Gov. Brian Kemp embarked on a statewide fly-around tour Wednesday to mark his 100th day in office by touting his priorities during the first legislative session — and nodding toward his next goals.
Saying he won’t “rest on the laurels of a great, historic legislative session,” the Republican said his focus will shift to a new round of policies that include an overhaul of foster care rules, a crackdown on gang violence and an effort to deeply cut business regulations.
“We’ve put Georgians first. We are doing the things we campaigned on,” Kemp said shortly before taking off for his second stop. “People shouldn’t be surprised.”
After his narrow election victory, Kemp carved out an agenda that included a $3,000 teacher pay raise, legislation that gives him new powers to pursue federal “waivers” that could pave the way to limited Medicaid expansion and a broad new medical marijuana program.
But much of that was overshadowed by another Kemp priority: a “heartbeat” measure that would outlaw most abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That measure, which Kemp is expected to soon sign into law, met fierce opposition from Democrats and some Republicans, and it is destined for a drawn-out legal battle.
At Wednesday’s event and other public appearances, the governor has characterized his support for House Bill 481 as a fulfillment of campaign promises, and he said he’s not worried about repercussions from opponents who warn of economic and political payback.
The Democratic Party of Georgia greeted the occasion with a list of “10 ways Brian Kemp failed Georgians” that includes a stalemate over Hurricane Michael relief funds in Congress and an elections overhaul he quietly signed into law this month that “continued his legacy of voter suppression.”
The legislative session will also be remembered for what didn’t pass, most notably a transportation measure that would have given the state more oversight of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, cleared the way for new rural mobility initiatives and expanded a jet-fuel tax break that would primarily benefit Delta Air Lines.
While he stayed publicly neutral on the airport takeover measure, Kemp recently revealed he opposed the changes. But he remains miffed the aviation tax break, which he personally jockeyed for during the final day of the session, didn’t win approval.
“I had a plan that Delta supported that was going to be good for them on the jet-fuel tax and would have provided much-needed funding for rural airports,” he said. “Some in the Legislature, for whatever reason — and I’m still kind of baffled — didn’t agree with that. But we’re committed to working on that.”
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