Mar 30, 2023 - Politics

General Assembly approves budget, blocks vouchers

Illustration of the Georgia State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

On its final day of the 2023 legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly avoided passing much of its most controversial remaining legislation.

Driving the news: In a shocking failure, more than a dozen Republicans defeated a contentious school voucher bill.

  • Neither chamber legalized sports betting and an agreement on a fraught medical marijuana program failed to pass.
What happened:

🍎 Vouchers: In what became a drawn-out fight in the state House after passing the Senate, more than a dozen rural Republicans bucked their party last night to defeat a bill that would have given $6,500 vouchers to help public school students pay for private school tuition.

  • This came even after Gov. Brian Kemp endorsed the bill.

πŸ”Ž Go deeper with our full story.

πŸ’Έ Budget: With little time to spare, the General Assembly Wednesday passed the only bill it's required to: the $32.4 billion FY 2024 budget.

Details: The agreement includes a $2,000 cost of living pay increase for all state employees at Kemp's request, plus additional raises for law enforcement.

  • The budget fully funds the HOPE scholarship for public colleges, doubles the number of state-funded waivers for Georgians with intellectual and developmental disabilities and dedicates $46 million for a training center that's part of the state's incentive package offered to EV-maker Rivian.

The intrigue: Kemp warned lawmakers last night he sees "significant holes" in the budget, but his office declined to elaborate to Axios.

  • "I have a ton of respect for the governor and I look forward to working with him personally on that topic," Senate Appropriations Chair Blake Tillery told Axios.
  • House Speaker Jon Burns told reporters they passed "a comprehensive budget, but I'm sure there's some issues that maybe we could have addressed in different ways that may need to be backfilled."

πŸ”Ž Go deeper on the budget with the AJC.

🚚 Truck weight limits: The chambers came to an eleventh-hour agreement to slightly increase weight limits for trucks hauling forestry and agriculture products on state and local roads.

πŸ”Ž Go deeper with our full story.

Many more bills flew last night and now sit on Kemp's desk:

πŸ—³οΈ Strengthening an existing ban on county elections offices from receiving any outside grant funding, despite Democratic opposition.

✏️ Requiring public school teachers to get dedicated "planning periods" during school days.

πŸ‚ Prohibiting local governments from banning gas-powered leaf blowers and gas appliances, even though no such bans exist in Georgia.

🐟 An extension of the Georgia Aquarium's tax exemption.

πŸ•΅οΈ Allowing law enforcement agencies to review more cold cases β€”Β and allow the University of Georgia to track them.

Yes, but: Other bills faltered.

  • Lt. Gov. Burt Jones told reporters the Senate didn't have the bipartisan votes to pass a renewed push to legalize sports betting.
  • A last-ditch effort to abolish the state's medical marijuana commission and give oversight authority to the agriculture commissioner foundered.
  • A proposed overhaul of COAM regulation stalled in the session's final hours, as did a proposed codification of crimes of anti-semitism.

The bottom line: There's always next year.


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