Georgia Senate GOP leaders unveiled their priorities list Thursday, just days before the start of the 2017 legislative session. KRISTINA TORRES / KTORRES@AJC.COM

‘Repeal Obamacare’ task force a priority of Georgia Senate leaders

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other GOP Senate leaders said Thursday they were forming a “repeal Obamacare” task force to guide how Georgia responds to President-elect Donald Trump’s plans, saying the effort was one of their top priorities for the upcoming legislative session.

GOP congressional leaders are poised to dismantle the Affordable Care Act but have so far released few details over how to do it, leaving state lawmakers in a guessing game over just how the changes could affect Georgia.

Trump proposed during his campaign to issue block grants for Medicaid, although it’s not yet clear what that could mean for individual states.

The move comes as leaders said they viewed Trump’s victory as a mandate to pursue issues that mattered to everyday Georgians. “The Republican Party is the party of working people,” said Senate Pro Tem David Shafer, R-Duluth.

Top issues also include charting a regional transportation plan for the state, education initiatives to bolster job training programs in high schools and a push for the Georgia Lottery to potentially pull back on some prize money and funnel those extra dollars into the state’s popular Hope Scholarship.

There is also a potential opening on expanding the state’s 2015 law allowing a very limited form of medical marijuana. Proponents believe the law should be expanded to include more treatable illnesses and — in a “home run” scenario — an in-state program to grow and cultivate cannabis in Georgia for medicinal purposes.

While the Senate majority continues to oppose cultivation, Cagle said Thursday that his members would back limited expansion of the law if there’s a rollback of the allowable THC level in the cannabis oil now allowed here. THC is the component in the drug that makes people high.

The law’s author, state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he welcomed the chance to talk about it after the Senate squashed efforts last year to increase who could qualify to use the oil to ease their medical conditions.

“I’m grateful my Senate colleagues want to expand our medical cannabis law to include more hurting Georgians,” Peake said. “While the THC level currently in law is not psychoactive and only helps cancer, MS and ALS patients who deal with unbearable pain, I look forward to discussing their concerns and moving toward a good bill that will help more Georgians who are suffering.”

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