Atlanta, Georgia – As the Georgia General Assembly kicks off its 2024 regular session, one of the major debates centers around whether Republicans will finally agree to expand health care for low-income adults under the state’s Medicaid program. Republican House Speaker Jon Burns has expressed his interest in exploring the idea, while Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones is willing to consider it. However, Gov. Brian Kemp has been in favor of a more limited expansion of coverage.
With it being an election year, state lawmakers will likely focus on measures that please their supporters and secure votes. As the state’s coffers are overflowing, it is highly probable that public employees and teachers will receive further pay increases. Republicans are also advocating for a deeper income tax cut.
Another issue that could come to the forefront is the question of lawsuit limits. Kemp has voiced his desire to make it more challenging for people to file lawsuits and receive significant legal judgments. Supporters argue that Georgia’s high insurance rates are a consequence of these lawsuits. Lawmakers may also address election laws, particularly in light of ongoing disputes since 2018. Some individuals are seeking to clarify the State Election Board’s authority to investigate Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s handling of post-election audits following Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. Others want to review paper ballots and investigate claims of counterfeit votes.
In addition, the topic of prosecutor discipline is gaining attention. Senate Republicans plan to introduce a bill removing the requirement for the Georgia Supreme Court to approve rules for a commission responsible for disciplining and removing state prosecutors. Furthermore, there are calls to define antisemitism in Georgia law, with proponents arguing that it would aid in identifying hate crimes and discrimination against Jewish individuals. However, critics worry that it could limit free speech regarding criticism of Israel.
Mental health is also set to be a focus during this session, with efforts to recruit more mental health workers, improve care for those transitioning between hospitals, jails, and homelessness, and address the backlog of pretrial mental health evaluations. Finally, Georgia may follow in the footsteps of other states by considering legislation that requires parental consent for children under 18 to create social media accounts.
As Georgia’s General Assembly begins its session, the possibility of expanding health care for low-income adults is among the top debates for Republicans. With an election approaching, lawmakers will be looking to please their supporters and gain votes. Lawsuit limits, election laws, prosecutor discipline, defining antisemitism, mental health, and social media regulations are all key issues to watch.