Jan 26, 2023 - Politics

An early look at Kemp's second-term agenda

Brian Kemp waves to a crowded state House

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp arrives for the State of the State address on the House floor of the State Capitol Wednesday. Photo: Alex Slitz/AP

This year, Gov. Brian Kemp is suddenly the most experienced leader at the state Capitol. He's fresh off a resounding victory and a record-high approval rating.

Why it matters: As lobbyists and lawmakers get to know a new Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and new House Speaker Jon Burns, Kemp is the familiar face with an experienced policy team — and therefore an agenda to pay attention to.

Driving the news: Kemp laid out 2023 priorities focused on crime, health care, education and economic development in his State of the State address Wednesday.

What we're watching:

Economic development: As Kemp highlighted, the state has landed four of its biggest economic development projects ever recently, which will bring more than 20,000 new jobs to rural Georgia.

  • But companies like Hyundai and Rivian need people to fill those jobs — and those workers need places to live. Kemp reiterated his plan to launch a rural workforce housing fund to try to speed up local permitting.

Health care: Kemp made clear that he still has no interest in "one size fits none" health care, or Medicaid expansion — a key Democratic priority with some Republican support. He instead touted the anticipated benefits of his own Medicaid waivers.

  • One program will allow for a limited increase in Medicaid eligibility with a work requirement — called Georgia Pathways. It survived a court challenge and is set to launch in July with $52 million allocated to help it get there, Kemp said.
  • Kemp also plans to push legislation to allow pregnant women to receive TANF low-income monthly cash assistance benefits. Right now only those with children can apply.

Education: The governor again highlighted his proposal to fund the HOPE scholarship at 100% again, after the program took a hit during the Great Recession.

  • He repeated his plan to give state employees, including teachers, a $2,000 pay raise after the $5,000 raise they received during his first term.
  • "No other General Assembly or governor will have raised teacher pay by so much, so quickly, in state history," he said.

Crime: Kemp and other Republican leaders are making clear crime will continue to be a priority this session. Kemp's plans include adding penalties on gang recruitment, bail reform to address "the revolving door of criminal justice," and more anti-human trafficking legislation — a longtime priority of Georgia's First Lady Marty Kemp.

  • The biggest applause response came from the line: "Here in Georgia, we'll always back the blue!"

The other side: In a press conference, Democratic leaders laid out their wish list of legislation and attacked some of Kemp's. Democratic proposals include a $15 minimum wage, a $10,000 pay raise for state employees, codification of abortion rights and gun control — all of which are unlikely to pass in a GOP-controlled Capitol.

  • House Minority Leader James Beverly (D-Macon) accused Kemp of being "fiscally irresponsible" for not expanding Medicaid.
  • While State Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) voiced bipartisan support for efforts to back law enforcement, he warned: "We must be very cautious not to over criminalize our communities," and said ensuring "police accountability" was also important.

The bottom line: Almost just as significant as what is in Kemp’s agenda, is what is not. Notably, any mention of abortion, runoff reform proposals and Buckhead cityhood.

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