Georgia’s state lawmakers expect to be working at a faster pace this year when the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 13.
The Legislature meets for 40 days, spread out over several weeks. This year will be different because party primary elections will be in May of this year, weeks earlier than usual because of a federal court order.
Legislators representing Fulton County said the shorter legislative calendar means they will be working on a tight schedule. What that will mean for some high profile legislation, like bills calling for referendums to create new DeKalb County cities, isn’t clear, the legislators say.
State Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, said he has been working on legislation reforming the state’s forfeiture laws and discovery of electronic records in civil cases that he’d like to get passed this year before the session wraps.
“We want to get everybody out of session as quickly as possible because it means we’ll be qualifying somewhere around March 15 to meet the deadlines,” Willard said. “I expect we’ll probably be out of session by March 20.”
State Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta, has part of Sandy Springs in his district. He said he thinks an election year is an ideal time to pass controversial legislation, like bills allowing for referendums on new cities.
“I’ve always been in favor of introducing and passing great legislation, no matter when it is,” Hill said. “The best time to pass really good bills is during an election year. If it’s not good in election year, in my view it’s not good.”
Hill said he’d like to pass legislation establishing charity care clinics and privatizing some of PeachCare, a service providing affordable health insurance to low-income children. He said new bills might be difficult to pass this year.
He said passing the state budget will likely consume most of the Legislature’s time and energy in 2014.
“The budget will take up a lot of time because the financial challenges on revenues,” Hill said. “Even though we’ve had a slight increase, much of that increase has been brought about by slow gradual increase in revenues for individuals and corporations as well as the car title fee changes, but between education and Medicaid, those are quickly absorbed.”
District 6 Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna), who represents a portion of Buckhead, said he plans to work on passage of legislation to streamline the process to create public-private partnerships for state projects. “This is about delivering mission-critical facilities,” he said.
Rep. Joe Wilkinson (R- Sandy Springs ) said he intended to work on economic development. “Georgia was named this past fall as the best place to do business,” he said. “I’ve been on the economic development and tourism committee from the time it was formed 11 years ago. … I see us trying to build on that connection. The companies we bring in, it brings jobs, it brings revenue.”
Wilkinson said he also planned to work on legislation intended to improve emergency vehicle access
at large public events.
Joe Earle contributed to this report.