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Georgia lawmakers return to Atlanta for busy legislative session

Georgia lawmakers return to Atlanta Monday to kick off the second year of a two-year legislative session.

Each chamber will convene at 10 a.m. Monday, with lawmakers expected to spend time honoring colleagues who recently died — state Sen. Greg Kirk in the Senate in state Rep. Jay Powell in the House.

Legislators had many issues left on their plates when the gavel fell at the end of the 2019 session, with hundreds of bills remaining in play. On top of that, lawmakers will have to tackle a request to cut state spending and reduce the income tax rate.

Here are five other issues lawmakers will likely address this year:

Budget and taxes

Gov. Brian Kemp plans to cut 4% in spending this year and 6% in fiscal 2021 — with a detailed budget proposal expected to be revealed this week. 

Much of the year’s debate will be devoted to finding ways to cut the state’s spending while also maintaining program funding at a level that doesn’t hurt the state. At the same time, lawmakers will have to decide if they will cut the state’s income tax rate for the second time in three years — from 5.75% to 5.5%.

More legislative coverage

>> Top issues for Georgia’s General Assembly in 2020

>> Election year fuels potential for fireworks in Georgia Legislature

>> Who to watch during the Georgia General Assembly’s 2020 session

>> How to follow bills, contact lawmakers and get involved

>> How the AJC covers the Georgia Legislature

Senior care

An investigative series by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year exposed hundreds of cases of neglect and abuse of vulnerable seniors at large private-pay facilities across the state, and Kemp has called for changes.

It’s unclear what form those changes will take, but they are expected to address the lack of oversight staff, minimum number of caregiver requirements and training.

Gambling

Will 2020 be the year that voters get to decide if they want to expand gambling in Georgia? That’s what supporters hope after lawmakers spent the past several months holding hearings to gather information and determine the best path to getting a constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

Gambling options could include casinos, horse racing or sports betting — or some combination of the three — but only if supporters can get two-thirds of their colleagues in each chamber to get on board.

Foster care

Gov. Brian Kemp has plans to promote a bill that he says would help more families adopt foster care children and “ease the bureaucracy and red tape” of the system. He has not yet released details of what that could look like.

The state Division of Family and Children Services is also looking to make changes to foster care by implementing federal guidelines that put a focus on finding ways to keep children with their parents or other relatives.

Seat belts

State lawmakers are likely to consider legislation that requires people in the back seats of passenger vehicles to wear their seat belts. Current law only requires those in the front seats, or those who are under 18 and riding in the back, to buckle up. 

The measure was proposed last year and lawmaker studied the issue in the fall. Supporters hope legislation is able to make it through the General Assembly this year.

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