Runoff Election next Tuesday, January 10.  Payne is an active member of the local Republican Party and is a retired juvenile court probation officer.  Peppers is an attorney and former Whitfield County Commissioner.