Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) opened Georgia’s 2017 legislative session with a message of unity but also appeared to have a message for Gov. Deal, stating, “While we are proud of the partnerships we enjoy with the executive branch, partnerships that are good for Georgia, we must be reminded the power to legislate for the will of the people will be honored and protected by this body.” Although Deal didn’t appear to take offense at the comment, it seems to indicate that there is palpable division within Georgia’s ruling party.
Although there are many speculations about how a Trump presidency will affect the 2017 Georgia Legislative session, education looks like it could be one of the biggest points of interest. Deal has been working on a “Plan B” to his failed school takeover, which looks like it might be the voucher model, where students at some schools are given government funding to attend private schools. Although this method takes funding away from public schools that desperately need it, a recent AJC poll shows 61 percent of registered Georgia voters in favor of it.
Additionally, “campus carry” and “religious liberty” are expected to be resurrected despite both measures failing after Deal’s vetoes last year. Health care is expected to be a wild card, with a movement to introduce something like block grants. Block grants would be especially bad for Georgians because, unlike Medicaid’s current per-person funding approach that allows for a slightly open-ended budget, block grants would allocate a certain amount of money regardless of the amount of people being served.
This shift in funding would cause Georgia’s most fragile residents to be squeezed out. However, the Georgia General Assembly might wait to see if President-elect Trump dismantles the Affordable Health Care Act before making any sweeping changes.